If you actually care to read about my background in music, please check out Music to Code To - Part 1, this port is going to be primarily about the songs that I really like to code to and would highly recommend for anyone to try out.
Music to code to has to have a couple of attributes for it to be good for coding:
- It can't be too overbearing
- It has to improve thought processes
- Sometimes it needs to pull you away a little from what you are doing.
It can't be too overbearing
Overbearing music is music that does not let you put it into the background to focus more on other things. There are some caveats to this (see attribute #3), but in general good coding music can sit in the background while still providing value to the coding experience. Really good examples of this attribute are:
Allison Krauss - Maybe
I normally don't like country music, but who can argue with her voice? This is subdued enough that it doesn't get in your way. It's mellow. It has good harmonies. Even the chorus is not overbearing, it just rides along and lets you listen without putting too much though into it.
Dvorak's "From the New World" - Adagio
This just happens to be one of my favorite classical pieces of all time. It's one of the greatest pieces of music I know of to code to. It lays in the background, but peeks out at you a little bit (but not too much). It's also a nice long piece, so it can help you remain focused for a longer period of time (about 12 minutes depending on the group performing it).
Badly Drawn Boy - The Shining
The melody in this song is awesome. It flows very nicely and I even find myself humming along to it, even when I'm not really paying attention to it. It's not complicated at all, which lends itself to being in the background. I contend that strings and other classical instruments improve the minds ability (see attribute #2) and this song has both.
It has to improve thought processes
The three songs mentioned above all fall into this category as well (the last two better than the other); however, in addition, there are some songs that I will put into my playlist more so than other songs to help my mind get working. These songs come into the foreground just a little bit more than the once previous. The idea behind these songs is that they engage the mind to a point of interest, but don't take over the thought process. Trust me, this is a little bit different from attribute #1. Most of the songs in this category end up being classical songs for me.
Basil Poledouris - Hymn to Red October (Main Title)
While "The Hunt for Red October" is one of my favorite movies, that doesn't overshadow how awesome this piece of music is. The male choir at the beginning sets an awesome tone that picks up as the song goes along. A similar piece to this is "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" from the movie "Crimson Tide" (yes, I know it was around before that movie, but it is where I heard it for the first time). Both of these pieces have and ebb and flow to them in terms of intensity, which I find to be very good at getting the juices flowing in my mind.
Boots Randolph - Sleep Walk
You have heard this song a billion times. It is part of pretty much every movie that is about the 50's or 60's almost without fail. The original is by Santo and Johnny, but I prefer this version. The original is a bit more laid back (if possible) and a bit more ballad like. The nice saxophone sound on this one is enough to keep the mind going and get me hopped up a little. Before you poo-poo this song, remember the purpose of songs while coding, don't get in the way, grab interest now and then and improve the thinking. I think the instrumental nature of this song, the upbeat back tempo and the sweet sax do all those things.
Brad Mehldau - Dear Prudence
If you know me at all, you know I love The Beatles. I don't just like The Beatles all by themselves, I love their music, in many of its different forms. This is probably one of my favorite covers of a Beatles song, I think it does the song complete justice. At the same time, it definitely helps improve my train of thought with the nice slow tempo, with the clean piano over the top. It's a simple melody that is very familiar which lends itself coding very nicely.
Sometimes it needs to pull you away a little from what you are doing
This attribute brings out some harder stuff from my collection, because sometimes you need something to pull you away from what you are working on to give you a breather, but also to let you mind get free of the current train of thought.
Buckcherry - For the Movies
This is one of my old favorites, it's not too heavy, but has some spots that pull you out of staring at the computer screen for a short time. That short time of being pulled away can gear you back up for another go at the problem at hand. I find this can be like a little pep talk. Give you a little breather and let you rock out for a minute before getting back to the code.
Camille Saint-Saëns - Air et Danse Bacchanale
This is a classical song with some great parts that pull you away. Once the bells start shaking, this one gets my attention near the end. It builds up to that end very well. Some parts allow you to work through a problem and have it sit in the background, and then when you need it, it grabs you and lets you relax for a minute with some great brass and percussion.
Now, these are just a few examples of the songs I have in my coding playlists. Sometimes, I don't listen to any music at all and sometimes, I can barely function without music playing. For me, the three attributes I mention above are not always the rule either. Sometimes, I need something that will kick me in the pants while I code and pump me up a little.
What are some of the songs you code to?