Programming Music

When I’m working in Excel, Access and/or VBA, I’m usually listening to my iPod. That means mostly rock from the ’60s and ’70s and a few other songs thrown in for good measure. There’s a good amount of blues, some country that doesn’t suck, and Amy Winehouse (bit of an outlier, that).

When I’m tech editing, as I’ve been doing recently, I simply can’t listen to music with vocals. I have many classical[1] tracks, but there’s no way I could fit them all on my iPod, so I had to be selective. First I tried Vivaldi – too distracting. Next was Bach – it was OK, but I didn’t want to stop until I’d tried at least one more. Finally I loaded up Mozart’s Eine Kliene Nachtmusik – it’s perfect for reading/editing.

What do you listen to while programming?

[1] In case my former piano teacher is reading: Phyllis, I know classical refers to only a subset of what is commonly referred to as classical. I didn’t forget.

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26 thoughts on “Programming Music

  1. For programming/editing/writing, I like Nuevo Flamenco guitar music — Ottmar Liebert, Jesse Cook, Johannes Linstead, Liona Boyd (Camino Latino).
    Occasionally a “perfect” song comes up in the rotation, and I’ll listen to it a few times before moving on.

  2. Wow! your piano teacher reads Excel blogs!

    I also like to listen to classical music or at least what most people refer to as classical music. I especially like piano though I tend to get caught in the song doing some air piano.

  3. When starting some pice of VBA development when I want to rattle off the code, I like my music loud and rumbustious, such as the Clash, Undertones, Weddoes, early XTC and so on, or old reggae (Ska/Blue Beat/Rock Steady).

    When testing and debugging, I prefer good jazz, Miles, Trane, Monk, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Jackie McClean, Cecil Taylor – blues is too distracting at this point, I find jazz to be more rhythmic and, dare I say, melodic.

    Oddly, when working in Excel proper, I prefer female singers, Laura Nyro being my favourite, although many of the country oriented singers also work for me (EmmyLou, Lucinda Williams, Trish Hinojosa – sorry Dick) , or even a bit of world music

    I rarely listen to classical when on the comp, I prefer to listen to that in quiet situations, although Beethoven’s String Quartets can do it for me.

    Debs – love your flamenco choice.

  4. I can relate. I’ve got a portable Sirius satellite radio, so typically I’m listening to either hair metal (Poison, Warrant, Cinderella) or classic rock (Foreigner, Styx, Hendrix, etc). If the Ipod is on, then it’s stuff like Saxon, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Testament, and so on. Guitar hero stuff, you see.

  5. Wide range of alternative stuff. Enya, Mazzy Star, Belly, Azure Ray, Lisa Germano, Tearwave, etc.

    That is, unless I am working on a section of code that is particularly mind twisting. Then I have to have silence.

  6. Our office pipes in pink noise for our listening enjoyment. It sounds like an HVAC system. They also disallow headphones…

    I would be listening to scored movie soundtracks such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.

  7. Vertical Horizon, Indigo Girls, Niel Young, CCR, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Angelique Kidjo, Bob Marley, Widespread Panic, Almond Brothers, Dave Mathews Band, Miriam Makeba, Dire Straits, DJ Vadim, Doc Watson, Curtis Mayfield, Emmylou Harris, Led Zeppelin, Enigma, J.J.Cale, Eric Clapton, Heart, James Taylor…

    Music gives me energy. I always have it playing if possible. Live recordings are the best for me.


  8. I find dubstep or electronica compelling, like it’s beating the code into my eyes/out of my fingers.

    I write better comments when listening to classical or blues.

  9. I can’t believe I missed this thread.

    I switch up music frequently, but here is my current programming music.

    Wolf Parade
    Sunset Rubdown
    Handsome Furs
    Frog Eyes
    Swan Lake
    New Pornographers

  10. When I really need to focus I listen to either Mozart or Secret Garden (

  11. Bah! I got so excited when I saw that title on my feed – a little part of me was wondering whether it really was possible to turn Excel into some kind of bizarre MIDI sequencer or tracker. “Is there no end to Excel’s possibilities?”, I thought. Ah well…

    Anyway, the post does raise an interesting issue – it seems there really is a difference in the way music affects different people whilst working. I actually find it harder to concentrate when I’m not listening to music. I had a slight difference of opinion with the head of department at my last job, as he couldn’t get his head round the idea that I could work more efficiently with my earphones in.

    However, I do usually find that vocal music is too distracting, so my playlist is usually full of instrumental tracks. All sorts of genres, though – ‘classical’, jazz, soundtracks, rock, folk and lots of electronica (various types). For working to a tight deadline, I usually choose something with a higher bpm. If it’s something that involves a bit more concentration, I’ll slow it down a bit. If I’m working on something particularly taxing, the Mozart effect seems to do wonders – maybe the effect is imagined, but it certainly seems to have the desired results.

    Of course, the additional benefit gained from listening to music whilst working is that it drowns out the inane babblings of the middle-aged, menapausal divorcee who never seems to do any work that doesn’t allow her to yak constantly at the same time.

    Piped pink noise sounds like an interesting idea…

  12. Dick, thanks for those links – the only appropriate response has to be “Is there no end to Excel’s possibilities?”

    So basically it looks like one can sequence MIDI and audio/Wavs using Excel! Now all we need to do is work out how to time-stretch audio clips, and implement VST plugins, then I can uninstall Ableton Live and EnergyXT! ;)

    Seriously, though – I have quite an interest in algorithmic composition, so I’m looking forward to playing with the J-Walk midi-player file and some of the other suggestions.

    Thanks again, Dick – I would never have even thought of googling ‘MIDI’ and ‘Excel’ at the same time, so I may never have found out about this!

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