The Effects of Music while Coding

A wise man once said “where words fail, music speaks”. But does that apply to coding?

The Effects of Music while Coding

For decades now, coders have learned to embrace music during their coding journeys, leveraging its ability to elevate productivity, enhance focus and stimulate creativity. Although there are some who might dismiss it as mere background noise, an ever-growing body of research and countless personal anecdotes attest to the profound influence that music can have on the coding process.

Why coding while listening to music can be good!  👍

Mood Enhancement and Stress Reduction!  💆
Music can be a great tool to drown out the world around you. It calms your nerves and has you forgetting all but what lies in your line of sight. With coding being a mentally demanding task, the right music can serve as an excellent source of relaxation and motivation. That is, music has been proven to have a positive impact on mood, reducing stress levels and providing a sense of calm. Every now and then put on the music you enjoy most! It can reduce the pressure and anxiety associated with complex programming tasks and place you in a state of mind ready to be productive, leading to a more enjoyable and efficient coding experience.

Better focus!  📈
A study by the University of Birmingham found that background music can enhance performance on cognitive tasks. For coders, this translates to improved focus, enhanced creativity, and heightened problem-solving capabilities. Furthermore, a survey by software development platform GitHub in 2019 revealed that approximately 80% of developers listened to music while coding, suggesting a prevalent preference for musical accompaniment among the coding community. This isn't just a random choice either. Listening to music can create a rhythm that synchronizes with our brain waves, effectively forming a feedback loop that can aid in the reduction of anxiety and bolstering of concentration. Especially for tasks that require extended periods of concentration like coding, music can act as a protective barrier against potential distractions.

Sparking Creativity  🤓
Music has the power to stimulate creativity and imagination. Many programmers find that certain genres or tracks inspire their problem-solving skills and ignite their creative thinking. By creating a pleasant and stimulating environment, music can encourage innovative solutions and help break through mental blocks, leading to more inventive and efficient coding.

When listening to music back fires  👎

Distracting + Loss of Focus  🙊
Yet, sometimes the music can be just a bit TOO immersing. Perhaps you were listening to Giveon’s a-little-bit-too-relatable lyrics. Or you were tapping your foot in perfect unison to your latest Spotify playlist. Or you were, really, just trying anything other than actually getting your work done. Whilst catchy music and the favourite song you know every last line of can be stimulating and uplifting, its likely that you could find yourself absorbed in the music over your work. It is often best to switch to something less distracting and perhaps calming when you start work. Sometimes, the best option is to even stop the music altogether.

Music, especially with lyrics, can clutter cognitive pathways, leading to reduced focus and diminished comprehension. These are challenges a programmer might face when trying to deeply understand complex algorithms or when commenting on their code, resulting in accuracy and the ability to spot errorst to be compromised. Furthermore, switching tracks, adjusting volume, or getting lured into searching for the "perfect song" can lead to micro-distractions, impeding one's 'flow'. And lets not forget about how some certain tracks can just bring out that nostalgia or memory that gets us completely side-tracked.

So how do we find a balance in which we are able to let the melody of music guide our keystrokes without compromising our coding ability 😆?

Music to Try  😀

Instrumental music!  🤐
Without lyrics to provide distractions, instrumental music can drown out any external noises like background chatter and traffic. Consistent rhythms and repetitive patterns can create a calming atmosphere help programmers maintain focus and a steady flow. Softer instrumental tracks, such as classical, jazz, ambient, or lofi music without lyrics, are often picked by programmers. These genres provide a soothing backdrop that do not interfere with concentration or comprehension so maybe save the hardstyle for the raves.
Yet, others may choose to embrace their electronic surroundings, opting for a harder electronic beat. From Daft Punk’s classic Discovery album to the massive pile of synthwave occupying YouTube’s servers, there is a wide range to massage your eardrums. Another great example is tracker music. Tracker music has been produced within the limitations of earlier computer hardware and is often characterised as being upbeat with repetitive samples and a strongly electronic sound.

Another great option is trying music in another language that you cannot understand. Your brain will tune out the lyrics and your flow will not be disrupted - what you don’t understand, can’t hurt you 🙋.

Movie + Game soundtracks  🎥👾
Many movie and game soundtracks are composed in a way to supplement, rather than take away from the main scene or gameplay. They are composed to accompany intense mental activities, making them an ideal choice for coding sessions. Video game soundtracks in particular, often combine motivating and atmospheric elements that can stimulate productivity and inspire creativity. Hence, they can be great for focus as they are not supposed to steal your attention, as opposed to pop music which is designed to stick into your head and draw you to the catchy lyrics.

Great picks are the ambience of Skyrim, placing you right into a nice sunny day in the forest.

Another perfect companion as you hunt down segfaults is the Minecraft soundtrack (specifically subwoofer lullaby) ✍️

Personalised playlists!  🙀

Creating personalized playlists allows programmers to curate a selection of music that suits their individual preferences and coding style. Some might prefer high-energy tracks to boost motivation, while others may opt for more relaxed tunes for a calm coding environment.

Experimenting with different genres and finding what works best for each individual. Here are some suggestions from the CSEsoc Community!

  • I just listen to sad n depressing songs or taylor swift  - (First Year)
  • Mostly rnb like Bryson Tiller, Tory Lanez and Sza - (First Year)
  • Any Christopher Nolan movie soundtrack - (Second Year)
  • I like listening to piano and jazz but sometimes I have to lower the volume -  (Third Year)

Here’s our very own playlist!

Conclusion  😔
So a wise man once said “where words fail, music speaks” and we said “But does that apply to coding?”. Music can indeed still speak to us after codes fail by sparking creativity and perhaps even breaking mental blocks. But its a bit more complicated than that. Music as a productivity tool is not one-size-fits-all - for some coders, silence is optimal. Music affects people in different ways and at the end of the day, its all subjective how we choose to use music while coding. So take in some of the tips we have listed above and go find YOUR, perfect harmonious blend of coding music. You may just find that music, was what you needed in your coding journey.