My thoughts may very well be severely biased and skewed due to the fact that I have been a musician for more than twice as long¹ as I have dabbled in programming … Yet, I cannot imagine what programming (and coding in general) would be like without the assisted musical influence I seem to thrive on. Whether I sit down to code an interface for an ERP system, or whether I am toying with a plain web form, I seem to work so much more efficiently when there is music pounding.

We all know (yes, you too) that music has very subtle effects on many aspects of our lives. Music helps us exercise better; it helps us get in a certain mood; it helps us relax or concentrate.

Personally, music has never done anything to affect my mood. On the other hand, its impact on how I exercise (well, back when I used to exercise regularly) has always been great.

Summer or bitter winter, rain or sunshine, I used to go for a 20-25 mile bicycle ride … every single day. The daily routine was very much the same. I would grab my portable CD player and a copy of Dreamland by Robert Miles (the original release, not the one with the subsequently added One and One to the album). I would get on my (nice!) bike and start the CD. The slow beginning to the album allowed me to sit there for a moment (as comfortable as those bicycle seats are), taking in expressions from the current weather conditions, mentally preparing myself for the next hour. As the music picked up the tempo, I would be off on my journey. As with most Eurodisco/Techno/Dance/Trance music, Dreamland retains a steady beat throughout the album. Some 60 minutes later, the CD would be over, and I would be back at the driveway.

Same procedure, every day, for 3 years.

Nowadays, when I do not exercise as regularly as I once did, I still find the need to pace myself with the aid of music. But, it cannot be just any type of music. I sometimes find myself spending 15-20 minutes picking the optimal playlist for a given day’s work responsibilities.

“Oh, today I am coding a shopping cart. Best be blasting some 80’s music. Tomorrow, I will listen to synthesizer music à la Jarre while I design a new interactive web interface.”

Whatever I find myself doing — whether plucking away at the strings of JavaScript, or tagging along with some XML, or operating in the PHP and Perl modules at my disposal (three puns intended) — there is always a right type of music for the occasion. I find that I code better, more efficiently, and faster, while blasting my poor ear drums with the likes of The Killers, Ultima Thule, Scooter, or Black Ingvars.

Sometimes, when I look at truly brilliant code, I wonder what I would have to listen to in order to force myself to produce something equally astounding.

Music and programming are just as interchangable as music and exercise. I have yet to work alongside a real programmer (yes, I went there) who did not thrive on the musical notes associated with his vars and ints.

Another great reason to have your own office, and not share a cubicle to some Joe listening to horrendously “wrong” music as his source of inspiration. No wonder a lot of computer geeks are loners!

Do you thrive on music?

¹ I hope for this statement to remain true in 20 years.

“Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.”
Edgar Wilson Nye (1850–1896)