Looking for Music to help Code/Write

[scribbles out all plans to include music in future games]


There’s a daily Substack newsletter called Flow State that’s introduced me to lots of great music perfect for writing and designing to IMO. Generally they feature ambient and/or upbeat instrumental albums from famous artist like Brian Eno and Moby to acts I’d never heard of from around the world. Highly recommended.


I like to work with music, but I think I perform best with songs I know front to back; it’s comforting to listen to something familiar, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything when I’m not focusing on the music, and I can even start singing along if I want (provided I’m alone, of course). I’ll start with my “everything playlist” and just go from newest to oldest, but there a few songs I’ve moved out because I don’t like listening to them unless I’m in a specific mood (usually, it’s because they’re incredibly sad).

I don’t usually put on music I’m unfamiliar with, because then it becomes a balancing act of trying to figure out if I like the music while also working on my project. When I’m getting sick of the songs I’m usually listening to, I’ll take a chunk of time to try discovering new music, usually through listening to some artists I’m interested in. There’s also a big grab bag of over 1000 songs that’s made by a community I’m friends with, so I like jumping into that and seeing what sticks out to me.

There are some great suggestions in this thread, though! I’ve bookmarked it for later. For one song I like, I’ll throw in “Take a Bow, We’re on Stage” by Solarsuit. It always gets me in a thinking mood and has inspired some of my writing.


Ah… They Who Throw Spoons and Motherboards in Blenders. Gets my synapses firing alright.

Aphex Twin’s drukQs is an inspirational music-trip for me. Not while working, but to shake the neurons loose while lying back with my eyes closed. Blender-style hyped up breakbeats interspersed with moody synth/piano pieces.

And I just cannot get enough of Squarepusher’s Hard Normal Daddy. The twists and turns of the electric bass make for great creative impulses.

I listen to these intently while in the background my brain is revving up for creative work. While I’m actually writing or drawing, I prefer silence or calm classical music.


Wow, that’s the one album that inspired me to start making this kind of music seriously myself. And Hard Normal Daddy is the only Squarepusher I own. Plus you’re the only person on the internet I ever met who’s mentioned Steeleye Span. I think you and I have a lot of musical spokes in common!

I’ve seen Autechre a couple of times in Sydney. One time was almost too much, the next time perhaps too little and I would’ve liked to have sat down for it. I’ve also seen Aphex a couple of times here. Autechre (Sean) answered a question of mine during a twitch livestream near the end of last year, which was extremely lucky as frankly the odds were I’d have made it t othe grave without ever knowing whether they use much multiband compression (short answer – no, they don’t like it.)



In the seventies, my father was all into folk. He and his friends bragged about the most obscure finds in the record shop. And by obscure I mean Latvian men’s choirs and Hungarian shephers’ songs. Luckily, he also collected music to actually listen to.
As a child, Steeleye Span’s Live at Last was my favourite music. My father took me to see them at Dranouter Folk Festival when I was 6.
Of course All Around My Hat was an easy favourite for a child. I like Montrose better now.

Actually, I liked Martin Carthy’s solo albums better even as a child. The guitar on Willie’s Lady haunted me. Martin Carthy’s record Crown of Horn is still among my most cherished LPs.

While my father had laid the groundwork with his collection of folk, rock, blues and the great singer-songwriters (Tom Waits, Loudon Wainwright, Neil Young, Patti Smith,…), I searched my own path through the exciting beats and electronics of the nineties. DJ Shadow, The Orb, Orbital,…

When I turned 18 and went off to university, I yoinked my father’s collection of vinyls. I then started expanding on it with Jazz and Funk mostly. My favourite find of that period is Between or Beyond; The Black Forest, a collection of jazzfunk. A Peter Herbolzheimer example: That Ol’ Bus Smell - YouTube


Relatedly, I’ve spend a lifetime trying to play guitar like Bert Jansch. I’m a pretty competent acoustic guitarist (been playing for a long time), but, disappointingly, I’m still not Bert Jansch. Carthy is much more achievable.

What I actually listen to while coding is either something classical that I know so well I don’t really hear it anymore (Sibelius is good for that) or something electric and instrumental and obscure. I’m a big fan of old TV / film library music (like KPM or Bruton; there’s a whole massive playlist of Bruton Music LPs on YouTube, theme and quality varies enormously) and I’ve got a soft spot for Claude Larson (“& his computer controlled oscillators”). Nostalgic sounds of the late 70s / early 80s, more fun to listen to in retrospect than to have lived through, possibly.


I typically listen to ambient stuff (I have a playlist I go back to a lot), but I also find heavier stuff calming - Liturgy, Nails, Sumac, Full of Hell, and older black metal.


A good friend got me hooked on these guys. Instrumental rock music with just enough energy to not become a distraction…


Still bordering in the rock genre, but with an electronic twist. Worth checking out their other stuff if this song floats your boat…

Is there music you listen to while creating your game? Any specifics for certain themes?

Currently I have a list of some ambient songs that take fun turns: Moorbead - playlist by Maxxy | Spotify

But I want to hear from you!


This may come as no surprise, but I wrote Turandot while listening to Puccini’s opera Turandot about five hundred times. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: I’ve never had a specific playlist for other games, I think.

(Come to think of it, I may have written The Art of Fugue while listening not only to Bach’s The Art of Fugue, but also Laibach’s Laibachkunstderfuge and, if I recall the name correctly, Daniel Bautista’s electric guitar rendering of Beethoven’s Große Fuge. Mad music for a mad game.)


I made and listened to a playlist of (mostly) 90s indie music for (mostly) 90s game Repeat the Ending, and I linked to it in the feelie doc and in-game.

I have an (in-process) playlist of 70s dad music for my (in-process) cave game, which I’ll mention in the feelies when the time comes.

Music is an important part of my thing.


Cannot listen to song lyrics while trying to write and/or code. The lyrics prove too distracting. I end up playing something instrumental. Sometimes classical, sometimes movie scores, sometimes videogame tracks (like Nobuo Uematsu).

I’m actually a big fan of Karaoke tracks. Not because I want to sing along though. I can put together a play list with a bunch of contemporary rock and pop songs without the lyrics, so I get the music and the familiarity without the distraction.


Music is very important for me, too. I use it for example to wake up and to get to sleep. Only for writing code or text I DON’T use music! Maybe I should? If I would do that, I would probably use classical music.


The music has to be very specifically selected. If it doesn’t match the tone/themes of whatever I’m working on, it’s just a distraction.

I don’t even love all of those 70s songs, but the vibes are right for the work.


Hopefully with Montserrat Caballe singing Liu! That woman has tears in her voice. I’m partial to the version with her and with Joan Sutherland as Turandot.


Sometimes if I’m stuck, I can find inspiration by creating a playlist. In RSPM each character and situation had a theme that was used in the game, and listening to it extensively defined their vibe. Several characters had music that got changed as they were redefined. Sometimes I’d happen upon a track that I liked so much I had to find a place for it. The entire “triangle muffins” conversation is one of my favorite scenes and that was never planned. It was a side joke that grew and grew and grew while listening to the music that was playing for that scene.

This music usually becomes what I listen to as I work. Occasionally I will just search some combination of “productive/meditation/focus/creativity/binaural music” on YouTube and use that to cut out the outside world.

Sung lyrics in English are very distracting. The music can be vocal - choir is cool, foreign language or obliterative Choir Pronunciation/diction but I can’t have sentences distracting from mine. There are caveats - I wrote an entire screenplay to “This Love” by Maroon 5 on loop, but that was the soundtrack to that thing.



Listening to your alternative playlist, if you haven’t heard Kill Creek before, you owe it to yourself to check out their St.Valentine’s Garage album. The singer lends a soft, yet strained, croaky style that just works so well. The whole album is great.

For those that are curious about them, check out this song…