Music for productivity

On Friday there was a Lifehacker post recommending Brian Eno’s Music for Airports album as background music for doing work, the idea being that ambient music allows one to concentrate in a pleasant atmosphere. Indeed, I’ve found that downtempo electronica is good for this: I’ve used Air and Zero 7 to good effect. Shoegazer rock can also do the job, since it’s richly textured and can fade into the background—this accounts for some of My Bloody Valentine’s meteoric rise up my charts.
If a deadline’s not looming this sort of music can be a little too calming and actually make me less productive, so if I really need motivation I will sometimes turn to power pop: The New Pornographers, and lately, Weezer. (Thanks to Lemming for recommending the Blue Album—it’s become one of my favorite ’90s CDs.) Less easily classified, The Go! Team also serve this purpose.
Right now I’m listening to a playlist of my 5-star-rated songs by Belle & Sebastian and The New Pornographers, since I’m seeing them both live tonight.
Any other recommendations for music to listen to while working?

6 thoughts on “Music for productivity

  1. Zifnab

    I’ve found that just about anything i’ve listened to previously will fade into the background when working to the point where I don’t really notice it. Thus, I don’t really listen to a lot of music when working, except in cases where I just need a lot of noise to keep me awake (happened recently on several hw sets + a final).
    My typical playlist if I do listen to music while working is either techo (generally DJ Mystik, as some may recall i’ve a huge number of tracks) or computer game music – FF8, FFX, Xenogears soundtracks are my usual choices. I think the reason why those work is that there is a lot of variance between the styles and tempo of different tracks.
    Finally, the only type of music that doesn’t work well for me when working is stuff I sing along to. When I do sing along, it really destroys my thinking – i think my vocal circuits are connected with some of my programming/debugging circuits, and using both at once makes a mess. (Which is curious, as my thoughts are mostly abstract or written, not vocalized.) Among other things, this means that Weird Al is usually right out when working.

  2. Arcane Gazebo

    Yeah, I don’t sing when I’m in my office but if it’s a song I would otherwise sing along to it can be very distracting, since I get really into the music. The Belle & Sebastian playlist I was listening to when writing the above post was pretty bad for this–you can add pretty much their entire catalog to that list of songs that I’m known to sing.

  3. Mason

    My experience of working with music is similar to Tim’s with eating stuff with garlic. I will notice the absence of music and need it around to get anything done. Potentially, I can listen to baseball games in some cases. I can do those for calculations, but baseball games will distract me (though I’ll listen to them anyway) when it comes to, e.g., pageproofs or revising drafts (basically anything that involves reading rather than doing calculations). The type of music that will distract me for reading (but not for calculations) are novelty records like Tom Lehrer, et all. When I enjoy something primarily because I really like the lyrics, I may end up following along instead of letting it go into the background.
    Also, I think my tendency to blast music while I work is pretty well-known. :)

  4. Mason

    One exception: I tried to make things silent when doing timed stuff like exams. Otherwise, the background music (or baseball) is necessary for me to be willing to do the work.

  5. lidarose

    I’d like to put in my vote for hammer dulcimer music: anything by Jim Taylor (not James), John McCutcheon, or Maggie Sansone.

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