September 26, 2014

Work Day Jams

If you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance you have a job similar to mine—meaning you interact with a computer all day, possibly in a creative industry. Many of us listen to audio (music, sounds, talk radio, etc.) while we hammer away at our tasks. There are a number of reasons for this—to drown out background noise, to motivate, to inspire, to help focus, to make the office feel less lonely.

I’m a designer, so keep in mind that I’m not working in spreadsheets or granular data for extended periods of time. And, while this may not work for you, here’s what I listen to when designing:

Ambient, Background Music—These are tunes that are mellow, often instrumental and require no attention—simply melodies to set a mood. No lyrics means no distractions.

Examples include Tycho, the Braid soundtrack, John Coltrane.

Metal—If I need a pick-me-up or need to hit a tight deadline, I like to speed things up with epic, troll hunting, dragon slaying metal. The feverish pace of the guitar riffs and drums helps get me moving and screamed, often incoherent lyrics keep me from being distracted by a song’s meaning, message, etc. Pro tip: Take that thought one step forward and listen to a band that sings in another language. I recommend Norwegian.

Examples include Gloryhammer, Finntroll, Northland, Tyr.

Anything Really Familiar—If it’s so familiar that I know the words inside-and-out then I follow the principled above by cutting down on distraction—the lyrics simply fade into the background. Plus, nostalgia adds some good vibes.

Examples (for me) include Smashing Pumpkins, any punk/ska/emo from the late 90s-early 2000s, old school hip-hop.

Each of these categories removes the huge potential for interference caused by spoken words. I find that my mind tends to wander—trying to decipher lyrics or formulate theories about what a song means, when I am unsure of these things. Cut down on that, and maximize production.