Black metal is great background music for coding, and death metal affords intense focus when concentrating on a particular programming task, a recent blog post about software development has postulated. That has some pondering the positive effects dark metal can have on those in any line of work.

Work Life looked at some of the benefits the twin metal subgenres exhibit in software designers Monday (June 10). But the search was prompted by a peculiar note found in Stack Overflow's 2019 Developer Survey.

To stay focused, coders reported listening to "more kinds of metal than some of us knew existed," the survey revealed, which led writer Sarah Goff-Dupont to wonder exactly which kinds of metal work best when making apps.

With the help of data scientist Julia Silge and Pandora developer Rob Whitlock, she theorized that certain extreme metal attributes lend themselves to the work. In the survey, 3.2 percent of software developers (of an estimated 26 million worldwide) listed some type of metal as their main music choice when coding.

But Why? Whitlock started with a theory. He said the harsh, growling vocal performances often found in death metal—"or as they say in the industry 'vokills,'" or "virtually unintelligible utterances that could be mistaken for Cookie Monster or a Ringwraith," Goff-Dupont writes—are one part of the programmer's draw.

"That's what appeals to me about death metal when I'm coding, believe it or not,” Whitlock offered. "When I hear clean singing, my brain starts tracking what they're saying and it's distracting. But with the vokills, it's just a sound. You don't think about what they're saying so it just fades into the background."

When it comes to black metal, however, it's an opposite attribute that can drive a software developer's concentration. The Pandora designer described a more personal connection he experiences with that style of metal.

"If I know I'm going to be at a task for a long time, I'll put black metal on," Whitlock added. "Especially if it's something I'm a bit sad about doing. … Black metal is emotionally evocative in a way that death metal isn't. There are times when you're coding and you sort of need that emotional awareness."

All that said, the article also surmised that doom metal may not be the best for staying studious. Unless it's High on Fire. (Want some metal while you work? Get Pandora's "Metal for Coding" station here.)

"Don't get me wrong," Whitlock responded. "I love doom metal. But the vocals are pretty clean, and it's usually based on a pentatonic scale like blues which makes it really melodic. It's also slower with a lot more space between the notes because they tend to play behind the beat. So it's easy to get distracted by it. … Except for High on Fire. They're super high-energy with just insane riffs. The energy trumps everything. I can listen to that while I'm coding."

It's previously been shown that music can help students achieve deeper "brainwave states" when concentrating on study material, as Dr. Masha Godkin told NCU in 2017. Perhaps this could help explain why, for the avid headbanger, the brutal sounds of death metal or black metal seem to assist in focus and productivity.

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