Musicians Should Be Open-Minded

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OK, so we all have certain types of music that we just can’t stand. For me, it’s stuff like Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” an insipid song that I find doubly disappointing because Black Eyed Peas were once a decent hip hop group. Don’t believe me? Check out their 2000 release Bridging the Gap.┬áReally. It’s not bad.

Under the category of “music I could totally do without ever hearing again,” you can also file Creed, Lady Gaga, Nickleback, Limp Bizkit, and anything that sounds like any of the above.

Chances are excellent that you have your own list of bands that you wish you could go back in time and convince to pursue other career options, too. But as musicians, I think we should keep open minds about the music we hear. If you listen and observe without prejudice, you might just learn something.

For example, some pop stars’ lyrics may actually cause your IQ to plummet, but they could teach plenty of bands a few things about theatricality and stage presence, and about how to craft a hook that stays in the listener’s brain FOREVER.

You might not be into the blues, but listen to the way those legendary blues players make each note cry for mercy, and you’ll see why so many rock guitarists draw inspiration from the likes of Albert King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. You can’t touch that feeling.

If you think “classical” music is boring, then you’ve got another thing coming. Maybe you just haven’t heard the right stuff yet. Saying, “I hate classical” is like saying “I hate rock.” Many different types of music get lumped together under the classical genre, but “classical” is actually the name for a specific time period in music history.

Beethoven and Mozart are classical, but Vivaldi, Bach, and Handel were actually part of the baroque period. Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff were romantic-era composers. Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Michael Nyman are considered to be part of the “minimalist” school of composers, though many from that genre detest the classification.

This is also the case for jazz and electronic music, while we’re at it. Don’t like Pat Metheny? Check out some Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Dave Brubeck, or Cannonball Adderly. Sick of Skrillex? Introduce yourself to Boards of Canada, Crystal Castles or Tangerine Dream. There’s so much music out there that you’re bound to find something that intrigues you, if you look.

But I digress. The point I’m trying to make here is that you can’t judge an entire oversimplified genrefication by the oeuvre of one of its accidental representatives.

And once you do find music that’s outside your typical orbit, see what you can learn from it. Pay attention to the things that make it unique and compelling. Why does the beat make you want to move? Why does that chord progression make you feel happy, or anxious, melancholy or amorous? How can you incorporate elements of it into your own musical vocabulary?

Also, don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed for broadening your musical horizons. Yes, Led Zeppelin kicks ass, but if all we ever listened to was their discography on repeat, we’d all sound like crappy Led Zeppelin cover bands.

Don’t be afraid to indulge in guilty musical pleasures. And really, what about any type of music makes it a “guilty” pleasure? Music is supposed to make you feel. If any music makes you crack a smile or want to dance, makes you shed a tear or sends you into a deep reverie, what’s there to feel guilty about? Dismiss the naysayers and enjoy yourself.

Oh, and if you’re looking for guitar lessons in Portland, Oregon, I’d love to be your guitar teacher. Hit me up for a free intro lesson today.