APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HATE
But why? I hear you ask. Let’s start by talking about exercise.
Exercising has to be one of the most hated activities in modern society. Despite it being common knowledge that exercise is important for our physical and mental health, most people would prefer not to exercise at all. I bet the thought of getting up and running 5km right now doesn’t fill you with excitement; you know it’s good for you, but you don’t enjoy doing it. For most people, any pleasure they get from exercise comes once it’s over, and it’s no different for music they don’t enjoy.
But how do you know you’re not actually a brilliant runner, until you make the move and try to run?
Sometimes doing things we don’t immediately enjoy can be beneficial, so let’s discover why it’s worth learning to appreciate all kinds of music.
You will become a better musician.
By exposing yourself to outside influence and putting yourself in uncomfortable musical positions, you will constantly grow and change. The more you hear, the more ideas you have to draw from when creating your own music, and the wider base of reference you have to compare your own skills.
You might be watching a terrible metal band and all of a sudden hear a synth sound you love. In the metal context you hate it, but when you take the idea home and add it to the hip-hop album you’re working on...it works!
Just because you don’t like a style, it doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate, admire, or recognise a great song when you hear one.
It makes you interesting.
Who want’s to listen to a musician that sounds the same as everyone else? Who want’s to jam with a drummer that only knows two drum beats? Their mum. No one else. In order to attract interest from others, you need to be interesting yourself.
The best way to be an interesting musician is to expose yourself to lots of different music, have a wide range of influences, and be comfortable with a wide range of styles. Avant-garde Ecuadorian funk? Yeah they’ve got some really cool rhythms!
Don’t overlook being able to relate to people, other musicians especially. Networking and creating relationships is half of a successful musical journey, if you can’t relate to a broad range of people you’re limiting the amount of people that can help you.
Let’s say you hate jazz. Wouldn’t it be great if the next time someone mentions how much they love jazz, rather than stay quiet or brood over your dislike of the genre, you could join in the conversation? Even if it was to say “jazz isn’t really my thing but I’ve heard Miles Davis and the playing is incredible!”. You’ve just made a connection and shown you are open minded, positive, and prepared to go out on a limb. That jazz lover could be a new friend, a potential fan or a connection that gets you a great gig.
So how do we handle listening to music we don’t like, long enough to appreciate it?
Focus on the instrumentation.
Remember how we learnt to focus on individual elements of a song? This is where that skill becomes even more valuable. Let’s say you’re the person from the example above and can’t stand jazz. You’re listening to a Thelonius Monk record because you’re a good student and want to broaden your musical horizons, but it’s hard going. You are however, also the drummer who jams with their mum from the other example above. Focus on the drums.
Try to isolate the drums in your mind and picture the drummer Ben Riley behind his drum kit. Can you picture what he is playing? What sort of drum kit is he using? How can he play that smoothly? How does he keep time with all that noise?
All of a sudden you are listening to an artist you don’t like, and finding ways to appreciate the instrumentation and musicianship.
How about vocalists and lyricists? You don’t truly know a genre until you know what they are singing about. Punk music might sound brash and simplistic, but lyrics are perhaps the most important aspect of the genre (aside from attitude!). Lyrics are what created punk and set it aside from similar music of the time. The message in punk lyrics connected with a generation and influenced all music that followed. Surely there’s value in listening to what they had to say, even if you don’t like punk?
Check out Johnny Rotten singing for the Sex Pistols for example. His shouty, confrontational, arrogant vocal style changed the world! You don’t have to like it, but you can’t deny it’s effect.
Just because you don’t like a style, it doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate or even admire a skilled or influential musician, or recognise a great song when you hear one.
Start now; listen to something you don’t think you will enjoy. If you’re a top 40 pop fan seek out something like death metal (try Ulcerate). With an open mind, try to identify why people might like that style of music. Give it a few songs and really try.
You might not convert to death metal all of a sudden, you might even be thankful to turn it off, but you WILL expand your musical world view, and that can only be a good thing.