Define Your Taste

DEFINE YOUR TASTE

How do you experience music? On your headphones? Home stereo? Car stereo? Do you hear it on the radio? Do you stream or download? iTunes? Spotify? YouTube? Facebook?

How you listen to music and where you get it from hugely affects your musical experience. It will dictate your preference and the initial path you follow when becoming a musician.

In order to have a clear musical path to follow, you need to define your taste.

The guy who only hears music on the radio at work and whose favourite band is ‘just whatever’, is unlikely to pursue music. It takes a deeper connection to want to understand how music is made and become a musician.

I’m going to venture that most of you reading this are at least music lovers and therefore take your listening pretty seriously. I’m referring here to the ‘music fan’ scale.

 Musician's Map Music fan scale

At one end you’ve got the guy from above, the casuals, who like music but have no preference. There’s nothing wrong with being a casual, but casuals aren't musicians.

At opposite end of the scale there’s the fanatics; they’ve got their favourite band’s name tattooed on their face, they buy all their music on vinyl, their headphones can only be removed surgically, and they don’t go to gigs with more than 100 people because big gigs ‘are for the masses’.  

And somewhere in the middle of the scale sits the music lovers; they might listen to the current Pop Top 40, they have a Spotify account, know the artists names and some song lyrics, they go to big gigs and listen to music in their spare time.

If you’re at least a music lover then you’re qualified to start changing your music experience from something you listen to, into something you make. So let’s start at the...start.

You need to find what suits you.

Defining your music taste helps you focus on what it is about music that makes you a music lover. 

Being able to easily identify what you like makes the next steps in your journey clear, and will help you progress faster. So how do you find what suits you?

By listening. It might seem simple but by listening, really listening to what you are hearing, you can begin to define your own idea of what sounds good to you.

We’re not thinking about anything else just yet except what sounds good to your ears. What it is about music that you connect with. 

Try to hear what the lyrics (if there are any) are saying. Listen to the combination of instruments and sounds, feel the groove (or lack of). What emotion do you think the song conveying? How does it make you feel? Do you like it?

Let’s do an actual exercise - don’t just read this, do it.

If you can, I want you to name five artists or bands that you enjoy. Do a quick web search and make a list of the main genre each artist labels themselves as. For example, you might get something like this:

  • Artist 1 - Pop
  • Band 2 - Rock
  • Band 3 - Funk
  • Artist 4 - Electropop
  • Artist 5 - R&B

Great. Now let’s define the characteristics of these genres.

Just search online and write down the first descriptions that come up. Remember we are looking for distinguishing qualities that indicate how the genres sound, rather than cultural or aesthetic characteristics.

Something like this:

  • Pop - Short/medium length songs, basic structure, repeated chorus, strong melodies and hooks.
  • Rock - Electric guitar, electric bass guitar, drum kit, singer, blues influenced
  • Funk - Intense groove, strong guitar riffs and bass lines
  • Electropop - Pop with a harder, dirtier sound. Low synthesizers
  • R&B - Drum-machines, strong rhythm/groove, smooth melodies, hooks, hip-hop influence 

Now use all these qualities to begin to define your taste.

If you pick a few of the repeated words from above like melodies, pop, hooks, groove, strong, you would begin to see that you predominantly prefer a pop song with a good groove, reinforced vocal melodies and strong hooks. Congratulations, you have the same taste as 90% of music lovers everywhere! 

Haha I kid, I kid. There’s a good reason why these genres are popular, but that’s a topic for another day. 

Now you know how to define what you like, dig a bit deeper.

See if you can name your favourite album. Then name your favourite song (which doesn’t have to be from your favourite album).

Repeat the characteristics search we used for genre, for both the album and the song. Write your final results down. They might look like this:

Genres

  • Pop - Short/medium length songs, basic structure, repeated chorus, strong melodies and hooks.
  • Rock - Electric guitar, electric bass guitar, drum kit, singer, blues influenced
  • Funk - Intense groove, strong guitar riffs and bass lines
  • Electropop - Pop with a harder, dirtier sound. Low synthesizers
  • R&B - Drum-machines, strong rhythm/groove, smooth melodies, hooks, hip-hop influence

Album

  • Beyonce - Beyonce - Electro-R&B, heavy bass, prominent synthesizers, falsetto vocals, harmonies

Song

  • Daft Punk - Get Lucky - Disco/Funk, prominent groove and vocal melody, guitar riff, strong bass line

You’ve found and defined specifically the sort of music that suits you at the moment.

Use this technique and apply it to your preferred genres, albums and songs and see what characteristics come up. Write them down and you now have a list of the specific qualities you prefer in music.

These qualities are not only what you prefer to hear, but also what you prefer to play. These qualities are what you want for your musical experience.

You can use these characteristics to start to discover more music. Learn how to take this further, branch out and expand your music experience in the next article.