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Tag: music discovery


How to: Not Get Stuck (Musically Speaking)

I’ve been getting a ton out of a recent article about why people in their 30s (and above) give up on discovering new music.

Has this happened to you? If so, 1) I am sorry and 2) I’d like to help.

I may not be smarter than you. But I do know discovering new music is not as hard as you think.

Step 1: “Define New”

“New to everyone” does not mean “New to you.” If you really wanna know what are the world’s 100 most popular songs at the moment and that’s what you mean by “discovering new music” or “keeping up” or whatever, that’s easy to find.

Listen to a playlist of this nature every Monday, take note of songs you like and the artists responsible for them. Repeat next Monday. You don’t need me for that

If that’s not what you seek then…

Step 2: Chose your Fork (in the road)

Are you…?

(This Way): Looking for new versions of what you already like (i.e I am still listening to DC punk from 10th grade and now my niece is in the 10th grade. What’s happened in that area of music since?)


(That Way): Looking for something completely new (I.e. I am tired of most of what I listened to before and am seeking a fresh start).

You can chose both. For now, it’s easier to pick one because the next step is the hardest.

Step 3: Say What You Like. (In nouns. Not editorials)

This part is hard.

Nobody teaches us how to describe music literally so when we try we usually fall back on the way it makes us feel (“I like music for when I am happy or depressed or contemplating the life cycle of a sunflower”) or on silly genre categories radio programmers made up decades ago. Genres are helpful in a very basic way (there is certainly a musical difference between “New Orleans Jazz” and “Israeli Heavy Metal”) but if you try to describe your music preferences with them, you will inevitably end up in pointless this-not-that hair splitting or on how a genre make you look cool in the 8th grade (“I’m a rock guy, not a raver”) and the point here is whom you are (musically speaking) in the present


Listen to 10 of your favorite songs of all in a row and write down what you hear.

Not what you think or feel or the memory associated with them. Just what you hear. Meaning…

Is it loud or soft, melodic or dissonant? What is the song’s most prominent element? Do you like that the song is over quickly or seems to go on forever?

Now look at what you’ve written down.

How do these adjectives and nouns make you feel? Under what circumstances can you imagine wanting to feel this way?

Now write out one sentence.

“My favorite songs make me feel X by doing Y.”

Keep this sentence right next to you as we proceed to…

Step 4: Learn


Every recording artist ever has a profile on All Music. Every one of those profiles has a “Related” tab which indicates who inspired that artist and who they inspired. Because any musician worth anything had their own favorite music and later generations of musicians they shaped.

Here’s the “Related” tab for a little-known underground artist named Beyonce’.

Wherein it says Ms. Beyonce was influenced by artists like Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, Madonna and Donna Summer. And influenced such artists as Adele, Zandaya, Chloe and Sam Smith.

Now let’s say Beyonce was one of the artists on your list of 10 favorite songs, the list from which you developed that all important sentence we spoke of a moment ago.

“My favorite songs make me feel X by doing Y.”

Armed with your sentence…

Step 5: Dig.

Ms. Beyonce has seven studio albums so I will assume if her work is a favorite of yours, you’ve listened to all of them backwards and forwards, right? You don’t have to love them all but you are being dishonest if on the one hand, you speak openly about how much you love an artist’s music and on the other, only know their hits. That’s like only visit your best friend on their birthday.

Start there. Any artist you love deserves your complete attention. Do your homework and go through the complete works.

Make a list of your favorite songs by that artist and compare them to your sentence.

“My favorite songs make me feel X by doing Y.”

Chances are there is a pretty good match between your list of songs and that sentence.

If the two do not match…

Step 6: Fail, Succeed, say why

Why don’t they? Do you only like Beyonce’ on a sunny day? Do you only like the music she wrote in her 20s? There’s no good or bad reason. But you ned to be able to articulate the reason because that’s what we’re getting at here. You can always discover new music if you can say in clear plain English what you hear and what you like or don’t like about it.

What are you hearing you don’t like? Not feeling, not associating, what are you ACTUALLY HEARING that you don’t like just like step 3. Is it…

“I don’t like songs with drum solos” (Correct)

“I don’t like songs like remind me of my ex-girlfriend” (Incorrect. That’s an association not what you are actually hearing)

Compare this to your sentence then ask for more of what you seek…

For example…

“I’d like some Beyonce’ but with horns”

Then tell everyone in sight you’d like some Beyonce’ with horns.

Step 7: Try again. Ask for help.

No grades, no failing. It’s called “discovery” for a reason