The Art of Becoming a Musician: Listening Beyond Your Comfort Zone

“If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.” – Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–82

While I imagine Darwin would have had a hard time finding music to listen to on the Galapagos Islands, you have access to more music than anytime ever in the entire history of man via the internet. If you are going to be a musician, you must start consciously seeking out music that is unfamiliar to you and give it focus and attention with your ears, mind and soul. Reach beyond your comfort zone and start to dig in to the wonderful world of music that’s just waiting for your discovery. Become an appreciator of as many styles and artists as you can and open yourself to music without prejudice as much as possible. Your future favorite bands lie in wait. Perhaps your future influences recorded their masterpiece forty years ago. There are songs out there that will come to define entire eras of your life and you haven’t even heard them yet! We must be autodidactic and educate ourselves by more than just “digging in the crates” as DJ’s would say.

So how do we go about developing a musical acquisitiveness? What steps can we take to open our minds? Here’s a few:

Seek out people who listen to a lot of music- especially from different generations- and ask them to turn you on to some stuff. They are usually thrilled to. Listen to other radio stations, playlists and genres. Dive in to genres you’ve ignored. Never listened to jazz? Look up a list of the top 100 jazz albums of all time and listen to at least half of them on YouTube or Spotify. That goes for any genre out there. Explore your roots. Study albums and songs, chord patterns and songwriters. Read lyrics and liner notes and learn about those producers, engineers and sidemen. Read interviews and reviews, dig deep, follow threads, follow musicians across albums. Go see shows!!! And always bring your earplugs 🙂

Point is, most musicians themselves are fanatics about music and remain true fans for life. Not everyone had cool parents with a great record collection to indoctrinate them. And even if you did, there is a world of new melodies, rhythms, harmonies, grooves and beats percolating in every corner of the globe right now. The sooner you become an explorer in the world of music, the sooner you’ll come to finding your own voice within. And that is perhaps the greatest exploration we undertake. As always, The Key of One is here to help move you forward on the path to exploring the music in you. What are you waiting for?

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