How to Broaden Your Musical Horizons

Have you hidden behind the boundaries of a single music genre all your life? Is your CD collection boring and scarce? Have you started to notice that all the music that's commercially successful seems like variations on a single theme--a theme that you're getting tired of? You can offer your ears a new and ever-changing menu of music. Begin with Step 1 to get started!


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    Listen to Internet radio stations. Forget standard radio. Browse all kinds of stations--international, rap, hip hop, electronica, alternative, blues, soundtracks, jazz, and so on. Let them play in the background while you browse the Web, answer e-mails, etc. If you hear a song you like, write down the title, album, and artist, if possible. Some good sites include:,, and, but there are plenty of other great ones.
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    Browse music stores online. Type in the name of a band or song that struck you and listen to samples of all their albums and songs. Check out related artists (often mentioned in editorial reviews and the recommendation section) too. Find out what music genre the song or musician(s) you're interested in fall into, and shop by genre.
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    Ask interesting people what they listen to. You know that guy on the bus who wears a trench coat, eyeliner, and fingerless gloves? Yeah, he may have some interesting turns playing. Look at the kid with the lip ring and the bag of art supplies. Next time you see him bobbing his head to his iPod, ask him what he's listening to. Either he'll think you're rude, or, more likely, he'll be delighted at the chance to share his musical taste with someone who's actually curious. Instead of asking people how they're enjoying (or not) the weather, ask them questions like:
    • What's the first CD you bought?
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    • What's the last CD you bought?
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    • If you had to choose one song to summarize your life, what would it be?
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    • Has a song ever made you cry?
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    • If you were to make a soundtrack to your life, what would be on it?
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    Listen to whole albums. Often, an artist or group puts out one or two singles that engage popular appeal but are uncharacteristic of their work. And quite commonly, the jewels of music are buried in albums, far away from radio play. So, if a catchy single drew you in, don't be surprised and throw the CD away if the rest of the songs aren't just like it.
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    Listen to an album more than once before deciding whether you like it or not. It's best to listen to an album three times before you make your judgment, especially if it's a genre you don't normally listen to. For example, if you're listening to your first heavy metal CD, you'll probably spend the first run furrowing your eyebrows as your ears adjust. By the second run, you might start to feel your toes tap, and a little bit of headbanging coming on. And by the third time around, you could very well be singing along and listening carefully to the lyrics. You don't necessarily have to listen to an album three times in a row--just make sure you've given it the full benefit of the doubt before you toss it.
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    Go underground. Find out who the local bands are and where they play. Visit venues that feature independent artists. If you live near a major city, find out where you can listen to great music live and go there. Even if it's a group or performer you've never heard of, and/or a type of music you don't normally like, sometimes listening to music live can make a believer out of you and change your listening perspective.
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    Take a class in music theory. You can better appreciate music by understanding how it works. Music has many layers, which are difficult to recognize and enjoy without knowing what the difference is between music and noise. In other words, listening to music without understanding music theory is like being into cars without having any idea what's under the hood.
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    Learn to play an instrument. What better way to further your appreciation for musical artists and the work they create than by learning to create it yourself? Cover your favorite songs. If you're drawn to certain songs and genres because of the emotion it stirs in you, chances are, that emotion will be amplified if you genuinely try to play that music yourself. And who knows? You might discover your inner musician and start creating music of your own.
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    Go to the library. The library is a wonderful repository of wealth. Think of it like this: what's theirs is yours!. Besides all the books there, libraries also stock music--all kinds of music: rap, country and western (both the modern and the old), blues, classical, opera, world music, reggae, techno, minimalism, trance, disco, etc.). Whatever your library doesn't have, they can order from other libraries.
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    Identify someone in your life whose tastes in music overlap with yours. Then, explore some of the music they listen to that doesn't fit the niche you've carved for yourself. Give it a chance even if it takes you out of your musical comfort zone a bit (see previous note on listening to an album more than once). When you listen with an open mind as opposed to with your prejudgment, you'll often be surprised at what you actually do enjoy! Ask your friend for recommendations they think you'd enjoy but that you normally wouldn't listen to.
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    Connect the dots (or, shall we say, artists!). Identify a few artists you consistently enjoy, and find their collaborations. Next, check out compilation albums that have included the artist, and listen for other artists on the compilation album you might enjoy. Similarly, find soundtracks which feature their music- both approaches, you're likely to discover artists with musical styles similar to your "always-in-your-CD-player" artist.


  • You may end up feeling like the type of music you started out with is still your favorite, and that's fine - this is about opening yourself to other possibilities and expanding your horizons. Don't be surprised, however, if you end up liking some other types of music as time goes by - all tastes change and evolve as we grow older and have more experiences.
  • Look out for patterns in your own thinking that would block you from appreciating a new genre. Thoughts like "it all sounds the same" or "they only listen to that music to seem cool" usually come from ignorance. Give the listeners of that genre the benefit of the doubt, that there is substance in their music, so much so that some people devote their lives to it.
  • Surprisingly, you may find that sites like are good for expanding your tastes in music. With its editorial and user reviews and ratings, lists of other bands that are liked by users who were interested in this product, and very comprehensive database of music CD's available, it can be a strong tool in expanding your musical horizons.
  • A good site to find similar artists is All you do is type in an artist or band your like and it will come up with bands similar to those you like. And one good thing about this site is it will include not so famous bands that are unique and starting out. It's a good way to listen to bands no one else knows and have a unique taste.
  • Try not to get caught up in judging a style of music for the moral/religious values/lifestyle that you might associate with it. Remember that stereotypes don't always apply, and learning to appreciate a style of music might give you a window into someone else's way of life.
  • Support diversity and creativity by buying CD's and merchandise directly from struggling musicians who've contributed something unique to the world.
  • Sign up with websites offering free, streaming music content using their services, such as and Both of these websites offer a protocol matching you up with other users on the site with tastes similar to yours.
  • Check out sites dedicated to free music you can (legally!) download to your computer. Browse the styles, or take a chance and try streaming the latest review on the site. Who knows what you'll discover? Some of these will shock you, while others will wow you, but most of them will expose you to something new you may not have heard before.
  • Be willing to put your money where your mouth is -- or at least, where your ears are. (Don't just download and keep, that's stealing - if you download to listen, then buy the ones you like, you are supporting recording artists!)
  • Everyone has CD's that they haven't listened to much. Identify the songs that you don't know very well and have ONLY THOSE on your iPod. You'll appreciate them a lot more, and even if they are from your favorite artists they will be new to you.
  • Don't get obsessed with one band, like if you're into thrash don't only listen to Metallica, or if you like hair metal don't only listen to Motley Crue.
  • The Launch Cast player automatically selects what music to play for you based on recommendations . After rating a sufficient amount of music, it can become a great resource for discovering bands that you may not have otherwise heard of, whether the band be under-rated or merely obscure.
  • Consider trading mix tapes with friends - you might even want to make some mixes for them featuring your latest and greatest music discoveries.
  • Make sure to even look at some extreme form of music such as death and black metal. A lot of it even has folk/classical and even symphonic influences. Try Eluveitie, Korpiklaani, and Behemoth.
  • On the Internet, look up the discographies of artists you already know. Especially ones where you only know few of their songs. Listen and see if there are songs by them that you don't already know and like.
  • Share playlists with friends, listen to your parents' music, don't be afraid to listen to old music and classical. Try searching random letters on Spotify or searching through groups of types of music.


  • People will probably look at you funny as you explore music that spans beyond the kind of music someone like you are "supposed" to listen to. Have fun shattering your stereotype, and put the volume up when someone raises an eyebrow (but don't overdo it, it may hurt your ears).

Things You'll Need

  • Internet connection (DSL/Cable preferable, for audio downloading or streaming)
  • A computer with enough hard drive space to digitally store your entire collection of music
  • A good anti-virus/anti-spyware combo.
  • Most importantly, an OPEN MIND TO NEW MUSIC!

Article Info

Categories: Music Listening and Appreciation