From Smooth Jazz To Death Metal….It’s All Good!
How many of you have ever listened to rock? Blues? Jazz? Metal? Country? Chances are, most of us are especially fond of a couple of different types of music. Of course some of you will quickly say “I listen to everything…like, everything from Smashing Pumpkins to Death Cab for Cutie”. I’m here to tell you that if this is your response, your view of what kinds of music is out there is painfully narrow. As musicians, we are moved by music and connect with it in a much deeper way than most people can even fathom. Usually, there is a style of music or specific artists that make us want to play, that help us shape our sound, develop our technique, and maybe even through their own wardrobe choices help us decide what to wear on stage! This is a great and beautiful thing, as one generation of artists inspire the next and the fine traditions of rock, hip-hop, classical, etc are passed on.
Unfortunately, many musicians tend to attach themselves so strongly to one style that they totally neglect all of the other great music out there. Take me for instance. When I started playing guitar as a teenager, the only things that would tickle my fancy were PUNK and METAL (and anything else equally loud). Anything that wasn’t hard, fast, or heavy was totally boring. This all changed when I took jazz band in high school. At first it was just kinda neat to be able to play guitar as part of a class at school – but NO WAY was jazz any cool. Uh uh. Jazz is (typically) not punk OR metal. Jeez! Over time and through my second year in jazz band, I started to understand the finer points of jazz music and reluctantly began to fall in love with it – after all, how could one musician not admire others who hold themselves to such a high level of musicianship?
Don’t worry, I’m not here to sell you any Miles Davis CDs (although you really should have a few).
What happened to me is that I realized that I shouldn’t hold back from listening to genres other than rock (my main thing). “Why?”, you ask? Great question, as it brings me to my main point. If you can take one thing from reading this article, remember this:
As a musician, you can benefit from listening to any piece of music, whether you love it or hate it.
That’s right. You might hate a Christina Aguillera song but you know what? The guitar sound might be great. You might hate jazz, but you know, that one thing the horn player did in that one tune would sound great on guitar…maybe bass could double it and octave lower…..hmmm…. What it comes down to is that everything you listen to has an impact on your playing everything you listen to has an impact on your playing and on the music you write, whether you realize it or not. The rhythm of the drums in a Stone Temple Pilots song might turn out to be the rhythm you use in a guitar solo you write for a song. The flute theme in Debussy’s “L’Après-midi d’un faune” (”An Afternoon of a Fawn”) may inspire a melodic line that later becomes something to give to the singer in your rock band……this might happen subconsciously even if you think Debussy is crap!
But wait, there’s more! I haven’t even mentioned the fact that listening to different types of music will lead you to enjoy more music. Music touches us all differently, and I have found that different pieces of music in different genres appeal to different emotions. Nonetheless, I can get equally pumped up listening to Bach or Bachman Turner Overdrive or shed a tear over Billie Holiday’s sweet voice as easily as I would over Kirk Hammet’s solo in “Unforgiven”.
Image features album covers for: “London Calling” The Clash, “The Slim Shady EP” Eminem, “The Anthology 1947 – 1972″ Muddy Waters, “Stravinsky: 125th Anniversary Album” Philharmonic Orchestra Conducted by Robert Craft, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” The Beatles, “Rocket To Russia” The Ramones, “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” Public Enemy, “Vulgar Display Of Power” Pantera, “A Love Supreme” John Coltrane, “Are You Experienced?” The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “The Sun Sessions” Elvis Presley, “Nevermind” Nirvana, “Get Behind Me Satan” The White Stripes, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” Bob Dylan, “Songs In The Key Of Life” Stevie Wonder, “In The Wee Small Hours” Frank Sinatra, “Bitches Brew” Miles Davis, “Violator” Depeche Mode