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Just a few words about listening to people's music (including your own) and being objective.

One of the most important things that you, as a musician, need to remember is that just because you don't like a piece of music then it doesn't necessarily follow that the piece of music isn't any good; it just isn't suited to your taste. It might be that the piece of music genuinely isn't very good, but you shouldn't allow your musical taste to make judgements over musical quality.

For example, you might think that <insert name of latest boy band here> suck like the proverbial Electrolux, but does that mean that their songs have no musical merit? Well, think about how many CD's they've sold this week, and how many hours of radio (and TV) airplay they've had and then ask yourself the same question. OK, so perhaps they're a bit on the commercial side, but wouldn't most musicians like to be selling shed-loads of albums and having thousands of fans screaming at them?

When you listen to music it's important to listen objectively and understand how the piece is constructed. With time you might even come to understand how your musical taste works, and know why some songs appeal to you while others leave you cold.

Always keep your mind open as well as your ears, and you'll find that your musical taste broadens to include styles of music that you might never have thought that you'd ever listen to. For example, before going to MI, I was pretty much a rock/blues player, but during my time there I was exposed to other musical styles such as jazz, fusion, etc. - a good thing because:

I've got very wide musical taste, and there's all sorts of stuff in my CD/record/tape collection (there are one or two items that are a bit embarrasing and I try to hide if I know that I've got company coming, but that's between me and my conscience). How many of the following styles have you objectively listened to lately?

Style Sub-divisions
Classical Early, baroque, classical, romantic, modern/avantgarde
Jazz Traditional, big band, modern, fusion
Blues Blues, R'n'B, Soul
Country Country & Western, new country, bluegrass
Rock Rock, punk, metal, rock'n'roll, AOR
Pop Pop, Brit-pop, dance
and... folk? elevator music? world music? the list goes on...

That list is far from exhaustive and there are a few areas of overlap between the styles, some less obvious than you think. An example that I've played to nearly all of my students is the first movement of J.S. Bach's Harpsichord Concerto #1 in D minor - during the first movement there's a solo section played by the harpsichord that is very remisicient in style to the sort of solo guitar break that you'd find in a rock song. The instrument differs, but at the end of the day (Brian) it's just a series of notes.

If you're not sure about a style then there are fairly cheap ways to try it out. Most libraries hire out CD's and/or tapes now, and there often samplers to be found on the Internet. It really is worth taking the time to learn to listen objectively and to broaden your musical taste, so do it!


Music doesn't necessarily have to be "good" to sell, and there is the frustrating converse that just because the music that you play is "good" you cannot guarantee that you'll have massive commercial success with it. Consider someone like Steve Vai who is technically brilliant, but doesn't really have a huge public appeal (outside of the guitar-playing audience who understand him better). Life, in case you hadn't noticed already, just isn't fair.

All this doesn't mean that I'm suggesting you abandon everything in search of blatant commercialism - just that you understand other people's music and don't begrudge them their success. If they're selling all those CD's then they must be doing something right.

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