“So, what music do you listen to?”
It’s a pretty common question, typically asked when two people gradually veer towards awkward silence. And to be fair, it tends to be a good conversation starter. It’s a question that’s almost universally applicable - most people have a favourite musical genre.
When people start learning music, that translates to them wanting to play (or sing) songs of that specific genre. Ask a guitar teacher what his or her students most often ask to learn; you’ll find an overwhelming tendency towards rock and metal songs. Up to an extent, that’s perfectly fine. Playing or singing along to your favourite song, well, that’s one of the most fulfilling things you’ll ever do as a music student. What remains frequently ignored, however, is the value in playing genres you don’t usually listen to.
Playing music you don’t like so much simply isn’t as fun as playing the stuff you love; there’s no way around that. But that also means that it can be more of a challenge. It’s significantly easier to play something you know inside out- and something you’re wholeheartedly invested in- than it is to play alien, unfamiliar material. So while someone who can drum to Dream Theater songs might be a great prog-metal drummer, there’s no guarantee that they’re a good drummer per se. This distinction is important. If you’re part of a band, it’s unlikely that you’ll only ever play material you’re accustomed to. That’s when a bit of versatility comes in handy- versatility that can only be honed by playing different genres. At Taaqademy, we try our best to work with as eclectic an assortment of faculty as possible - you'll find metalheads, jazz cats, prog-rockers, pop lovers and much more - and there's a lot to learn from each of them, both one-on-one and as part of ensemble/jam sessions
But look, even if you never plan on being part of a group, there’s another good reason to step out of the genre comfort zone. That reason is fairly simple- every genre has something to offer. Maybe it’s the use of rhythm (i.e. ‘flow’) in rap; maybe it’s the use of dissonance in metal and jazz. The point is, regardless of what instrument you play (or even if you sing), there’s something to learn from every strain of music. After all, music is music at the end of the day. The almost magical ability it has to put a grin on a person’s face, or to set their toes tapping - that transcends genres. And that’s something no one, musician or otherwise, should forget.
Many rappers (such as MF Doom, pictured above) know how to manipulate rhythm effectively, much like an accomplished soloist in a band.
So while it’s great to play what you love, it’s equally important to play other material too. At worst, you’ll be a better-rounded musician. At best, well, who knows - maybe you’ll even come to love new music.