Tear Down Those Musical Walls

Tear Down Those Musical Walls

A common question guitar instructors ask their students is “What kind of music do you like?” Being a guitar instructor I have asked this question myself knowing that the answer is usually going to be one particular style of music. It may be country, or classic rock, or blues, or metal. It doesn’t really matter. The point is many people have very limited tastes in music. Rarely does a student say “I like all kinds of music”, which would be the best possible reply in my mind.

Worse is many guitar instructors use that information to reinforce that stylistic narrow-mindedness by only teaching the student their favorite style of music (or the teacher's favorite style of music), when they could be using their influence to broaden the students musical horizons. By introducing the student to styles of music they probably wouldn’t pursue on their own the teacher would be helping the student become a more well-rounded musician.

You could argue that there is nothing wrong with liking only one style of music. Perhaps that is true. But that is like saying you only like action movies, and won’t watch comedies, dramas, musicals, adventure movies, etc. You are certainly free to feel that way, but you are really missing out on a lot of great stuff. The same thing applies to music. Why limit yourself so severely?

Unfortunately, music culture is very segmented and seems to encourage stylistic single-mindedness. Perhaps it is the strong emotional response music is capable of that makes people say “I hate country music” or “I hate jazz” or similar statements. Yet I find that if the student will give other styles a chance, they usually find that they actually enjoy playing other styles of music. It may not turn them into a lifelong fan, but they may discover that there are good things to be found in most styles of music — especially for guitar.

Increasing your stylistic knowledge will also increase your guitar playing abilities and opportunities. Most styles of music have certain playing techniques, chord voicings, and stylistic riffs and fills that are commonly used. Learning these can allow you to play in almost any situation. Obviously, high gain, Drop-D, palm-muted, power chord chugging isn’t going to work for a blues or bluegrass jam, and the alternating bass note/strumming of a country song isn’t going to go over so well at a jazz open mic. But if you know some of the basics of each style of music you increase your opportunities of getting gigs or at least having a good time playing with other people.

I’m not saying you need to love or learn every style of music, but why not try a few and see what happens. You might discover you like them.


Photo by Samuel Zeller

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