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A Great Question: Where Do You Get Your Musical Taste?

If you were to create a Venn diagram describing the musical tastes of me and my sister, there would be very, very little intersection. We agree on only a few bands/genres. Maybe you see the same thing with your siblings. Then there’s my dad. He LOVES country music. I would rather pluck out an eyeball with a rusty nail than listen to country. My mother, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have much affinity for music at all.

How is it possible for people to grow up in the same household with the same exposure to music and yet develop different ideas about what’s good and bad and what’s pleasurable and merely noise?  The Huffington Post explores this idea of musical taste. Is it nature or nurture?

. Is music taste inherited? I immediately shut that down from a point already made: parental and children music tastes do not align. Environment made more sense. All three of my sisters and I love the music my parents grew us up on. The main ones I remember — the ones I still love today — are Madonna, Britney Spears, the Spice Girls, Gwen Stefani, the Rippingtons and Dire Straits. And my three sisters still love those artists too. Though today we have disagreements on a song being any good or not, it is seldom.

This led me to think that perhaps the music we grow up on tunes our ears to be inclined to certain styles, tones, and musical structures. I recently started heavily using Pandora, an internet radio station that selects songs for the listener based on the musical structure of previous songs they have enjoyed. Maybe our brains work the same way. If we are exposed to a song or genre of music long enough, that music becomes something we enjoy hearing. This can be paralleled to the proximity effect of attraction in psychology, which is the tendency for individuals to form attractions to someone they are close by to. We’ve likely all experienced this effect. Someone we would not have found attractive just passing by on the street we grow to find attractive because we spend time with them. This accounts for why many people marry those they meet in college or at work.

The same idea can be applied to music.

Continue reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38403 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “A Great Question: Where Do You Get Your Musical Taste?

  • Interesting! My early musical tastes were formed in rebellion, which this piece does not even mention./. I thank my music teacher and my parents for my passionate interest and enjoyment of early jazz and blues, because they hated it so much. Jazz, harrumphed my music teacher, is just a bunch of black men yelling and banging drums. And my father, listening to me play a superb piece recorded in 1927 by Louis Armstrong, asked, “How do they know when to stop?” Their ignorance and stupidity brought me to music, and I thank them, ll these years later.


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