Musical comfort zone: How we find the music we like and why we like it


Everyone listens to music. Even if you don’t often throw on your own tunes, music still finds it’s way into your day somehow and because of this, it’s important to get accustomed to expanding your musical horizon.

An article by Psychology Today discusses that there are two views on how people come up with musical preferences: musical choices either reflect some kind of personal aspect and have meaning or they are completely arbitrary and random. I personally side with the former.

Daily life revolves a lot around rhythms and rhymes without even bringing in actual songs, whether it’s the beat of someone’s heart, the tapping of a pencil or footsteps down the street. Each sound has it’s own way of becoming something different, something comforting.

Obviously the same thing can be said for music. It’s all a very personal process, that of deciding which genres and styles sound best to you or allows you to relate.

You can listen to a song or hear it played over and over again on the radio when you’re going through a breakup and then never want to hear that artist again because of it’s associations. Just because it may not seem like that valid of a reason, doesn’t mean it isn’t real to you.

The same can go for genres. You may spend an entire summer being exposed to country music and sitting in your yard with friends, having some drinks and blasting country music and suddenly it’s your new favourite. Why? Probably because you’ve associated some kind of memory with it of having fun, being careless and it actually means something to you now.

That being said, a lot of the time people start to hate on artists or particular genres because they are given a bad name or overhyped by the media. Just because Justin Bieber started his career as a kid writing sappy songs to pre-teen girls doesn’t mean he can’t grow as an artist and start making music that millions of people are able to connect to, regardless of age. I personally know that a lot of people will shy away from specific styles of music just because they don’t think they’ll like it, so why even give it a chance. But where is the logic in that? You could be missing out on a whole other world of music you may actually connect to just because of the societal connotations that come along with it.

I’ve probably spent more than two-thirds of my life listening to pop music and anything on the mainstream radio stations and because of that, some of the songs and artists are amongst my favourites. However, I’ve recently been more exposed to punky, rock music  — kind of like the music I would listen to when I was a little rebellious 10 year old, stealing my sister’s CD’s — and I actually love it. It can be loud or quiet, it can be deep and aggressive and it can be exciting. If I wasn’t willing to open up to new music I wouldn’t have made new connections to new bands and ‘new’ music. You have to be willing to break out of your comfort zone sometimes if you wanna grow.

So no, I’m not limited to pop music or the stuff that’s played on Indie88 anymore, but honestly it depends a lot on my mood. Your mood plays a lot into what kind of music you’ll connect with more. If you’ve been having a rough time and feeling down in the dumps, as Psychology Today suggests, you may feel more inclined to listening to a more solemn, toned-down genre, opposed to something more fast-paced and upbeat. But again, it all depends on the person.

Professor Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh in the UK took on a study to uncover the effects of personality on preferred musical styles and his results show things I’m honestly not shocked to see. Rap and country fans are similar, have reported high self-esteem and an outgoing nature. Jazz, soul and blues have those same results, however are found to be more creative and at ease with themselves. In contrast, Indie, rock and heavy metal fans are more likely to have love self-esteem while still being incredibly creative but not really hardworking.

It’s interesting to see things that we kind of expect and are turned into stereotypes — sad, mopey indie fans vs. bubbly, party-loving country fans — actually ring true when ‘scientifically’ proven.

So once again, it goes to show that music is an incredibly personal part of our self-exploration. The more musical styles you listen to — I think — the more you’re able to relate to more people and more situations. That being said, you don’t need to love every artist in a single genre to like it. You may only find a few songs, even, that you like. But hey, at least you tried right? It’s like trying new foods or going on an adventure; you have to be vulnerable for a moment before you start to get comfortable.

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