Expand your musical palette

When I was a kid, we were always forced to try new things.  The rule of thumb was, “try it, if you don’t like it, you can spit it in a napkin.”  It wasn’t always thrilling, but on occasion I’d come across something great.  The goal of that exercise was to expand our palettes.  I believe we should do the same thing with music.  IMHO, a life without music is like a life without color, taste, texture, and smell.

Years ago, my oldest daughter Beth began to work on helping me expand my musical palette.  She started by teaching me the difference between Rap and Hip-Hop.  Kanye West was the first Hip-Hop artist she shared with me.  She also turned me on to Norah Jones and John Mayer.  Beth’s cousin, Tim Walsh, introduced me to the Utah Saints and Moby.  This has gone on for years (although I have not, much to my sorrow, heard from Tim in a long while).  I chew on offerings from Beth, some I enjoy and others, I spit out.  It has gotten to the point where I even introduce her to stuff, although 80% of the time she tells me, “Dad, I’ve been listening to that for years.”  Her other response is “Dad, you wouldn’t let me listen to that when I was a kid and now you like it?”

Something else that Beth turned me on to is Pandora.  There are plenty of Internet radio stations out there, but Pandora does something better than I have seen others do.  Like other stations, you can give it an artist and it will build a radio station for you.  Pandora’s selections are great and unlike their competitors, Pandora dips into some really old and obscure material.  It is not unusual to hear a scratchy vinyl record that has been digitized for Internet play.  Pandora also has this thing it calls “The Music Genome Project.”  If you look at the track information panel in Pandora, it will tell you why, according to the Music Genome Project, the track is in your mix.

Pandora also provides a way for me to expand my own palette.  I create a channel with an artist I like and then I listen to the associated artists.  When I hear an artist I like, I make a station for that artist and repeat the process.  Each new station introduces me to artists I have never heard.  I started this process with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and it has introduced me to artists like Ben Harper, G. Love, Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Adele, The Black Keys, the White Stripes, and Sara Bareilles to name a few.  I am an old-time techno-guy, having started with listening to Kraftwerk in the 1970’s.  That led to my affinity for the Blue Man Group.  I made a Blue Man Group station and through that I discovered The Yoshida Brothers, The Crystal Method, and a host of others.  You can go on this palette expanding journey and never get to the end.

The best thing is, you can have Pandora for free.  It runs on everything I own including my Blu-Ray player, my iPhone, my Kronos Android tablet, and my various Windows-based computers.  If you like it and you don’t like the commercials, shell out $36 a year and get commercial-free radio.




2 thoughts on “Expand your musical palette

  1. Well said and thanks for the kudos. Just a reminder, Common was actually the first hip hop I showed you. Followed by talib kweli then kanye. 🙂


    • Chronological awareness and I have been strangers for a long time. I’m just glad I remember things in general.

      The latest road of expansion you have led me down is really unexpected. If there is one genre that has never done much for me, it is Pop. Some of the female artists you’ve recently introduced me to, nibble around the edges of Pop yet they have character, quality, content, and talent that put their larger bodies of work above only their songs that get the airplay. Three that come to mind are Adele, Sara Bareilles, and Florence + the Machine.
      They each have a disc from live iTunes shows in Soho. I’ve been burning those up, particularly Florence’s. She harkens back to Coloratura mezzo-sopranos like Kate Bush (one of Mom’s all-time favs). She has a rare gift, particularly when she is performing live.
      I’m rediscovering Norah Jones. I think she was the first, “Beth, you’ve got to hear…/Dad, I’ve already heard of…” artists I came across. I recently saw her do a bluegrassy number. Since I’m an Allison Krauss fan, that worked for me.
      What’s been great for me with the whole musical melange thing, is that it is one of the few “hobby-esque” things in my life that didn’t wither into disuse. I am so much more into the world of music now than I ever was.


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