5 Keys to Refresh Your Musical Palette


Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut when it comes to the music you listen to? Our musical preferences tend to follow certain predictable patterns. Most people prefer listening to genres of music they grew up with and it can be difficult to add a new style or genre to your listening repertoire. Whether your preferences lie towards modern music or older styles, I’d like to challenge you to broaden your musical landscape. New music isn’t automatically better than old music, just as old music isn’t automatically better than new. In fact, no matter what style of music you prefer, you’ll be doing your brain a favor by challenging yourself to appreciate something different. And it’s not as hard as you might think.


Some studies suggest that our musical preferences are largely determined by exposure. We enjoy what we listen to and we listen to what we enjoy. So how can you learn to like something new? Here are a few ways to start:


·          Schedule a music fast. Have you ever gone a week without listening to any music whatsoever? It’s not easy to do. But at the end of that week, you may be more open to trying something different.

·          Change genres. If you grew up listening to Beethoven and Bach, try adding an acapella men’s group like The King’s Singers to your playlist. If you prefer Broadway musicals, consider listening to some opera arias for a while. And if you love the old gospel songs, try listening to some modern sacred musicians like Ron Hamilton, the Herbster Evangelistic Team, or yours truly!

·          Change environment. If you normally listen to music on your earbuds, try switching to a stereo (or vice versa). Do you normally listen in your car? Put some new music into the CD player in your home. How about live performances? If you’ve never listened to a full orchestra at a live performance, you don’t know what you’re missing! Sometimes all it takes to appreciate a new style of music in a different way is changing your external circumstances.

·          Get other opinions. Ask 5 friends what their top 5 favorite songs are and listen to them, even if they are not your style. And don’t just listen to them one time—dedicate a day or even just a couple hours to each new style in order to get a feel for the new rhythms and harmonies you may be hearing.

·          Take a music appreciation class. If you’re really serious about learning to like different kinds of music, consider taking a class online or at your local community college. Music appreciation classes help you understand the development of music through the centuries and teach you how to listen to music with an educated ear.


Remember, it takes more than one exposure to learn to like something new. After 30 minutes to an hour of listening to new music, your brain will begin recognizing melodies and patterns, and you may find yourself humming along. That’s how preferences are born.


Music helps us connect with people. Anthropologists believe that a culture’s music is part of what holds that culture together. If that’s true, then as Christians seeking to reach many cultures with the gospel, we should learn to appreciate musical styles that may not be our first preference. Of course, all listening choices should be subjected to the principles of God’s Word. I’m not suggesting a pragmatic approach that says we must adopt the world’s music in order to win the world. However, as we broaden our range of enjoyment when it comes to music that meets biblical standards, we will be able to connect with people across multiple generations, ethnicities, and regions. And we may just develop new musical favorites at the same time.