Have your music tastes expanded or shrunk over time?

It seems to me that there are three main forces at work:

  1. Over time, you are exposed to more music and can thus learn to appreciate the nuances and parse the sound of that which you previously had no taste for.

  2. However, being exposed to more music also means you eventually find higher quality stuff, which can raise your standards and make you look back at past favorites and see the flaws therein. It may not go all the way to becoming crap in your eyes, but just mediocre.

  3. Also, I guess other times you may just move on and lose the resonance of certain kinds of music; for example, a hardcore punk rocker may lose his anger and rebelliousness and not really feel that type of music anymore.
    For me, I think the first force is dominant. I started out with only classical music and a smattering of pop in my life, as my parents imparted nothing but the lovely gift of a piano teacher, who was a classical afficionado. Music was not at all a topic with friends, but I was exposed to the occasional pop stuff via TV, movies, random school events, the bus, etc. For example, MC Hammer was really big in late elementary school, but I never really got into it.

In high school, I got my first significant exposure to pop/rock, and my palette finally opened up it, including stuff from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Sarah McLachlan to Billy Joel. Even by the end of high school, I still could not stand anything “hard”, and that included stuff like Led Zeppelin and the Smashing Pumpkins (who I enjoy now, btw), rap, or even jazz, which mystified me more than anything (tho I did enjoy some jazz standards like In The Mood and Sing Sing Sing).

In college freshmen year, I was lucky enough to be in a hall full of music freaks, and I was really uncomfortable at first at the music-noise I was hearing. Just loud abrasive stuff from the Sex Pistols to old-school Metallica to My Bloody Valentine to Radiohead. It was an out-and-out assault at my ears, and it just sounded so loud and noisy. But bit by bit, as if I was learning a language, I started parsing out the sound. I started hearing the progression of noise in My Bloody Valentine, I started hearing the guitar riffs in Metallica, I started sorting out the noises in Radiohead. This was a process that took a couple of years, but I began liking that stuff. Some friends were into the Philly jazz scene, and I couldn’t help but get into it as well. It seemed like everything from Bob Dylan to Green Day to Johnny Cash to Enya to Louis Armstrong was entering into my system. Rap, techno/trance/etc, and country were still not my thing.

Post college, I have even found some rap that I like, and I think country may get there if I make an effort. That would leave techno and friends as the only whole genre that I dislike. It’s not to say that I like everything but techno, but that I can appreciate and have found things I enjoy listening to and would put on even home alone.

And the funny thing is, even though I’ve been accumulating a ton of new tastes over time, I still like most of what I liked in high school. I still like Billy Joel and Sarah Mclachlan and heck, even Jewel (well, her first album, anyway). Even though Death Cab for Cutie has risen very high in my estimation as one of the ideal pop bands, I still enjoy those Gin Blossoms and Counting Crows. Even though I find myself now liking punky Operation Ivy, super-sappy Richard Marx still finds time on my playlist.

However, I’ve noticed that some of my high school friends have evolved to the point where they can’t stand their former loves. Billy Joel, who used to be OK, has now become crap. Puff Daddy, who used to be “da shiz”, is now “tired old shiz”. And so on. A couple seem to love a fairly narrow band of stuff and are quite dismissive of everything else.

Despite these folks, I think that most people’s tastes enjoy a net expansion over time. Am I right?

In my case, you are right.
But I dunno. My husband is still living in the 70’s and seems quite happy there with old Jackson Browne and REO Speedwagon. Ditto his siblings.

Maybe what really matters is whether you really listen to music or whether it is sort of cheerful mindless busy work for your ears. And a lot of adults prefer the music of their youth, it is a comfort for them. They don’t feel a need to stretch.

My parents really appreciated music; I grew up with Vivaldi and Smetana and ragtime and Benny Goodman and Tony Bennett. My brothers and I got into our own stuff–it was the late 60’s early 70’s, you probably don’t need a recitation of what was out there back then.

Now we are middle-aged, and one brother and I enjoy all kinds of contemporary tunes, while the other brother is more like my husband.
I still like stuff that really bends your ear; was really happy when I found the White Stripes and Ike Reilly. But at my age I depend on younger folks to turn me on to stuff; fortunately they happily comply. I will never keep up as they do but at least I get a taste.
There is so much out there, from the RHCP to Roots to Madeleine Peyroux to Outkast; was really happy to see both Prince’s triumphant return and the Pogues reunited for a few shows.

I’m 23 and might be in the process of a third musical metamorphosis.

Growing up, I was never into music that much. I remember being pretty apathetic to it all except for a song here and there until sometime in the early nineties when I went on a trip with my older sister and she somehow wound up turning me into a country fan even when my dad, a connoisseur of country going back as far as the nineteen teens, had never been able to. I spent the next ten years listening to Garth Brooks, Diamond Rio, and Faith Hill but sometime around 2001, I heard the most stupid song about an answering machine and after hearing it one too many times, I turned the dial to my local rock station and haven’t looked back. Fast forward four more years and I’m still a fan of rock in its numerous forms but over the past year, I’ve been subjected to lots of indie music from friends and am starting to appreciate some of it although my knowledge is still pretty limited.

So it looks like I’m a combination of all three.

Country sucks for the most part now but it’s been a natural progression from just hearing styles I’d been unfamiliar with until further experimentation.


In fact, I’ve basically given up on music. I’m bored with the stuff I used to listen to and I havn’t found anything else to replace it.

About once a month or so, I turn on the radio and usually turn it off in disgust about 15 minutes later.

Now, I either listen to a book on tape or nothing in the car.

Hey, me too!

The first one happened when I got into the Beatles; I’d been sort of into music before that (mostly Top 40 kind of stuff), but that opened my eyes to '60’s (and '70’s) rock/pop like nothing else. It also stopped my listening to current music for several years, so that’s kind of a trade-off.

Next, there was Nirvana, which got me out of the classic rock mold (which is not to say I no longer listen to classic rock) and more into the modern, punk/metal-influenced rock. It also made me much more likely than previously to listen to something that wasn’t 20 years old.

Just within the last year, there was Portishead, which opened me up to the possibility that there were things other than rock (and rock precursors, like blues) that I could really enjoy. A lot of electronic music that I’d never really even bothered to check out became must-listen stuff for me.

So I guess my tastes have been expanding most of the time. If you were to graph it, I suspect it’d have a plateau, then an increase, then a plateau, then another increase, then a third plateau, then an increase that continues today.

Plus I got into country (particularly old, pre-1970’s country and modern alt-country) within the last few years, as well. And jazz/swing.

So, yeah. Expanding. :slight_smile:

Expanded slightly. I tend to be content with my 50’s - early 80’ s stuff. I have only embraced three new artists in the past 20 years: Kate Bush, Tori Amos, and Alison Krauss + Union Station (I like “old school” country - 50’s - early 70’s).

In fact, I’m going to see Alison on Feb. 3rd!

Expanded. When I was little, I listened only to Golden Oldies. Gee a little parental influence there, maybe? Now I’m a big fan of Eminem (his music, not him), and I listen to just about anything except country and ICP.

My musical tastes have expanded steadily since high school. I was then a huge fan of The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana. They were pretty much the only bands I listened to. Their angst filled lyrics and downer tones were rather fitting for that period of my life, but alas, they’re not nearly as good to me today as they were back then. They just didn’t age well with me (not to say they’re bad, though).

Towards my senior year of high school my tastes started branching towards groups these two bands stated as influences: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Cure, Pixies, The Clash, etc. This led to a greater appreciation for “older stuff” and I gradually started connecting the dots throughout rock music. In my early college years I heavily got into Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, Tool, A Perfect Circle, and other somewhat hip alternative bands. I still love all of these bands and any of their albums are welcome to my ears.

Towards my senior year of college I increasingly became interested in the “greats” such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, and a few others. Dylan is currently my favorite artist and I’ve been listening to his stuff for about a year nonstop. Hell, his catalogue alone could take a year to listen through, let alone truly appreciate. Before that I just didn’t “get” him. It’s as though someone flipped a switch in my head one day and I was a bit overwhelmed. :cool:

As of now, I’m delving into jazz (incredibly vast genre) and older singers such as Billie Holiday (thanks to my mother). I plan on eventually getting into classical, but there is more music than time at the moment. My musical tastes have avoided rap in all forms and pretty much all of modern country. I really have no interest in those genres, to be honest.

So yeah, you could say my musical tastes have expanded. It’s intresting how my tastes have pretty much gone backwards in time as I’ve grown to appreciate music more. I could count the post mid-90s bands that have caught my interest on about one hand.

Expanded, and much of it came along with teaching myself to play guitar. Wasn’t really much into anything until sometime around 15, I’d take what was on the radio and not really care much about it. Then I wanted to learn to play music (yeah, for girls. Is there ever any other reason?) and found very quickly that the best music to start was to go to the start of rock and pretty much any country (I probably had a repetoire of 50 songs once I learned I-vi-IV-V, a basic blues shuffle, and a few variations). So lots of listening to oldies and mid 90s (Garth Brooks) type country.

And once my playing got better, my interest in learning other music, artists and styles, blossomed. And damn I can’t play a lick of Rage Against the Machine, but they’re great to listen to. Barry Manilow and ABBA, along with Queen, Beatles, and Pink Floyd can come up with structures and progressions that are wholly unique and amazing. Right now, my interests are largely in the roots and overseas. I love acoustic euro-pop (my obligatory reference always is Kings of Convenience), as well as Bluegrass and its father, Irish music. And I can appreciate the fun of hopelessly vapid pop (yeah, I’ll sing along to N*Sync if they come up on my playlist). Mostly, it’s coming to learn the technical underpinnings of what goes into writing and recording a memorable song that has let me listen to just about anything.

My tastes expanded. When I was growing up all I liked to listen to was heavy metal. Anything that didn’t really rock out just wasn’t fit for my narrowly defined tastes. I still enjoy hard rock, but I have since learned to appreciate jazz, classical and other eclectic forms of instrumental music.

Expanded hugely, but I have to say I was very fortunate in having an extremely varied array of influences to start with: my mother was into country music and 60s pop, my beloved and adored Uncle Mike was into rock, my grandparents were into swing and jazz, and my friends and I stayed on top of pop music from the days of the Archies and the Osmonds well through the early days of punk and new wave. I got into folk music in my early twenties, classical in my thirties, and now I have a teenager, so I’m getting exposure to pop again!

This describes me as well. I just don’t really listen to anything anymore. I have boxes of tapes in my basement with everything from the Ramones to the Dead to Sinatra to the Jesus and Mary Chain, most of which I haven’t listened to in years and years (I mean, they’re on tape fer cryin’ out loud).

I bought my wife an ipod for her birthday and she raves about it and says I should get one for myself, but I just can’t get excited by the idea of listening to music anymore. Wierd.

I don’t know about “expanded” or “shrunk,” but I’d say that my music tastes have stopped. I’m an 80’s guy, and with rare exceptions, anything that’s been released since the mid-90’s sounds like the same old generic pop music. There are some songs from the 60’s and 70’s that I like, but I can’t say that my appreciation of earlier music has grown – mostly I’ve just learned to ignore stuff like the Beatles and Elvis when they’re playing the Oldies Station at work.

I dunno if expanded is exactly the right word, but maybe you could say my tastes have diversified with time.

Hard to tell.
Although I primarily listen to rock or easy listening, I’ve always been able to listen to everything except for rap and country. There is an exception or two, but that’s the general rule.
I also used to not like pop and dance music. For example, I listened to music the most in the 80’s, but pretty much ignored people or groups like Prince and Duran Duran. But sometime in the late 90’s, I started liking dance (I blame the head bopping guys from SNL) and pop music. Although I’m still not crazy about r&b, rap, or hip hop.
In the early to mid 90’s, I listened to less and less music because I was convinced that, in general, most of the good music had stopped being made around 1988 or so (yes, I’m being serious).
Around the late 90’s I started enjoying music again. and listened to some styles I used to hate. But since then, I’ve been finding hard to find anything I like again.
I’m only 31 and want to stay youthful, and not set in my ways, but I find that I have to force myself to listen to new music more often then not.
So, let’s see, I like the same music I’ve always liked, plus dance and pop. So I guess my tastes have expanded slightly, even though it’s hard to find songs that I like.

My tastes have gotten more and more chaotic over the years. When I was young I was into classical. By 7th grade, I had graduated into 50s and 60s music. I stayed with oldies until highschool, where the 70s and 80s crept in. As a senior, someone introduced to me to what was alternative music at the time (REM, Pavement, Stone Roses) and thus laid the seeds for my future music habits.

In college, I finally started listening to the Pixies and Sonic Youth. During my mid-20s, I went back to exploring the foundations of rap (Sugarhill Gang, Run DMC, Boogie Down Productions) as well as revisiting heavy metal (Metallica, mostly).
Now I listen to pretty much anything, from the latest Pitchfork-approved indie rock, to the latest Kylie or Kelis single. Scandinavian heavy metal (Dimmu Borgir, Entombed and the such) are particularly fun. OK, maybe fun is not the right word to describe this music, but I do enjoy it.

Basically a lot of music I found discordant and unlistenable in my early high school days (the Vaselines and Sonic Youth come to mind for some reason) I now find completely unobjectionable. For me, a lot of the fun in music is discovering new sounds, and while I have a few favorites, my tastes are always trying to move forward, to experience something new and different. Hence my love for a work like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. It’s an album of such sonic richness and newness I’ve never experienced before or since.

My taste have expanded greatly over time but…I am still extremely picky about the music I listen to.

I started out as a Metal Head, learning guitar at 11 and listening to Ozzy, Sabbath, Metallica and the like. I also listened to punk and some classical. Then one day my bass player popped in ‘The Introduction’ by Steve Morse and my world exploded. Suddenly there was a whole new world of music I had never heard.

The same thing happened when I saw Lyle Lovette live. And the first time I heard KD Lang. Then I saw Roy Clark live and was absolutely amazed. Ditto Al Dimeola and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

Now I listen to just people in just about every style except rap. These days I don’t go by the style of the music, just whether or not I like the songs.


Mine has expanded greatly. I’ll basically listen to anything now. My collection has everything from rap to thrash metal to country and classical. Good music is good music, and it’s hard enough to find that it’s worth crossing genres to find it.

Good point. I think my guitar and piano playing (and really crappy attempts at songwriting) has let me appreciate the craft such that it is much easier to find something neat about almost anything. It won’t necessarily make me like almost anything, but it sure helps me look at the positive (e.g. “nice funky chord progression” or “woah, nice rhythmic effect with the bird call, drums, scratching record noise, and diseased cough”).

I wonder if musicians have broader tastes on average than non-musicians…