How far outside your musical comfort zone do you travel?

It’s a good question, particularly when you think on how far you’ve come in your life.  When we were young (and some of you still are, numerically), we were immersed in the music of our time.  We listened to favored radio stations, we hung out at record stores, we experimented with new and emerging musical styles.  We invented ourselves and then reinvented ourselves based on emerging talents and music.

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More importantly, we ended up carrying those loves deep into our years as we aged.  (I know, I know…sucky concept, time!)  But many of us, as we gained more structure to our lives began to rely – heavily at first, and then loosely later – on the music that we took to heart at its most relevant stage for us.

Unfortunately, as we moved along, we listened less to new trends of music.  And then, one day, for some strange reason or another, we actually stopped to reassess an old love of ours – listening to music –  and found that it was unrecognizable.  It no longer spoke our language.  And so, because we didn’t want to abandon – again – our music loves, we dug those old favorites out, listened to them and found that we really do still find it important.

I’ll rope this back to the original question, “how far outside our musical comfort zone do we travel?”.  As we regain our love of music, we start to allow for some new input.  We find that we like a new band or two, so we stretch a bit.  Some aren’t satisfied.  They want that feeling of floating on new songs, moving to the next island of sound as we go, just as we did ‘back in the day’.  Those people search a little further.

Nowadays, music is far more diverse than it ever was.  There isn’t a genre or style of music that hasn’t been explored relentlessly.  Sure, it’s played differently, sometimes without much in the way of instrumental achievement.  But the gift of song-crafting is there.  With so much music to choose from, and so many different, and completely accessible, ways to listen for it/to it, we can be on serious overload (which has its own dangers (and not for this article)).

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Unless we’ve put music completely behind us, we now have an unprecedented ability to fill our lives with so much new music and favorite artists.

I know we’ve traveled a long way through this write-up to come to this question, but now that some of you are at a new point in your lives musically (or have been for a while), just how far outside your comfort zone (comfort zone meaning  Prog fans listening only to new prog music, metal only with metal, etc) are you now willing to go?

Personally, I’ve been lucky to like a lot of different kinds of music, with a few exceptions.  I know when I won’t be pleased, almost from the beginning minute of each song found on a new release.  I’m pleased with the Internet as it has allowed me to sample many artists via YouTube, some sanctioned downloads (which are used quite more frequently these days as a marketing tool), and streaming services.

I’m wild.  I like walking into swamps, and dark places to find solid ground that makes me comfortable.  And so, I’m willing to go far, far outside my own comfort zone.  More often than not, I’m not always happy with what I find.  But I sure do love the travel and the hunt.  I begin to accumulate a list of bands and artists that I really like.  I start to follow them like I did some decades ago with other bands and artists.  And I seem to find more relevance to my life again.

How far are you willing to go?

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By MARowe

14 thoughts on “Your Comfort Zone”
  1. I like to stay pretty comfortable. Too many times when I go outside my comfort zone I find out what I already knew; it doesn’t do it for me. I do have a pretty wide zone though but for the most part it lies between classic rock sounding bands or heavy rock bands. I can venture into pop a little. Country not so much. Rap, hip hop, not at all. However half the bands that get played on mainstream rock stations now days don’t do much for me either. It seems like the bands that speak to me are under the radar.

  2. I avoid most of the artist-cuts that are plaid on classic rock radio and focus on music that has great “soul”.Can be vintage:Quentin Tarantino soundtracks,Isaac Hayes,Curtis Mayfield or modern:Massive Attack-Blue Lines,Thievery Corporation or vintage rock not played to death:The Faces,T-Rex etc.

  3. I have no problem going outside my comfort zone; I would love to hear a band that blows me away and then becoming a manic fan. But I have my personal criteria to what makes some bands do it for me while others not so much. It can be argued that all Rock and Roll now is in some way or another derivative. Given that I believe this to be mostly true, then I listen for how this “new to me” band or artist is twisting the conventions enough to make it original sounding. It can be vocalization, a different rhythm, an arrangement or just really exceptional, demonstrated playing. And in addition, and more importantly, does the music speak to me in a new way. I try out bands through the Internet, and am always looking, but quite frankly, I rarely hear anything that I don’t say either “that’s a direct rip-off of such and such or I KNOW I’ve heard all this before but I’m not sure when and where”. Though I have a bent toward Prog/Art Rock, even that genre for me in the past couple of years is sounding old and tired. My buying of new releases has slowed tremendously but it is not because I don’t want new music. Part of all this for me, anyway, has to do with when I came into the time line of Rock. Having listened to my father’s music of the 40s and 50s, then into Rock and Roll nearly from the beginning, new music (and I mean REALLY new forms, structures, risks, etc.) was the normal experience. As I collected and listened, it became harder to have that fun and experience. I have friends that, like me, started early listening to Rock, but seem to be able to ignore that derivative factor and I wish I could, but I just can’t. I will keep on trying but unless another unique movement comes along to really shake things up, I think I am fighting a losing battle.

  4. I’m 48 and I’m still listening to ’80s New Wave and AOR. I also enjoy listening to WNCW, which plays bluegrass, roots music, Americana, jazz, blues and more.

  5. I like to think that I’m open to new music by newer groups, but as others above have posted, I don’t really find myself able to connect with much of it. I find the internet useful in learning about “new” music, and there are a handful of magazines I trust (Mojo has been a favorite for the past few years) to steer me toward artists I’ll probably like. I think, for me at least, part of the problem (if it actually is a problem) is that I’m living proof of the axiom that “the music you love between the ages of 12 and 15 is what you’ll love forever” (or something like that). While I have bought plenty of albums by newer artists (Fleet Foxes, Mumford, Avett Bros., etc.) and enjoy them, I don’t find myself returning to those albums the way I did albums by favorites when I was younger. Right now, I’m enjoying giving a first listen to albums by older artists which I missed when I was going through my formative stages (Odgen’s Nut Gone Flake and Notorious Byrd Brothers are two recent purchases). I’m open to anything that’s well played and well written and strikes a chord with me. I always like finding something new (even if it’s older) to enjoy.

  6. I have a brother who is a rabid collector (I think he doesn’t even want to SEE a record more than once, let alone listen!). He has a very wide range, from jazz fusion through rock and roll, prog rock, death metal and on! He often recommends new bands to me, and as I have Spotify on Sonos, I can listen to most of them. My main listen is prog, R amp; B, Rock, Motown, some folk, country and a lot of classics. As an example he has suggested Opeth, but I wasn’t too comfortable with the death metal, however Damnation hasn’t been out of my car for the last 3 months. A good example of an awesome spread from a great artist, is Insurgentes from Steven Wilson, which covers as wide a spread as I’ve ever heard, including industrial, prog, rock, ambient etc. I have tried a lot of other musics through his efforts, but with a Rock Classic iPod full with about 60% of my collection, I am now putting my great records into a “Best records” playlist, favourite songs into “Favourites” and new records into a “Listening” playlist, This is restricting the whole purpose of being able to random play my iPod and be reminded of music I may not have listened to for years. So I am starting to narrow down on records I am not 100% sure of. Unfortunately this means losing records that are growers, starting off not really enjoying, but after multiple listens, finding their way into “Best”.

  7. I stopped listening to radio (with the exception of Howard Stern) around 1987. It was just…pointless. All the good stuff I got from college radio or WLIR seemed to have dried up. I then turned to friends and magazines to find new stuff. I didn’t turn my back on the possibility of new stuff, it just became harder to find. I owe two of my later favorites to music television, Curve (MTV circa 1991) and Dashboard Confessional (MuchMusic circa 2001).
    I have to say it’s been about 10 years since I’ve gotten really excited by a new band…I still pick up anything new a band I love puts out, but new bands or musical trends? Nothing thrills me.

  8. I step out quite a bit. The internet definitely helps now. I used to go into Barnes and Noble, Borders, Zia’s Records in Tucson, and listen to just about everything they had in their sample racks. Found some great music that way. Unfortunately. I don’t live anywhere near a good music store, so I hit the internet. I love it when I can find a band, new or old, that sucks me in to buying their entire catalog. The Weakerthans did it, Ted Leo did it, Nanci Griffith did it – hell, The Who did it back in the mid-nineties when all I owned was Who’s Next.

  9. I still buy cd’s based on certain things that are generally inside my musical preference-which is METAL! Label its on, length of recording, subject of titles, possabilities of seeing them live come into play. I have over 7k cd’s and still buy. I dont venture into downloading at all-and WONT! I continue to stay active in hard rock(Journey, kansas, Foreigner, Styx) as well as classic R amp; B (Chaka Khan, Stephanie Mills, jean Carne). I dont buy trendy music still and wont buy or venture into alternative gaycrap I hate(where boys sound like affeminate boys). I continue to buy bands current cd’s to keep up their discography. But, to be honest, I see myself being weeded out of music buying as I wont relinquish the physical product. Ill just go without.

    1. Nicholas,
      I can so relate to your unwillingness to abandon physical product. I refuse to Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. I rarely download anything.

      So, with that in mind, knowing that each venture costs about $10 a pop, I am not willing to venture too far out of my comfort zone. It gets expensive.

      And even if I were willing to download, I’d be spending time which is even more valuable.

      I also feel “weeded out” but between Matt and Classic Rock Magazine (plus the bands I know I already like) there is still music to buy. Only difference is, now, it’s a few titles a month instead of a few titles a week. Better yet because looking at the wall of cds I have, half of which I would gladly return if I could get back what I paid for them, I am probably better off not impulse buying.

  10. Personally I am simply driven to find new music to listen to but not all of it is technically “new”. One of the first questions I ask a new acquaintance is “what kind of music do you listen too”. This is quickly follwed up with questions about which artists and why they like them. If they mention something that I don’t know I look it up when I get home and try to find a way to sample it for myself.

    When I was kid I knew all the current radio hits in most genres but I grew up in rural NC back in the 70s and 80s and so there’s a lot I missed. For example I never knew of Betty Davis (the funk and soul singer) until I got to college and met kids who were deeply into old school funk. I won’t say it changed my life but it definitely broadened my musical horizons and got me to open up to new kinds of music. The same thing occured with classical, bluegrass and string music.

    Part of the reason I read sites like Musictap.net is to see what I may be missing. It works remarkably well for me to use the internet to find new music. If I sample something and it doesn’t grab me then I move on to the next thing and eventually I’ll find something that will entertain me and gets added to my collecton.

  11. I am 59 going on 60 and have been buying music since that 1st Beatles album back in 1964. I do not own an ipod and could not give a rat’s ass if i ever get one. I enjoy Classic Rock, Prog., RB, Fusion, Etc… If it moves me then I’m probably digging it! I purchase most of my cds from Amazon, CD Universe CDJapan and from Vintage Vinyl here in Jersey.

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