There are probably as many genres of music out there as there are grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Well, maybe not quite that many, but it can feel that way when you browse through music streaming services trying to find something new to listen to. Discovering new music is always a joy. It adds a new element to daily activities like commuting to and from work, breaks, exercise, relaxing at home, etc. I’ve found that new music gives me extra motivation to practice my instrument and improves my listening skills. I thought I’d share 3 genres of music that you might find interesting and worth checking out:
1) English Folk Music
I love this genre because you can recognize a lot of elements that it shares with American music like the structure of songs and vocal harmonies. There are also different instruments and musical elements that are beautiful in their own uniquely English way. I think Nancy Kerr is one of the best English musicians of modern times. She was in her prime in the 1990s where she recorded several well received records, mainly with her husband, Australian guitarist and bouzouki player James Fagan. Despite having multiple decades under their belts, the duo hasn’t lost their spark at all. Kerr won the BBC’s “Folk Singer of the Year” award in 2015 and both of them are still actively making music in England and Australia. Nancy Kerr is a beautiful vocalist and fiddle player whose style can hardly be summed up in a few words. Her ability to sing and play harmonies on her violin simultaneously has always amazed me. Kerr and Fagan often play in odd time signatures and create complex but catchy rhythms that keep the listener on their toes. If I had to recommend two albums to listen to by this duo it would be Starry Gazy Pie (1997) and Strands of Gold (2006).
2) Indian Music
I usually listen to this type of music on weekends or when relaxing around the house. The great thing about Indian music is that while Western music tends to focus on tension-release and a common structure (AABA or Intro-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Bridge-Verse-Chorus-Outro, etc), Indian music is much more free form and full of interesting intervals not typically found in Western/European music. Instruments like the Sitar and Tabla drums create mesmerizing music that will enrich your life and introduce some new musical concepts to your ears. I’d highly recommend checking out artists like Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka Shankar for some great examples of more modern Indian music.
3) Jazz Fusion
If big-band jazz isn’t your cup of tea I would suggest listening to jazz fusion. This genre is a blend of traditional jazz, rock, funk, and blues music and I find it much more accessible to the modern listener while still offering an interesting departure from radio pop and rock music. One of my favorite jazz fusion artists is the guitarist John Scofield. He is a master of music theory and applying theory concepts to the guitar. His improvisation and song writing ability always impresses me with how unpredictable it is. John Scofield’s music is full of examples of musicality; the power of dynamics, modal playing, and simple lines being more powerful than complex lines with lots of unnecessary notes. I would recommend the album A Go Go (1998) for an example his music that is more influenced by jazz and the album Uberjam (2002) for his more fusion/rock inspired work.
I hope you can find some enjoyment in some of the music I’ve suggested here. If you are a musician, try listening for your own instrument in some of the songs and pick out interesting things that they do. This will help your listening and understanding of musicality. It’s also helpful to bring songs that you like (any song, not just the ones I’ve suggested here) to your private lesson teacher so that they have a ready example of what you are wanting to work on. Happy listening!