What Does It Mean to Have a Good Taste in Music?

When someone tells you that you have a good taste in music, it means one of three things: either that person likes the music you listen to, believes you have a good knowledge of music or thinks that the music you listen to makes you look cooler.

In many ways, music taste is an unfathomable concept. You can say that there are as many different tastes in music as there are people on the planet. And the sheer existence of something like “good taste in music” is highly debatable. Nonetheless, people are often criticized, praised, and even discriminated against for their taste in music. So, what is it that makes it good or bad?

What is good taste in music?

It’s impossible to define for real what good taste in music is. The concept is rooted in culture and changes from person to person, country to country, and year to year. For this reason, good taste in music is what people believe that good taste in music is.

Sadly, most people’s idea of “good taste in music” is rooted in personal bias, misconceptions, and cultural fads. Even so,  it’s important to look at how society tends to approach the concept before analyzing the actual traits of a person with good taste in music.

“He likes what I like, so he must have good taste in music”

Most people believe their taste in music is good. For this reason, they tend to value the taste in music of people that listen to the artists and songs they cherish. How many times have you played a song to a friend and he or she said “I love that band, you have a good taste in music?”

This is a purely subjective way of looking at things, but it hides a deep truth. If everybody believed that their taste in music was the best, then there wouldn’t be such a thing as good taste in music. Music taste would only be good if it was similar to yours! Analyzing music taste in this manner is a very ineffective exercise.

“He knows a lot about music, so he must have a good taste in music”

Others believe that the people who know about music have a superior taste in music. These include some generic types of music listeners such as audiophiles, music critics, music connoisseurs, and music snubs. They know about the facts, the history, and even the music-making process, so they have to have a good taste in music, right?

Well, it’s a fact that you need to know about music to have a good taste in music. But that doesn’t mean that knowledge alone is enough.

Being an audiophile doesn’t necessarily mean you have great taste in music; maybe you’re just into expensive audio equipment! The same goes for music critics: are they in love with the music or their own opinions? Music connoisseurs and music snubs are perhaps even worse, as they tend to value the historical and cultural significance of music over the music itself.

“He only listens to cool music, so he must have good taste in music”

Good taste in music can also be about being hip and trendy. Going back to the different types of music listeners, these include music seekers and music addicts. Some people approach their taste in music in a merely fashionable way: not to enjoy the art, but to express themselves.

Listening to an artist just because it makes you look cooler is not what makes someone have a good taste in music. Being in the loop and listening to new music is a characteristic of a person with good taste in music, but someone who truly enjoys music should also be able to appreciate good music that’s old, clichè, or uncool.

The traits of a person with good taste in music

It’s clear that the way the vast majority of people think of “good taste in music” is not fact-based. But can good taste in music be described in a truly impartial way? Isn’t it all just a matter of opinion?

I believe that it’s possible to have actual good taste in music and that the people with good taste in music display the following traits:

1. They know a lot about music, but not because they want to show off

People with good taste in music know a lot about music, but only because they were exposed to a lot of music. They’re veteran listeners who have been passionate about music for as long as they can remember. They know a lot about music not because they have the motivation to do so (showing off, writing reviews, looking smarter) but because they cannot avoid it.

2. They listen to many types of music

One-genre-only listeners don’t have good taste in music; they have good taste in metal, EDM, punk, or whatever single genre they have chosen to adhere to. People with good taste in music aren’t locked inside a box.

They don’t love music because they love to be metalheads or go to raves. They want to be familiar with the whole of music and explore it in its entirety. People with good taste in music are hopeful and inclusive: they find good songs even in genres they don’t normally listen to.

3. They know about less-known acts, but not because they’re hipsters

In other words, people with good taste in music aren’t just into the top acts. They don’t value music because it’s popular, featured on all-time-best lists, or praised by the hip, young folks. They know less-known acts because there’s plenty of unknown music that’s very good. And on the other hand, they also recognize the greats: not because they’re famous, but because they’ve made fabulous songs.

4. They make great recommendations

Not just good recommendations: the right recommendations. You know someone has a good taste in music when he or she can tell someone to listen to a song and that person loves it! People with good taste in music can recommend a good album even to casual listeners; they know what song their grandfathers and parents will like because they understand how music moves people and how all people connect with music differently.

5. They know how to fit the mood

House parties are a great way of knowing who has a good taste in music and who doesn’t! People with good taste in music get to a party and know exactly which song suits the mood. If people want to chill, they will play a nice, chill record. If they want to dance, they will blast a great funk or disco gem. They understand that all songs have a mood, and they know how to use the power of music to work a room.

How to improve your taste in music

  • Learn about music: It never hurts to know more about the history of music, the music-making process, and the different genres that exist. Do it for the love of music, though, not to become a breathing music encyclopedia.
  • Ignore the hype: Ignoring the hype is not about trusting your instincts blindly, but learning to think for yourself. Not all music critics have good taste in music, so who’s to say that that number-one Pitchfork album is necessarily good? Listen to the music, not to the noise around it.
  • Prioritize your feelings: Music wasn’t made to be explained, it was made to be felt. Your emotional reaction to a song should be the ultimate underlying factor that dictates if you like it or not. If your relationship with the music you love isn’t intimate and moving, do you even like it?
  • See the good in all music: People with good taste in music are not haters. They see the good in all music, even “bad” music.

Summary

Nobody will ever come up with a definitive answer to what constitutes “good taste in music,” so it’s probably best to think about what good taste in music is not. In the end, having a good taste in music is about having a good relationship with music: music should be a positive and pleasant influence on your life, and a powerful tool that you can use to improve the lives of the ones around you. Hate, snobbery, and vanity don’t live in the hearts of people with good taste in music.

Brian Clark is a multi-instrumentalist and music producer. He is passionate about practically all areas of music and he particularly enjoys writing about the music industry.

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