Music Tips 1: The Basics

Article by: Connor Bottum ’11

People often come to me seeking advice on how to broaden their musical tastes or find new songs in a genre they already love. While I cannot say I know everything about every genre, I certainly do have a love of music and have, over the years, come up with some tools and tips to help expand and diversify your library.

When looking for music, remember that search engines such as Google and Yahoo are your friend.
When looking for music, remember that search engines such as Google and Yahoo are your friend.

The first and most important tool is to always—ALWAYS—have some way of keeping tabs on what you are listening to. I prefer to have a window (and preferably multiple tabs) open to YouTube. By having an account on YouTube, you can favorite songs you like, keeping a running list of songs you enjoy, allowing you to know exactly what you plan on buying or downloading. While a YouTube account is not necessary, I find this method to be a lot less tedious and much easier to maintain than, for example, copy-pasting song titles to a word document.

The next important step is to have a base. Have in mind as you go through the process either a favorite song, artist, or genre. By having a starting point picked out, it will save you quite a bit of time that might be spent searching through your library finding the “perfect song” to use for a search and will instead give you time to listen to the music, which is ultimately what this is about. Keep in mind that these are starting points, and will only be needed for the initial searches, so choosing this base song or artist should not take you much time at all. If you have in mind a song you can listen to over and over again without getting bored, this should be your choice.

Once you have a place to keep your list and a starting point, it is much easier to move on to any of the next steps. These can be done in any order at any time. As you spend more time sifting through these steps, you might find yourself floating between genres and sub-genres. Look these up and determine what it is you like about them. This is an invaluable part of expanding your musical knowledge.

Now then, let’s move on to the tools themselves:

  • Pandora—Regardless of how much you think you know, Pandora will help you understand just how vast the world of music truly is. Tinkering around with the Music Genome Project for 30 minutes, depending on how loose you are with your decisions to like or dislike songs, can very well put you in a completely different style of music than where you started. Take note of songs you really like, and add these to your list for later.
    • Protip: In case you forget to favorite a song or jot it down on your list, Pandora keeps track of every song you like or dislike in your account.
  • Online Radio—Once you have discerned what genres you like, radio stations become powerful tools for solidifying your knowledge of individual genres. Sites like “BBC Radio 1” and “” host stations and DJ’s from different realms of music. Use Google to its fullest, looking up particular genres and radio stations under those genres to find just the site you are looking for.
    • Protip: While listening to radio stations, note that few stations announce the titles of every song that is played. To combat this, have a page open to Google and simply type in whatever lyrics you catch in the song. Chances are one of your search hits will be the song you are listening to.
  • Music comes in many forms and serves many purposes in different cultures. Discover what music can do for you.
    Music comes in many forms and serves many purposes in different cultures. Discover what music can do for you.
  • Genius—This final tool is specifically for those who use iTunes. After updating your library, go to the iTunes store. On the right side of the screen, under “Quick Links”, try out “Genius Recommendations.” Genius takes your library and determines for you what songs you are missing that fit perfectly with your likes. As you update your library more and more, Genius continues to come up with more and more ideas for songs.
    • Protip: Ping, the new service from iTunes, works like the Twitter of music. By following your favorite artists and friends, you can receive updates from new album releases to you friend deciding to buy new music for his rap collection.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, with so many more tools to explore. YouTube related videos and podcasts, just to name a few, still remain untouched. If you have any suggestions for music-related topics, please feel free to let me know either on Facebook or in an email to