How to Expand Your Musical Palette (and Why You Should!)

classical music composersYou probably can pinpoint your favorite type of music, or at least a few favorite artists or composers. But why limit yourself? Listening to every genre – even ones you’re not particularly excited about – is an important part of expanding your musical palette. Read on as Grand Rapids, MI teacher Marty L. explains…


As musicians or music-appreciators, we all have our favorite genres. You will most likely find me grooving to the new Red Jumpsuit Apparatus EP (which is pretty cool) or expanding my palette with some of Asheknazy’s recording of Beethoven’s piano sonatas (my favorite composer). You will not, however, find any of my radio presets on any country station. Ever. It’s just not my thing.

Listening to one particular genre is great if you’re looking for inspiration in a certain direction. What it does not do, however, is expand your musical palette. That’s what I’m here to challenge.

I’m not out to convert anyone to classical music. It has a place in circles of higher education, and I doubt there will ever come a time when you will hear a Beethoven piano sonata on Top 40 Radio. What I’m here to do as a music teacher is bring out the most in my students. Sometimes, that involves studying a kind of music you may not particularly enjoy. But there is always a reason.

When I was in school, I had to take two years of classical voice training. While I would not say that I enjoyed it, looking back on that time I have found that I use the techniques I learned all the time now. You will find yourself being challenged as a musician, especially when it comes to singing in a foreign language. Mixing your head voice and chest voice is something that Italians discovered in creating opera, and professional singers use this technique all the time. The school of chiaroscuro – blending the dark tones and light tones of your voice – is an approach that emotive singers use on a regular basis.

Even in piano lessons, learning to read and play pieces by classical music composers will go a long way. Even if you don’t plan on becoming the next Chopin or Liszt, you will be able to play in many more settings by being able to sight read a piece of music. Classical music also helps with improvisation, which is something I find myself doing on a regular basis at my church or when I’m providing background music for a dinner party.

So when your teacher busts out an aria from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro or Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, don’t panic. Trust me – it’s for your good. You will come out with a new appreciation for the genres you listen to. You will emerge a well-rounded musician with the ability to blend in more situations. And who knows – you may just come to love it.



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Grand Rapids piano lessons with Marty L.Marty L. teaches music theory, piano, and singing lessons in Grand Rapids, MI. He specializes in contemporary styles of both piano and vocal studies, and also performs regularly with his band, Cities and Saints. Marty joined the TakeLessons team in February 2013. Learn more about Marty, or search for a teacher near you!



Photo by Bengt Nyman

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