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How to hack your music experience

Girl with headphones

You listen to music all the time but are you really getting the most from your experience? Music is all-inclusive, spanning different genres, tastes and media for all kinds of different results. Music isn’t about sticking some cheap earphones in and bopping along; for many people, music is about personal growth and discovering new things.

The biggest difference between a person who hears music and a person who listens to music is attention. When you listen to music, you take it all in; when you hear music, you let it glide over you as a backdrop to whatever you are doing. There’s no problem with either of these things, but knowing what you want from your music is important when choosing how to listen.

We all listen to music for different reasons and different genres can even change your mood. If you’re putting some music on to dance while you clean the kitchen, you probably won’t be too fussed about the quality of the sound, but if you really want to get into the music zone, you definitely need to hack your experience to get the very best from your time.

Invest in proper headphones

You can buy a cheap pair of earphones anywhere and they will do fine in most cases but if you really want to listen, you should definitely invest in some over-ear headphones instead. Bigger headphones are better at canceling out noise and generally come with a better quality of speaker too. Often this means that the bass notes are much richer and the tinny sound that often comes with higher registers is removed. Handily, Vinyl Vintage has made a list of the most popular choices.

Much like taking a test drive, you should always try headphones out before you buy. Choosing the perfect headphones isn’t all about the sound, you also need to check that they are comfortable, have a good battery life and are easy to adjust to your specification. This is the only way to see whether the headphones you like the look of actually do what they say they will and you compare models more easily too.

When you are trying different headphones, do sample different music genres and artists. This will help you gauge whether your headphones are all-rounders or whether they only really work for a particular type of music. Naturally, most people want to find a set that will span their whole music library but there are some real music geeks who own genre-specific headphones.

Choose the best speaker system

Just as you should take your time choosing headphones, you should take your time trying out different speaker systems. There is no perfect system out there so you need to think about the kind of music you like to play and find speakers to suit those genres. Quality of sound is much like quality of taste: what sounds amazing to you won’t necessarily be the most expensive or popular with everyone else.

When you are choosing speakers, you will also need to consider the space they are going in. The acoustics of the room will definitely affect the way the music reverberates around the space. So, a conservatory, which is made with a lot of glass, will have a very different sound to a sunken basement with thick brick walls. Similarly, an empty room will have a very different sound to a cluttered room.

If you have the best speakers but it still isn’t sounding perfect, you could try acoustically tuning your room by removing hard surfaces and objects that vibrate with the music. Adding soft furnishings to a room will also help dampen the sound but if you want to go the whole hog, you could put foam panels on the walls. This works brilliantly if you want to set up a recording studio in your home too and will significantly improve the quality of your own recorded music.

Go to live performances

Of course, the best way to experience music is to go to live performances. Live music is a chance to connect with the artist as well as the music, and you can meet other like-minded people at a gig too. Whether you are in a basement bar or a stadium, there is something completely consuming about listening to live music. You don’t even have to be listening to a big name for the music to have an effect on you.

Similarly, listening to a live recording will give a completely different feel to the album version. Listening to the introductions given by artists and hearing the crowds cheering gives the sensation of dropping in on a moment in history. The idea of social facilitation also contributes to the reason live performances are often better: the audience bring out the best in the performer who forgets about the specifics and simply plays from the heart.

The real beauty of live music is that every performance is slightly different. This is the most human part of making music: that one day something could change, the audience can influence the sound just as much as a change in mood. While recorded music captures a moment, it can’t evolve in the same way that a performance can, as those who religiously follow their favorite band can attest.

However you enjoy your music, the most important thing is that you allow yourself to be exposed to all kinds of music from classical to heavy metal, teen pop to country and western. There is so much to listen to and so many talented artists that simply letting a streaming service take you on a journey through genres is a great way to discover new things.

Music, all music, is good for the soul and however you listen to it, your experience counts for a lot of the performance. Give yourself the time and space to listen properly, don’t rely on background music. Choose performances and compare and contrast different versions of the same song to see how music can be liberating and familiar at the same time. Listen widely, listen deeply.

Photograph by KaboomPics

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