How to get out of a musical rut!
Updated: Feb 26
It's that time of year. Yes, it's Christmas. But it's also ‘burn - out’ season. The time of year where you're chronically tired, you want the holidays to come FAST and you’re just dying to sit down to a meal about five times the size of what you’d normally eat in one sitting. But burn - out doesn’t really come out of nowhere. It's often preempted by ‘getting in a rut’. Where the creative juices have run more than dry, where every day is the same as the next and life is just going over your head without you really knowing. Maybe you’ve felt this way with work, with college, with your social life, with your hobbies or with anything. But in this article, I want to talk about it with music. I want to talk about musical ruts and more specifically, how you can get out of them. Because in my opinion, musical ruts can be some of the worst ruts to be in.
So here are my top 5 tips for reclaiming your music taste and making your playlists as flavourful as a Christmas dinner!
Get out there a bit! Some of the best ways to get out of a rut is by exposure. Expose yourself to some new music and more importantly, to some live music. You don’t have to buy the most expensive tickets for a world famous band on a stadium tour. Music doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Go to open mic nights or follow some emerging young bands on Instagram and see when they’re playing next. Bring your friends with you to a gig and make a night of it! The thrill and atmosphere surrounding live music cannot be recreated through headphones so it's important to remind yourself once in a while, what music irl sounds like.
The next tip I have is called ‘genre - searching’. The idea is this; pick a genre you know you like, find a playlist, or playlists, from that genre, and listen along. You might come across something you’ve never heard before and find out you absolutely love it! There's so much music around that it's hard to find the time to listen to all of it and expect to find lots of stuff you jam to. So instead, work with what you already know you like and find something new about that. Maybe there’s a subgenre you’ve yet to explore or a new artist you’d never seen before pops up. By genre searching you can increase your chances of finding stuff you like by using what you already know you like.
This next one is similar to genre - searching but not exactly the same. I call it ‘Fans also like’. If you’re a Spotify user, like any other normal human (apple music is for losers), then you’re probably aware of the ‘fans also like’ section that they have on the app. There’s a software sandwich of sorts with the artist’s ‘featuring’ section on the top layer and their ‘appears on’ section on the bottom, with ‘fans also like’ shoved right in the middle . This was a game - changer when I realised its power. Especially if you’re looking to listen to a music scene and not just one artist. Like genre searching, what this allows you to do is to find similar stuff. Stuff you haven’t listened to yet, but you’re very likely to like. I think the best example I have of how successful this is as a method, is with the South London music scene. You can start off with a band like Fontaines D.C. and keep clicking until you’ve gone through the discography of Black Country New Road, shame, sorry, dry cleaning… the list goes on for days. After this little trick you’ll have plenty of new artists to sink your teeth deep into. It’ll keep you going until the next rut at least.
This one’s called; ‘Pretend you’re a critic’. Basically, you’re a judge for an exclusive, elusive, hyper - conducive award ceremony like the Grammys or my personal favourite, the Mercury Prize, and you’re given a big list of albums to listen to. Some you think you might like, others you're almost certain you won’t but the important thing is, it's your job to listen to all of them; likeable or unlikeable. You’ve got to look at the songs through a critical lens and decide whether it deserves whatever prize you’re giving out. You never know you might end up loving something that you never thought you’d even remotely like!
What would they do? In this one you pick your favourite movie, book or tv character and make a playlist based on what you think they might listen to. For example, Marianne from Normal people seems like she listens to a lot of home - grown Irish music, a lot of new up and coming artists, a good bit of folk music and just a sprinkle of rage - filled post punk. Find artists and songs that are going to make up that playlist will expose you to whole new avenues to music and also give you a soundtrack for romanticising your life as if you were in the movie with them!