Ryan McGuire, ‘19, grew up listening to rock and funk songs with his parents.
So when he arrived at Lehigh and decided to play guitar in a band with his friends, he gravitated toward similar sounds.
In fact, he quickly observed that the songs from his band, called Patent Pending, sounded eerily similar to songs he had listened to during his childhood.
Danielle Lindemann, professor of sociology, said music preference carries a level of individuality that matures over time, but the driving forces behind one’s taste begin as a child.
Developing music preferences is a process that could take a lifetime, but Lindemann said it starts in the early adolescent stages. Familial upbringing, the genres one’s peers listen to and fluctuating trends spread through social media are all factors Lindemann said can drive someone’s preference.
“My parents were huge Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan fans. . .which has a very organic upbringing in itself,” McGuire said.
McGuire started creating his own music with his band as a first-year student.
“All the music that we decide to play is music that we enjoy listening to in the first place,” he said.
For Paul Salerni, a professor of music, exposure is everything.
“I find that the more people hear music, the more they like it,” he said. “Music is something that’s repeatable.”
Salerni teaches upper-level music theory and composition courses at Lehigh and said he has been interested in music ever since he started playing the accordion at six years old. Last semester, Salerni took his students to an opera show in New York City, despite their expressed aversion to the genre.
Now, Salerni said his students have grown to appreciate opera music after studying it for months and gaining exposure to such high volumes of the genre.
Matt Grapel, ‘19, and Peter Rogu, ‘19, a couple of other members of Patent Pending, were also greatly influenced by their parents’ music choices when they were growing up.
When they have to pick songs to play as a band, McGuire, Grapel and Rogu always propose rock because it’s what is familiar to them.
“Playing songs (that) I grew up listening to makes playing music more fun,” Grapel said. “I think when I first learned guitar, being able to produce songs that I had heard my dad play around the house or in the car made me like playing even more.”
Rogu had a similar experience as a child.
“My dad played guitar and listened to rock n’ roll, so I think that’s what drew me to want to play music myself,” Rogu said.
Grapel and Rugo said that not everyone in their band has the same taste in music. Other members suggest playing pop songs or more soothing music. While those genres are not their favorites, Grapel and Rogu said they are willing to compromise for the band.
Lindemann said preference stems from how one was raised but emphasized that there are more factors involved. Empirical data has proven race, ethnicity, gender and age are also correlated.
“I think there are multiple driving forces (to music taste),” Lindemann said. “If you’re never exposed to a type of music there’s a low chance you’re going to like it because you don’t know it exists, so in that sense, socialization is always driving our musical taste.”