Quora Answer : Do people that know how to play an instrument have better taste in music than those who don't?

Oct 16, 2019

I think they have different tastes in music.

They are aware of more and different things. They are connoisseurs of other people's playing technique and understand the overall structure of the music better.

Whether all that adds up to "better taste" is another matter. What is "good taste"? Liking the right music? Disliking the wrong music?

What about people who play Mozart brilliantly in the orchestra, but are also enthusiasts for atonal serialist composers of the late 20th century? How do you imagine their taste? Good or bad?

Or the taste of, say, Frank Zappa? Or that guy on the internet who was a child violin prodigy but is now literally incapable of recognising that hip-hop is music or feeling the excitement of it?

Meanwhile there are expert record collectors and music critics who can't play a note, but who have spent years really listening to music. And have formed their opinions based on comparing a wide variety of different artists and pieces of music.

I think if you want to make a claim that musicianship supports better taste you at least need to make an argument as to why that should be. You can easily make the case that they have a deeper understanding of the mechanics behind it. Of how music "works".

But you need to go further. Give a theory of what "good taste" is, such that people with understanding are likely to have it.

My hunch is this. Good musicians have clearly spent a lot of time with music. And that helps. Because they'll have heard a lot of examples, thought about them. But the danger of "good musicians" is that they might have spent their time with a very specific category of music and so have formed their taste entirely in terms of that logic of that music. Which might make their taste comparatively narrow.

A violinist who groks hip-hop clearly has better taste than one who offers a blanket dismissal of the entire genre as "not music". Even if the latter can play Vivaldi to a higher standard than the former.

Or a professional musician can get burned out. They might have come to feel music as much as a "day-job", a technical grind which means they fall out of love with the sense of wonder and discovery in music.

But ... having said all that ... if you turn it around. I'd expect people with good taste, if they become musicians at all, and work to master the technicalities, to become reasonably good ones. So there would be a statistical effect in that direction.