The Gentleman's Guide To Voicing Your Musical Opinion Without Sounding Like A Complete A-s

Is it possible to approach musical discussions without seeming like an elitist?

Ultimate Guitar

You're passionate about the music you listen to. We all are. How many music conversations have you had with people - friends, acquaintances, elders, musicians and non-musicians alike that end up tickling your ire and make you want to lash out and passionately state what you really think about their musical tastes?

Do you crinkle your nose like you just smelled p-ss every time someone argues it takes more talent to rap than it does to play an instrument? Do you immediately formulate a comment in retaliation every time you hear "...I just like [insert hip-hop song] cuz it's got a good beat!" Do you scream and cover your ears whenever a group of girls shriek as Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" comes on during karaoke?

We've all been there. We must remedy the situation and intervene. We must correct the error of their ways and shake those who are musically clueless by the shoulders and scream, "LET ME HELP YOU!" But sadly, what many of us perceive as well-crafted and airtight arguments against the music we dislike are in reality nothing more than annoying and unwelcome assertions to those around us. Catch the target on a bad day and verbal acid is immediately spewed upon you the second you speak your mind "God, you're such a music snob!" Eeesh.

And you wonder, "Am I really a music snob?"

Music snobs come in many forms. They can be educated musicians who use their specialized knowledge to justify their opinions, tending to base them on the characteristics of the music itself. Conversely, there are plenty of non-musician snobs who, although knowledgeable, more so base their opinions on the artist's larger role in pop culture, a certain scene, or trend. They attack bands, popular genres, singers, Coldplay, underground genres, new music, old music, ethnic music, and the keytar. And we're all guilty of doing this to some extent.

Consider what the wise Morpheus has to say:

Great point, Morpheus. I'll take the red pill.

We often miss the point when we fight against people who seem ignorant to music. While we may think that it's our role and duty to spread awareness and knowledge of "better" music, the general animosity toward the music we deem shallow prevents us from actually having meaningful conversations about music. Thus the label of "music snob".

To escape the moniker, here are several ways you can approach musical discussions without seeming like an elitist. Your subjective opinions don't have to be an earsore; by presenting them in a way that doesn't make the person you talk to feel like an idiot for liking (arguably) sh-tty music, you can avoid being a snob and in turn, effectively get your point across.

Ask. Ask. Ask.

The best way to get to the bottom of why someone likes a certain genre or artist (and satisfy your burning desire to understand why anyone could possibly like a band like Nickelback) is to ask them probing questions as to why they like what they like.

"Oh, you like Linkin Park. What about their music do you like? No, I mean specifically. Lyrics? Musicality? When did you get into them?" Etc.

Try to dig deeper. You may be surprised to find that through the more questions you ask, a person may determine that they don't really know why they like something. That's when you pounce and offer some of your fine musical recommendations. Or you may find that they have compelling reasons behind their tastes, which of course knocks them up a few pegs.

Appreciate The Ways In Which People Enjoy Music

It may come as a surprise, but most people don't value music in the same way musicians and other musically involved people do. That's fine. Some people are content listening to Top 100 while getting ready to go to the club; some people simply like the overall effect of a genre and don't pay attention to specific bands within it. Try to gauge the level of value the person seems to put on music and use that to determine how you'll discuss the musical topic at hand.

Be Mindful Of Your Audience

If you're compelled to sell a band or artist to someone, do so, but play into what you think the other person will enjoy/understand. If you were talking to a non-guitarist about Paul Gilbert, it'd be pointless to describe the brilliance of his alternate picking technique. Rather, you could say his solos are exciting and expressive. And don't be surprised if the cheerleading squad doesn't quite take to your sales pitch about Cannibal Corpse.

Avoid Blanket Statements

Nothing ruins your credibility more than making serious generalizations without merit. There's a difference between saying "all pop music is shallow and void of any redeeming qualities" and "it seems that a lot of the artists that top the charts are based more on image and less on the quality of songs."

Focus On The Why, Not The What

Explain why you think Paula Abdul sucks, but don't just simply state so without anything to back up your assertion. The less reasoning you give, the quicker one is to deem you a dick; the more rounded observations you provide, the more likely someone will notice and pay attention to your point.

Be Confident, But Not Aggressive In Your Opinion

Passion is sexy. If you're passionate about the music you love, you should show it. Snobbery stems from the notion people get when they believe you feel your tastes are superior to theirs. If they feel aggression in your opinion, they'll shut the door and throw the "I just like it, okay" card. If they feel that you're genuinely excited about your music, they may be more receptive to listening.

Appreciate, Son!

Have you ever noticed that most professional musicians are interested in genres of music that fall outside of the genre they mainly play? For instance, Mark Morton from Lamb Of God loves rap and George Harrison loved Indian music. And Bob Dylan especially loves minimalist dubstep (I'm not sure about that, but it's possible). Seek out music, rather than condemn it. Being open minded to other people's tastes could lead you down a surprising path to musical discovery, which can be a fantastic result of musical discussions.

So share below if you've ever been accused of being a music snob or have encountered some irritating ones yourself. Try using some of these suggestions to your advantage. The more open you are to other people's opinions, the more open they'll be to yours. And then you can focus your snobbery on more particular subjects like fine wine, cheeses and French New Wave cinema.

By Zach Pino

76 comments sorted by best / new / date

    this should be required reading prior to making an account here.
    Damn, people, give this guy a medal. He deserves it more!
    Finally somebody who understands why I can love both prog and industrial dance music in the same time.
    Have you ever listened to Psyclon Nine? Or Die Sektor? I've only met one other metal head that digs industrial, and it makes me sad.
    I'm still exploring the older stuff like wumpscut or front 242, but I'm totally in love with that music.
    I like Nine Inch Nails, willing to explore other industrial too!
    Listen to some Skinny Puppy. Also, try Front Line Assembly. That's a project by former Skinny Puppy member Bill Leeb. Much harder and darker than anything NIN or Skinny Puppy has ever made.
    you haven't spoken to me and my friend sam then or the loads of industrial metal bands out there
    I remember a few years ago I was a bit of a music snob. Over the years though I kinda stopped caring about what people listened to, or making strict definitions on what music is (or "good" music is). I find that's more relaxing.
    I have given many chances to people, all to be shut down with "what is this crap?" or "this is depressing." Mainly bc its not music they know or what theyve heard of before. And believe me, a lot of people know whats being played on the radio, so chances are, you wont get shit on for playing stuff from there thats very mainstream, but then again, I dont have many metalhead friends yet -_-
    trust me wherever you go theres always an elitist around. Not many people are going to accept any form of screaming, so they will get turned off right away. And its too bad bc I usually look for rhythm, melody, song structure, and lyrics. I dont give a rats ass on how the vocals sound, unless its whiny, dumbed down, or most country (just hate it).
    I could relate to that. I've moved pretty much all my music discussion online though where I can find a lot of people who are much more open minded about what they listen to. It's a shame some people don't even bother to try and reach out beyond either radio stuff or some smaller genre they found. There's a lot of beautiful things you can find if you just open up a bit.
    There have been plenty of times I've suggested bands to someone, and they've dismissed it because "the band name sounds depressing", and then one day suddenly they suggest the band to me, as if I never mentioned it to them, I don't understand it, they never gave it a chance, then found out they liked it when they actually heard it.
    Appreciating the ways people enjoy music is the fundamental way of understanding why people like different genres. Everyone wants or takes something different out of music and each genre gives something different. This is something I've learned from experience and am glad someone has said this on a UG article. Thanks for posting
    Danjo's Guitar
    I don't really care anymore. I'll listen to anything if someone listening enjoys it. I don't think I'm out to hate anyone anymore (Though I will say that a lot of the bands at Warped Tour need to stop sounding the same, and that Nicki Minaj looks like a baboon most of the time.) I pretty much don't discuss music with people anymore though. I'd rather just listen to it, and only talk about it when I'm trying to make music with other people.
    Music is a very subjective thing - Your taste in it always depends on your experiences, your envoiroment, and how your personality is all influence your taste. However, this doesnt exclude appreciating different music - fx. as a guitarist, I enjoy the challenge and complexity of playing metal, jazz, and other styles which requires a fair amount of knowledge, and ability on my instrument - However, when regarding sound, feel, songwriting, and lyrics I tend to lean more towards alt-rock, grunge, eletronica, and such. Fx. On a average day I might jam with my band and play Pantera, Meshuggah, Death, Metallica, Anthrax, Alice in chains, Tool, and a whole lot of other bands that have songs which require some dexterity and ability on guitar (I'm mainly a lead guitarist FYI), but when I listen to music, I listen to a great deal of Joy Division, R.E.M, Depeche Mode, New order, Nirvana, The xx, Massive attack, The sex pistols, the Clash, The replacements, Mudhoney, Atoms for peace (recently), and a shit ton of Radiohead (they are probably my all-time favorite band). Point is, that while I mainly take joy in rock, punk, eletronica, and alternative, I can appreciate, understand and enjoy metal, jazz, and prog-rock just as much. Taste can very easily become a very complex matter, and might for some people (like me) be a bit difficult to explain. Still, great article, very clear, intelligent, and gives my mind something to chew on...
    Kind of the reverse situation for me, I know what you mean, there's a lot of beauty in any genre that your willing to listen to with open ears. There's a need for all kinds in music.
    Today one of my friends who listens to top 40 and that kind of stuff asked me to give him some rock songs. I sent him a list of about 40. It was cool.
    "Conversely, there are plenty of non-musician snobs who, although knowledgeable, more so base their opinions on the artist's larger role in pop culture, a certain scene, or trend. They attack bands, popular genres, singers, Coldplay, underground genres, new music, old music, ethnic music, and the keytar." these people are the worst of the worst. in regard to what morpheus is saying, it's the fans that get on my tits as opposed to the acts themselves, 1d-ers and bieber-ers are practically cults. what i hate is when people say "that's shit" and when questioned as to why they think this reply with "its just shit" i mean if someone doesn't like what i do fair enough, but to attack it in such a way without valid reason is just absent minded. for example, my favorite band is muse, i like the over-the-top-ness of the newer albums as well as the edgier older stuff, i can also see how matt's screechy falsetto and heavy inhaling before singing can annoy people, but if someone tells me they're shit with no reasoning i get irate
    this article makes many good points, and is something many people should read and comprehend, especially those who dismiss entire swaths of music on the basis of not being "heavy." it's utterly useless to argue for certain music being either "good" or "bad." for some time now, i've silenced my inner (or outer) musical snob with one tenet learned from an open-minded friend: it's okay to like things. the golden rule, while seemingly trite, applies here. have the patience to give other musical tastes a chance just as you would want in return.
    this is simply not true, nickleback is anal
    I think aunt jemima syrup is disgusting but when my friends choose that shit in leau of some perfectly delicious maple syrup it's their tastebuds that have to deal with that shit not mine. And I know you have to listen to it at party's and shit but there much more that will ruin your night at a party if that's enough to set you off.
    When you're young, things like this seem important, and in a way, they are. Personally I would like to see my generation listening to more meaningful music, but who am I to complain if they don't? Maybe what they listen to has more meaning for them, somehow. If you can forget that the person next to you has "Bieber fever" or the "One Direction infection", you might find yourself astonished that we are alive and breathing, in this human form, conscious and aware, together. But I still wouldn't go home with them.
    Me - The Black Keys are my favorite band by far Friend - Yeah man mine too I love Gold on the Ceiling and Lonely Boy. Me- Yeah those are cool songs man, have you listened to Chulahoma/Rubber Factory/Thickfreakness much? Friend - What are those? Me - .....(walks away) True story
    Whenever people disagree with me I elect not to explain myself. I tend to use the fact that I have been playing multiple instruments in multiple genres since childhood to simply bludgeon their opinion into irrelevance. Am I a dick, maybe? I mean, I have justifications for everything, but sometimes I feel like I'm explaining why you can't just eat candy to little kids so I just shut people down... Yeah, I'm probably a dick...
    I guess you're single.
    Yeah, unfortunately that's true at the moment. Theres this one chick that likes me, and she's pretty sexy, but she's "not sure I'm a real christian" :-l Also, I have this other thing going with this one girl, but I'm not sure what's going on exactly between us, although she did make a point of telling me that she was NOT interested in this other guy that hits on her a lot so I took that as a good sign. Oh, well... Thoughts, comments? Anyone?
    Dude, stories like that don't have place in comments, just make a thread. Or post it in relationships thread.
    You asked for it,,, just saying
    It was a joke,,, just saying
    What if I told you that I knew you were joking but decided to see how a twelve year old would respond when confronted with a serious answer to his very obvious joke? Hey, if you want to make jokes, don't take everything so seriously Still, anyone fell free to comment on this situation. It would be interesting to see what you all think.
    Please, spare me.
    Very well, citizen. You will not be executed. For I am a merciful God.
    ahhh, to be cocky young and in the comments section, what a time in life
    I'm cocky and young as well, but there are some principles that should be followed in order not to bore everyone else around you...
    I'm detecting a strong correlation between being single and posting comments at 3:23 am. The unknown variable is if Cheetos stains are involved somehow.
    well, there's nothing restricting us from having a wide range of taste. see for example, there are days when i have this metal head playlist, then i also have this indie play list, then a t times post rock, then probably listen to beatles and hall and oates.. i dont see how music taste is an issue.... its kinda good to be open minded to different genres and other people's taste unless you're listening to those faggot pop music dicks like jb 1d and shit like that. if you happen to like that ,then you have pretty serious issues regarding your taste... :|
    "i dont see how music taste is an issue.... its kinda good to be open minded to different genres and other people's taste unless you're listening to those faggot pop music dicks like jb 1d and shit like that." are you joking??? you must be joking. I will cry for humanity if you seriously say its good to be open minded and then trash another artist in the space of 2 sentences. ARE YOU MENTAL????
    Treat the person you are discussing with like a smart reasonable person not a moron you have to school. It never works like that. Also being angry toward them only pushes them away.
    I 'm not into much music out in so much records from parents from 60's and 70' don't need 124 tracks to make an album(cd).thank god for youtube can watch old 60-70-80 is music -theres enough for everyone.god bless america
    just before I saw the receipt of $4564, I did not believe neighbour woz truley making money parttime online.. there friends cousin started doing this 4 only 8 months and just now paid the loans on their condo and bought a great BMW M3. read more at,
    I'm proud (that pride is shame-tinged, admittedly) to say that I have pissed off musical snobs AND I've been accused of being a musical snob. For some reason, people tend to laugh at me when I bring up my love for Drone... They tend to laugh even more when I explain why I love it.
    I definitely know someone who is like that, the type of person that says "If you don't like *Insert band I dislike here* then you have no music taste". I've tried telling him it doesn't quite work like that, but he doesn't seem to listen. Also, another thing he has said to me is that I don't have a wide taste in music because I listen to Machine Head. Now, I know they aren't everyone's cup of tea, but he has never seen my iPod, nor my music collection, so he doesn't have any idea what kind of music I like, while its true I like mostly metal, I also like a bit of country, some swing, a bit of dubstep, and even a lot of classical music/instrumentals, not to mention classic rock of course. But he showed the kind of snobbery I hate, not giving any valid reason for it, he just made an assumption from one out of about 400 artists music I own, plus stuff I don't own but listen to occasionally. Anyone else had that said to them, that they have no musical diversity because you don't like what they like?
    Sometimes we do overplay certain bands around our friends as well, I listen to a wide variety of music but my choices around friends aren't extremely indicative of that.
    I stopped feeling the need to "fix" the world when a friend of mine said "Ugh... I HATE Opeth!" and then followed it up with "Oh by the way, have you heard this song called Windowpane? I don't know who it's by but I absolutely love it!"
    any music with instruments,(not computer) is amazing and awesm... \m/
    And why is that? Does it really matter how the music is made as much as the content of the song?