How To Pandora, Music for the Creative Self

Information is not knowledge.  Knowledge is not wisdom.  Wisdom is not truth.  Truth is not beauty.  Beauty is not love.  Love is not music.  Music is THE BEST.

~ Frank Zappa

I see art blogs asking and talking about what music we like to have playing while we’re creating.  It’s really a great and fun topic, as music can totally set the mood, or even hurt the mood.

So today I’m throwing out here for you a little bit of extra Monday Love ~ some tips on using Pandora radio station ~ for helping set your favorite mood music!

I started playing with Pandora a couple of years ago during Christmas time.  I love Love LOVE Christmas music and was looking to expand my listening from the same old 15 songs or so that you always hear on the radio or find in most Christmas libraries.

That started the great love affair I now have with Pandora.

We are audiophiles in this house.  We listen to music from almost all genres, and we listen to older music, newer music, underground music, mainstream music, and lots of “hidden treasures”.  We spend much time listening to music together, and we even study music together.  Christopher and I both come from musical families, and we encourage listening and playing and creating music with the kidlets.  We have a huge library of music, on CDs, on our iPods and iPhones, on our computers, and on old vinyl records.  We play with musical instruments and we sing and we dance.  Christopher and I both play musical instruments, and we are encouraging our children to do so and will teach them over time as much as we possibly can about music.  It is the Universal Language.

Pandora offers a wonderful way of organizing and discovering all kinds of great music, but it can be a bit frustrating if you don’t know how to customize it for your own tastes.

You start with building a list.  You can start the list with an artist name, a song name, a genre, or even a movie name.  Pick something that you typically like, for example, one of my first lists was Dee Lite (an artist name).

Pandora will build a radio station built around that artist (or whatever you choose to start your list).  You will hear the generic choices that go with that artist.  Sometimes it seems that Pandora is choosing odd music to go with it, so understanding how Pandora makes those choices can help.  It might be that the next song is chosen based on having the same kind of rhythm or the same kind of voice or the same selection of musical instruments used.  So with the Dee Lite list, other songs that are played on that station typically have electronic-style beats.  Lots of the songs would have female singing voices.

From there you can begin customizing your station.  When you hear a song that you like, you can press the “Thumbs Up” button.  When you hear a song that you don’t like so much, you press the “Thumbs Down” button.

This is important: You might generally like a song that you hear, but you don’t want to be hearing it on that particular radio station.  Go ahead and give it a thumbs down.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t choose to have that song on another station, you’re just not going to hear it on the current station.  I have a Johnny Cash station, and Johnny Cash fits in with lots of other stations…so his songs sometimes end up on stations where I don’t really want them played.  I thumbs down the songs on that station, and it doesn’t affect his songs being played elsewhere or the Johnny Cash station itself.

When you give a song a thumbs up, Pandora will expand on that list the kinds of songs you like.  That gives Pandora another point on the web of what you like, adding to what kinds of rhythms and chords and voices and styles you like to hear on that station.  Each time you give the station feedback, you further customize your station.

It does take a bit of attention to really get it rolling, but it’s well worth it.

Once you get the hang of it, you can start adding other stations built around other artists or songs or genres.  For example, I love blues-rock music.  I actually have several stations built around these genres.  I have a White Stripes station, a Muddy Waters station, and a Stevie Ray Vaughn station.

As I have customized these stations, Pandora has been learning what I like to listen to.  I get some bleed-over from one station to the other.  So when I listen to the White Stripes station, I get some of the other blues-style stations.  Ultimately, I got the one station tweaked to my preferences and I don’t have to listen to all three to get what I’m wanting.

One of our favorite stations is the Flying Lizards station.  It’s funny, I don’t much care to hear much of the Flying Lizards, so much was overplayed and they have such a small amount of available music, it’s not why we built the list.  It’s all of the songs that are on the station around that starting point that makes that our favorite station.

My Bluegrass station took quite a bit of work over time.  At the beginning, the station had a very limited selection of music.  As I continued giving feedback, the station grew and now I have hours and hours and hours of music played for me, without repeating the same handful of songs.

We spent some attention and time on our Pandora radio stations, and now we have a good 15 or 20 lists that we listen to regularly, because they are customized to our tastes.  We can set the mood through our music, so that it goes with whatever we’re doing…having a house cleaning party, having a dinner celebration with the kids, or quietly meditating on our next art project.

I hope this little bit of feedback helps you in inspiring your creative self.  Music can be such an inspiring and motivating part of our creative lives.

Prompt: What do you listen to when you’re creating?  Do you Pandora?  What’s your fave stations??