Home Arts & Culture Musical Ages: How Our Taste in Music Changes Over a Lifetime

Musical Ages: How Our Taste in Music Changes Over a Lifetime


What would life be like without music? The world will probably be a dull and quiet place. Music is a huge part of our lives and it’s one of the most precious human experiences. But as we age, our taste in music tends to change.

Children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly may have different music preferences which evolve as they age. You may have already noticed this as you appreciate or listen to different kinds of music now compared than when you were still young. But why do we undergo this music evolution?

Children and music

Most children love listening to, singing along with, and dancing to music. Usually, children don’t have their own music preferences. They tend to like music which their parents condition them to like. When a child listens to a particular type of childhood songs or music time and time again, he will enjoy it more.

This is why it’s important for parents to carefully choose the type of music they expose their children. The more a child listens to music, the more natural it feels for them. Of course, as children grow older, they will start having their own preferences though this depends on the music they’re frequently exposed to.

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The teenage years

It’s a common belief that a person’s taste in music develops and becomes final by the time they reach their teenage years. But there’s a recent study which suggests otherwise. According to this study, our taste in music continues to evolve as we age to meet our psychological and social needs.

Teenagers are at the age when they experience a lot of changes. In fact, because of everything that’s going on in their lives, their tastes tend to change drastically, and this is mainly because they’re still in the process of looking for themselves. Often, teenagers would try different things and listen to different types of music to understand themselves better.

For teenagers, music is a huge part of their lives. When they feel stressed because they don’t have time to do manage their affairs they would ideally want to, music helps them calm down. If you have ever felt like you don’t have enough time, Edubirdie writes your essays. From research reports to thesis and college essays to dissertation, it takes only a click to get writing work done.

By using this essay writing service, you can focus more on enjoying music and on finding out which type of music fits your personality. The formation of our music taste starts by the age of 10, even for those who didn’t have any initial interest in music.

Then comes a “formative window” which occurs between the age of 11 to 17. During this time, self-discovery is at its peak, which is why you would find your impressionable self-reacting dramatically to each new song and musical piece that you hear. When you reach 14 years old, this is when you start developing musical preferences.

This is the “magic age” where your cognitive development makes your musical taste an important part of your identity. Teenagers frequently need to explain their identity and music is an effective and affordable way to do this.

It’s commonly believed that a person’s taste in music is solidified by his late teens up to his early twenties. Scientists claim is that our basic preferences are already laid out at this time. This is also when we find our direction and footing in terms of what we listen to for the next years of our life.

For most of us, our musical tastes as adults are usually based on our preferences during our teenage years. Through effort, it’s possible to expand these tastes as an adult. However, this does become more challenging if you had a narrow taste in music during your teenage years. Difficult, but not impossible.

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How music evolves for adults

We’ve already established how music is an important part of a teenager’s life. During the teenage years, you would blast whatever’s popular or “trending” at the moment. Then your musical interest may start to drop when you reach your 20s and early 30s. At age 33, this interest tends to bottom out.

These findings come from a new study which measured how quickly and when people would lose interest in mainstream hits. For this study, they came up with a compilation of songs on Spotify for each of the users in the US back in 2014. Then the researchers cross-referenced the data against the popularity of the recording artists and the age of the users.

The data showed that it seems to be more challenging for us to keep up with the “popular” and “mainstream” hits the older we get. One surprising finding from this study was how quickly the effect happens for parents of young children.

No matter what their age was, even for those who were in their early 20s, as long as they were parents of young children, these people listened to significantly less mainstream music compared to other people of the same age.

To identify the users of the study who were parents, the researchers identified those who streamed a lot of nursery songs or children’s music. Another interesting finding from the study was that men tend to move away from popular music at a faster rate than women.

The musical pieces we adults listen to, may become more complex as we age.  Although this study conducted on Spotify was a single study, it does highlight the possibilities of collecting and integrating huge amounts of data using sophisticated methods for social science research.

The golden years

Have you ever wondered why people growing up in 60s and 70s still love listening to Elvis, The Beatles, and other old-school bands and singers? Or as an adult, have you ever wondered why you still have a strong affiliation with the “cheesy” bands you used to love when you were a teenager? By now, you should have a better understanding of why this is so.

Another recent study conducted by Deezer in the UK asked people about their streaming habits and musical preferences. The findings of this study showed that people tend to go through what’s known as a “musical paralysis” when they reach 30.5 years of age. This is when they don’t listen to new music as much and they stick to their preferences.

Our musical discovery reaches its peak around 24 years and 5 months, though some women may reach this peak a bit earlier. During this age, most people would only feel interested in checking out ten new songs or musical pieces each week while others would only listen to around five new artists each month.

Some people even claim that they feel like they’re stuck in a “musical rut” where they only play the same things time and time again.

Even as we reach the golden years, music remains to be a huge part of our lives. The elderly love listening to music, especially the one which makes them feel calm and relaxed. For them, when they find music that’s similar to what they used to love in their youth, the tendency is they would love that too.

Our preferences and inclinations would remain the same but the actual taste in music continues to evolve. This is why the older generation tends to prefer classical pieces or those which have nice, slow beats even though they may have loved fast or loud music in the past. This is because they have found something which appeals to who they are now but still reminds them of their favorite music in the past.


As you can see, science supports the fact that our taste in music changes over a lifetime. As we age, we tend to listen to different kinds of music and musical pieces. What we might not know is that these preferences we have when we are older are still based on our preferences when we were in our teenage years.

No matter how you look at it, music is a vital part of our lives and our society. Children, teenagers, adults, and even the elderly listen to music. We use it to express our feelings, to find our own identity, to help us accomplish our tasks, and more.

Alvin Franklin is a student counselor and a career coach helping students achieve their goals with a holistic framework that he has come up with. He believes that overall development of a student depends not only on himself but his/her parents, mentors, teachers and friends as well. In his free time, Alvin likes to listen to retro music, read classic novels and catch up with his old friends on weekends.