By: Erik Ringstad
Why should you learn and listen to other styles of music that may be outside your main interests?
1. Professional Reasons
The more styles you know, the more gigs will open up to you. As a working (but not famous) musician, versatility is what has kept me gainfully employed during the years since I graduated from music school. I have "faked" my way through many gigs, in styles I didn't really know well, by having at least listened to these styles in advance. Listen to the top musicians in various diverse styles, and you'll get a leg up on the competition.
2. Crossing Stylistic Lines Can Be Cool!
Sometimes it is cool to, say, throw a country riff into a jazz tune, or a jazz riff into a rock solo, and so on. Learning different styles expands your "vocabulary" greatly, as both a rhythm and a lead guitarist, and can expose you to new techniques. It will also open up your ears, figuratively speaking, so that perhaps you may hear music that has similarities to a style you have checked out. As a result, you may be able to pick up on it more effectively.
Different styles of music rely on different musical rhythms, chords, articulations, effects, etc., and the more you know, the broader your "canvass" will be. Think of two painters (tired analogy alert!). One has three colors on his palette, while the other has ten. Chances are, the 2nd painter will come up wth something more interesting, and if spread out over a broader body of work (maybe 10 paintings, let's say), those chances will increase. If you end up listening to only one style of music, you will most likely write music that sounds similar (which MAY be what you are after), whereas someone who has a wider range of listening will probably have more devices at their disposal. As someone who is interested in many different styles of music, and as a person who can easily get bored by what I'm listening to, I really appreciate hearing diversity in the writing of the artists I listen to, and most my favorite artists display this type of diversity in their writing.
When you teach, you should be prepared to handle ANYTHING that comes your way. Students often have very diverse interests, so versatility is very important to teachers. Ask any instructor at Real School what style of music they teach, and you will probably hear "any style" or "many styles."
Every day I try to check out something I've never heard before. It's pretty easy to do nowadays, with YouTube, iTunes, etc., giving you instant access to a huge variety of great music on the internet. Maybe you could try listening to one new tune every day to get started. All it takes is ears and willingness.