Expand your musical horizons for free

computermusicI guess I’m getting older…I’m still a big American Idol fan, but I no longer listen to the radio. It seems like the hits I recognize are often a year old before I recognize them. But I’m not ready to settle for a steady diet of  “oldies” from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Here are my two favorite ways to keep up with the latest and broaden my horizons…

Pandora is a product of the Music Genome Project. This group of geeky music aficionados have broken down thousands of songs to their essential elements, or “genes.” Pick a favorite song, create a station, and Pandora will pick new songs with similar elements. Give a thumbs up to the ones you like, a thumbs down to the others, and you’ll find Pandora starts to get really smart about your tastes. I’ve set up about a dozen channels to reflect different moods, and the more I rate songs, the better it gets.

The iTunes Genius is somewhat similar although it bases recommendations on what people have put into playlists. It tends to provide fairly mainstream recommendations. What I prefer is to browse the iMixes that contain favorite songs – I find that if I listen to clips from a few different iMixes, I usually find one that seems to suit me well. I download the entire list and voila, I suddenly have a bunch of new favorite songs!

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