How music can help you get through social isolation

Posted on: 15/04/2020

Before we go any further, we would like to thank you for making the decision to help save thousands of lives by staying indoors and practising some social distancing. It is quite likely that if you envisaged a situation where one day you would be called upon to safeguard society, it would have involved less sitting around and listening to your favourite tunes but here we are. Music is on hand to help you through the process and what follows are some thoughts of how to make the most out of it.

First up, for those who do not wish to embark on such a bold program of music discovery, how about returning to the content that you know and love? You can put a new spin on your favourite material by seeking out live and alternative versions of music. In these moments of isolation, live music has the power to put ourselves back into the crowd and can even introduce nuances and variation that make us appreciate the music in a different way. If you thought that live recordings are the poor relation to studio albums then think again, there are plenty of astonishingly good recordings out there too!


Time to explore

If you do want to use this time to try and find new music, there are some magnificent tools at your disposal. If you are a subscriber to any of the on-demand streaming services, they are equipped to help you. If you search for an artist that you like, it will automatically recommend similar artists to you. It is highly likely that the bulk of those suggestions will be ones that you already know, but some of the more sophisticated algorithms will share less obvious candidates that could become your next favourite artist.

If you are an iPad user, there is another neat little tool available as well. The Discovr app uses a lovely visual interface to explain the links between the various artists that you share with it. The intelligence behind it works extremely well and it can often give you a better understanding of the path you are taking in terms of your newly acquired musical interests. The reason for this is that there is a strong visual element that clearly connects the dots rather than making you wonder how you may have arrived at a suggested artist. If you wish to use Discovr, it can be directly linked with Spotify but you can equally use the app on its own and apply its recommendations to any service that you happen to use. For our non-iPad listeners, there is also an interesting web browser alternative called LivePlasma which functions in a similar way.

Some services are able to go one better with the process than Discovr. This is with curated content such as playlists and related articles. These can provide much more of a dynamic starting point for discovering new materials and these playlists are wonderful if you are dipping your toes into a new genre. If you do wish to discover new genres through an overview playlist then it is likely that you will be able to gain a solid idea of its most influential, or key, artists. You can find these on plenty of websites or blogs but a platform that is the gold standard for this is Roon. Roon is available for Windows and Mac OS X and is not only a fantastic audiophile music player that’s truly beautiful, but it’s a music lover music management application that even works directly with our DAC’s and wirelessly with our streaming platform! Roon will manage your entire music library and your streaming content, it will then analyse your listening habits and makes recommendations about new artists and material based on them. Via this method, you may rediscover music from forgotten corners of your own collection.


Hit the airwaves

For those of us still working we may now be working from home and reminiscing over the office radio. Radio doesn’t have to just be one station and, on its own, it is brilliant for introducing us to new music selected by real humans. As a British company, naturally, we’re huge fans of the BBC; their radio content is available over both over the airwaves and the internet, but the world really is your oyster for finding content. You can access the hundreds of radio stations via the peerless TuneIn radio app and fine-tune your preferences. For those days where you really don’t want a 24hr rolling news stream, many stations run without any form of commentary or interruption which can be very welcome in times like this.


Time for a chat

Finally, there is a world of podcasts to look into. Think of a subject (and we really mean, any subject) and there will be a podcast to suit. In music terms, podcasts are spoken word and can be really fun to follow as the host/s speak to various people about a subject. Take Song Exploder. On this podcast an artist will discuss a particular song, or record, of theirs in minute detail (literally exploding it). Content like this is rarely repeated anywhere else in media. Sadly, many podcasts, not altogether unfairly, are seen as people with uninteresting opinions expressing them to the void but the best of the breed are well worth signing up to.


Think about the future

If you want to introduce a little vigour to these things, you can use this time to really get a handle on what you do and do not like about your current system. Listen to your current speakers and play with their positioning, consider the placement of your system in the room, experience the filter settings, think about trying headphones or a fixed system, explore the possibility of upgrading or introducing other system components to enjoy your hobby with greater ease and clarity. By taking leaps into streaming, upscaling or even portable listening, the interaction that you have with music could indeed be heightened and, although we may be in a lockdown, your dealer is still a phone call away from helping you. Alternatively, if you’d rather, you can look towards the internet. There’s the What Hi-Fi?, Darko.Audio, Headfonia, Headfonics websites that are filled with system suggestions, or forums like Head-Fi or Audiophile Style where you can become part of the discussion, maybe you could try sitting down and watching some of the YouTube channels like Pursuit Perfect System or Hans Beekhuyzen? For the social bugs out there, you should seek the many audio-related groups for suggestions. There’s still plenty to get involved with and experiment and in times like these.

Ultimately, music remains one of the finest means of altering your state of mind that there is. For those of us settling down to an enforced period of inactivity, it is on hand to lift our mood, calm us down and offer distractions from the world outside. It pays to be as positive as you can about the current situation even when that can feel like a significant challenge. This is the opportunity to kick back with our systems and listen to all the things we have been wishing we had the time to do. Your system is standing by to help you through this. It is time to use it to its fullest.