Ep 261: What Your Teen’s Music Says About Them

Susan Rogers, author of This Is What It Sounds Like, offers insight into what different tastes in music reveal about personality. Plus, how parents and teens can connect more deeply by sharing and exploring music.  

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Full Show Notes

Music is deeply personal, especially for teenagers. In this episode, we’re exploring what your teen’s music taste says about them and how you can use music to connect more deeply.

We’re joined by Susan Rogers, a cognitive neuroscientist, award-winning professor at Berklee College of Music, multi-platinum record producer, and author. With decades of experience in the music industry and a PhD researching music perception and cognition, Susan has rare insight into both the art and science of music.

In our conversation, Susan explains that musical tastes are highly individualized, tapping into our inner psyche and self-image. Criticizing your teen’s music taste can feel like a personal attack to them. Instead, Susan suggests having a “record pull” where family members take turns playing music they love for each other. This allows everyone to glimpse into each other’s musical psyche.

What Your Teen’s Taste Reveals

We discuss fascinating research Susan conducted asking people what visuals and memories they associate with their favorite music. Results showed the majority of people see autobiographical memories, allowing them to relive happy moments from their past. For teens, this often means music from when they were younger.

Susan explains music activates the brain’s “default network” tied to our sense of self. So when teens listen to music they relate to, it becomes deeply enmeshed with their personal identity. Lyrics often take a backseat, Susan says, with musical qualities resonating more deeply.

Using Music to Connect

With the teenage brain still developing areas related to identity and self-perception, what teens believe their peers think of them becomes what they think of themselves. Susan suggests asking teens openly about their music, not to criticize their taste but to understand them better.

Playing music you relate to for your teen can also help them understand you, glimpsing into your psyche. Susan proposes a “record pull” where family members share meaningful music with each other.

Additional Topics:
  • How streaming led to highly individualized musical taste
  • Dance and musical style reflecting generational culture
  • Processing lyrics versus musical qualities
  • Areas of the teenage brain still under construction

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Susan Rogers
Susan Rogers
Susan Rogers is an American professor, sound engineer, and record producer best known for being Prince's staff engineer during his commercial peak (1983-1987), including on albums like Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade, Sign o' the Times, and The Black Album. During this time, Rogers laid the foundations for Prince's now-famous vault by beginning the process of collecting and cataloguing all his studio and live recordings. She has also worked as a sound engineer and record producer for other musical artists such as Barenaked Ladies (producing the 1998 album Stunt), David Byrne, Robben Ford, Jeff Black, Rusted Root, Tricky, Michael Penn, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Tevin Campbell. Rogers is an associate professor in the Music Production and Engineering and Liberal Arts departments at Berklee College of Music.
Ep 261: What Your Teen’s Music Says About Them
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