Good music: How can we define it?


Good music is a topic that’s been discussed for centuries, and it’s often hard to pin down what makes something good.
There are many different ways of defining “good” in art, but all of them can be challenged by someone else!

At some point you have to determine whether or not the artist was successful at doing what they set out to do or if the result falls short; this decision depends on your tastes and experiences with other pieces of art (and not just music).

So, what then is good music?

According to a post on naijaloaded:

“Good Music is any music that stimulates your brain and helps you think clearer. It’s also music you can listen to for years without ever getting saturated or bored of it”

Urban dictionary defines Good Music as “music that doesn’t suck” and it is indeed another straight-to-the-point definition.

What defines a “good” piece of music?

Good music is subjective. It’s easy to think that there are objective measures of quality in art, but if you’ve ever tried to define what makes something good or bad, you know how difficult it is. 

Music can be good for one person but not another—and that’s OK! What makes an album great for one person may not appeal to another listener at all.

In his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business (Crown Publishing Group), Charles Duhigg explains how our brains work: 

“We tend to do what’s familiar as well as we do what feels unpleasant.” 

So if someone listens to a song over and over again because they like it so much, then chances are they’ll keep listening even when their brain isn’t craving it anymore because of familiarity alone. Thus their brain gets used up faster than if they’d chosen another song entirely.

Let’s explore this further…

More on Good Music

‘Good’ music can be defined by technical merit.

Some people define “good” by technical merit. They think that if something sounds good, then it must be technically good too! But this makes no sense. A song can sound great even if it doesn’t have any real musicality (e.g., an orchestra playing loudly). 

A piece of music should be judged based on its emotional impact rather than whether or not its notes are perfectly tuned into each other like crystal glasses on a shelf; otherwise there would be little point in creating any kind of art at all!

It’s ‘Good’ if it makes you feel something!

Good music can make you feel happy, sad, or angry. It can be used as a way to express yourself and your emotions.

Good music is not just about the lyrics; it’s also about how it sounds: whether it’s dark or light; fast or slow; loud or soft. It might even include instruments like drums that aren’t found in some of today’s most popular songs

Good music is, to a certain extent, subjective.

I already mentioned this above but it is worth repeating you know!

No book can tell you what makes a good piece of music. It depends on the listener and how they listen to it. Some people prefer classical or jazz while others prefer rock or pop music. 

I hate the bulk of music released after 2007 but that isn’t supposed to mean the music is bad! It’s a personal preference and has little to do with my hatred for autotune. I gravitate more to music from the 90s to the early 2000s and that’s just cuz I was born in the 80s.

Good music is not always about Loudness 

Many people think that louder means better sound quality but this isn’t always true! A lot of factors go into determining whether or not your headphones will provide good quality playback such as their design and that has nothing to do with determining the goodness of the music.

Loudness would trick anybody into thinking something is good. 

Another man’s trash is another’s goodies

It’s important to remember that a piece of music can be good for one person and not for another. A song you love may be downright terrible in another person’s ears, while the same song may not sound so bad to you after a few listens. 

A piece of music can also be good at one time and not quite as great later on (or vice versa).

I once had a disdain for Naira Marley until I lived close to a snack bar! After getting tortured by his songs for countless nights, my brains finally gave up and almost turned me into marlian. A unique story of how a piece of trash became goodies to me!

So, are there objective measures of quality in art?

Some people believe so! They also believe that if you can articulate exactly what it is about a piece of music or a painting that makes it good, then you’ll know when something is really bad.

Others believe that art is subjective and cannot be measured by any single standard. Instead, we must consider our own experiences with the art. My favorite songs are affiliated with a memorable time in my life and am pretty sure those songs would mean less to me without those memories.

There were even songs my late dad listened to that annoyed the shit outta me then until he passed away. Annoyance suddenly turned to pleasant memories and I so much enjoy listening to those songs now.


We should never underestimate the value of listening carefully to a piece of music to try and understand what makes it work, however subjective that may be. It’s easy to dismiss this kind of analysis as naive or unimportant, but we have to remember that everyone has their tastes—even those who claim otherwise

If we make it a habit to learn from other people’s opinions about what makes good music, then maybe there are some commonalities between us after all.

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Nsaikila Njong

It is true that there are certain qualities people use to evaluate good music. These can include for example entire structure of a given song; the contrasts of lows and highs in intensity; lyrics; rhyming; chord progression; simplicity and even the genre. However, people would still use these elements differently when evaluating a particular piece of music. And so in the end, as you say, Shawn, it is true that there’s a largely subjective element when deciding what is good music. This is the reason a song considered by some to be a good one is not regarded in the way by others. This article opens up our minds. Thank you for it.


So basically good music can be viewed from two perspectives: the technical appreciation and personal appreciation.

Pius Powel

I agree with the very first paragraph. Good music is one which stimulates your brain and helps you think clearer. It is music that when one hears, immediately he feels something in the sense that his mood changes almost immediately. And he/she wants is willing to listen to it as many times as possible without getting bored.

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