As with any appreciation for the arts, music appreciation requires one to focus on the intricacies of a given piece of music, paying attention to such factors as melody, rhythm, instrumentation, and performance. The ability to listen to music and understand not only what one is hearing but the meaning behind the music itself is true music appreciation; it can take one a lifetime to develop these skills to their fullest.
Music appreciation also requires one to understand the historical time period in which a given piece of music was composed. One cannot fully appreciate jazz music, for example, without understanding the racial connotations that existed in the 1920s. Similarly, one cannot develop a full appreciation for punk rock without understanding the generational cultural clashes that existed in the 1970s and 1980s. While many displays of music appreciation require one to listen to symphonies, operatic performances, or other classical pieces of music, developing an appreciation for modern music is no less valuable. Whether the music is heard live or through a recording can also play a role in the level of appreciation one can develop; it has been argued that a live performance is more likely to evoke an emotional reaction than recorded music. It is important to note that music appreciation can run the gamut from simplistic rhythms and chants to complex electronic recordings made with synthesizers and other modern instruments. The method of construction, the genre of music, the nature of the performance, and the significance of the piece all play a role in one’s overall appreciation for the music, rendering every piece as worthy of consideration as the next.