As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Australia’s Best New Car News, Reviews and Buying Advice

Music To Our Ears

Once again, I am daring to disagree with my fellow blogger Lewis. A tad before Christmas, Lewis sang the praises of Queen, Queen and nothing but Queen as the thing to play on your car stereo (and threw in a list of his top favourites).

This is all very well… if you like Queen.  I don’t.  I have a very eclectic music collection that rotates its way around the cycle of the family Ford Fairlaine, my husband’s Nissan Navara work ute and the sound system in the house, but Queen is conspicuous by its absence. However, I reckon Lewis got it bang on right when he mentions the great electric guitar solos as being good for driving to.  Especially on the open road where you can put the pedal down… at least as far as the cops will let you.

However, there are sections of road where hard rock with plenty of driving guitar will just leave you frustrated. It’s more like heavy traffic than heavy metal. In situations like this, you need something that will calm you down, and probably something that you can sing along to.  The car is as good as the shower for working on your singing technique, although you don’t quite get the acoustics.  Pro singers always rehearse and practice at the car, although putting the sheet music on the steering wheel in front of you is probably a dumb idea (I’ve seen it done).

Taking yet another scenario, on a long interstate drive where the road is straight and the scenery is starting to get monotonous, soothing quiet music is a recipe for disaster (anyone else remember the scene in Mr Bean’s Holiday where Sabine falls asleep at the wheel of the Mini after Mr Bean hits Brahms’ Lullaby on the phone ring tones?).  Some of the road safety boffins say that playing music can be a good stimulant for helping you keep alert during a long-haul trip, but they forgot to say that not all music is created equal…

So here goes: my hints for creating a driving playlist for all situations.

For open road driving and the wide open spaces: Electric guitar is king.  Personal picks for the playlist would be U2, Midnight Oil (come on – an album named “Diesel & Dust” is just made to be driven to) and Chris Rea.  From the classical section of the music library, the fast final movement of Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – that fast violin work rivals the slickest electric guitar work out there.

Slow traffic in town: Chill-out jazz and moody Celtic keeps you in the right headspace – calm and collected in your metal and glass bubble in spite of the madness around you. They’re also good for singing along to.  If, however, you have small children in the car with you on the school and shopping run, singing will be a must. Also action songs to keep the kids from screaming with boredom.  Looks like the Wiggles or the Fairies will hijack your sound system again.

Long drives when you need to keep your mind alert:  Disco and electronica – that pumping beat is designed to get you pumped up and dancing driving all night.  However, if it’s that sort of electronica that is highly repetitive and goes on for ten minutes per track, avoid it, as the repetitive music plus the repetitive flicker Audio books are another hot pick, especially when it’s getting dark. Pick a story with plenty of action or comedy (preferably both) rather than something intellectually heavy – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld sort of thing rather than To Kill A Mockingbird or The Brothers Karamazov.

singing in the car

PS: Keep the music to your car sound system or to the innate music of the exhaust in a well-tuned V8 engine.  Musical horns (with the possible exception of the General Lee horn from the Dukes of Hazzard) and tinny tunes played as a reversing warning drive everyone insane, as I found out when living next door to a car that played Für Elise very badly every morning when it backed out the drive.