Musical Trekking, a playful term coined by yours truly…
It means adding music to your hike, or trek, while simultaneously going on a journey through an artist’s collection of work.
Training hikes are often a means to an end, a way to get in shape for more exciting multi-day hikes and backpacking trips. This means you might be logging miles on the same old trails and in places that may feel less-than-inspiring in the moment. Musical Trekking is one way to hit target training times and distances while gaining an appreciation for musical artists and their work.
The concept was inspired by seven weeks of training hikes in preparation for a 4-day backpacking trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I was repeatedly hiking with a weighted pack over some local trails that I knew like the back of my hand, with not much new to see or discover.
To alleviate the monotony, I popped in my AirPods and played The Who, starting with their first song on their first album, My Generation, released in 1965. I find the album interesting, but not jaw-dropping, until the sixth song, the album’s namesake song came on, and I suddenly had new context for a song I’ve heard a million times before. I listened to that album the whole way though before moving on to the next.
Why Musical Trekking is Different than Simply Listening to Music
To do a Musical Trek, pick a band or artist and commit to listening to at least one full album, in the order structured by the artist, or their first album all the way through to the last. This is something we’ve grown unaccustomed to in the age of on-demand music through streaming services. Depending on the artist you choose, you might need several hikes to get through their full discography. While there are no wrong ways to do a Musical Trek, listening to an artist’s work all the way through an album, time period, or collection is the best way to gain the most appreciation for their work.
By committing to listening to one artist, you can hear the evolution of an artist and their sound over time.
- Led Zeppelin’s original studio albums during their decade of dominance from 1969 to 1979 are exceptional. Listen to their first album, Led Zeppelin through their eighth, In Through the Out Door.
- U2 released dozens of albums over three decades from 1980, Boy, through 2023, Songs of Surrender. What sounds similar? What sounds different?
You can get to know artists on a deeper level by going beyond their most popular songs.
- Guns N’ Roses 1987 debut, “Welcome to The Jungle” from the album, Appetite for Destruction, is a ubiquitous song at sports stadiums, in commercials, movies, and more. Listen to the full album to discover new favorites that only true GNR fans would know. For you, it might be “Mr. Brownstone”, or “It’s So Easy.”
Relive the excitement of what it might have been like to hear a song on the radio for the first time.
- Van Halen’s guitar solo, “Eruption” on their debut album, Van Halen, features jaw dropping-pioneering technique that captivated rock-n-roll enthusiasts. To experience it fully, listen to the entire album to get the context that makes the song so iconic. “Eruption” is sandwiched between two amazing songs in their own right- Running with the Devil,” which segues perfectly into “Eruption, which” sets up the next song, “You Really Got Me,” perfectly! It’s just musical genius.
You don’t have to go back decades to enjoy Musical Trekking.
- Taylor Swift has several songs on the Billboard Hot 100 that sound nothing like her 2006 self-titled country album, Taylor Swift. Start there and listen all the way through to her latest studio album, Midnights. That’s 10 albums!
While I can’t claim to be the only person who thought of Musical Trekking, I would love to make it a “thing”, a movement, talk music, and inspire hikes, and you can help by spreading the word. #MusicalTrekking. Suggest bands or artists you recommend for Musical Trekking, or insights you’ve gained from your own musical trek. Hype it up on Instagram, Facebook, anywhere you like to hang out and share ideas.