When I get a new student, I usually ask two questions to get the ball rolling. The first is "What kind of music do you like?" The second is "What kind of music do you hate?" This really helps start a dialog and figure out the best way to help them achieve there goals.
Most people have strong opinions on both questions. At first, I
think this is OK. After some time, and as you develop more as a musician, it really helps to open up to many different genres of music. If you learn from a wide variety of sources you will have a constant flow of ideas. You won't get stuck in ruts as often, and you can get inspired by anything.
You will have your favorites (most people have a special place in there hearts for the music that they were into between the ages of 14-18), that's only natural. The important thing is to be open to any style of music.
Learning how to play things on guitar that were never played on guitar really helps. Recently I've been working on John Coltranes "Giant Steps", and the process of playing those phrases and wrapping my fingers around those patterns has really helped. Not too long ago I was playing a gig after I spent an hour working on "Giant Steps" and on my way to the gig I listened to it and several other Coltaine pieces and that night I played some stuff where I was totally surprised with what came out.
I've been playing Mozart's 40th symphony lately and I'm sure it will have the same effect. When I'm getting ready to record solos I usually play a lot of classical guitar, even though the techniques are different; it helps me play more melodically.
I think you get the idea that you can't force this on yourself - if you really don't like something that's OK, but first listen with an open mind.
Mike O'Malley's instrumental power trio is called No Walls and their latest CD is entitled "World Abroad". He has been playing guitar for almost 30 years and graduated from Music Tech in Minneapolis in 1988.
O'Malley currently has 45 guitar students that range in all ability levels and styles.