Music itself is a very unbridled topic. It would be very difficult or even
impossible to talk about it in its entirety. That is why over the years people
were trying to divide it, classify it and delve into details.
Now music can be classified into a number of genres, time periods, and
geographic locations. Sometimes borders of stylistic features are blurred. Genres
like blues, rhythm& blues, jazz, soul, funk, progressive rock,
pop, hip-hop, reggae and country music are contrasting, however they will show a lot of similarities.
History of the BLUES MUSIC is
full of curiosities and mysteries. Critics describe it as a soulful and
emotional music. Themes are about the lives, loves, hardships and hopes of
African-Americans . It was originated on Southern plantations in the
19th century. Slavers, ex-slavers and descendants of slaves were creators of
the genre. Music evolved from African spirituals and chants or work songs. In
the early 1900s these songs were mixed with more American country folk music
and created the genre.
At the beginning Afro-Americans were using very primitive instruments like washboards,
handmade guitars, hand claps. Over the years the genre was developing and
instruments like piano, saxophone, trumpets, xylophones, bass guitar or drums stared
to be used and the other became modernized. Improvisation was a very important
factor. Time signature is usually 4/4. Classic blues covers 12 bars form and it
is predominantly based on the I, IV, and V chord progression of the key. Blues
music had a very strong influence on creating and developing many other genres
of music, such as rock and roll, jazz and popular music. It consists 5 notes of
the minor pentatonic scale, plus one additional note. The note added is the
diminished 5th measured from tonic.
COUNTRY MUSIC was created in the early 1920s in the
Appalachian mountains region, in Southern United States. It took inspirations
from folk music (especially Appalachian folk) and blues. Working class
Americans blended popular songs, Irish and Celtic fiddle tunes, traditional
English ballads and cowboy songs with various musical traditions from European
Characteristic factors are a simple chord
progression, strong story line and a memorable
chorus. Country musicians used instruments such as accordion, fiddle, autoharp, guitar, banjo, harmonica,
bass and drums.
The themes most country music are about: love, loneliness, patriotism, travel,
drinking and bars, prison, outlaws, values, family, etc. The most common time
signature is 4/4.
many styles such as jazz base and a heavy beat, elements of blues and gospel.
R&B was created and commercialized in United States by African Americans in
1940s, when artists adapted dance rhythm in their music. The lyrics brings up
the themes of triumphs and failures in relationships,
freedom, economics, aspirations, and sex.
Instrumentation was developing in this genre and the most common became:
drums, bass, guitar, horns, keyboards, electric
guitar, vocals and background vocals. The most popular time signature is 4/4.
Very important artist of the genre was Ray Charles.
JAZZ was originated in
African-American communities of New Orleans in United States in late 19th and
early 20th centuries, having roots in blues music. It is characterized by swing
and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation.
Typical instruments are: horns, keyboards, bass, drums, guitar and vocals.
Forming of genre is of is deeply rooted within the black experience of the
United States, however many other cultures have introduced their own experience
and style to the art.
Miles Davis and Louis Amstrong were very influential jazz musicians.
SOUL was originated in the
United States of America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It combines
elements of R&B, gospel music and jazz. There is is a special
emphasis on the vocal piece. The first soul songs were created when gospel
songs lyrics was rewritten. Characteristic factor is the wide variety of
instrumentation such as: vocals, piano, drums, horn section, keyboard, Hammond
organ, guitars, bass guitar, violin and sometimes even a full orchestra.
In soul music we can perceive catchy rhythms, very simple harmonic progressions
, lead vocals and choir, often ‘call and response’ from gospel music, melismas,
improvisations, wide variety of timbre, vital or melancholic mood. Lyrics is emotional
and sentimental. It can have different time signatures and most common are 2/2,
4/4 and 3/4.
Very influential artists of the genre was Etta James.
FUNK was based on the other
genres of music like jazz, R&B and soul. It was created in mid-1960s in
United States by African-American musicians and made to be a danceable type of
music. Instruments such as the electric guitars, bass guitars, drums and
electric organs were used to emphasize the rhythm. Very often there was a horn
section with instruments such as trombones, trumpets or saxophones. James Brown
is a musician that took a very important role in creating the genre. In funk everything
relies on the beat, every single sound adds to the rhythm. Funk is about
timing. Time signature is usually 4/4.
The major genres that influenced funk were R&B and soul music. Artists
tried to create an easier to dance and more groovy type of music.
PROGRESSIVE ROCK is a subgenre
if rock music originated in United States and the United Kingdom throughout the
late 1960s. It used techniques frequently associated with jazz, folk or
classical music. Psychedelia influenced it with long virtuosic solos, use of
electric sounds, deep and philosophical lyrics, longer songs with more
instrumentals and albums meant to be listened to as a whole. Progressive rock
took hippy ascetic ideas. Time signature is characteristically variable and
The Beatles is a great example of the band that who influenced progressive rock
music. Their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a great success
and it was an immediate commercial and critical
success, spending 27 weeks at the top of the UK albums chart and 15 weeks at
number one in the US. On the cover we can find inspiration from the avant-garde
composers like John Cage or Karlheinz Stockhausen.
POP MUSIC was originated in United States and United
Kingdom during the mid-1950.
Lyrics have a very repetitive chorus, what makes a song catchy and easy to
dance and sing along to. Most pop songs have sexual innuendos and romantic
themes with a simple 4/4 time signature, and simple four chord progressions.
Songs last from 2,5 to 5,5 minutes.
Genre uses a various and big range of instruments, so there is no exact list of
them, however some of the most common instruments used are guitars , drums ,
strings and piano.
Early pop music was associated with rock and from 1960s it started to differentiate
from each other. The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley were one of the
first musicians who used popular music techniques.
Pop was influenced by characteristics from other genres. Early pop music is similar to sentimental ballads for its form, uses of vocal harmonies from gospel and
soul music, instrumentation from rock
and jazz, orchestra elements of classical music,
tempo from dance music, rhythmic factors
from hip-hop and spoken passages
HIP-HOP is a music genre developed
in the United States (assigned to Bronx, New York City where “Rappers
Delight” by Sugarhill hip-hop band was released) by inner city African
Americans in the 1970s. People were experimenting with vocals creating characteristic
“talking-singing” ” called rap, pre-recorded tapes on beats
usually in 4/4 time signature. DJing, unique stage presence like breakdance was
a big factor in hip-hop culture. At the beginning of creating the genre, lyrics
was focused on topics such as: racism, inequality, government
issues, economy, life’s hardships. Today,
especially in America, topics are more about making money, sex, drugs etc.
REGGAE was created in the late 1960s
in Jamaica among others by Bob Marley. Became popular in the United States,
Africa, and Britain in the 1970s. Nowadays, reggae is known as an emotional
outlet, to express thoughts and feelings about life, love and religion.
Reggae incorporates some musical elements of R&B, jazz and other music
genres such as ska music. Reggae is played in 4/4 time because of its
symmetrical rhythmic pattern. Offbeat rhythms and staccato chords are very
recognizable elements of reggae music. The most common instruments
are guitar, bass guitar, piano, organs, keyboard, drums, bongo drum, horns
In conclusion, music genres classification focuses on factors like: origins,
culture, period, instrumentation, musical influences, harmony, time signature,
lyrics and many others. Similarities are followed by a range of differences.
Details help to understand what makes the genre the genre, for example polyrhythms
in jazz and progressive rock is a common feature, however the lyrics is
Some factors are absolutely unique like rap in hip-hop music, however the
technique is also borrowed to other genres such as pop music. In order to
classify the genres, it is essential to take into consideration as many
characteristics as possible.