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What are Music Genres?

Posted on May 22, 2024

Understanding the differences between various genres of music is important for all songwriters, as this helps describe and understand music. Knowing the basics about different music genres helps you find your own style when writing and composing songs. Read more to learn about the most popular music genres and their characteristics.

What is a music genre?

The term “music genre” refers to a category of music. A musical genre consists of songs or compositions that share similar characteristics. Music can be separated into genres in many ways, but some common methods include rhythm, cultural context, performance, instrumentation, and origins of the music. Let’s look at the most common music genres together.

Genres of music and their characteristics

Some musicians like to divide music into general categories with opposing characteristics, such as popular music and folk music. Others, on the other hand, prefer precise definitions and divide music into more specific genres. Many genres tend to overlap, and there is a lot of subjectivity around the topic. However, the following are examples of commonly accepted genres and their characteristics.

Rock music

Rock music emerged from different types of music, such as blues and country. Most rock songs include an electric guitar, and the genre is known for its rebellious lyrics in both slow and fast-paced rock songs. Rock performances are energetic and powerful, and the loud beat engages the audience.

Pop music

Pop is a modern music genre designed to appeal to diverse audiences through mass consumption. It includes many different styles of music that people of all ages and cultures can enjoy. Pop songs have a simple structure that includes a catchy chorus, repetitive hooks and reprises, a rhythmic melody, and relatable lyrics that are easy to sing along to.

Traditional music

Traditional music, also known as folk music, has its roots in indigenous folk traditions from specific cultures, religions, and communities. The history of this music genre dates back centuries, or even millennia, as traditional music has been passed down through generations by oral transmission. Traditional and folk music is often performed in settings with a strong cultural importance, such as ceremonial rituals.

Classical music

Classical music has its origins in the Western art tradition, and it emerged in Europe during the Middle Ages. This music genre is characterized by a formal structure and artistic expression. Classical music is often played and performed by trained musicians or an orchestra consisting of violins, a piano, cellos, and flutes.


Blues is a musical genre known for its simple structure and soulful sound. Most blues songs have a repetitive 12-bar blues chord structure known as the “blues scale”. The lyrics often express sorrow or resilience, and typical instruments in blues music include the guitar, harmonica, and piano.

Country music

Country music blends folk, gospel, and blues. The genre is characterized by acoustic instruments, and most country music includes violins, acoustic guitars, a piano, banjos, and a lead singer. The songs typically tell stories about love and hardship, captivating audiences around the world. If you’re keen on country music, check out our 13 popular country songs to learn.


Hip-hop and rap music are rooted in African American communities, and both styles are characterized by stylized rhythmic music. Hip-hop music is strongly tied to hip-hop culture, which involves scratching, rapping, breakdancing, and graffiti. Rap songs are easy to recognize from their rhythmic and rhyming speech, which is referred to as “rapping”. Hip-hop and rap songs are structured over a drumbeat or a strong bass.

Electronic Dance Music (EDM)

EDM, short for electronic dance music, is a new subgenre of dance music. This music genre is designed for underground environments and club dancing. EDM music is known for its digital production techniques, fast tempo, and energized beats, which rose to popularity as DJing and electronic music became popular. EDM festivals and big DJ gigs keep the genre alive today.

Numerous subgenres have emerged under each of these larger music genres. Other subgenres include R&B, funk, reggae, grunge, house, and indie, to name a few. New styles such as K-pop and techno are also becoming more popular around the world.

Learn to play different musical genres with Yousician

Now that you know the basics about different musical genres, it’s time to find your favorite one! Follow these steps to learn how to play songs from different genres:

  1. Download Yousician, your personal music teacher, and explore different music genres in the app.
  2. Find the right sheet music for your favorite music genre and the songs you want to play.
  3. Learning to play various music genres requires time and practice, so be patient throughout the learning journey.

To expand your knowledge on a range of musical topics, check out our complete Musician’s Glossary.

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