Picture this: You hear a song that you’ve never heard before and are excited to tell your friends about it. However, when we try to describe the music, it is difficult to identify the most crucial element: genre. Once, the genre was not as difficult to determine. Today, there are so many genres out there; it can be hard to figure which one applies. So how do you find the genre of a song?
The instruments, the vocal style, the beat, and the subject matter can help you figure out the music genre. Other clues may be the image of the band or singer and previous work they have done. Finally, topics that they sing about can be a small key.
But even with this information, figuring out a song’s genre can still be confusing. This article will give you ways to identify a genre you don’t have to look like a poser in front of your friends.
How Do I Know if a Song is Metal?
I chose to start with metal because there are so many metal subgenres; it’s almost comical. Based on Spotify’s thoughts, there are 91 different metal genres. “Heavy Christmas” is probably the most hilarious.
Metal almost always features at least one guitar, bass, and drums. It’s very guitar-oriented, but the guitar usually has a distortion effect. However, musicians can add other instruments.
It is not unusual for metal bands to add keyboards and violins to their music. Metallica has released several albums playing with the San Francisco Symphony. There is also a type of metal called Celtic metal that uses bagpipes, tin whistles, and flutes.
The various metal genres make it challenging to generalize, but an aggressive spirit often characterizes it. Singers often sing loudly or even scream. The guitars are loud and crunchy, and the drums are fast and furious. Many drummers use a double bass pedal.
Lyrics tend to be about going against the grain and fighting “the man.” Some are satanic metal bands (classified as death metal). Other bands are Christian metal groups that have religious content in their songs.
What Makes a Pop Song Pop?
Pop is a genre that has evolved over the years. It originated as a shortened term for popular music and, therefore, encompassed any popular band.
Since then, it has further evolved to define itself as accessible music. In other words, it had a good beat and you could dance to it. Pop is not short for “popular music,” despite some believe otherwise.
Today, it may have gone one step further as there seems to be a specific group of musicians that you could refer to as “pop stars.” These artists tend to have a very produced sound and a clean image and are often favored by teenagers. Tempos are usually upbeat, although there are a few ballads thrown in.
Pop musicians usually have a band consisting of a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and keyboardist. Samples and autocorrect devices are frequently part of the sound. Lyrically, pop songs are usually about love and heartache, but they can also be about other subjects that concern their teen target audience.
There is also a pop music formula that makes it easier to identify:
- In 4/4 time
- It has four or eight bars
- An average of four minutes
- Includes the title in the song
- Have short, repeated, easy-to-remember song chunks (typically in the chorus)
What Makes a Song Punk?
Punk is another genre to be considered. Punk is very similar to metal in that it has an aggressive sound, rebellious lyrics. It also often has a core of a guitar, bass, and drums. The main difference is that punk tends to use more straightforward chord progressions and riffs.
Although punk is nowhere near as complex as metal, it does have its subgenres. Pop punk, for instance, is close to rock n’ roll with a little more of an edge. Street punk is downright noisy. Some punk bands fall somewhere in between, and others with a metal influence.
Most punk bands have an image to uphold, which helps you identify whether they are punk or not. Many punk musicians add funky colors to their hair and wear mohawks and liberty spikes. They also may wear plaid pants, suspenders, and combat boots.
What About Rock n’ Roll?
Rock n’ roll is what started it all. It is derivative of the blues, being that it is guitar-based music that revolves around simple chord progressions, but the guitar sound is dirtier, and the rhythms are a little more upbeat. Rock first became a thing during the 1950s.
Many genres have come and gone since rock n’ roll reared its head that it’s almost impossible to classify a band as straight forward rock n’ roll. If made to choose an example, I would go with Elvis Presley and the early Beatles. In many people’s opinion, the Ramones can also be considered rock n’ roll, but they got claimed by the punk rockers.
The only thing that defines rock is “music with a strong beat.” Given that punk and metal can also make that claim, an actual definition is difficult.
How Can I Tell if a Song is Hip Hop?
Hip hop is a type of music that originated in inner-city Latin American and African American communities in the Bronx. It features a stylized rhythm that is sometimes alongside rapping. While rap can be considered a genre by itself, it refers to the rhyme talk-singing style and not to the music itself.
While hip hop usually uses traditional instruments, the music warps through deejaying/scratching with turntables. Sample beats and existing bass lines mix into the sound to create new music. DJ Kool Herc is the founder of this genre, joining the Rock and Rool Hall of Fame in 1995.
Graffiti and breakdancing are also a big part of the culture.
The ‘”gangsta’” lifestyle heavily influences hip hop. As such, the lyrics are often about crime, drugs, and sex. However, some songs have lyrics that delve into more positive topics.
What is Alternative Music?
Alternative music came up as a genre used to classify bands that were not played on the radio and weren’t considered mainstream. However, today, many bands consider themselves alternative and are commonly played on the radio, including R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Grunge plays a significant role in the creation of the alternative scene and could be considered a subgenre.
Alternative music has significant influence from rock n’ roll and punk. It has many mainstream music elements, but it has a darker edge due to the use of minor chords, dissonant tonalities, and progressions. Alternative bands typically play guitar, bass, and drums, although bands may add other instruments.
Lyrically, alternative songs tend to be introspective and may deal with social issues and emotions. Due to the grunge movement’s influence, most alternative bands dress down wearing t-shirt, flannels, and ripped jeans.
What is Emo Music?
Emo is punk music with a somewhat darker sound and emotionally centered lyrics. It is the shortened version of the word “emocore,” which combines the words emotional and hardcore, including bands like My Chemical Romance or Panic at the Disco.
Screamo, a variant on emo music, is a more aggressive version that takes sad lyrics and makes them angry. Emo also has a pop-punk variant, like Breathe Carolina, which delves into more upbeat songs. The latest version is emo-rap, which includes artists like Lil Peep.
What connects various emo bands is a high level of angst and sensitivity. Anxiety and heartbreak are common themes of this style of music.
What is the number one genre of music?
Funny enough, despite all the new genres that have come and gone over the years, pop is still the most famous music genre. The IFPI, which identifies itself as the voice of the recording industry, released a music listening report in 2019 that reviewed online listening all over the world, and pop came out on top.
Other genres to make the top ten included rock, oldies, hip hop/rap, dance/electronic, indie/alternative, K-pop, metal, R&B, and classical (in that order).
What music genre is Billie Eilish?
Billie Eilish is an artist that has gained popularity in recent years. Her sound is dark and electronic-influenced, yet she has a teeny-bopper appeal that may put her in the pop category.
According to internet sources, fans can classify her music into various categories: indie pop, electropop, pop, alternative, and trap music.
What genre is Green Day?
Green Day started as a punk band, but their rise to mainstream music and poppy music style may make some wonder if they are “real deal punk.” While everyone might have their own opinion, the powers that be say they are still loyal to their roots. The band has a classification of punk, pop-punk, and alternative.
How many musical genres are there?
Data analysis from 2014 reveals that there are 1264 genres of music. However, that number has likely gone up to about 1300 at this time.
What is the least popular music genre?
Jazz is one of the least popular music genres, especially when considering streaming and video games. According to Nielson’s 2014 Year’s End report, jazz has been falling out of favor for years and now ties with classical music as the least listened to musical genre right behind children’s music.
Although this guide will help you better identify the genre, there are no hard and fast rules. Many bands mix genres, and you may think a song belongs to a specific genre while a friend disagrees. What it all comes down to is whether or not you like the music!