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How To Learn About Music Genres

What are Music Genres?

Today's technology is the greatest gift when it comes to music. If you think back to times past, at least in my era, the way you found out about different types of music was by turning on the radio or waiting for a new hit group to appear on American Bandstand or The Ed Sullivan Show.

I'm sure I'm dating myself by mentioning that my greatest thrill was waiting for a new record to come out on a 45 so I could sing and dance to the Supremes or Chubby Checker!

But even back then, no matter what new songs came out, great music and good beats would always leave you wanting more. Everyone wanted to have the latest Elvis record or go to his next feature film (just to look at him of course) but also to hear the latest tunes.

It seems like centuries ago that we bought records or waited patiently (or not so patiently in my case) to hear our favorite songs finally played on the radio.

As time has passed, more and more music genres have appeared. We now have genres and subgenres of music.

There is no end to how many songs you can find played or categorized into several genres. Why? Because there are so many cross-over artists. I think that's a great thing because it offers us more choices and exposes us to music we might not have gone looking for on our own.

There have also been so many innovations in the music industry thanks to the Internet, music videos and movies that literally the sky's the limit when it comes to listening to music.

Different Styles of Music

Music genres are really just another name for styles of music.

Here are just a few of the most popular.

  • Blues

This style originated in the 1890s and mostly came out of the south, a wonderfully rich and descriptive African American creative genre.

  • Classical

This genre of music began in the 1700s and encompassed such composers as Wagner, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin.

  • Country

This style got started in the earlier 1900s and began with cowboy and folk music. It's credited to beginning at the Grand Ole Opry but it's been around a lot longer.

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  • Electronic

This genre is said to have started in the 1960s created by electric instruments like guitars and keyboards.

  • Hip Hop

Hip hop got its start several decades ago and originally was associated with breakdancing. Now it's one of the most popular genres of music in the world.

  • Jazz

This style started in the early 1900s and has many roots in the culture of New Orleans though its style and creation is universal.

  • Pop

Another musical style out of the early 1900s, pop music originated with ragtime bands and continues to be one of the most listened to music genres.

  • Rock

Hitting the world by storm, the 1950s and 1960s brought this "bad boy" music to town and we've never been the same since.

These are but a few of the music styles out there. As I mentioned, there are many subgenres and you will discover them the deeper you go into specific styles of music.

For instance, in the Jazz genre, you will discover hundreds of songs in the very specific genre Christmas Jazz. Or in the World muscle genre, you might be really enthused with Spanish artists.

Sometimes just exploring what categories have which artists in them can be a real education...and lead you to some great tunes.

Trying to Find Your Favorite Songs?

Learning about different genres is really about figuring out what your favorite songs are and building on that.

Every musical style has its own inherent qualities that make it unique and can enhance your world by listening to some of its samples.

Even the most elitist of musicians can admit that there is value in every style of music. Perhaps that particular style isn't a favorite but there are always usually acceptable or enjoyable songs to be found somewhere within that musical style.

The incredible thing about today's music is that all you really need to learn about different music genres is the Internet. Failing that, you can also learn about them the old fashioned listening to the radio.

If you think about it, the radio was sort of the first genre definer for musical styles. If you listened to one particular radio station, you heard mostly pop and rock 'n roll. But if you listened to another radio station, you could indulge yourself in jazz and yet another, classical music.

Today, it's as easy as opening an Internet browser to find just about any artist, any song, and any composer.

Not only that, you can find any song done any number of ways. Some say that's overkill. I say that is downright amazing!


Just about anything in life can be listed or categorized. Musical genres are no exception. If you happen to love music, it's easy to explore different styles and learn about new artists.

  • IPod and ITunes

Loading your songs on an IPod will automatically separate out your songs into different genres. From there, it's simple to track what category the songs you listen to are falling into. If you're like me, I probably have at least 25 genres on my device and am always adding new ones. When you go on ITunes, you can find music by artist, album or genre and when you download from the website, the music automatically goes into the right slot or category.

You can separate out your songs by genres and then go looking for new music within that specific genre. You can do it by artist or you can simply cast fate to the wind and start listening to other artists or composers within that same musical category.

IPods are not the only devices available either. Enjoy Internet music on your Kindles, your Nooks, or you IPads to name a few more.

  • Pandora

One of the simplest ways to learn which music genres are your favorite (or will be) is to sign up for a free account on Pandora. You can not only create your own radio stations by artist or album, but you can create or listen to music strictly by genre. For instance, I love Andrea Bocelli so if I go in and start listening to one of his songs, I can easily end up with "like" artists appearing on my radio station. I then vote it up or down depending on whether I liked them or not and then add them to my preferred artists. I learned about many Latino tenors that Eros Ramazzotti. I also found Josh Groban that way.

  • Artists Like

This is another great website where you can just open their webpage, type in what artist you like and would like to hear of similar style. Select the genre you'd like to hear or select an artist by name. Then see how many other artists are available with the same kind of sound.

  • YouTubeMusic

YouTube is a great place to find favorite music and then add as your favorites. The programming on YouTube is set up such that when you select one type of video, you're always given many more "similar" choices to view. It's automatically like a genre shopping spree because you will get helpful suggestions on other works by the same artist to view and listen to or some other artists that you might also enjoy. YouTube is great for the visual performance in high quality defintion. Check out the YouTubeMusic video for example of One Republic below. You'll see their latest, their most popular and their best ever along with other artists you might like posted on the right hand side.

  • Lastfm

Enjoy this on-line radio station to listen to your favorite artists. You can select an artist and similarly, you'll get suggestions for all the artist's songs and like artists as well. You can even find out where the next concert will be and purchase tickets.

  • Songza

This website is a clever little spot where you can select your music by genres such as "Workout" or "You Have a Day Off." These groups not only put like music together but they also group the music in like beats per minute or styles. That's a neat way to learn about new artists and enjoy the exact kind of music you want to listen to "right now."

Keep in mind that there are as many possibilities for downloading music as there are devices to play it.

How to Create Playlists by Genre

Whatever site you go to for music, whether it's just for listening or if you're downloading to save it to your computer or device, be sure and make playlists.

I prefer doing my playlists by genre, but I do blend several sometimes if it suits my purpose. For instance, if I have a particular beat per minute workout routine that I want to do, I select certain songs that meet that criteria, so I select music from multiple styles. I'm basically going for a cross section of a particular beat and all songs let's say have a beat of 90 beats per minute. I might call that playlist "treadmill." I might create a similar one with beats per minute of 60 or less and call it something else such as "walking."

If I'm creating a list for romantic dinner music and I want all my favorite handsome tenors, I'll look in Easy Listening or World genres or even Latin Music genres. I then create a playlist called "romantic dinner music."

Or if I'm having a card party and want oldies but goodies, I'll go through many genres finding just the right artists for some sing-a-long songs like the Supremes or Marvin Gay and make that my "oldies" playlist.

You get the picture. The way to learn about different music genres is to experience them. Satellite radio like Sirius is another fantastic way to learn about new artists and discover types of music you might not usually listen to.

At Christmastime for instance, I keep Sirius on all the time and am amazed at how many different holiday songs there are that I've never heard before. I usually write them down and go in search of a copy for my own music library.

The world is our oyster these days when it comes to music. We can enjoy every imaginable style of music and have the freedom to enjoy it all, almost always for free.


Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on July 21, 2012:

Pauline - great exposure to a lot of music - I love Celtic music myself - it is so uplifting~ I love the Celtic men's group too - can't think of it - the youngest has the most amazing voice.

Crewman - ah yes - indeed - in the apprenticeship right now so these were titles given to me but enjoyed writing it as I do love music~

BJ - Too hilariouos as always - yes indeed the music gene. I think it skipped me to be honest as I cannot carry a tune at all. It is very embarrassing - and I play piano well enough though it is a study in concentration. It is not free flowing by any means~

Speaking of Dancing Queen, that is one of my favorite songs - I did a video a couple years back of Bob and Griffin (in puppy training) skipping. The dog was literally skipping - and so was Bob~ It was hilarious and I put it to Dancing Queen. I still pull it up and listen to it for a good laugh~ Thanks for reminding me of it!

P.S. I would be more of the Dancing Fool~

Pauline Davenport from Isle of Man on July 21, 2012:

I'm in the fortunate positition, especially where music is concerned, of having had two families a generation apart from each other and two husbands who's musical tastes are chalk and cheese- the first one is a heavy rock fan and worships the Rolling Stones, the second is a classical bod brought up on classical music and is the finest musician of piano and church organ. All three of my children are musical, the youngest one, at seventeen loves and plays an incredible range of music genres and instruments. I love it all with them all, but the best for me is the beautiful lilting Irish (well all Celtic) folk music and songs. They stir and touch my soul the most.

I've enjoyed reading this hub for all the things I never knew about - thanks so much for this arkirchner , and do keep on keeping on with your music

Crewman6 on July 20, 2012:

Nice light-hearted change of pace. I agree, modern technology has made music appreciation far easier!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on July 20, 2012:

I read the title of your hub so quickly, Audrey, I thought it said Music Genes! My first reaction was, I knew it! That's why my vocal talent attracts frogs and my piano artistry, how shall I put it delicately? sucks! I don't have the music gene.

Then I realized you wrote Genre. That's a different kettle of fish. My favorite music selections are classical, pop, jazz and some country tunes. Thanks for the list of great websites for finding free music. Now I can call you the Dancing Queen. Oh, wait, I think Abba cornered that one.

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