The Major Types of Music
Do you remember that memorable line from the Blues Brothers, when they asked what kind of music they had at Bobs Country Bunker? “Oh, we got both kinds. We got Country and Western”. Cracks me up, but I think you’ll find that there are a few other types of music too. Pop, rock, blues, country, hip-hop, jazz, classical, folk, disco, gospel, soul, rap, reggae, opera, latin, heavy metal, punk, funk and everything in between!
You see, whereas there are loads of different types and genres of music, the dividing line between many of them is very gray, every area of music has been influenced by other areas you see. Nothing is really unique.
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Major Types of Music
Classical – classical music has been around for centuries, and though we all have our old favorites the old one’s aren’t necessarily the best. There’s some great new classical music being written, for those who thought that classical music was like classic cars – old yet well preserved.
Tribal – tribal music is earthy, it’s raw, it has energy and it serves a purpose. Oh, and it also gets your toes tapping, what more could you ask for?
Hip Hop – although I’ve already said that no music is new music, hip hop is, I suppose, a bit of an exception to that rule. It’s the newest form of music there is really, born in the USA! Get hipping and a hopping and shake that bling!
Blues – the blues is a kind of state of mind as much as a type of music. Blues music is very personal, for very specific times in your life. It’s usually played by aging musicians whose wife left them, or alternatively didn’t, after they’ve had a skinful of whiskey and want to share their sorrows with anybody whose willing to listen (who’s also probably had a skinful of whiskey).
Rock ‘n Roll – the world would be a boring place without Rock ‘n Roll, I’m sure you’ll agree. Just think back to when the do-gooders tried to ban it from the radio in the 1950’s, horrible, but Rock ‘n Roll was here to stay and stay it has. So get on your motorcycle and head on out the highway…
Rock – there are so many other variations of rock, that I thought they deserved a mention. Heavy metal rock bands crashed onto the scenes in the 1970’s, maybe as an alternative to the glam rockers which were busy falling off their platform shoes. Then some of them turned “soft rock”, I don’t know, they were stuck between a rock and a hard place I reckon.
Jazz – many people think that Jazz is the true flavor of America. It’s cool, it’s sexy, it can be happy, it can be sad, it’s great for improvisation and, but if it’s not careful can slide into the blues after too much whiskey. Go on, play that saxophone!
Alternative - what is alternative music? Well, I suppose it’s music that doesn’t really fall into any other category. Whereas alternative comedians of the 1980’s were regarded by many as comedians who weren’t funny, alternative music is so regarded by many as music that isn’t real music. Alternative is the kind of stuff that people who don’t want to be “run of the mill” or “normal” pretend to like.
Dance – dance music is played in pubs and clubs around the world until the small hours of the morning, but is it really worth listening to if it’s not played at more than 100 decibels after a bucket load of “alco-pops”. They do say that dance music is only liked by people who don’t know anything about music, but seeing as they only want to dance to it anyway, what does it matter?
Country – Country and Western, Blue Grass, it’s all country. Now, historically country music does sometimes get a bad rap (hey, that is a music type too), but it’s popularity certainly doesn’t wane. All those old cowboys and girls tell a good old story, and if you don’t like a good story then you have no soul my friend.
Folk – the music of the people, by the people, for the people, or alternatively, anybody who stands on a street corner with an acoustic guitar and a hat!
Funeral Music - the type of music played at funerals really depends on your religious and cultural beliefs. Some funerals are pretty somber affairs whilst some are more of a celebration of the life of the person who has passed away. Anyway, there are some traditional funeral tunes which get played over and over . . . Whether it’s “Time to say goodbye . . . ” or Billy Joel with “Only the Good Die Young . . . ” no doubt you’ll have a few ideas of your own for when the time comes.
Opera – traditionally very snooty music, opera, don’t you think? These days, however, it’s trying to become a little more mainstream with plenty of young opera stars making the ranks, and what about all of those collaborations with opera and rock? Wow, how do they reach those notes, or even, why?
Pop – now really, pop was just short for “popular music” so I suppose that anything that’s popular can be classed as pop. Unfortunately it does fill you with ideas of spotty teenagers declaring their undying love for each other and kids not even old enough to be out of college prancing around in very short shorts. Now there are many shortcuts to pop star fame such as Glee, American Idol, X Factor, The Voice.
Afropop – is the name given to traditional African popular music, it’s vast, it’s varied and is often a variation of blues, salsa or jazz with a more African flavor. It’s not really a specific sound, it’s simply African popular music.
Avant-Garde – this term is used to describe music which is regarded as way ahead of its time. It’s particularly relevant to the post 1945 stuff which was more “modernist”. Today it’s used to generally describe post 1945 music which couldn’t be described as experimental, so I suppose it had two choices, experimental or avant-garde!
Bluegrass – although very traditional in its American country music roots, it’s also a bit of an import which was heavily influenced by the immigrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland. That’s where it gets it’s diversity from, where else would you expect to hear a bit of old time fiddling going on with Scottish bagpipes, not forgetting the all important banjo? Bluegrass is music with a story, it’s music with a heart and it’s music that gets right into your very soul.
Christian – now then, arguably all music is written and performed for a reason (although some find that difficult to imagine) but few musics are as clear as the reasoning behind Christian music. It’s written and performed to express personal or communal relief about Christian life and Christian faith. It’s used for worship, it’s used for praise and ceremonies, it’s used for lament and it’s also used for good old entertainment.
Country – this blend of traditional popular music from around the Southern United States and Canada was kind of born in the 1920’s and has been evolving ever since. Originally known as hillbilly music, this was deemed to be a little bit derogatory in the 1940’s so it became known as Country music. (Remember the Beverley Hillbillies, nothing derogatory about Jed Clampett and his gang was there?)
Easy Listening – I’ve never really “got” the concept of easy listening music, I mean, all music is pretty easy to listen to, it’s playing it that’s darned difficult (I know, I tried my best but the rest of the family either left or suffered). That aside, Easy Listening music is really that kind of musical wallpaper, you know those songs which you kind of sing along to without even realizing that you knew the lyrics. It’s full of catchy melodies, simple relaxing songs and is often good for a bit of smooching.
Electronic - this music involves using lots of electronic equipment and electronic musical instruments to make an “electronic” sound. I suppose that the electric guitar is a good example of it. These days though there are some fantastic electronic keyboards and such which just play on their own – perhaps I should get one of those.
Heavy Metal – sometimes known simply as metal, this type of music was born in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when bands began to create a thick, heavy sound, very loud, very long drum and guitar solos, lots of head banging and head-lice flying around, followed by stiff necks and temporary deafness the next morning. It was played by real, leather clad he-man and the bands had names like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Although it was heavily criticized at first by many, by the end of the 1970’s it had a worldwide following.
Latin – surely that’s a language? Oh no my friend, latin music is much more than a boring, out-dated language which no-one speaks anymore but thousands of students are forced to study, latin music refers to the music of all the countries in Latin America. Every one of the countries from Argentina to Uruguay has their own unique type of latin music, but generally it’s lively and it’s fun. Think samba, think tango, yeh, you’ve got it.
Musical Theatre – this is the kind of production which involves music, song, dance and dialogue. It’s a kind of play where everyone bursts into song and dance every now and then, very entertaining and the home of many great songs – O-o-o-o-o-klahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain . . . .
Rap – thought by some to be aptly described by its own rhyming word, it refers to “spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics” – just talking to a beat then. Although it is the main ingredient in modern hip hop music, the term “to rap” has been around for centuries.
Renaissance – put simply, this refers to the music written in Europe during the Renaissance period, 1400 – 1600ish. Because not much of the early Renaissance music was actually written down as a score, in fact, they didn’t start with the printing presses until well into the period, some of it is pretty difficult to characterize.
Rhythm & Blues (R&B) – is a popular genre of African American music, originating from the 1940’s. During the 1950’s the term was applied to records which were only “blues”, and not “rhythm & blues” – those radio DJ’s have a lot to answer for. Anyway, the R&B music of the 1950’s was one music style which definitely had a hand in styling rock and roll, or R&R.
Ska – you might not have heard of ska music, but will certainly have heard some ska music. Originating from Jamaica in the late 1950’s, it’s kind of the daddy of reggae and rocksteady music. We’re talking Caribbean, Calypso, American Jazz and R&B. During the 1960’s ska music became popular with the mods and skinheads of Great Britain. Ah, now you know what we’re talking about. Sounds a lot like Simba’s rotten Uncle but it isn’t.
Tango – the tango music and the tango dance originated from Rio de la Plata, in Puerto Rico, but pretty soon people were tangoing all over the world, such was the immediate popularity. A kind of ballroom dance, the “golden age” of the Tango was said to be from 1935 – 1952, about the same time as the big band era in the USA. Tango music has a great beat, great rhythm and it’s almost impossible to sit still.
Techno – this electronic dance music emerged from Detroit, Michigan in the 1980’s, and Detroit Techno is still regarded as the daddy of techno music. Techno, techno, techno notice . . . .
Trance – are you feeling sleepy? This electronic dance music was first developed around the 1990’s, and is a kind of mixture between house, techno and industrial. Apparently, this music does have the ability to induce an altered state of mind and consciousness – I told you, you can end up in a trance.
World music – is just exactly what it says it is, it’s music of the world. It can be likened to global music, traditional music, folk music, all of those types of music which involve traditional folklore and musicians, generally standing on a street corner with an acoustic guitar and a hat on the floor. World music is different wherever you go in the world, that’s what makes it so special.
You can buy music almost everywhere these days… at your local convenience store to the Apple store for your iPod tunes. You can get your music fix in many ways as well from buying a musical instrument to joining a band to buying sheet music.
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And, when you become great, you can end up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Now I know for many people who see the video below, you might say, “That isn’t music!” But, here is why I picked it… at the beginning of the video, the audience is booing and jeering the musicians while they play the soul song, “Gimme some loving”, but when the group changes to country-western music (“Rawhide”), well, the crowd begins to cheer, because it is now music that THEY like. I selected this music video because music is different for all music listeners.