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Defining Your Style

What kind of music do you play?  That’s usually one of the first questions people ask you about your band.  Sometimes that can be difficult to define.  With the rise of electronic music over the past several decades, music genres have become mixed and twisted to create new styles of music.  So we decided to put together a quick guide to help define some of the many styles of music that are out there.

Acoustic - music that solely or primarily uses instruments that produce sound through entirely acoustic means, as opposed to electric or electronic means. Performers of acoustic music often increase the volume of their output using electronic amplifiers. However, these amplification devices remain separate from the amplified instrument and reproduce its natural sound accurately. Often a microphone is placed in front of an acoustic instrument which is then wired up to an amplifier.
Examples:  Matt Costa, Damian Rice, Jeff Buckley

Adult Contemporary Music - a broad style of popular music that ranges from lush 1950s and 1960s vocal music to predominantly ballad-heavy music with varying degrees of rock influence, as well as a radio format that plays such music.
Examples: Taylor Swift, Michael Bublé, Sheryl Crow

Alternative Metal - Alternative metal is an eclectic form of rock music that gained popularity in the early 1990's alongside grunge. In many instances, it can be accurately described as a fusion of heavy metal and alternative rock, especially the indie rock of the 1980's. It is characterized by some heavy metal trappings (most notably heavy riffs), but usually with a pronounced experimental edge, including unconventional lyrics, odd time signatures, unusual technique, a resistance to conventional approaches to heavy music, and an incorporation of a wide range of influences outside of the metal music scene. 
Examples: 3 Doors Down, Breaking Benjamin, Avenged Sevenfold

Alternative Rock - An umbrella term used to describe a style of music that emerged in the late 80's and early 90's. Alternative Rock is usually characterized by bands who have a "do-it-yourself" or non-conformist attitude; hence "alternative". 
Examples: R.E.M., Pixies, Nirvana

Blues - the name given to both a musical form and a music genre; The blues form, ubiquitous in jazzrhythm and blues, and rock and roll is characterized by specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues chord progression is the most common. 
Examples: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles

Blues Rock - a hybrid musical genre combining bluesy improvisations over the 12-bar blues and extended boogie jams with rock and roll styles. The core of the blues-rock sound is created by the electric guitar, piano, bass guitar and drum kit, with the electric guitar usually amplified through a tube guitar amplifier, giving it an overdriven character.
Examples: The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Ray Vaughn

Classic Rock - a radio format which developed from the album-oriented rock (AOR) format in the early 1980s. In the United States, the classic rock format features music ranging generally from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, primarily focusing on the hard rock genre that peaked in popularity in the 1970s.
Examples: The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix

Country - a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music. Country music often consists of ballads and dance tunes with generally simple forms and harmonies accompanied by mostly string instruments such as banjoes, electric and acoustic guitars, fiddles such as violins, and harmonicas
Examples: Jimmie Rodgers, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash

Dubstep - a genre of electronic dance music that originated in south London, England. Its overall sound has been described as "tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals"
Examples: Burial, Skream, Benga

Electronic Dance Music - electronic music produced primarily for the purposes of use within a nightclub setting, or in an environment that is centered upon dance-based entertainment. The music is largely created for use by disc jockeys and is produced with the intention of it being heard in the context of a continuous DJ set; wherein the DJ progresses from one record to the next via a synchronized segue or "mix”
Examples: Dubstep, House, Techno music

Folk (Contemporary) – Folk music can be described as the traditional music of a country or region.  Generally, when people use the phrase “folk music” they are referring to the traditional music of American and Great Britain. Traditional music from other countries and regions is more often known as “world music”.
Examples: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Fleet Foxes

Funk - a music genre that originated in the mid-late 1960s when African American musicians blended soul music, jazz and R&B into a rhythmic, danceable new form of music. Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground. Funk songs are often based on an extended vamp on a single chord, distinguishing it from R&B and soul songs, which are centered on chord progressions.
Examples: James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, KC & The Sunshine Band

Hip-Hop/Rap - a musical genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted.
Examples: Run-D.M.C., 2Pac, Dr. Dre

House - a genre of electronic dance music that originated in Chicago in the early 1980s. House music is centered around a 'four on the floor' rhythmic structure and may feature a prominent synthesizer bassline, synthesized or sampled drums and percussion, electronic effects, vocal samples, often with reverb or delay effects.
Examples: Swedish House Mafia, deadmau5, Daft Punk

Indie - a term used to describe independence from major commercial record labels or their subsidiaries, and an autonomous, Do-It-Yourself approach to recording and publishing
Examples: Two Door Cinema Club, Bon Iver, The Wombats

Jazz - form of art music which originated in the United States through the confrontation of blacks with European music; jazz differs from European music in that jazz has a special relationship to time, defined as 'swing', a spontaneity and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role, and sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician
Examples: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis

Metal - a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and the United States.  With roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness.  Heavy metal lyrics and performance styles are generally associated with masculinity and machismo.
Examples: Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motorhead

Punk – a rock music genre that developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in garage rock and other forms of what is now known as protopunk music, punk rock bands eschewed perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. Punk bands created fast, hard-edged music, typically with short songs, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics.
Examples: The Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols

Pop - is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.
Examples: Madonna, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson

Reggae - a music genre first developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s.  Based on a rhythmic style characterized by accents on the off-beat, known as the skank. Reggae usually accents the second and fourth beat in each bar, with the rhythm guitar also either emphasizing the third beat or holding the chord on the second beat until the fourth is played. It is mainly this "third beat", its speed and the use of complex bass lines that differentiated reggae from rocksteady, although later styles incorporated these innovations separately.
Examples: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Matisyahu

Rhythm & Blues (R&B) - From the early 1950s, the term rhythm and blues was frequently applied to blues records.  Starting in the 1950s, after this style of music contributed to the development of rock and roll, the term "R&B" became used to refer to music styles that developed from and incorporated electric blues, as well as gospel and soul music. By the 1970s, rhythm and blues was used as a blanket term for soul and funk. In the 1980s, a newer style of R&B developed, becoming known as "Contemporary R&B".
Examples: Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu

Rock - a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. Musically, rock is song-based music usually utilizing a verse-chorus form, but since its inception, the genre has become extremely diverse, and common musical characteristics are difficult to define. Rock is typically centered around the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with bass guitar and drums, although a variety of instruments are often used. The most common time signature used in rock music is 4/4, however other time signatures are also used.
Examples: Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The Beatles

Techno - a form of electronic dance music (EDM) that emerged in Detroit, Michigan in the United States during the mid to late 1980s; it is a style of fast, heavy electronic dance music, typically with few or no vocals.
Examples: 2 Bit Pie, Altern 8, 2 Unlimited

World - in its classic definition is a general categorical term for global music, such as the traditional music or folk music of a culture that is created and played by indigenous musicians and is closely related to the music of the regions of their origin

Please note, these are just some generalizations.  Lots of artists cross over into other genres and you can really define your style as anything you want.  But when you’re trying to promote your band, you want to use styles and artists that people understand and have heard of; otherwise you’re just another random band with a strange sound.


By: Ryan J. Colburn Live-Banner-General-Homepage.jpg

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