How many genres are there?

Music genre cloud

Music genre cloud


When talking about music, we frequently use genre names to describe different styles. While someone who is not too deeply interested in music might only differentiate between Rock/Pop, Jazz and Classic, many music nerds find it important to differentiate between, say, Disco House and Deep House.

Electronic music has been evolving fast in the last few decades, and many new genres and sub-genres have popped up during that time. Even for a music nerds, it can be hard to keep track of every single genre.

There are many reasons why discussing music genres can be confusing:

  • There is no official list of genres – and there is not even an institution with the authority to make such a list.
  • Genres often overlap. For example, a track that might be seen as a Tech-House track by one person might be considered a pure Techno track by someone else. This can also be seen in the categorization of different online shops.
  • Genres develop, merge, split up or evolve. For example, as Dubstep grew and gained more attention, many people felt the need to differentiate between the original UK Dubstep, US-influenced Brostep and Post-Dubstep.
  • The differences between genres are often subtle. For a DJ, the difference between, say, Dubstep and Drumstep might be important. The different tempos of those genres make a big difference in how a DJ would typically use them in a set. But would a non-DJ (or a DJ not specialized in this type of music) be able to tell the two genres apart? Probably not.

Even though discussing musical genres can be confusing, many people still find them useful to describe and discuss music. While there is no official list of musical genres, some people have tried to create lists and overviews over musical genres. None of these can be considered complete for the reasons cited above, but I still think that they can be interesting and helpful in discovering new music. Here are my three favorite genre lists:

  • Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music has been around for a couple of years and it is not quite up to date any more. However, it does a great job of showing the develop of electronic over the last decades and it has a huge amount of audio samples to illustrate the different genres.
  • Every noise at once is an algorithmically generated map of genres. It does include many recent styles, and you can check out audio samples for every genre. I wouldn’t always consider the examples that they give very typical, and I am missing descriptions, but it’s a great tool to get an overview and discover new music.
  • Wikipedia also has a list of genres with more or less detailed descriptions of genres. This list is very comprehensive, and whenever I am looking for background info on a particular genre, I am usually looking there. However, I think the Wikipedia list is not too great to discover new music as it is somewhat cumbersome to get to audio examples.

Do you know any other genre lists, especially for electronic music? Let us know in the comments!

About marvis (209 Articles)
Marvis is the founder of Sweet Headache. He lives in Cologne (Germany) and has been a music nerd for a long, long time.

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