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Music styles

Today, songs and musicians tend to be put into pigeonholes based on the music they have produced. There are many different charts based on styles, and catalogues, and music shops are divided up along these lines.

The criteria for these categories are rarely explained, so we have put together a bank of definitions to pin down just why Jerry Lee Lewis is rock 'n' roll while Judas Priest is heavy rock.

Of course, musicians are not always bound to a particular musical type. They are free to write in whichever style the like, and many do. Still, most fall into a category that generally describes the music they create.

If you get to know the fundamentals of these styles it will give you a greater understanding of how music is created, and provide the starting point for turning your own song ideas into whichever style that you want.


A natural evolution of rock 'n' roll, rock music pushed the volume levels to the extreme and the musical style to new heights of creativity. 'Rock Music' as a term was first used to describe bands like the The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppellin.

Rock 'n' Roll

In its purest form, rock 'n' roll has three chords forming the 12 bar blues progression, a strong backbeat and a catchy melody. Early rock 'n' roll drew from a variety of sources, primarily blues, R&B and country, as well as gospel, traditional pop, jazz, and folk.

Heavy Metal

Black Sabbath claimed this term was first used by a reporter who described the sound of their band as being like 'heavy metal in your ears'. Using the maximum amount of distortion available, the fastest guitar solos, the loudest settings and the fastest rhythms, heavy metal is extreme in both sound and image.

Classic Rock

A term used to describe bands that play within the more 'original' or 'traditional' styles of rock. It is currently applied to rock bands that were popular between 1967 and 1980.


Originally a term used to describe 'Independent Music' released outside of the mainstream record labels. Now it is used to describe pop rock, or anything vaguely resembling the The Stone Roses and Oasis. Indie bands possess the same DIY spirit as punk but with a more street trendy image and a softer sound.


Jazz has been called America's classical music, and for good reason. Along with the blues, its forefather, it is one of the first truly indigenous types of music to develop in America. Yet its unpredictable, risky ventures into improvisation gave it the critical cache with scholars that the blues lacked.


Pop music is a generic term meaning popular music. In the past it was used to describe the most popular music of the day. However, because of the diverse nature of the music industry today, it is usually used to describe chart music.


Soul music was the result of the urbanization and commercialisation of rhythm and blues in the '60s. Soul music made it's way north, east and west via the same train routes that carried rural black workers from their homes in the south to the industrial north.