Music subgenres

Been playing Beatmania/Hip Hop Mania (multiple platforms) and the Pop 'N Music games (strictly Dreamcast) for some time, which has exposed me to many different styles of music. Many of which I’d never heard of before. Some highly unusual or uncommon. I’ve also downloaded my fair share of songs from Napster, and it’s not unusual for the same song to be labelled differently by different users (especially common for the big dance hits).

Needless to say, I’m a little confused and would like a little help. Here are some of the subgenres I’ve seen, along with my best guess as to what they actually are.

Techno: The standard “DJ” music. Strong beats, not a lot of actual music, and fast-paced.
House: Same as techno, but with at least one non-electronic element (usually piano) and more melodic. Something of a “catchall” genre.
Hard Techno: One source says that “hardness” referred to the speed, but that’s doubtful. I think it actually means the “force” of the acoustic elements, so hard techno is really loud and powerful, like that pounding music you hear from those cars with the blackened windows.
Ska: To my understanding, this is an older form of reggae with trumpets. I’m pretty sure there’s a bunch of other stuff, but that’s all I remember, sorry. (At least it’s better than my previous assumption, which was “Rap/reggae/blues hybrid”. Bleah.)
Punk: Loud, energetic, fast-paced rock. Cool.
Rave: The politically correct term for disco, which we can’t use anymore because it’s dead. It seems more lively and techno-like than classic disco.
Euro Beat: A lot like rave/disco, except more electronica-like and really, really fast.
Dance/Dancepop: Dance music gentle enough to play on the radio. The most common recipient of “dance remixes”.
Digi-rock: Same as nearly any other kind of rock, but technoized. And usually very powerful.
Electronica: Totally electronic; often has a “robotic” quality. I don’t hear this one too often.
Drum and Bass: I have no idea :p. I’ve heard about four different D&B songs, and they don’t sound even remotely similar.
Acid Beats: From the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Music, “acid” refers to music borrowed from other albums. Okay. Whatever.
Progressive: Er…sounds like one thing at the beginning, then sounds like something else later on? (That’s the best I can come up with, sorry.)
Hard House: “Hard” in this case seems to refer to the kind of music…or rather the volume, which is higher than that of the acoustic part. Something like that.
Jungle: There’s gotta be something about the beats, fill ins, or specific type of music…I don’t see the difference between this and hard techno at all.
Mondo: See comment on drum and bass.

I won’t even try to guess what “mods”, “thrash”, “coquettish”, “happy”, “analog techno”, “latinaires beats”, or all those other even more obscure subsubgenres are. And to think that Tower Records still has that big honking Pop/Rock/Soul section.

not bad. check out . they’ve got some great resources over there

jungle and drum n bass are about the same. drum n bass is a bit more stripped down than jungle; jungle, to me, seems ‘fuller’. but jungle is kinda on the way out now, or so it seems.

and there’s hundreds more; like garage, trance, goa trance, hardcore, happy hardcore, hard trance, trip hop, etc, and these are the ones that fall under electronica now. the term techno used to be the catch all, but now techno is more of a basic, almost minimalistic sound, from Detroit (that’s where it’s generally accepted to have sprouted from, and house from Chicago).

and ska has had at least 3 wave. 1st being early early stuff (well, not too early, but 30, 40 years ago, and doesn’t sound much like today’s ‘ska’) 2nd wave was bands like Madness, and mostly british bands. 3rd is current, more punky.

Thrash is pretty easy to recognize, though ‘speed metal’ kinda overlaps with it. It’s fast heavy metal, usually with a complex rhythmic structure, lots of fifth chords played over 8th note pedal tones, often uses chromatic scales. Metallica and Megadeth were both thrash bands, though Metallica has pretty much abandoned the genre - for a good example, listen to any of Metallica’s '80s albums.

The common feature of drum’n’dass and jungle is speed, both are descenants of reggae and drum and bass in particular relies on the crisp articulate basslines and skittering drum patterns with light snares and often dynamic non 4/4 beats. Junlge has a similar relationship with reggae, but has harder breakbeats and is less “jazzy” sounding that D’n’B usually. Good D’n’B includes Roni Size+Reprazent, Walking Wounded by Everything but the Girl (definitely on the pop side, but still really good). For something a little further out and challenging check out Photec’s album Modus Operandi, very minimalist but rich D’n’B but with moments of really hard, fast jungle.
For Jungle, which I don’t really like nearly as much as D’n’B, check out anythingfrom Metalheadz, particularly Goldie, who is considered kind of the old man of Jungle. if you are into that sort of thing.
It is true than in the fickle world of dance music these two interesting forms are now largely passee, but I prefer them to most of whats going on, because of thier (particularly D’n’B) complexity, relationship to reggae and incorporation of hip hop (Method Man and Zach fromage both rap on the new Roni Size album). They are both really adventurous and ambitious forms and some of the only “dance” music that I can actually sit and listen to outside of the context of a club.

Last bit should have read Zach from Rage (as in Rage Against the Machine)
my bad

Mod- look up bands like The Who (in their 60’s incarnation), the Kinks, the Small Faces. To get a good idea of Mod culture check out the film Quadrophenia. Mod culture also encompases Northern Soul, which in itself was a toned down Motown sound. Mod songs often include repetitve phrases (“My Generation” by The Who, “All or Nothing” by the Small Faces), and straight forward lyrics (“Wouldn’t it be nice” by the Small Faces.)

Mod died away for a while, but came back with help from bands like “the Jam”
Ska is actually a newer form of Reggae. it is one of the only branches of Reggae that didnt regionalize itsself. Aside from original Ska acts from Jamaica (the Ska-talites) there were a large number of bands from Britan in the 70’s that took up Ska in a very big way. Bands like the Specials, the Selecter and Madness became very popular.

It is a slightly speeded up, richer version of reggae, with horn sections.

Not to be picky but I was pretty sure that Ska came before reggae.

You’re right…ska came first; then a type of R&B/ska mix called rocksteady, which later evolved into traditional reggae.

Here is a nice description for all the sub-genres of dance music. Pretty interesting.


If it’s Progressive Rock you’re referring to: it’s the thinking mans rock and roll, so to speak. Basically, the instruments are the same as in “normal” rock (with a bit more emphasis on keyboards [MiniMoog, anyone??]), but the melodies and music structures tend to be more complicated. Prog Rock bands also have a tendency to produce longer songs (think 15 minutes or so). Examples include Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd (to an extent), Fates Warning, Dream Theater, and a lot more. But that ought to give you an idea.

I downloaded a CD-to-mp3 stripper and it came with a drop-down menu to categorize the music genre. They had some weird choices while omitting genres I actually use! Some samplings:

Acid Jazz (?)
Acid Punk (?)
AlternRock (what’s the difference? I thought “alternative” meant rock)
Ambient (I know that one, used to listen to Eno)
Bass (what, no drum? Just the bass player by himself?)
Christian rap (huh?)
Cult (you mean Scientology comes with its own music? I have seen Hare Krsna records, come to think of it)
Darkwave (never heard of this)
Death metal
Dream (all I can think of is John Lennon’s ("#9 Dream"–does that count?)
Game (the soundtrack to “Mortal Kombat”, or what?)
Gospel (Gangsta Gospel, just imagine… that would be extreme “Christian Rap”?)
Native American
Noise (Is this a “genre”, or just Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music?)
Pranks (huh?)
Trailer (is this white-trash rock?)

The last one is intriguing. Really, what is “tribal” music? They already listed “Native American”. Does “Tribal” refer to Folkways recordings of Pygmies and Aborigines, or is the name of a pop music genre? All I can think of is Hair: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical.

I don’t understand why people think this. Drum & Bass, just like house and techno, and rock & roll, for that matter, is most definitely in 4/4 time. Count it out. The fact that drum & bass uses breakbeats, as opposed to the 4-on-the-floor thumping of house and techno, does not change the fact that it’s written in 4/4 time. You’d be hard pressed nowadays, and for the last 30 years, to find songs/tracks that aren’t written in 4/4 time. Occasionally you’ll hear 3/4, and I’ve even heard 5/4, but those are the exceptions.

2 points to Egad, there is actually a lot od D’n’B that isn’t in 4/4, but you are right about the breakbeat thing, and that was what I was getting at. I’ve hear a lot of D’n’B that uses 3/4 swing and some other pretty non-pop 5/4, 7/8, changes time sigs within the song. I guess my point was that D’n’B is much more dynamic rythmically than the downbeat kick drums of most techno. I may have overstated it in musical terminology, but I think there is some truth to it.


Being a mod was an entire lifestyle; it was basically about poor, working-class kids, or lower-middle-class kids, dressing up and looking sharp (suits, ties, the works) as a statement of coolness or rising above their roots - not imitating people with money, but trying to outdo them at their own game. The film Quadrophenia is the de facto bible; I don’t know how historically accurate it is, but it embodies the arrogance and confidence. It was all about style, really, as opposed to rich kids “dressing down” as rockers.

There was a vague revival in some circles in the early 1990s with bands like Blur, Ocean Colour Scene (godawful), Marion and Menswear going for a faux mod look, and there are still mod clubs around (where a Vespa and a retro suit are de rigeur) in London, but many are kind of blended with general '60s retro psychedelia (e.g. Blow Up in Soho, or until recently The Monarch in Camden).

Thanks for the references…you don’t know how long I’ve searched unsuccessfully for them.

I suppose the question I should be asking is why there are so many of these subgenres. (Oh yeah, ubermensch, minimal is called “minimal”, not techno, which is called “techno” or some variant…'least in Beatmania, anyway.) I didn’t even know about 90% of them before I got into the Bemani series, by the way. And they do go far out…I’m not even going to guess the meaning of coquettish, friendly, neo aco, fusion, etc…

More to the point, I just want to know if there’s any reliable way to tell what subgenre a certain song is just by listening to it. It’s not easy. For example, I was pretty sure that euro beat was the modern version of disco (which is incredibly un-PC these days for some reason). Then I hear some rave sounds, and THEY sould like modern disco…repetitive sounds, strong percussion, loud music the like. Then I learn that there actually is a difference between dancepop and rave/euro beat. Then I find out that house doesn’t necessarily use piano or other unplugged instruments. (In fact, the description in the Rolling Stone book is a lot closer to jungle. I think.) Then all these variations of techno pop up. Then I find this very heavy metal-esque thing called gabbah, which is not a subset of heavy metal. Now I find out that a lot of distinctions are subtle differences in the percussive parts. I mean, how can jungle be dying when it’s so similar to what isn’t?

And what the heck does “hard” mean? Speed, electronics, what? I’ve heard all manner of hard techno and hard house songs and I absolutely cannot tell for sure.

Don’t even get me started on “new age”. (I’m sorry, but I just find something weird about Loreena McKennit, Vangelis, Adiemus, and various guitar players in the same section of Borders.)

I dunno…maybe I should actually go to one of these clubs someday just for the experience. Too bad the rave phenomenon never made it to Hawaii…to the best of my knowledge, we still use the term “disco” without remorse. We really are a backward bunch, huh? :wink:

Be careful with “punk.” It has just as many subgenres as electronic…and it isn’t always fast. It isn’t always loud, either. And it isn’t always sung with fake british accents a la green day.

Well, this old fart is still waiting for someone to come up with a usable definition of the difference between rock and pop.

I have a friend who insists the difference is that rock uses guitars and pop uses synths/keyboards. So I asked “Does that mean that a synth version of ‘Smoke on the Water’ would be a pop song?” He nearly blew a gasket, but he never did answer my question :rolleyes: (In case you can’t tell, he hates pop.)

People who hate pop. sigh…

Pop can be whatever music is popular.

A lot of people also take pop to mean any overly seet and listenable music that gets paid on the radio and doesn’t ROCK!!!

For me, pop has a lot to do with arrangement and melody. The usual verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus verse etc. is essentially a pop structure. Your friend would probably hate me, but I think NIN is pop. Marylin Manson is pop. Nirvana was pop. Foo Fighters are most certainly pop. Pixies were pop.

Most rock is pop but not all pop is rock. Which I realize helps not a bit.

But I already feel there are flaws with my argument. Why, then, do I find it impossible to think of Led Zepplin as pop? Someone help me out. Or tell me I’m wrong.

Loreena McKennitt is the most excellent composer in a variety of styles, a richly accomplished musician that can’t be categorized as just “New Age.” From her basis in Celtic folk, she has expanded her tonal palette to encompass Middle Eastern, Indian, and Mediterranean sounds.

Dance club genres lend themselves to endless subdivisions, but a composer of real individuality and mastery like Loreena cannot be categorized with just one genre like that. She does tap into a deeply mystical, sometimes dreamy, ancient consciousness, although I wouldn’t call it “weird.” For weird, try Sheila Chandra (another one of my favorites, beautifully weird).

Would someone please explain “tribal” music?

And what the heck is “darkwave”?