Classification of music genres

Music and its classification are variedly based on the scales and instruments employed in the composition of a piece. With most instruments (such as guitar) being more and more regularly used in almost all genres, it has become ever more difficult to assign a musical piece to a single strict category. Rock music however has been a staple of many generations during the 20th century and its sub genres have now become significant enough to stand on their own. This being a classification essay, we will concentrate on three such genres mainly grunge, metal and psychedelic rock.

Grunge music initially started as an underground movement in the late 80’s and arly 90’s. Nirvana’s breakthrough single ‘Smells like teen spirit’ however broke all norms and propelled the genre to mainstream. Groups such as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam emerged as the main players and representatives of the youth of that generation. To this day, Pearl Jam is the only group that still survives from the major four of the grunge movement and after much experimentation has returned to its grunge roots. The genre mainly makes use of guitars with heavy, dirge like riffs supported by an equally strong drumbeat and angst filled vocals.

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Metal and its variants became popular in the 70’s when bands such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest hit the mainstream. After a brief slump, bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica revived the metal scene and a plethora of bands followed suit. Slayer, Metallica, Anathema etc. were flag bearers of the movement that started with the British Metal movement and continued all over the world. The genre comprises of a strong bass line, fast and aggressive drumbeats along with heavy use of the electric guitar. Vocals are usually aggressive but at times indecipherable especially in subgenres like grind core, death metal etc.

Psychedelic rock, some say, started off with Pink Floyd taking the main stage as the leading band of the 70’s. Roger Waters and David Gilmore inspired a generation of rock artists and musicians the world over but their roots can be traced back to bluegrass artists such as the Living Dead and super groups like Led Zeppelin. The tone is depressive and the music is set to put audiences in a trance like mode, hence the name. The genre extensively comprises of soothing drumbeats, soft bass lines and self indulgent yet emotional solos using the electric guitar.

Musicians in almost all of the above genres experiment a lot with instruments such as the electric piano (Children of Bodom), saxophone (Pink Floyd), harmonica (Pearl Jam). In the end however, it’s the regular guitar arranged for some other instrument or with a unique sound along with a bass guitar and drum kit which is the staple set of instruments for all. Preferences in lyrics vary from fantasy (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath) to political issues (Pearl Jam), death and its variations (Slayer, Metallica) to apathy (Pink Floyd,

Nirvana) and there are many crossovers in between as well.

In the end, these are the genres that pushed out pop music for a little while (Nirvana forcing Michael Jackson to second place on the Billboard charts) and helped produce the sound with which generations have identified themselves with (form the 1970’s till the 2000’s). even though sub genres come and go, rock will forever remain a force to reckon with in the music industry.


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Classification of music genres. (2016, Sep 27). Retrieved from