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What is Music Genre?

Music is grouped into genres to describe the music’s form, style, and cultural influence. From classical to hip-hop, there are countless numbers of genres. It would be impossible to cover them all in one blog! Get started with this list of music genres your band and orchestra student will likely encounter during their middle school, junior high, and high school years.

Classical Music

Did you know classical music has a double meaning? There is a time span called the Classical period from 1750-1820. This period starts with works of J.S Bach, through the life of Mozart, and ends with the death of Beethoven. These heavy hitters defined this important period in music.

On the flipside, we have the music genre called classical. The classical music genre encompasses music composed between the 6th century through the present time.  In such an extremely long period of time,  it can seems confusing to identify what actually qualifies as classical music. One quick shorthand is music that is not rock, jazz, pop or other contemporary music.  Here is how the famous composer of West-Side Story, Leonard Bernstein, defines classical music.


Let us tell you; some people, such as musicologists,  spend their lives defining what classical music is. However, most people can identify the genre of classical music when they hear it!

Popular Music

Bands and Orchestras play a lot of popular music in their classrooms, on-stage, and on the marching fields. The popular music genre covers anything that is commercially relevant with a broad mass appeal. These are examples of popular music heard in school music programs.

Traditional Music

Traditional music is also known as folk music. This genre has regained mass appeal in the last few years. One reason for this rise is the phenomenon of famous music artists using more traditional instruments, such as banjo, in their tracks.  More orchestra programs are teaching Fiddle and Mariachi music in their classrooms. Traditional music contains tunes and songs that have been performed over several generations. Frequently, this music is taught without sheet music through rote teaching methods. Rote is a way of learning songs by call and response. The instructor plays a small musical phrase, and the class repeats it. Those small musical phrases are joined together until the tune is learned.


Jazz Music

Jazz Music is an American original. It was formulated in New Orleans through African-American communities beginning at the turn of the 20th century and through the styles of blues and ragtime. Standard in middle school and high school band programs, the instrumentation varies, but usually contains trumpet, trombone, saxophone, guitar, string bass, and keyboard.

All of the Music Genres

We have only scratched the surface. There are many other music genres out there, here is a very comprehensive list of music genres: