Music Genres and Definitions

music genres definitions

These music genres and definitions were originally compiled to aid Music Library volunteers when writing their reviews and categorizing/labeling music. It has now been expanded and opened up to the general public by Programmer volunteers to serve as a guide for people to discuss music, which is a feeble attempt at best to describe the indescribable. Nonetheless, we hope this can be helpful in discovering many of the shows KOOP offers, which is constantly revolving and changing.

Of course, there are many more music genres out there, including sub-genres of sub-genres, and all of these are also in constant change. So this can never be a complete list, but we hope it can serve as a handy guide on your voyage of discovery.

Music Genres and Definitions We Use at KOOP

Acid House

House music featuring squelching loops from Roland TB-303 synthesizers.

Acid Jazz

Contrary to its name, this style has little in common with Acid House. Acid Jazz consists of various blends of Jazz, Funk, House and Hip-Hop.


Created without the use of electricity. As a genre it refers to folk, traditional, or singer-songwriter modes of music. See Strictly Bluegrass, TeXchromosome Radio, and The Singer and The Song.



Afrobeat is a music genre which involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles such as fuji music and highlife with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion. The term was coined in the 1960s by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who is responsible for pioneering and popularizing the style both within and outside Nigeria. See The Africa Express.

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Afro-Pop is a catch-all term encompassing the rich variety of contemporary African music styles — typically urban, electric dance music. As each of Africa’s 54 countries lays claim to dozens of distinct languages and musical traditions, Afro-Pop is a blanket description of the continent’s many diverse styles, from Algerian rai to Senegalese mbalax to East African taarab. See The Africa Express.


Coined in the early 1980s, the term “alternative rock” or “alternative music” was used to describe music that didn’t fit into mainstream genres of the time. Alternative styles included indie, post-punk, gothic rock, college rock, grunge, and new wave bands, to name a few. See Exclamation!, The Clear Spot and Beat Happenings.


Atmospheric electronic music, sometimes combined with Jazz, New Age and other influences. Usually quieter than other styles, ambient music describes three dimensional atmospheres with sound, often without a beat. See Voyager.

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Americana is a genre of contemporary music which incorporates elements of various American music styles, including country, rock, folk, bluegrass and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound. See Adventures In Sound, Around the Town Sounds, International Folk Bazaar, The Lonesome Stranger, Pearl’s General Store, The Singer And The Song, Strictly Bluegrass, TeXchromosome Radio, Under The X In Texas, and Sunday Go To Meetin’.

More shows can be found on Mixcloud.


The Art Rock genre generally reflects a challenging approach to music, making use of modernist, experimental, or unconventional elements, yet with rock instrumentation and approach. It was predominantly spear-headed in the mid 70’s on Brian Eno’s rock albums, as well as David Bowie and Roxy Music’s mid-70’s work, and many others. See Virtual Noise.


Avant-garde music is music that is considered to be at the forefront of innovation in artistic expression for the time period in which it was produced, yet often remains fresh in this regard. It is the weirder end of the Art-Rock spectrum, and usually difficult to the layperson to listen to, but this is not always the case.

Examples are Henry Cow and all of their offshoot projects, The Residents and all the 70’s and early 80’s work on their label Ralph Records, and more. See Commercial Suicide, Fresh From The Underground, and Off The Beatle Path.



(See Noise).


Bebop or bop is a style of jazz developed in the early to mid-1940s in the United States, which features songs characterized by a fast tempo, complex chord progressions with rapid chord changes and numerous changes of key, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on a combination of harmonic structure, the use of scales and occasional references to the melody. Bebop developed as the younger generation of jazz musicians expanded the creative possibilities of jazz beyond the popular, dance-oriented swing style with a new “musician’s music” that was not as danceable and demanded close listening.

As bebop was not intended for dancing, it enabled the musicians to play at faster tempos. Bebop musicians explored advanced harmonies, complex syncopation, altered chords, extended chords, chord substitutions, asymmetrical phrasing, and intricate melodies. Bebop groups used rhythm sections in a way that expanded their role. Whereas the key ensemble of the swing era was the big band of up to fourteen pieces playing in an ensemble-based style, the classic bebop group was a small combo that consisted of saxophone (alto or tenor), trumpet, piano, guitar, double bass, and drums playing music in which the ensemble played a supportive role for soloists.

Rather than play heavily arranged music, bebop musicians typically played the melody of a song (called the “head”) with the accompaniment of the rhythm section, followed by a section in which each of the performers improvised a solo, then returned to the melody at the end of the song. Some of the most influential bebop artists, who were typically composer-performers, are: tenor sax players Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, and James Moody; alto sax player Charlie Parker; clarinet player Buddy DeFranco; trumpeters Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, and Dizzy Gillespie; pianists Bud Powell, Mary Lou Williams, and Thelonious Monk; electric guitarist Charlie Christian, Joe Pass and drummers Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, and Art Blakey. See The Jazz Show.


A form of American roots music with its own roots in the English, Irish and Scottish traditional music of immigrants from the British Isles (particularly the Scots-Irish immigrants of Appalachia), as well as the music of rural African-Americans, jazz, and blues. Like jazz, bluegrass is played with each melody instrument switching off, playing the melody in turn while the others revert to backing; this is in contrast to old-time music, in which all instruments play the melody together or one instrument carried the lead throughout while the others provide accompaniment. See Strictly Bluegrass.

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A vocal and instrumental form of music based on a pentatonic scale and a characteristic twelve-bar chord progression, blues evolved from African American spirituals, shouts, work songs and chants that found its earliest stylistic roots in West Africa. Blues has been a major influence on later American and Western popular music, finding expression in ragtime, jazz, big band, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, country music, conventional pop songs and even modern classical music. See Crate Digger’s Gold.


(also: bugalú, shing-a-ling, Latin boogaloo, Latin R&B) A genre of Latin music and dance which was popular in the United States in the 1960s. Boogaloo originated in New York City mainly among teenage Hispanic and Latino Americans. The style was a fusion of popular African American rhythm and blues (R&B) and soul music with mambo and son montuno, with songs in both English and Spanish. See Crate Digger’s Gold.


Louisiana music that tends to sound more like early country, with the use of steel guitar and acoustic guitar along with the older traditional instruments — fiddle, triangle and accordion. Cajun music is typically a waltz or two step. See Fais Do Do.



The music of the Caribbean is a diverse grouping of musical genres. They are each syntheses of African, European, Indian and native influences. Some of the styles to gain wide popularity outside of the Caribbean include reggae, zouk, salsa and calypso. Areas include: The Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Trinidad


Celtic music is a broad grouping of musical genres that evolved out of the folk musical traditions of the Celtic peoples of Western Europe. Most typically, the term Celtic music is applied to the music of Ireland and Scotland, because both places have produced well-known distinctive styles which actually have genuine commonality and clear mutual influences.

The music of Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Brittany, Northumbria and Galicia are also frequently considered a part of Celtic music, the Celtic tradition being particularly strong in Brittany, where Celtic festivals large and small take place throughout the year. Finally, the music of ethnically Celtic peoples abroad are also considered, especially in Canada and the United States.


Christian music refers to music created by Christian artists or adapted to deliver general Christian religion themes.


Classical music is generally a classification covering music composed and performed by professionally trained artists. Classical music is a written tradition. It is composed and written using music notation, and as a rule is performed faithfully to the score. In common usage, “classical music” often refers to orchestral music in general, regardless of when it was composed or for what purpose (film scores and orchestral arrangements on pop music recordings, for example).

Club / Dance

Music composed, played, or both, specifically to accompany social dancing, though from the late 1970s, the term “dance music” has come to refer (in the context of nightclubs) more specifically to electronic music such as disco, house, techno and trance. Generally, the difference between a disco, or any dance song, and a rock or general popular song is that in dance music the bass hits “four to the floor” at least once a beat (which in 4/4 time is 4 beats per measure), while in rock the bass hits on one and three and lets the snare take the lead on two and four. See Four on the Floor.


Comedy/Spoken Word

The comedy/spoken word is known as comedians and stand up stories. See Double Heads Variety Hour.

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Also known as Norteño. A traditional style of Mexican music that originated in rural northern Mexico in the early 20th century, a form of music based largely on corridos and polka. The accordion and the bajo sexto is the music’s most characteristic instruments. Norteño is extremely popular among first-generation Mexicans in both the inner city barrios and the rural countrysides of the United States and Mexico.

Cool Jazz

Cool jazz is a style of modern jazz music that arose in the United States after World War II. It is characterized by relaxed tempos and lighter tone, in contrast to the fast and complex bebop style. Cool jazz often employs formal arrangements and incorporates elements of classical music.

Broadly, the genre refers to a number of post-war jazz styles employing a more subdued approach than that found in other contemporaneous jazz idioms. As Paul Tanner, Maurice Gerow, and David Megill suggest, “the tonal sonorities of these conservative players could be compared to pastel colors, while the solos of [Dizzy] Gillespie and his followers could be compared to fiery red colors.”

The term cool started being applied to this music around 1953, when Capitol Records released the album Classics in Jazz: Cool and Quiet. Mark C. Gridley, writing in the All Music Guide to Jazz, identifies four overlapping sub-categories of cool jazz: “Soft variants of bebop,” including the Miles Davis recordings that constitute Birth of the Cool; the complete works of the Modern Jazz Quartet; the output of Gerry Mulligan, especially his work with Chet Baker and Bob Brookmeyer; the music of Stan Kenton’s sidemen during the late 1940s through the 1950s; and the works of George Shearing and Stan Getz.

The output of modern players who eschewed bebop in favor of advanced swing-era developments, including Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, and Warne Marsh; Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond; and performers such as Jimmy Giuffre and Dave Pell who were influenced by Count Basie and Lester Young’s small-group music. See The Jazz Show.


Once known as Country & Western music, this music form is developed mostly in the southern United States of America, with roots in traditional folk music, spirituals and blues. See The Lonesome Stranger and Pearl’s General Store.


Dixieland (Jazz)

Traditional Jazz, originally referred to as “Dixieland,” developed in New Orleans, Louisiana at the start of the 20th century, and spread to Chicago, Illinois and New York City, New York by New Orleans musicians. It was, for a period, quite popular among the general public and experienced a revival of sorts in the 1960s with performers such as Pete Fountain and Al Hirt of New Orleans as its most popular proponents.

It is often considered the first true type of jazz, and was the first music referred to by the term jazz (before 1917 often spelled jass). Most enthusiasts and performers today prefer to use the term “Traditional” instead of “Dixieland” as the latter refers to the slave-era moniker of the South, which, as jazz great, Danny Barker, once remarked “Do you think that any black musician wants to be reminded of slavery?”

Dream Pop / Dreampop

Dream Pop is a subgenre of alternative rock and neo-psychedelia that emphasizes atmosphere and sonic texture as much as pop melody. Common characteristics include breathy vocals, dense productions, and effects such as reverb, echo, tremolo and chorus. It often overlaps with the related genre of Shoegaze, and the two genre terms have at times been used interchangeably.

The genre came into prominence in the 1980s through the work of Cocteau Twins, A.R. Kane, and their contemporaries. Groups such as My Bloody Valentine, Galaxie 500, Lush, Slowdive and Mazzy Star released significant albums in the style. It saw renewed popularity among millennial listeners following the late-’00s success of Beach House.


Drone music is a minimalist musical style that emphasizes the use of sustained or repeated sounds, notes, or tone clusters – called Drones.


From a vintage perspective, dub is primarily instrumental remixed versions of reggae songs emphasizing reverb, echo, delay, and other effects. See Jamaican Gold.

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Easy Listening

Easy Listening is a term used to describe a certain style of popular music which emphasizes simple, catchy melodies and cool, laid-back harmonics and rhythms, suitable for dancing. Easy listening emerged in the mid 20th century. Other terms used by fans of this style today include Lounge and Lounge Core, connecting it to the cocktail lounge culture of the 1960s and 1970s. See The Lounge Show.


Eclectic is an all encompassing approach to music that incorporates a multitude of other genres all mixed up together. See Adventures In Sound, Around the Town Sounds, Channel Surfing, The Clear Spot, Free Samples, Fresh From The Underground, Graveside Service and Roses And Thorns.

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Electronica is a rather vague term that covers a wide range of electronic or electronic-influenced music. The term has been defined by some to mean modern electronic music that is not necessarily designed for the dance-floor, but rather for home listening. In the mid-1990s, the term became popular as a means of referring to the then-novel mainstream success of post-Rave global electronic dance music. Prior to the adoption of “electronica” as a blanket term for more experimental dance music, terms such as “electronic listening music,” “braindance” and “intelligent dance music” (IDM) were common. See The Microchip Revolution.


Emo is a sub-genre of hardcore punk music. In its original incarnation, the term emo was used to describe the music of the mid-1980s DC scene and its associated bands. In later years, the term emocore, short for “emotional hardcore”, was also used to describe the DC scene and some of the regional scenes that spawned from it. The term emo was derived from the fact that, on occasion, members of a band would become spontaneously and literally emotional during performances. See The Emo Diaries.

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A general term surrounding music without predefined rules, often incorporating free-form improvisation. See Commercial Suicide.


Flamenco is a song, music and dance style which is strongly influenced by the Gitanos (Spanish Gypsies), but which has its deeper roots in Moorish and Jewish musical traditions. Originally, flamenco consisted of unaccompanied singing (cante). Later the songs were accompanied by flamenco guitar (toque), rhythmic hand clapping (palmas), rhythmic feet stomping (zapateado) and dance (baile). The toque and baile are also often found without the cante, although the song remains at the heart of the flamenco tradition.


Music by and of the common people, folks is a down-to-earth style focusing on universal truths, often with traditional acoustic instrumentation and a simple melody. Folk music arose in societies not yet affected by mass communication and the commercialization of culture. It was originally shared and performed by an entire community — not by a special class of expert performers — and was transmitted by word of mouth. See International Folk Bazaar, The Singer And The Song, and Sunday Go To Meetin’.

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Folk-rock is popular music resembling or derived from folk music but incorporating the stronger beat of rock music and using electric instruments.


Funk is a distinct style of music originated by African-Americans, e.g., James Brown and his band members (especially Maceo and Melvin Parker), The Meters, George Clinton, and Bootsy Collins. Funk best can be recognized by its syncopated three against four rhythms; thick bass line (often based on an “on the one” beat); razor-sharp rhythm guitars; chanted or hollered vocals (as that of Marva Whitney or the Bar-Kays); strong, rhythm-oriented horn sections; prominent percussion; an upbeat attitude; African tones; dance-ability; and strong jazz influences (e.g., as in the music of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Eddie Harris, and others). See Crate Digger’s Gold and Small Cool World.

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At the time of its origin, Fusion was a blend of Jazz with the aggressive qualities of Rock. Today it can represent a blending of any two or more styles. See Guitar Picks.

Garage (Rock)

A simple, raw form of rock and roll that emerged in the mid-1960s, largely in the United States. The term “garage rock” comes from the perception that many such performers were young and amateurish, and often rehearsed in a family garage (this stereotype also evokes a suburban, middle-class setting). Largely inspired by British Invasion bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who and The Rolling Stones, these groups mostly played a homespun variation on British Invasion rock — although other influences were also apparent, especially the surf music style that immediately preceded the garage era.

“Garage rock” was often musically crude, but nevertheless conveyed great passion and energy. Most of the bands used simple chord progressions, pounding drums, and short, repetitive lyrics. See Bloodstains From The Grave, Darkside Daddy, Ear Candy 2.0, The Radio Still Screams, and Stronger Than Dirt.

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Glam rock is a style of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s performed by musicians who wore outrageous costumes, makeup, and hairstyles, particularly platform shoes and glitter. Bands included David Bowie (in 1973), Roxy Music (until about 1974), T-Rex, Elton John, Slade, and Sweet, among others. See Stronger Than Dirt.


Gospel music may refer either to the religious music that first came out of African-American churches in the 1930’s or, more loosely, to both black gospel music and to the religious music composed and sung by white southern Christian artists. While the separation between the two styles was never absolute — both drew from the Methodist hymnal and artists in one tradition sometimes sang songs belonging to the other — the sharp division between black and white America, particularly black and white churches, kept the two apart. While those divisions have lessened slightly in the past fifty years, the two traditions are still distinct. It tends to be characterized by dominant vocals (often with strong use of harmony) referencing lyrics of a religious nature. See Crate Digger’s Gold and Sunday Go To Meetin’.

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Gothic rock evolved out of post-punk during the late 1970s. Originally considered just a label for a small handful of punk rock/post-punk bands, goth only began to be defined as a separate movement in 1981. While most punk bands focused on aggressive, outward rock, the early gothic bands were more introverted and personal, with elements that can be traced to much older literary movements such as gothic horror, Romanticism, existential philosophy, and the philosophical construct of nihilism. The earliest gothic bands were Bauhaus, Gloria Mundi (credited as the first goth band by Mick Mercer), and UK Decay.


(Sometimes also referred to as the Seattle Sound) A genre of alternative rock inspired by hardcore punk, heavy metal, and indie rock. It became commercially successful in the late 1980s and early 1990s, peaking in mainstream popularity between 1991 and 1994. Bands from cities in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, such as Seattle, Washington, Olympia, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, created grunge and later made it popular with mainstream audiences.

The genre is closely associated with Generation X in the US, since it was popularized in tandem with the rise in popularity of the generation’s name. The popularity of grunge was one of the earliest phenomena that distinguished the popular music of the 1990s from that of the 1980s. Grunge music is generally characterized by “dirty” guitar, strong riffs, and heavy drumming.

Hardcore Punk

Hardcore Punk is defined as a form of exceptionally harsh punk rock and subculture that originated in the late 1970s and hit its stride in the mid to late 80’s. It is generally faster, harder, and more aggressive than other forms of punk rock. Its roots can be traced to earlier punk scenes in San Francisco and Southern California which arose as a reaction against the still predominant hippie cultural climate of the time.

It was also inspired by New York punk rock and early proto-punk. New York punk had a harder-edged sound than its San Francisco counterpart, featuring anti-art expressions of masculine anger, energy, and subversive humor. Hardcore punk generally disavows commercialism, the established music industry and “anything similar to the characteristics of mainstream rock” such as synthetic technological effects and guitar solos. It often addresses social and political topics with confrontational, politically-charged lyrics.

Heavy Metal

(Also referred to as simply metal) A form of music characterized by aggressive, driving rhythms and highly amplified distorted guitars. Its origins lie in the hard rock bands who, between 1967 and 1974, took blues and rock and created a hybrid with a heavy, guitar-and-drums-centered sound. From the late 1970s on, many bands would fuse this sound with a revival of European classical music. Heavy metal had its peak popularity in the 1980s, during which many of the now existing sub-genres first evolved. See Le Chateau Daddy-O and The Radio Still Screams.


Hip Hop

Music composed of four main elements: rapping (also known as emceeing), disk jockeying, break-dancing and graffiti. A cultural movement, hip hop began among African Americans in New York City in the 1970s. Most typically, hip hop music consists of one or more rappers who chant semi-autobiographic tales, often relating to a fictionalized counterpart, in an intensely rhythmic lyrical form, making abundant use of techniques like assonance, alliteration, and rhyme.

The rapper is accompanied by an instrumental track, usually referred to as a “beat” because of the emphasis on rhythm, performed by a DJ, a record producer, or one or more instrumentalists. This beat is often created using a sample of the percussion break of another song, usually a funk, rock, or soul recording. In addition to the beat, other sounds are often sampled, synthesized, or performed. Sometimes, a track can be made up of just the beat by itself, as a showcase of the skills of the DJ or producer. See D00MSCR0LLING, Free Samples and Hip Hop Hooray.

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Honky Tonk

The first genre of music to be commonly known as honky tonk music was a style of piano playing related to ragtime, but emphasizing rhythm more than melody or harmony, since the style evolved in response to an environment where the pianos were often poorly cared for, tending to be out of tune and having some non functioning keys. See The Lonesome Stranger and Pearl’s General Store.


Named after its birthplace, the Warehouse, a club in Chicago, House is in many ways an electronic extension of Disco. House features a steady 4/4 beat, with accented percussion and bass-lines. See D00MSCR0LLING.

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A genre of alternative rock that primarily exists in the indie underground music scene. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with indie music as a whole, though more specifically implies that the music meets the criteria of being rock, as opposed to indie pop or other possible match-ups. These criteria vary from an emphasis on rock instrumentation (electric guitars, bass guitar, live drums, and vocals) to more abstract (and debatable) rockist constructions of authenticity. See Beat Happenings and Exclamation!


Industrial music is a loose term for a number of different styles of electronic and experimental music. The first wave of this music appeared in 1977 with Throbbing Gristle and NON, and often featured tape editing, stark percussion, and loops distorted to the point where they had degraded to harsh noise. Vocals were sporadic, and were as likely to be bubblegum pop as they were to be abrasive polemics. Bands like Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, Factrix, DAF, Nocturnal Emissions, Esplendor Geometrico and SPK soon followed. Blending electronic synthesizers, guitars and early samplers, these bands created an aggressive and abrasive music fusing elements of rock with experimental electronic music.


Jazz music has been called the first original art form to develop within the US. It grew out of a cross-fertilization of folk blues, ragtime, and European band music. Although there have been many renowned jazz vocalists, and many of the most well-known jazz tunes have lyrics, it is primarily an instrumental form of music.

The instrument most closely associated with jazz is the saxophone, followed by the trumpet. The trombone, piano, double bass, guitar and drums are also primary jazz instruments. It is characterized by blue notes, syncopation, swing, call and response, and polyrhythm, yet the single most distinguishing characteristic of jazz is improvisation. Jazz also tends to utilize complex chord structures and an advanced sense of harmony, and requires a high degree of technical skill and musical knowledge from the performers. See Guitar Picks and The Jazz Show.

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Jam / Jam-Band

An outgrowth of psychedelic bands, most popularized by the Grateful Dead, who abandoned standard pop traditions in favor of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with Jazz, Prog, or Americana music. At its center is improvisation, so it is geared more for the live performance than studio recordings.

Key elements of Jam often include but are not limited to: 1) Abandoning the standard lengths of rock or pop songs, which sometimes has led to epic length of compositions. 2) Virtuosic playing ability. 3) Eclectic inclusion of a wade array of musical styles, even juxtaposed within one song. 4) A large canon of material. Jam bands frequently play two or three sets per day in several-day stints with little repetition of material, inspiring fans to catch each and every show.

Jungle / Drum ‘n’ Bass

Both styles display very fast tempos around 160-200 BPM, with double-speed break-beats along strong bass-lines. According to leading DJs, Jungle conveys a party atmosphere with Reggae inspired bass, while Drum ‘n’ Bass is considered to be more intelligent listening music.


A category that includes songs for babies, toddlers, and young teens; often designed to educate and uplift children as well as entertain.


Kitsch music is once popular music that is way past its prime. It endears the listener with a quaint recognition of times past, and can engender an ironic or campy appeal. It can also contain novelty elements. See Adventures In Sound and The Lounge Show.


Klezmer is a musical tradition which parallels Hasidic and Ashkenazic Judaism. Around the 15th century, a tradition of secular (non-liturgical) Jewish music was developed by musicians called kleyzmorim or kleyzmerim. They drew on devotional traditions extending back into Biblical times, and their musical legacy of klezmer continues to evolve today. The repertoire is largely dance songs for weddings and other celebrations. Due to the Ashkenazi lineage of this music, the lyrics, terminology and song titles are typically in Yiddish. See International Folk Bazaar.


Krautrock (also called Kosmische Musik, German: cosmic music) is a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s among artists who blended elements of psychedelic rock, electronic music, and various avant-garde influences. These artists largely avoided the blues influences and song structure found in traditional Anglo-American rock music, instead utilizing hypnotic rhythms, tape-music techniques, and early synthesizers.

Prominent groups associated with krautrock music included Neu!, Can, Faust, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh, Amon Düül II, and Tangerine Dream. The term was coined by the band Faust on their 4th album, named for one of their compositions. See Stronger Than Dirt and AUTOBAHN.



Latin-American music is sometimes called Latin music, and it is more of an umbrella style than a genre. It often features acoustic instruments and horns with many layers of percussion, and includes the music of many countries and comes in a wide variety of choices: from the down-home conjunto music of Northern Mexico to the sophisticated habanera of Cuba, from the symphonies of Heitor Villa-Lobos to the simple and moving Andean flute. See Crate Digger’s Gold.


Local music is any music that is recorded in the home-town where it is featured, or features musicians who hail from that location. See Around the Town Sounds, Fresh From The Underground, The Singer and The Song, and Under The X In Texas.



Lounge music refers to music played in the lounges and bars of hotels and casinos, or at standalone piano bars. Generally, the performers include a singer and one or two other musicians. The performers play or cover songs composed by others, especially pop standards, many deriving from the days of Tin Pan Alley. Notionally, much lounge music consists of sentimental favorites enjoyed by a lone drinker over a martini, though in practice there is much more variety. The term can also refer to laid-back electronic music, also named down-tempo, because of the reputation of lounge music as low-key background music. See The Lounge Show.



Mariachi is a type of musical group, originally from Mexico, consisting of at least two violins, two trumpets, one Spanish guitar, one vihuela (a high-pitched, five-string guitar) and one guitarrón (a small-scaled acoustic bass), but sometimes featuring more than twenty musicians. The mariachi sound, known as son, is a mixture of Spanish, native and African traditions and differs from region to region.

Memphis (Blues)

Memphis blues is a type of blues music that was pioneering in the early part of the 20th century by musicians like Sleepy John Estes and Willie Nix, associated with vaudeville and medicine shows. It was in the Memphis blues that groups of musicians first assigned one guitarist to play rhythm, and one to play lead and solos — this has become standard in rock and roll and much of popular music. In addition, the jug band arose from the Memphis blues, mixing the sound with jazz and using homemade, simple instruments. See Crate Digger’s Gold.


(See Heavy Metal).


A style of soul music with distinctive characteristics, including the use of tambourine along with drums, bass instrumentation, a distinctive melodic and chord structure, and a call and response singing style originating in gospel music. See Crate Digger’s Gold.

Musique Concrète

Musique Concrète or “Concrete Music” is a style of electroacoustic music that features manipulated sounds derived from recordings of musical instruments, voice, and objects as well as those created using synthesizers and computer-based digital signal processing. These sounds are then reassembled in a form of audio montage, generally without regard for melody or song structure.

This avant-garde style of audio experimentation began in the 1940s as a form of “tape music”, which used the tape recorder as opposed to any acoustic instrumentation as its central musical source. By the late 1950s this style had accelerated in substance and public interest, due in part by the founding of the “Groupe de Recherches de Musique Concrète (GRMC)” in France by the genre’s creator Pierre Schaeffer, and advances in audio recording technology and innovations in recording studios. By the 1960s, artists such as The Beatles were utilizing elements of Musique Concrète in tracks like “Tomorrow Never Knows” and most famously “Revolution #9”. See The Microchip Revolution.

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Nerdcore is a genre of music characterized by themes and subject matter considered to be of general interest to nerds and geeks. See Free Samples.

New Age

New Age music is a vaguely defined style of music that is generally quite melodic and often primarily instrumental, frequently relying on sustained pads or long sequencer-based runs. Very long songs, up to 20 minutes and more, are not uncommon. Vocal arrangements and usage of acoustic instruments is less common (in many cases, high-quality samples are used instead of the latter). Recordings of naturally occurring sounds are sometimes used as an introduction to a track or throughout the piece.

New Wave or Nu Wave

New wave is a broad music genre that encompasses numerous pop-oriented styles from the late 1970s and the 1980s. The term was originally used as a catch-all for the music that emerged concurrent with punk rock, but was not as primitive and slightly more accessible. Although new wave shared punk’s DIY philosophy, the artists were more influenced by the lighter strains of 1960s pop (such as Mod), while opposed to mainstream “corporate” rock, which they considered creatively stagnant, and the generally abrasive and political bents of punk rock.

Common characteristics of new wave music include a humorous or quirky pop approach, the use of electronic sounds, and a distinctive visual style featured in music videos and fashion. In the early 1980s, virtually every new pop/rock act – and particularly those that featured synthesizers in their sound – was tagged as “new wave”. By the 2000s, critical consensus favored “new wave” to be an umbrella term that encompassed power pop, synth-pop, ska revival, and the softer strains of punk rock.

New wave peaked commercially in the late 1970s and the early 1980s with numerous major artists and an abundance of one-hit wonders. After MTV was launched in 1981, the network promoted new wave acts heavily on the channel, which gave the genre a boost in popularity, but ultimately also led to its demise in the mid-80’s as it became its own anathema, no longer “new” and absorbed into the mainstream. See Stronger Than Dirt, The Microchip Revolution, and Exclamation!

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Noise or Noise Rock

Noise refers to outsider music that is expressly loud and chaotic. It often contains Industrial, Avant Garde, Punk, or Psych elements. See Commercial Suicide.


Traditional Nordic dance music is a type of traditional music or folk music that once was common in all five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden). The most typical instrument is the fiddle. In most cases normal violins are used, but there are exceptions such as the hardingfele, used in parts of Norway, that in addition to the normal four strings has a set of sympathetic strings. Other instruments that traditionally often were used are simple clarinets, mainly home-made, and later accordion.


Norteño (literally meaning “northern” in Spanish, and also known as conjunto) is a traditional style of Mexican music that originated in rural northern Mexico in the early 20th century, a form of music based largely on corridos and polka. The accordion and the bajo sexto is the music’s most characteristic instruments. Norteño is extremely popular among first-generation Mexicans in both the inner city barrios and the rural countrysides of the United States and Mexico.


Oi! is a sub-genre of punk rock that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s.The music and its associated subculture had the goal of bringing together punks, skinheads, and other disaffected working-class youth. It became a recognized genre in the latter part of the 1970s, emerging after the perceived commercialization of punk rock, and before the soon-to-dominate hardcore punk sound. It fused the sounds of early punk bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, the Clash, and the Jam with influences from 1960s British rock bands such as the Small Faces, and the Who, football chants, pub rock bands such as Dr. Feelgood, Eddie and the Hot Rods, and the 101ers, and glam rock bands such as Slade and Sweet. Although Oi! has come to be considered mainly a skinhead-oriented genre, the first Oi! bands were composed mostly of punk rockers and people who fit neither the skinhead nor punk label.


Pop music is a sub-genre of popular music. Pop music may be distinguished from classical or art music and from folk music, but since the term spans many rock, hip hop, rhythm and blues (R&B), country, dance and operatic pop acts, it is reasonable to say that “pop music” is a loosely defined category. See The Lounge Show, Off The Beatle Path, Roses and Thorns, TeXchromosome Radio and Exclamation!


Post-Punk / No Wave

Late 70’s music which helped to shape the direction of Punk Rock, Industrial, and New (or Nu) Wave music by rejecting genre limitations, incorporating Noise, dissonance and atonality while often reflecting an abrasive, confrontational, and nihilistic world-view. See Bloodstains From The Grave, Stronger Than Dirt and Beat Happenings.


Post-rock is a form of experimental rock characterized by a focus on exploring textures and timbre over traditional rock song structures, chords, or riffs. Post-rock artists are often instrumental, typically combining rock instrumentation with electronics. The genre emerged within the indie and underground music scene of the 1980s and early 1990s. However, due to its abandonment of rock conventions, it often bears little resemblance musically to contemporary indie rock, borrowing instead from diverse sources including ambient music, electronica, jazz, krautrock, dub, and minimalist classical.

Progressive or Prog Rock

Initially termed “progressive pop”, the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favor of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music. Technology was often harnessed for new sounds, and music became more studio oriented, rather than for the stage, creating music more for listening rather than dancing.

Key elements of Prog often include but are not limited to: 1) Abandoning the standard lengths of rock or pop songs, which sometimes has led to epic length of compositions. 2) Virtuosic playing ability. 3) Difficult time signatures or changes to time signature within a composition. 4) Very tight changes. This genre originated with UK groups like King Crimson, Yes, mid to late 70’s Pink Floyd, early to mid 70’s Genesis, and Gentle Giant, but has expanded to become a world-wide phenomenon. See Le Chateau Daddy-O, and Virtual Noise.

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Proto-punk (or protopunk) is the rock music played by garage bands from the 1960s to mid-1970s that presaged the punk rock movement. The Stooges, MC5, Death, etc. See The Radio Still Screams.

Psychedelic / Acid Rock

Genres relating to hallucinations, distortions of perception, or altered states of consciousness. See Le Chateau Daddy-O.

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Psych Rock

Psych refers to contemporary Psychedelic music, often with a darker edge informed by Punk or with Noise elements.


Punk Rock is an anti-establishment music movement that began about 1976 (although precursors can be found several years earlier), exemplified by The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. The term is also used to describe subsequent music scenes that share key characteristics with those first-generation “punks”. The term is sometimes also applied to the fashions or the irreverent “DIY” (“do it yourself”) attitude associated with this musical movement. See Bloodstains From The Grave, The Radio Still Screams, Beat Happenings.

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Rhythm and Blues was coined as a musical marketing term in the late 1940s by Jerry Wexler at Billboard magazine, used to designate upbeat popular music performed by African American artists that combined jazz and blues. It was initially used to identify the style of music that later developed into rock and roll. By the 1970s, rhythm and blues was being used as a blanket term to describe soul and funk as well. Today, the acronym “R&B” is almost always used instead of “rhythm and blues”, and defines the modern version of the soul and funk influenced African-American pop music that originated with the demise of disco in 1980. See Crate Digger’s Gold, The Dark End Of The Street, and D00MSCR0LLING.



An American musical genre, enjoying its peak popularity around the years 1900–1918. Ragtime is a dance form written in 2/4 or 4/4 time, and utilizing a walking bass, that is, the bass note played legato on the 1-3 beats with a staccato chord played on the 2-4 beats. Much Ragtime is written in Sonata form, with four distinct themes and a modified first theme appearing in the work. Ragtime music is syncopated, with the melodic notes landing largely on the off-beats.


A form of rhyming lyrics spoken rhythmically over musical instruments that typically uses a musical backdrop of sampling, scratching and mixing by disk jockeys (DJs). Rapping is one of the elements of hip hop music and was originally called emceeing. See Free Samples and Hip Hop Hooray.

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Music founded upon a rhythm style, which is characterized by regular chops on the back-beat, played by a rhythm guitarist. Reggae is an African-Caribbean style of music developed on the island of Jamaica and closely linked to the religion of Rastafarianism (though not universally popular among its members). See Jamaican Gold and Roots Train.

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Music directly imitating styles of the past.

Rock (Rock & Roll)

Also called rock ‘n’ roll, is a form of popular music, usually featuring vocals (often with vocal harmony), a strong back beat, electric guitars, and a catchy melody backed by three or four chords. See Ear Candy 2.0, Guitar Picks, Off The Beatle Path, The Clear Spot and The Singer And The Song.

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Rockabilly is the earliest form of rock and roll as a distinct style of music. It is a fusion of blues, hillbilly boogie, bluegrass music and country music, and its origins lie in the American South.


Rocksteady is ska and reggae’s often overlooked middle sibling, and the first step in the evolution of reggae.  It frequently features slower tempos than ska, as well as more vocal harmonies and heavier bass guitar. See Jamaican Gold.

Roots Rock

(See Americana).


Salsa is essentially Cuban in stylistic origin, though it is also a hybrid of various Latin styles mixed with pop, jazz, rock and R&B. Most specifically, however, salsa refers to a particular style developed by the 1960s and ’70s New York City-area Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants to the United States.

Second Line

Second line is a type of music characterized by a rhythm used in New Orleans jazz and blues music, or those who follow behind the musical members of a parade to enjoy the music. An example of second line is the rhythm of the music performed by jazz bands in New Orleans parades. See Fais Do Do.


Shoegaze (originally termed Shoegazing and sometimes conflated with Dream Pop) is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock characterized by its ethereal mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume. It emerged in Ireland and the United Kingdom in the late 1980s among neo-psychedelic groups who stood motionless during live performances in a detached, non-confrontational state. The name comes from this as well as the heavy use of effects pedals, as the performers were often looking down at their pedals during concerts.


Ska is a forerunner of reggae, combining Caribbean and American musical styles into up-tempo dance music with accents famously on the off beats.  It comes in three primary waves: 1st (Jamaica), 2nd (England), and 3rd (global). See Jamaican Gold.


Music used in the sound mix for a motion picture, play, video game, or other creative work. See Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and The Joystick Jukebox.



Soul music is a combination of rhythm and blues and gospel. Rhythm and blues (a term coined by music writer and record producer Jerry Wexler) is itself a combination of blues and jazz, and arose in the 1940s as small groups, often playing saxophones, built upon the blues tradition. Soul music is differentiated by its use of gospel-music devices, its greater emphasis on vocalists, and its merging of religious and secular themes. See Crate Digger’s Gold, The Dark End Of The Street, Darkside Daddy, and Ear Candy 2.0.

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Space Rock

Space Rock is a genre characterized by loose and lengthy song structures centered on instrumental textures that typically produce a hypnotic, otherworldly sound. It may feature distorted and reverberation-laden guitars, minimal drumming, languid vocals, synthesizers and lyrical themes of outer space and science fiction. The genre originally emerged in late 1960s psychedelia and progressive rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, and Gong who explored a “cosmic” sound. See Virtual Noise.

Surf Rock

Surf music is a sub-genre of rock music associated with surf culture, particularly as found in Southern California. It was especially popular from 1962 to 1964 in two major forms. The first is instrumental surf, distinguished by reverb-drenched electric guitars played to evoke the sound of crashing waves, largely pioneered by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, and made popular by groups like The Ventures. The second is vocal surf, which took elements of the original surf sound and added vocal harmonies, a movement led by the Beach Boys.

Dick Dale developed the surf sound from instrumental rock, where he added Middle Eastern and Mexican influences, a spring reverb, and the rapid alternate picking characteristics. The genre reached national exposure when it was represented by vocal groups such as the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. Dale is quoted on such groups: “They were surfing sounds [with] surfing lyrics. In other words, the music wasn’t surfing music. The words made them surfing songs… That was the difference… the real surfing music is instrumental.” In recent years, instrumental Surf-rock has enjoyed a resurgence, with Austin Texas as one of its beachheads. See Darkside Daddy.

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Swamp Pop

Another one of Southwest Louisiana’s main musical genres, swamp pop is more of a combination of many influences, and the bridge between Zydeco, New Orleans second line, and rock and roll. The song structure is pure rock and roll, the rhythms are distinctly New Orleans based, the chord changes, vocals and inflections are R&B influenced, and the lyrics are sometimes French. See Crate Digger’s Gold and Fais Do Do.


Swing music, also known as swing jazz, is a form of jazz music that developed during the 1920s and solidified as a distinctive style during the 1930s in the United States. Swing is distinguished primarily by a strong rhythm section, usually including double bass and drums, medium to fast tempo, and the distinctive swing time rhythm that is common to many forms of jazz.


This term has come to have two popular interpretations, the first being a description of all electronic music. The second interpretation is a style that developed from House music, which completely abandoned the influences of Disco; Techno is more mechanical and less organic.


Tejano (Spanish for “Texan”) or Tex-Mex music is the various forms of folk and popular music originating among the Mexican-descended Tejanos of Central and South Texas. In recent years artists such as Selena Quintanilla, Emilio Navaira, and Selena’s brother A.B. Quintanilla’s band, Los Kumbia Kings have transformed Tejano music from primarily a local, ethnic form of music to a genre with wide appeal in North America, Latin America, Europe, and beyond. Usually, Tex-Mex refers to more the traditional styles such as its most popular sub-genre by far, norteño music. Tejano is usually more modern and is heavily influenced by rock, cumbia, and blues.


Trance music is electronic dance music (EDM) that developed in the 1990s. Trance could be described as a melodic, more-or-less freeform style of music characterized by steady beat between 130 and 158 bpm and repeating melodic patterns. The genre is arguably derived from a combination of largely techno and house. Trance got its name from repeating and morphing beats and melodies which would presumably put the listener into a trance.

Trip Hop

Trip hop is down-tempo electronic music that grew out of England’s hip hop and house scenes. Sometimes characterized by a reliance on break-beats and a sample-heavy sound pioneered by Coldcut’s remix of Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full”, trip hop gained notice via popular artists such as Portishead, Massive Attack, Thievery Corporation, Tricky, and rock-influenced sound groups such as Ruby, California’s DJ Shadow, and the UK’s Howie B.


A term given to R&B and Soul produced in the 80s and 90s.

Western Swing

Western swing music is a subgenre of American country music that originated in the late 1920s in the West and South among the region’s Western string bands. It is dance music, often with an up-tempo beat, which attracted huge crowds to dance halls and clubs in Texas, Oklahoma and California during the 1930s and 1940s until a federal war-time nightclub tax in 1944 contributed to the genre’s decline. The movement was an outgrowth of jazz.

The music is an amalgamation of rural, cowboy, polka, folk, Dixieland jazz and blues blended with swing; and played by a hot string band often augmented with drums, saxophones, pianos and, notably, the steel guitar. The electrically amplified stringed instruments, especially the steel guitar, give the music a distinctive sound. Later incarnations have also included overtones of bebop. Western swing differs in several ways from the music played by the nationally popular horn-driven big swing bands of the same era. In Western bands, even fully orchestrated bands, vocals, and other instruments followed the fiddle’s lead.

Additionally, although popular horn bands tended to arrange and score their music, most Western bands improvised freely, either by soloists or collectively. Prominent groups during the peak of Western swing’s popularity included The Light Crust Doughboys, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, Spade Cooley and His Orchestra and Hank Thompson And His Brazos Valley Boys. Contemporary groups include Asleep at the Wheel and the Hot Club of Cowtown. See The Lonesome Stranger, Pearl’s General Store, and Under The X In Texas.

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World music is, most generally, all the music in the world. More specifically, the term is currently used to classify and market recordings of the many genres of non-western music which were previously described as “folk music” or “ethnic music”. Succinctly, it can be described as “local music from out there.” The term is used primarily as a marketing/classification device, sometimes referring to any kind of foreign music, especially in a foreign language. See The Africa Express, Geography of Sound, International Folk Bazaar, and Exclamation!


In popular music, world beat refers to any style of music which fuses folk music from non-traditional sources (essentially, outside the Appalachian folk and Celtic traditions) with Western rock or other pop influences. World beat is usually said to have begun in the mid-1980s when artists like David Byrne, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon began incorporating influences from around the world, especially Africa.

Within the next few years, world beat became a thriving sub-genre of popular music that influenced many more mainstream musicians. Some of the most commonly incorporated types of folk music include rai, samba, flamenco, tango, qawwali, highlife and raga.


One of Southwest Louisiana’s main musical genres, Zydeco sounds more like gospel or R&B, with artists adopting a James Brown kind of persona, and instrumentation involving accordion and rubboard washboard along with electrical instruments (guitar and bass), keyboards, drum-kit and horns, and are well suited to the jitterbug. See Crate Digger’s Gold and Fais Do Do.