From what I can gather, most music besides some specific genres is based on top of a background beat layer. I happen to be one of the (apparently) few people with a strong dislike of any kind of repetitive beat (I find it painful and too occlusive of the actual melody), and have trouble finding music without it.

When searching for music, I've used the terms "beatless", "no beat(s)", and similar variations with very little success.

Do you know any specific qualifier one could use to search for music with strictly no percussion ? Not even light, quiet percussion.

If you know about specific genres that are characterized by their absence of beats, I'm also interested. Especially electronic music.
EDIT : the "ambient" and "drone" genres have already been mentioned below

  • 3
    It's hard to tell whether you mean you object to 'modern dance music' based on boom/thwack/boom/thwack ad nauseum, or whether Ravel's Bolero would also be included. You've got to give us more to go on.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 2, 2020 at 18:30
  • Good point, this is worth an edit to remove any ambiguity : what I'm looking for is a term indicating the notably strict absence of any kind of percussion. I know some are very soft to the ear (and Ravel's Bolero's certainly apply), but I'm willing to err on the side of intolerance since what I'm after is the term, not good music in general.
    – jwav
    Oct 2, 2020 at 18:45
  • I always said about my classes that they would mean singing without percussion is like "salad without sauce". Like that I could sing with them "du holde Kunst" by Schubert with bass drum, hi-hat, snare. Maybe "salad without sauce" is the key. Oct 2, 2020 at 19:23
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    Posting this question to the Music Fans SE might also garner some helpful answers.
    – Aaron
    Oct 2, 2020 at 20:10
  • Good point. After spending some time on this stackexchange I realize that my question seems a little more appropriate for musicfans than here since it is not about practice/technique. Still, I'm hoping that someone here can point me to something like an obscure term known only to some connoisseurs :)
    – jwav
    Oct 3, 2020 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


I don't know of a specific term for "absence of percussion music", but there certainly are some genres which are known to avoid the use of percussive instruments and of any pronouced beat, in very different styles.

Try ambient music, a genre I believe was created or at least much codified by Brian Eno's album "ambient music for airports"

For even less notes you can look for drone music, wich is based on a single note and modulations of the timbre (mostly synthesisers)

(sorry, most of what i find on youtube is "for relaxation..." but I believe drone music is a genre in itself)

another path could be some traditionnal musics, for example maqams, which have obviously underlying rythm but insist more on the feel of the scale. Here is one of my favorite albums :

If you like the last example, you need to check this youtube channel : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChFYEy5Ni_3WC7pf8QWT7IQ

Other traditional styles wich seem "rythmless" include Indian Ragas, most Japanese Sakuhachi pieces, and many other I don't know of yet

There are plenty of music genres around the world which have a "secondary" relation towards rythm, these are only a few.

Hope I got your question right

  • 1
    Thank you for the suggestions, I'm currently listening to Munir Bashir :) . I'm already familiar with the "ambient" genre which is widely, but not 100% beatless.
    – jwav
    Oct 3, 2020 at 11:36

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