I am struggling to understand in music, when analysing songs, what is meant by 'style'. I know it is different to musical structure. I'm having trouble getting my head around it, can anyone help and give examples of say music of the 1930s, 40s, 50s etc as I know these reasonably well. Thanks for your help.

UPDATE Thanks everyone, many said it would be more helpful if I gave examples to make my question clearer about 'style' so say in the 30s and 40s where popular music then was mostly jazz (= 'genre'), is this the 'style' ? For example: favourites like 'I'm dreaming of a White Christmas' or 'Blue Skies' or 'You're the Top', they are all similar jazz songs but what would you call their 'style'? Many thanks.

  • Do you mean style like a flavor of a genre?
    – Emil
    May 14 at 7:03
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    I think you need to have a quote of what is hard to understand, style feels like one of those overloaded words that depend on context.
    – Emil
    May 14 at 7:10
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    I mean the style of the performer might also be a thing, like flamboyant or with lots of ornamentation...
    – Emil
    May 14 at 7:24
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    @Juliet "Style" and "genre" are often used interchangeably. Toward a more specific answer to your question, would you please suggest two pieces of music you know well.
    – Aaron
    May 15 at 6:27
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    Welcome! This question is not answerable right now, because while we might use the word "style" when talking about music, it doesn't have a narrow music-specific meaning, the way "fermata" or "crotchet" do. Any dictionary entry might be applicable here. If you're asking because you found the word in your reading, or someone asked you to identify "style," please edit the question to give the context that you found. May 15 at 12:44

2 Answers 2


Style can be referring to epoque, centuary, composer, singer or band, different pop features or jazz, ethno, geography. So you can say a piece is in gregorian church, renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, 20th centuary.

In band-in-a-box you find 100 different styles to make your music be played.

In summe style is an etiquette that means some special musicfeatures of rhythm, melody, harmony, instrument etc. and performance that are common with other well known music.


Style is an extremely broad concept that includes melody, harmony, rhythm, structure, orchestration, etc. There are not clean definitions of style, but more or less specific descriptions that describe groups of music — groupings that become fuzzy the closer one looks, because within those groups, any subgroup of pieces may have certain differentiating characteristics from each other and certain characteristics associating any one piece with some other style.

Even taking just the 1950s as an example, there was serialism, indeterminate music, rock-n-roll, country, Indian classical, Gamelan, Catholic liturgical, Lutheran hymns, gospel, rhythm and blues, Delta blues, Chicago blues, bebop, post-bop, free jazz, cool jazz, bubble-gum pop, folk, bossa nova, etc. And all of these had elements in common with the others. For example, certain indeterminate pieces are largely indistinguishable from free jazz at the level of performance, and the difference might only be who created the piece and whether they're considered a classical or jazz musician — a rather arbitrary way to define style.

In short, one can't give examples of "the 50s style". The question would have to be more specific: "What constitutes the general style of 1950s Billboard Top 40 songs?" And even that is immediately going to run into trouble. So, perhaps: "What characteristics are most commonly associated with the greatest hits of the 1950s?" Well, here are the year-end top hits of 1955 according to Billboard:1

  1. "Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White", Perez Prado (YouTube)
  2. "Rock Around the Clock", Bill Haley & His Comets (YouTube)
  3. "The Yellow Rose of Texas", Mitch Miller (YouTube)
  4. "Autumn Leaves", Roger Williams (YouTube)

Based on the diversity of music just in those four, I think anyone would be hard pressed to discern a unifying 1950s style, or even a 1955 style.

Style is slippery.

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    I read the mention of decades not as styles but as periods from which to choose examples, which you have. The asker might find the following additions to your list very helpful: 1. Genre: Latin Jazz, Style: Big Band Mambo. 2. Genre: Rock n Roll, Style: Boogie-Woogie. 3. Genre: Folk/Traditional, Style: Concert Band (?). 4. Genre: Jazz, Style: Ummm...? Classical? May 16 at 23:16
  • Thanks. so say in the 30s and 40s where popular music then was mostly jazz (genre), is this the 'style' ? For example: favourites like 'I'm dreaming of a white Christmas' or 'Blue Skies' or 'You're the Top', they are all similar jazz songs but what would you call their 'style'?
    – Juliet
    May 19 at 5:45

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