Is there anybody in the world who knows what's the difference between genre and style in music? In wikipedia there are articles: list of music genres and list of music styles, but when we go to a particular page of music style we will often see something like: "Name of musical style - is a musical genre ...".

  • There is a nice explanation on E-how.com
    – THelper
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 10:34

8 Answers 8


These words are very dependent on the context, and in many cases, they can even be treated as synonyms. That's one reason why you see them being used interchangeably: in case there is no possible confusion, either word can be used.

One way to look at it

I am not completely sure if this is the correct way to look at it, but I've always seen it like this: genre is much more broad than a style. A style can be seen as a subdivision of a genre.

For instance, rock music is a genre. Alternative rock, progressive rock and orchestral rock are styles of rock music.

This is not completely set in stone though, so don't shoot somebody when they say progressive rock is a music genre. :-) You'll see the terms being used interchangeably quite often, simply because their meanings are so closely related.

Another way to look at it:

A "genre" is the word for a categorization, so rock music, progressive rock, etc are all genres. Think of a genre as a label.

A "style" is what you call a specific element of the music. For instance, David Gilmour's guitar playing style is melodic with lots of string bends.


For practical purposes, the two words are mostly interchangeable.

Style: sometimes people say "style" to refer more to the conventions of rhythm, harmony, melody, arrangement and production that might be associated with music of a particular type, from a particular area, or of a particular genre. Because of this you can hear people say things like, "I consider myself a contemporary electronic/dance artist, but I draw alot of my inspiration from the funk style of the 80's."

Genre: genre has a slightly more taxonomical meaning, in that it usually relates to an attempt to group music into somewhat arbitrary structurally related genres and sub genres. I say arbitrary because music is not science and any system of classifying must be at least partially subjective. For instance, at the highest level you might distinguish between instrumental and vocal music. Or between broad groups such as pop, rock, metal, world, concert/classical, jazz/blues/r&b, funk/motown. Each of these has quite a few sub genres. And there is a great deal of "overlap" and borrowing going on. There are heavy metal guitar players who play classical violin etudes, for example. But in the event of genre-crossing, the genre classification tends to be made on the basis of the audience it's aimed at. Although some metal fans may be open to hearing classical music on electric guitar, this kind of performance of classical repertoire is not often heard in the concert hall and so you might say that the average listener of classical music is somewhat uninterested in hearing this type of interpretation of classical music.


Genre means "type" or "category". It refers to broadly defining aspects shared by musical compositions, most often aspects of the music's instrumentation or its particular use, ethnicity etc. - e.g. popular, rock, punk rock; Latin-American music, samba, tango; jazz, trad jazz, bee-bop, improvisatory jazz; classical, orchestral, symphonic music, symphonic poem; concerto, violin-concerto; music for one performer; piano-music, piano-duet music; dance-music, ballet-music, waltz, nocturne, march; music for voice, opera, choral music, vocal-quartet music, Broadway musical, film-music ETC. ETC.

Style refers to characteristic features of how music (of a certain era, or within some particular genre) is played or expected to sound, i.e. its actual musical content - the set of expected musical patterns, mannerisms, expressive devices it conventionally makes use of. "Baroque", "Classical", denote differing styles that are recognizable by their own characteristic musical idioms. Jazz, while constituting a genre, also qualifies as a style (or group of more specific styles), since it makes use of particular performance idioms and techniques. "Sonata" similarly denotes both a genre and a particular style that is defined by an expected formal succession of events or architectural plan. "Free-style" implies a composition is not built on any predetermined architectural plan or incorporates a diversity of arbitrarily chosen stylistic idioms.


GENRE (in music) is the bed-rock, the DNA if you will, that a derivative style is derived from. Eg. Rock and Roll, is a STYLE of BLUES MUSIC. The derivative style must elementarty depart from a genre to become a genre of it's own.

All types of Rock and Roll are derivative styles (styles derived from a genre) Rock and Roll does not depart deeply enough from The Blues to be a musical genre of it's own. Rock and Roll utilizes call and response tropes, polyrhythm, synchopation, is played in a purcussive manner and generally follows the 12 or 8 bar Blues form and the 1, 4, 5 chord progression. Therefore, Rock and Roll is a STYLE not a genre. (The giant list of derivative musics referred to as GENRES is mind boggling and rooted in consumerism) 80's music IS NOT A MUSICAL GENRE. Either is Trance, House, Funk, Trip-Hop, Hip Hop, jazz fusion, country rock, blues rock,disco, ect ect (ad nauseum). Blatent consumerism has distorted these designations for commercial purposes. Perhaps they would be better termed as LABELS and not styles of genres (JON-RAHS) at all. So, basically there are very few true musical genres. Most often, when one uses the term genre they are actually referring to a DERIVATIVE STYLE.

Classical music is a genre. Polka, waltz, concertos, symphony, sonata, suite, étude, symphonic poem, opera, are all derivative styles of European classical music. One must examine the form and instrumentation of a music to help in determining whether it is a style or genre. Jazz is a genre. Meaning it has departed far enough from it's blues roots to become a genre of it's own. Folk music is a genre. True folk music of the world has been kept from the distortions and derivations of commercialism. Folk music has remained pure. What it boils down to is this, if a music has remained pure in form it continues to be referred to a GENRE, once it gets cross pollinated and and "crossed over" it becomes a derivative style.

  • 4
    "Polka, waltz, concertos, symphony, sonata, suite, étude, symphonic poem, opera, are all derivative styles of European classical music." I strongly disagree. These are musical forms, but not styles. Classical styles are more often closely related to era and region than to form or instrumentation. An Early Baroque Italian Violin Concerto will be more similar, stylistically, to an Early Baroque Italian Opera Aria than it will be to another Violin Concerto from, say, the German Late Romantic. Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 19:25

The two words can be quite identical to the meaning it gives to set a musical term for the music performed or composed. So...

Genre: meaning the identification to an original musical form that may also relate to an era and or place of reference, e.g.; SAMBA, BAIAO, CLASSIC, ROCK, SALSA, BRAZILIAN, LATIN, JAPANESE, etc

Style: meaning the variation from the original (from a genre) that carries on the interpretation or instrumentation used, e.g; *BOSSA NOVA, FORRO, BAROQUE, RAGGAE, LAMBADA, HEAVY ROCK, etc.

  • Bossa nova, or Bossa as it's communally addressed, is an style originated from the Samba culture in Brasil that can now also be addressed as a genre. Sub variations on this genre/style include bossa-jazz, jazz-bossa, etc.

Rock music is not a musical genre. Rock music is a derivitive style. Blues is a genre. Rock music is derived from Blues. The word genre is bandied about quite a lot these days...as a consumerist label. For a style to become a genre, it must represent a distinct departure from the genre it is derived from. Rock music has not done that. Rock music (and all of it's derivitive styles still employs and has not departed from the blues form (go ahead look it up). Rock music employs, or has exploited... A. Percussive performance. B. LIBERAL use of the Blues form. C. Call and response tropes. Therefor rock music is not a GENRE. Rock music is a derivative style of Blues.

  • 3
    This is interesting. How much does a style have to diverge from its origin before it becomes its own genre? E.g., are any of pop, disco, funk, jam, techno, industrial, metal, EDM, or rap separate genres or are they all still derivative styles that are descendents of blues? What makes blues not a derivative style of the Muslim call to prayer? Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 16:04

genre is an umbrella, and styles are under the umbrella, sometimes styles are simply called sub genres so the two names means one thing, Jazz is genre while Classic Jazz, Bebop, Ragtime, acid, Swing, avante garde, dixieland, ragtime etc are just styles or subgenres. Blues is a genre while Detroit, Memphis,chicaco,st louis,boogie woogie, hill country etc are sub genres or styles


Genre is defined by origin or commission. The symphony, concerto, divertimenti are examples of genre within western classical music. The composer was commissioned to write a symphony for a dance or private social function. They symphony changed in style and form over time and throughout eras. The divertimenti is another example of a genre. The composer was commissioned to create these for open-air incidental music at a function. It required a different range of instruments and a different form too. The Blues saw the birth of popular music. I would class it as the first style of popular music, popular music being the genre. The Blues, it is true is far more distinguishable because it began so far from its African roots, and with contrasting motives. As migration developed after the civil war, different styles of music developed as a result of fusion with different cultures in the US e.g. bluegrass, folk-blues, and then eventually jazz, rock, reggae etc. These are styles. Musical Theatre is a genre, although many different styles can be performed within it. Film music is a genre, although many different styles of music can be performed within it.

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