Updated: Apr 1, 2020
What is the difference between a musical genre and a musical style?
Although genre and style are one of those words that seem familiar to us, when it comes to defining them, it makes us stop talking. Especially in the case of defining the difference between genre and style that most people use interchangeably.
Both genre and style are referring to how a music piece sounds. It can be the harmonic progression, the melody development, the orchestration, the performance expression or any other factor that affects the music sounding. In general, we call the music that sounds similar in the same genre. But we can do the same for the style too.
Style depends mostly on the performance of a piece, where genre depends on the way it has been composed and arranged.
Genre is more about the categorization of music, and style is more about its elements and mood. A single word can be used for both genre and style, but it will have different meanings. For example, let’s take the word “rock”. When we talk about a piece of music that is in the genre of rock, we are referring to the main characters of that music. It is probably a piece with a powerful rhythm played with a drum set, an electric guitar plays the rhythm and most probably a solo at some point if it’s a piece with vocals it may have a harsh sounding vocal and also a certain type of lyric. But when we are talking about a piece of music in the style of rock, we are talking about a piece that might be in any genre, but sounds like a piece of rock music in terms of rhythm or melody.
The elements that define the genre of a music piece can be considered as follows:
Instruments that are used in the piece.
The way melody sounds and develops.
The harmonic elements and its progression.
The length of the piece.
The subject of the lyric in vocal pieces.
The way music has been composed and arranged.
And we can consider these elements for defining a style:
The way a melody is performed.
The characterization of rhythmic and harmonic elements by the performers.
Different kinds of sounds that are played by each instrument.
The way music has been performed.
In general, we can say that style is more about how a piece of music sounds like and genre is about how a piece of music is categorized. Though this is not a very academic definition, it is an understandable definition.
There are a lot of musical genres and styles, you can see a complete list of them in here: