The Importance of Knowing Different Genres

Today we will talk about something that not many new guitarists take the time to learn (no, its not theory). It’s genres. If you don’t know what a genre is it simply means a classification of a certain type of music such as blues. Now, when I started playing the guitar I mostly liked to play metal, but after meeting friends and other musicians I learned how important it was to learn the different genres.


There are many reasons to learn different genres. One is to learn the theory behind it and another is to simply learn the genre for musical knowledge. Hey, as the saying goes “knowledge is power”. But how do you learn different genres, and at the same there are for reasons I believe there are many ways to learn different genres.

These are the steps I use to learn about a new genre:

  1. Listen to a bit of the music
  2. Check a site or ask a friend to teach you about it
  3. Learn how to play it
  4. Learn the tricks and tips behind it
  5. Learn a couple of songs

Many of these work and you can find out other things to do as well. When you learn different music and (maybe) when you travel around someone may ask you “hey can you play such and such” you can play it for him. But just in case you don’t you can write it down and search for it. You don’t have to like all the genres you listen to but at least respect them for what they can teach you. Whenever you learn a new genre don’t say, “I am learning such and such” but instead say “I am absorbing a new form of music.”

As an example, Let’s say you are a beginning guitarist and you hear about the blues. Now you can go out to a music store or some sites and so forth and you find, and I suggest this too, a “best of” type of CD. In this case let’s make it John Lee Hooker and maybe even Muddy Waters. Check a site like this one. Or, if it’s a much more unknown type of genre (that is, it’s unknown to you by its theory and how to play it), then ask some friends who listen and play it all the time. Study everything about the genre, the theory, the history, even the sub-genres (we’ll talk about those later). As for the tricks used behind blues that is a simple thing to answer. It uses some of the most common types of tricks such as bends and slides and the tips they use behind the tricks would be to use them more emotionally. Now going back to the CD’s we got at the music store lets say we decide to learn Boom Boom by John Lee Hooker and Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters.

What Made (that genre) What?

Well that’s a big question to ask. what genre made what genre. To give a starting point in history the Spanish invented what we consider the modern guitar and so came classical and flamenco. But if you’re asking about what made a lot of the genres we have today, I would have to say I would the blues is the foundation of a lot of the genres we know. Blues made many forms of music (not all but a lot). So if you ever had to learn a single genre I would go with blues as a good starting point. Blues contains a major amount of the tricks used by today’s guitarists as well as a good deal of theory. But my suggestion is to learn anything and everything you can.

Distinguishing, Variations, Communities

Most genres have branches in which many “sub-genres” are formed by combining different theories. In blues there are forms of “sub-genres”, in this case country blues or folk blues, acoustic blues, Chicago blues, Delta blues, Texas blues, etc. These are all blues but they have different flavors. Taj Mahal is more of a country/folk blues person while guys like

Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker (even though they experimented with different forms of blues) played a form of Delta blues. Jimi Hendrix too was a blues guy but he managed to combine blues with so many different other styles. In making his music, he influenced many others as well.

Tips And Tricks (and other genres to check out)

Look at all the old stuff, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and so forth. And whenever you’re jamming with other guitarists ask them what they listen to and check it out. Also check out who are their role models. To wrap up, the major thing is that in order to be a versatile guitarist you must be stretch you knowledge. Learn as many genres as you can. Then learn to incorporate them into your own style of playing.