Genre Explained - The Truth About Genres 

There’s a ton of genres, subgenres and even subsubgenres, but in this lesson you’ll learn the truth about why none of them are real, even though they are.

Hello revolutionary music makers, we are Kate Harmony and Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony), and welcome to Hack Music Theory. We help you make great music that stands out, so you can move and grow your audience! If that sounds useful to you, then subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit that bell to get notified every Friday, when we publish our new video. Also, if you’re new to our channel, be sure to download our free book “12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords” below.

So, one of the most common questions we get is: Will your theory hacks work in my genre? As we get this question so often, we decided to dedicate a whole lesson to this genre issue. So, the answer to the question is… Yes, our hacks will work in your genre, because they work in all genres! And there you go, hope you enjoyed the lesson, and we’ll see you next week for another theory hack. Okay seriously though, the answer really is yes, but let’s explore why. So, in this lesson you’ll learn the truth about genres, then over the next few lessons we’ll analyze the music theory behind some examples that prove this truth. So if you wanna learn what Ed Sheeran’s music has in common with the metal subgenre Djent, and other such crazy but true genre facts, then be sure to subscribe and stay tuned.

Alright, first things first, why is genre so important to songwriters, producers, and music lovers in general? Well, it’s because our human brains have evolved to live in tribes, and genres create musical tribes, which in turn results in a divide between us (the insiders) and them (the outsiders). But, when you look at human history, anything that has ever created a divide between people is not good for anyone, and on the other hand, anything that brings people together is good for everyone. And it’s easy to see how music brings us together, but it’s just as easy to see how genres push us apart. Imagine two people walk past each other on the sidewalk, one’s wearing an Ed Sheeran shirt, the other’s in a Meshuggah shirt. You can guess very accurately what they’re thinking about each other, and it’s not “Hey we both love music so much we’re wearing shirts to show it, that’s awesome!”

Now, you may be thinking: Yeah but Ed Sheeran sux! That’s not the point here (and besides, there’s artists that suck in every genre), the point is: music connects us, while genres divide us. And accepting that truth will in no way diminish the enjoyment you get from your favourite genres, because when we dig deeper into the concept of genre, we find absolutely nothing wrong with it. The only problem is our attachment to, and identification with, specific genres. That’s the real issue.

Imagine how amazing the music industry would be if instead of only connecting with people in our genre, we extend our circle of compassion to include everyone. Also, genres are often born as a reaction (or an antithesis) to other genres. For example, you wouldn’t have metal if you didn’t have pop, and you wouldn’t have electronic music (played on virtual instruments) if you didn’t have organic music (played on real instruments). Just like night and day are opposites yet harmoniously coexist, so too do all genres and their opposites.

So now you know the first truth: Genre is far more about the tribe (i.e. the community and its culture), than it is about the actual music (i.e. the melodies, harmonies and rhythms). That’s why from a purely musical perspective, we can take a song in any genre and easily transform it into another genre, even its opposite. And that fact introduces the second truth: Genre also functions as music’s sonic packaging (i.e. its instrumentation and production).

Now, you may be thinking: Yeah, but genres do have musical characteristics that make them sound the way they do. And while there’s obviously an element of truth in that statement, it’s not enough to make the statement as a whole true. Here’s why: Those musical elements that people think are specific to a genre, can easily be found in other genres as well, except they’re not instantly recognizable due to a different context (i.e. a different sonic packaging). For example, that characteristic reggae rhythm (known as the skank) is often heard in EDM, but isn’t necessarily recognizable as a skank because it’s played on a synth instead of a guitar.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? As a songwriter or producer, when you free yourself from the concept of genre, you free your music and the process by which you make it, because all songs at their core are just notes. And when you understand the relationships between all the notes and how they work together (in other words, music theory), you can apply that knowledge to making music in any genre, or a combination of genres, or no genre at all. And because genres come and go just like trends, it’s a waste of time focusing too much on something as fickle as genre. Instead, focus your time and energy on writing great melodies, harmonies and rhythms, cos great music is timeless!

And lastly, we have two questions for you (please answer in YouTube comments): What’s your favourite genre? And what do you love about it? Also, please help us spread the truth about genres by sharing this lesson with your music friends. Thanks for reading, we’ll see you next week! And remember: Music connects, genre divides.

Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada


Level 1 - Read our free book (below) & watch our YouTube videos
Level 2 - Read our "Part 1" book & "Songwriting & Producing" PDF
Level 3 - Practice making music using our lessons (PDF+MIDI+WAV)
Level 4 - Learn our secret art of song-whispering & finish your music

Hack Music Theory is a pioneering DAW method for making great music that stands out, so you can move and grow your audience! Taught by multi-award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony, and his protégé wife Kate Harmony, from their studio in Vancouver BC, Canada. Ray is the author of critically-acclaimed book series "Hack Music Theory", and has made music with Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), Ihsahn (Emperor), Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic MCs), Madchild (Swollen Members), and many more! Kate has the highest grade distinction in Popular Music Theory from the London College of Music, and is the only person on the planet who's been trained by Ray to teach his method. On that note, the "Hack Music Theory" YouTube channel teaches relevant and instantly-usable music theory for producers, DAW users, and all other music makers (songwriters, singers, guitarists, bassists, drummers, etc.) in all genres, from EDM to R&B, pop to hip-hop, reggae to rock, electronic to metal (and yes, we djefinitely djent!).

© 2019 Revolution Harmony
Revolution Harmony is Ray Harmony & Kate Harmony
All content (script & music) in video by Revolution Harmony