Music Genres - are they useful?

I used to try to organise my LPs and (later) CDs into genres, but eventually gave up. The problem as I see it is that, while some pieces of music and some groups/bands fall fairly well into the middle of one genre or another, most do not.
For instance, I dislike most jazz - but I like Take Five (Dave Brubeck), some of Bobby McFerrin (several of Circle Songs for instance, and some others).
I’m not too keen on Country on the whole, but there are some tracks that I really like, such as Windy and Warm (Doc Watson), Lullaby Of The Leaves (Jerry Douglas), which are described as country.
I was (and remain) unimpressed by punk - but Blondie was, AIUI, punk, and I like much of what they did.
Rap I dislike (or don’t ‘get’ or whatever) - but Grand Masterflash’s The Message is good (perhaps that isn’t Rap - but if not, why not?)
A lot of music I find difficult to put into a particular genre, and something in me rebels at the idea that music should be put into genres. I understand the utility of it, if only it were possible, but I’m not convinced that it is, generally, possible.
We seem these days to have more and more genres - splitting what was one genre into two or more others. I think that this reflects the difficulty in categorising music this way.
It’s rather like with books - categorising them by subject. Dewey tried that with the Dewey Decimal system, which (IMV) really sucks. For instance, what subject would you put a book called “The history of chemical discoveries, and their social impacts”?
Or am I just weird? Or just don’t get it? Or, maybe, expecting too much?

No, you’re not weird I could pretty much have written your post myself including likes and dislikes.

I long ago abandoned giving any credence to genres which seem to me to have more to do with marketing and can be stretched by the labels to accommodate the latest genre fad.

I simply like what I like and my taste ranges from Beethoven to Motorhead passing through most “genres” in between apart from rap and most American country.

A look at Bandcamp tags will show how meaningless genre really is. I’ll get my coat :smiley:

Yeah, at best genre can only be a guide, and there is obvious cross over blues, jazz, rock, country, Americana, folk etc. For my part my records and CDs are catalogued by A-Z by performer except for classical which are by era i.e baroque, classical, romantic. The former works well, the latter less so!



It’s all in the detail …
I stick with folders: brass band, classical, folk, Irish, modern, klezmer, Christian. This fine for the Naim app search, but Roon does its own thing - sometimes it takes me ages to find what I’m looking for on Roon, especially as I often forget names and choose by album cover.

I sometimes tag with multiple genres (“jazz”, “jazz vocal” for instance), as I do with multiple musicians per album.

‘Genres’ as tagged in CDs and downloads are of no value whatsoever in practical terms: The same piece of music might be classified as orchestral, symphony or simply classical. Something else could have a genre tag of rock, rock/pop or folk/rock. Useless.

I use very broad ‘genres’ of classical, opera, rock/pop world and other.
Rock/pop has very little pop as such, but it also has blues and folk for example, primarily because there are such overlaps. World is for things like odd ethnic music. Other is for unclassifiable. I suppose the word ‘style’ might be better than ‘genre’.

I use as high level folders for filing music, making it easy to file, sort and browse. It is also my first decision when thinking ‘what shall I listen to?’ - I start by deciding which style of music I fancy.

Just for the record. Any “blues” that’s not recorded by a black artist isn’t “blues”
Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Johnny Winter and such like should really be categoriesed as something else entirely.

I think if you see putting music into genres as a form of classification like stuffing documents into folders in a filing cabinet, there’s bound to be lots of awkward cases to sweat over. I see genres, and indeed all tags, as a means to help me find the music I want to hear. So applying multiple genres, for example, to a track or album as @RexManning suggests, solves the “hard to categorise” cases for me. The critical test is: can I find the album I want to play quickly and efficiently. It all works well for locally stored music, but rather less so for streaming from Qobuz.



That’s a very good call Beachcomber.

Over the years, this topic has now and then been debated with various friends that are very interested in music. My personal take on it is that while I consider genre to be an adequate way to organise music, I have relegated that to a subcategory within ‘Decade’.

So my music is separated into decade first, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s etc, then genre within that decade. This has generally worked quite well as most people I know understand music history enough to get the decade first then genre, or if they don’t, it can start a nice discussion about music provenance…as far as my own music knowledge can stretch.

Anyway, it probably would not work for everyone…but these days how often do guests come round to finger your record collection, just give them an iPad and they are off.


Same here

I find them somewhat useful. No use at all for cataloguing my music, but useful for filtering out stuff I have no interest in listening to e.g. rap, hip-hop, trance, house and so on

I might have contributed too vague, what I meant was that I tag albums under multiple genres. My minimserver show that album under multiple genres. But I agree, I waisted a lot of time tagging my library like that and never use genres…I know my albums well enough.

I think that currently my music is under two main categories - one that I labelled Classical (which is pretty much anything orchestral - Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Straus, Holst etc., so it includes Baroque and some fairly modern stuff) and everything else.
Within each of those I simply have things grouped by artist/band/singer for the non-classical, and by composer for classical.
I do have a couple of other folders - Irish (my wife likes that, I like some but mostly not because it mostly sounds much the same) and Old Tapes (stuff I recorded many years ago from Peel and Harris etc., and the quality is pretty rubbish).
It does mean that I have to know the band for the music I want to listen to and I’ve never been much good at remembering band names - except for ones that I have a lot of, such as Pentangle or Tangerine Dream etc.

Yes, lots of crossover, even within one track. I’ve never been sure what Americana really means, and certainly get lost with things like Acid whatever.

Perhaps some of my problem is that I haven’t tagged anything (and with over 18000 tracks it would take a while to do that). I use Picard to automatically fill in the ID3 stuff, but otherwise just put most tracks into folders named with the band/performer name and within that I have albums where appropriate. Some tracks sit in the base folder as individual tracks until I feel that they will stick around long enough to create a folder for them.

You’re joking of course?


Hmm - not sure that I would agree with that entirely. I don’t care who recorded or wrote a track, particularly. If I like it, then I play it.
What would you call Roy Buchanan, or John Mayall, for instance?

:smirk: I studied on thorough tagging and tagged al songs, around 12000, during boring evenings on an abroad assignment, I was obsessed. But…I now enjoy the fact that I exactly know which artists play along on which record.

I think that this is part of my problem. I generally group by artist name for my locally stored music. But the problem then is finding new (to me) music/groups. Track of the Day in a nearby parish is useful, though the hit rate is not high. I sometimes use Gnoosic, which can be useful. I should explore others like it (I see there is MusicRoamer, but haven’t tried it yet). Some streamers suggest similar groups, which sometimes works quite well.

I admire your dedication!