What Are the Four Major Types of Music?

Music is emotion. Music lifts you up, reaches deep down, and awakens the soul. No matter the style, genre, or age, music is for everyone. Music helps us relax, express our emotions, or can be a source of entertainment.

Music is all around us. It is in movies, television, and advertising. Music is even in textbooks. But have you ever stopped to think about exactly what types of music exist? There is pop, country, rock, and jazz, but what else?

You can listen to just about anything at any time of the day. There are genres that range from classical and jazz to rap and country, so it is hard to categorize music into just one category. But one thing can be said for sure: there are countless types of music, and at some point, most of us have been exposed to all of them.

Your favorite song has a rhythm that makes it feel catchy, a beat that makes you want to tap your feet or bob your head. But what makes a song such an engaging and unforgettable piece of music?

There are four major types of music:


An ethnomusicologist studies the connections between music and culture. In recent decades, the field of ethnomusicology has expanded to include the study of how music, sound, and music-making shape social and cultural processes. The field of ethnomusicology continues to innovate and grow in exciting directions.

While the moniker “progressive” can conjure up psychedelic guitars and amplified mayhem images, progressive music has had a much more static and slower quality. (Think about classical pianists playing Bach.) Similarly, ethnomusicology, a branch of the discipline that studies music in non-Western cultures, has had a more sedate and linear trajectory, moving from the study of traditional music forms to more contemporary genres.


According to Wikipedia, strophic involves singing two or more phrases in a row and then repeating them successively. Strophic songs often featured homophonic rhythms; that is, the same beat was sung on each phrase.

Strophic is a musical form consisting of an aphoristic, often didactic, or moralistic verse, and often accompanied by a complex, typically contrapuntal refrain. The melody is usually short and is frequently repeated, and the accompanying instrumental texture is usually polyphonic, consisting of several instruments. Strophic songs are often sung unaccompanied or with only one or two instruments.


Iterative in ethnomusicology (ITEM) refers to the evolving nature of a music tradition. Music traditions are dynamic, meaning that there are changes occurring on a regular basis. These changes can be the result of outside influence, natural change, or internal factors within the music tradition. Natural change can be influenced by changes in technology, new instruments, or stylistic shifts. External influences can include changes in music taste, recordings, or new styles and trends.

In iterative ethnomusicology, asking questions repeatedly is considered a good thing. “Iterative” here does not refer to a cyclical process of asking and answering the same questions but rather to a process of asking a new set of questions each time, each time expanding upon the last.


With the reverting musical form, it is about the “restatement of a phrase after a contrasting one” which differs slightly from the Iterative form mentioned above. In ethnomusicology, we may sometimes hear people talking about “the music of the people” or “the music of our culture,” but what exactly does “the music of the people” mean? Often, they mean music that belongs to the particular people of a particular place—music that is sung, played, danced, or chanted by a particular group. (Or sometimes, it simply means music they like, with no particular connection to any cultural group.) However, for ethnomusicologists, what people really mean is “the music of the people that lived and practiced at the same time and space as me.”

Ethnomusicology is the study of music and cultural practices, and among practitioners, it is not uncommon for research to include community service. In many rural settings, there are musicians who do not have access to the performance and education opportunities often available to musicians in cities. But rarely do those musicians have the opportunity to share their music with people who live in those same rural areas.