The "Genrelization" Syndrome

What is the best way to break free from genres stereotypes and to tap into the boundless creative energy each one has to offer?

Ultimate Guitar

What is music and what defines the epitome of music? While this may be an entirely subjective question which would unsurprisingly generate many opinionated and possibly bigoted responses, the truth is not that far out as we think. Since the very magical birth of music, it has inevitably experienced evolution. As human intellect manifests itself in the development of societies and the cultural integration of societies, certain forms of music included, excluded, fused and refused certain elements of itself and of other forms of music to make it entirely unique.

This gave rise to the syndrome of what I like to call genrelization. What separates the old-school from the new, the traditional to the avant-garde? Boogie-woogie, Swing, Jazz, Rock, Metal, Punk, Baroque, Romantic, Classical, Surf, New Wave, and the list would go on and on. Not to mention sub-genres, like Black Metal, Trash Metal etc.

While the original intent for genrelization is really for convenience it soon became a limiting factor for all musicians, instead of musical fusion, there is musical segregation. Musical fusion probably happens as a way to curb falling record sales, (e.g. Rap-metal, Nu-metal), or only if inspiration strikes you hard in the head. We start thinking about fusing genres together only if there is a need, rather than treat this as something as essential to us as musicians. Thinking and applying how to fuse genres together should be as important as honing your chops as guitarists, but this time, you do it as a musician, irrespective of what genres or instrument you are most comfortable with.

What are the five different factors which define a great band/musician or whatever, here we'll look at them and I'll state which genre or artist accentuate this the most. The key to musical fusion is to study the good points of different genres and apply it into your own music.

  • Relevance:

    (Genres: General Rock, Punk)

    Firstly, the success of pop and rock was mainly due to its relevance and its ability to be accessible to the hearts and minds of its fans. The success of Psychedelia was mainly due to the hippie counter-culture and punk, the political awareness of the youth during the 70s. It is indeed nice to put on a sex pistols record and say man, that's something I can relate to.

  • Virtuosity

    (Genres: Jazz, Metal. Artists: Vai, Satch, Al Di Meola)

    What better way to wow a crowd than to have that insane drum, guitar, bass solo? Be it Neil Pert from Rush or Flea from RHCP, virtuosity inevitably raises the bar of your specific instrument by another level. This would also gain you respect from seasoned players and admiration from non-players. You know when people say Hendrix is God!, that's the kind of status you enjoy when you become very skilled in your particular instrument.

  • Soul:

    (Genres: Blues, Soul. Artists: Stevie Ray Vaughan)

    Its not the scales or techniques you use sometimes, its how you use them. Don't you think that double stop would fit in better if you hit it harder? Or that bend sound much more soulful if you bend it up slower? Its all a matter of dynamics and the way you are able to get your listeners soul, shake it, turn it inside out, and let every single emotion pour out of them? A good way to build up this is just to spend more time with your girlfriend. Nuff said

  • Innovation:

    (Artist: Tom Morello)

    Its about Leaving a big sonic footprint in the history of your particular instrument. Sweeps, tapping all came from someone; Innovation makes your name permanently etched into the Hall of Fame of your particular instrument. No matter how much your music sucks, a music teacher still has to mention your name whenever he introduces about a move or technique you came up with to his students.

  • Musicianship:

    (Genres: Progressive, Classical Music. Artists: Mozart, Beethoven, Robert Fripp, Steve Howe)

    Just when you're feeling cocky when you wrote that four minute song with your four piece band and along comes Beethoven with his 50 odd band members composing a symphony 70 minutes long single-handedly and leaves you leaves you thinking, What the heck.. Musicmanship is about conjuring melodic soundscapes and making a song called Autumn feel like Autumn (i.e. Vivaldi and his four seasons) .

    So I hope that was useful and at least give you a rough guide on what are the 5 elements which makes a good musician. Relevance, Virtuosity, Soul, Innovation and Musicmanship.

  • 8 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Great article didn't mention John Petrucci or any Dream Theater member when you made reference to Progressive music... Even though they have "A Change Of Seasons"... Anyways, great article!
      *Truly Ninja*
      I really liked this article! Thanks for not just restating things frigginjerk has already said, as many others do. :-D But could you leave out Jonny Greenwood as an Innovator?
      Cool article. But I can't help feeling Virtuosity and Musicianship are kinda one in the same. Meh, oh well.
      yeah, i think i forgot to put a certain Zuwade Zumbawawa from Nigeria somewhere in the article, seriously, its pointless to say hey! you left this guy out, you left that band out.....yeah but i was already writing this article when I saw Frigginjerk's but yeah, thank God the stuff which I wrote is at least different from his.....
      A triumph! Haha, seriously though, a nice article. I like the bit about Beethoven, very funny. But, it makes one think, and I think that's the thing that makes it a success.
      Good article. But, IMO, I feel people over use the term 'musician'. Not everyone who plays an instrument is a musician, just like not everyone who can pound a nail is a carpenter. Or, cook a hamburger, a chef. I've worked in studios where an arranger handed all the members of an orchestra thier respective parts, and the recording was complete after two tries!! 'Musicians' are people that sustain thier existance through playing their instrument. And that does not mean 'you're still alive because your instrument keeps you from killing yourself' it means it is how you make your living. I'm not there yet, but I'm trying like a muh fuh Peace, or War or what ever