Classification of music


Music is a form of art that uses sound to pass on the message. Its basics include pitch; which determines the melody and harmony, the rhythm and related aspects such as beat, articulation and meter, vibrations, consistency and resonance. The word music is derived from the Greek word mousike which means art of muse. Some of the aspects of music such as the way it is created and performed, defined and its significance vary from one society to another. The division of music can be done into genres and subgenres. Music can also be classified as fine art, drama art and aural art (Ripani, 2006). This paper looks at the classification of music into various categories depending on the creation, performance and relevance. With the classification of music into Gospel or Christian music, Jazz music and Rhythm and blues (R&B) music, music can be used to serve various purposes.

Gospel or Christian music is that of music written for the purpose of expressing individual or societal belief in Christianity. It offers a Christian musician a chance to enter the secular world of music. The way gospel music is created, performed, and defined as well as its relevance depends on the societal settings and culture. Its composition and performance is meant to serve many purposes which include spiritual, ceremonial, and artistic delight. It can also serve to entertain people in various contexts. However, the major goal of gospel music is to praise and worship God as well as offering gratitude to Him (Cusic, 2002).

There are various genres of Gospel music and they include urban contemporary music, Christian country music, and southern gospel among others. Urban contemporary gospel music is also called black gospel so as to differentiate it from other types of gospel music like contemporary music and gospel rock.

Christian country music often known as country gospel music is the type or subgenre of Christian music which incorporates style of country music. It is also commonly known as inspirational country. Country gospel has developed to major country inspirational music with constructive country music lyrics. The Christian country became more popular in the mid 1990s.  This is the time when musicians like Charlie Daniels and Larry Gatlin started to record country music which carried Christian message. However, the popularity of the country gospel became low due to misappropriation of funds in its Christian Country Music Association (CCMA). The association also faces other challenges including leadership wrangles.

The other subgenre of gospel music is the southern gospel which is also known as quartet music because it originally had all male singers. Southern gospel music focuses on the present challenges in life and how God helps in soling the challenges. This kind of music relies greatly on harmonies which are of broad varieties and they include very low bass and tenor. The tastes of Southern gospel vary from traditional quartet music to very sharp sounds.

In modern Christian music, there are several features that have been incorporated into the composition and performance of Gospel music. For example, presently, gospel music has taken the rhythm of other types of music including R&B, rock, reggae and hip-hop. This has changed the soft texture of the traditional gospel music. The reason as to why this takes place is because the musicians are focusing on the young people who are the main fans of such kinds of music. For example, the modern gospel singer Kirk Franklin uses the R&B rhythm in his gospel songs such as Imagine me.

The gospel music is being appreciated greatly in many areas of life. There are many occasions where gospel music performance takes place especially in churches and other religious functions where gospel musicians perform. However, modern day gospel musicians face many challenges with some of them leaving gospel music for other genres of music. Other musicians are also involved in singing a wide range of music including gospel music. For example, musicians like R Kelly have perfumed some gospel music whereas they are known for secular music.

Jazz music can be traced back to 20th century in New Orleans. It is defined as that kind of music that came up as a result of confrontation of black Americans with the European music.  Its emergence also took place in North America in areas such as Kansas and Saint Louis. Some of the features of West Africa folk were incorporated in the American Jazz. The jazz music and Blues remain the America’s greatest achievements in culture. They normally serve the purpose of airing the American experience. Some of the messages carried in the jazz music include liberty, innovation and the identification of America around the world. The creation of jazz music is not based on tune choice but rather on idea of a person; created in the mind and motivated by one’s ambition. Jazz music has a distinctive expression which is derived from experience in life and the feelings. This acts as the motivation for creativity which in turn offers a chance for the history of people to be recorded.

The traditional jazz was mainly created in the New Orleans. It was mainly played in clubs and in extravagant funeral ceremonies especially in the community of African Americans. The marching bands were common and their instruments came to be the fundamental instruments for jazz music. For example, the buddy Bolden is regarded as the earliest jazz singer. He had played in New Orleans back in 1900. There are no records of Buddy Bolden but several other artists have recorded the Buddy Bolden Blues. The earliest jazz music recorded on 1917 is that of the Original Jazz Band. During the same year other several jazz music songs were recorded (Riggs, 2008).

Other types of jazz music depending on the year of creation include bebop, hard bop, modal jazz and swing music which was the work famous swing big bands. There are many individuals who boosted the growth of the band and they include Cab Calloway, Count Basie and others. The famous leader of the band who was also a singer and trumpeter is Louis Armstrong who created earlier kind of jazz. Swing music also included dance. It gave musicians opportunities to improve their performances. Major instruments used in jazz music include guitar of steel strings, violin and double bass. There are steps through which jazz music has undergone through to its present form.

Cool jazz replaced the earlier forms of jazz and it had calm and smooth features characterized with long jazz melodies. This type of jazz originated from New York City due to combination of the styles of white and black jazz musicians. For example, the cool jazz by Chet Baker, Bill Evans, and Modern Jazz quartet is characterized with lighter beats and has avoided earlier aggressive beats. Free jazz music came up in more recent years in which tempo, meter and formal symmetry have all been avoided. On the other hand, a broad category of music from different parts of the world such as Arabia, India and Africa has been combined into a thrilling jazz music.

Rhythm and blues music, R&B consists of a variety of related music which was popularly produced by the black Americans since 1940s. This kind of music involves genres like club blues, rap, disco, jump, soul, and black rock and roll among others. It was first created in 1949 by Jerry Wexler who later became famous with Atlantic records. Rhythm and blues was introduced and its meaning is same as black rock and roll, a kind of music of black Americans done in 1950s. However, later on in mid 1950, white performers of R&B emerged with white rock and roll and they include Elvis Presley and Bill Haley (Ripani, 2006).

There are common musical and social basics in the R&B music despite the varied nature of its genres such as jump and rap blues. The musical rhythm approach is the main distinguishing factor of rhythm and blues music and its styles. Other main ways of differentiating genres of R&B music from one another include the backbeat and the particular approach towards musical time also known as groove. The other feature of R&B is timbre which refers to the quality of the musical sound. For instance, a person listening to music is able to differentiate between a guitar and a saxophone. It also enables a person to differentiate between vocalists. In most cases R&B depends on the variation of timbre during performance in order to attain an interest. The other main feature of R&B music is that the singers and instrumentalists alternatively move from calm, soft timbres and harsh, rasping timbres, and this gives the music a variety of emotional lexis.

R&B music has grown very much and these days there are several R&B singers, both men and women, who have come up with various styles of performances. It is an industry characterized of competition among the artists themselves as each of them is trying to outdo others. The kind of message in this music varies; however, it is commonly about love. Nevertheless, it is being claimed that most of the messages advocate for lust and true love is not the subject. This is supported with factors like the scandals that most R&B singers face. For example, there have been cases of abuse labeled against R&B musician Akon. However, the main purpose of R&B music is to entertain and give the relaxation feelings associated with the softness of R&B music.


Music as a form of art serves functions like entertainment and for passing on messages to the society. However, the composition, performance and relevance of music vary from place to place depending on culture and societal settings of different communities. With this kind of variations, music can be classified into various groups among them Gospel or Christian music, Rhythm and Blues(R&B) music and Jazz music. These different categories of music have originated from different cultures and they have distinctive features different from each. There are many changes that have taken place since the emergence of each type of music. However, music has improved greatly especially in terms of composition and performance.



Riggs, K. Jazz Music: The World of Music. The Creative Company, 2008.

Cusic, D. The sound of light: a history of gospel and Christian music.

Hal Leonard Corporation, 2002.

Ripani, R. J. The new blue music: changes in rhythm & blues, 1950-1999. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006.


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