How to Tag Hard to Categorize Music

If you happen to set up categories for your music library or you are an independent artist categorizing your own music, I am sure you have stumbled upon a song or two that you really can’t pinpoint for a main genre.  Here are a few listening tips to help you with this challenge.


What to listen for:

Rhythm and groove:  What kind of beat/groove does the song carry? Many times the rhythm section in a song will give away the emphasis for the main genre.

Texture/Sonority: There are 3 main sonorities that I listen for: Acoustic, Electric and Synthetic. Sure a lot of music will have a mixture of all 3, but more than likely, one of these sonorities will stick out more than the others.  This can aid in not only genre identification, but also the era the track is from or the influences.

Instrumentation: Listening for featured instruments and the style in which they are played can be extremely helpful.

Below are 2 examples of some hard to categorize tracks and what my process would be when tagging them.

The first track on this youtube example has a mixture of Jazz Big Band and Retro Rock elements.  It’s helpful to know the era in which this music was recorded.  This style of music was popular during the 1950s to mid-1960s and you hear these elements in contemporary tracks used for TV/Film that are sometimes labeled as “Dramedy”


Rhythm and groove:  Swing
Texture:  Acoustic/Electric: Big Band textures are most prevalent with Blues elements and light 50’s Rock textures.
Instrumentation:  Featured instruments are Big Band horns, raspy tenor sax and electric guitar with light organ.
Main Category:  Jazz
Sub Categories: Big Band, Exotica, Lounge, Retro-Rock
Music For:  Detective, Investigative, Crime Scene

This second track is a mixture of Funk, Rock-n-Roll and Surf Rock with some Jazz and Blues elements.  It is a vintage track from the ’70s.  There are many textures involved i.e. melodic electric guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar and muted guitar rhythms.  These influences put this track in a category of Vintage, Blaxploitation and Pulp film style or maybe something that you would hear in a Spaghetti Western.


Rhythm and groove:  Rock-n-Roll
Texture: Electric: Predominantly electric guitar.
Instrumentation:  Featured instrument is electric guitar.
Main Category:  Rock-n-Roll
Sub Categories:  Funk, Soul, Surf Rock, Blues Rock
Music For:  Vintage, Pulp, Detective, Retro, Blaxploitation

You may also like