Talking about Music in English
If you are reading this post it is because you love music and you are passionate about talking about it.
But speaking only one language limits you and you would like to talk about music in English.
If you feel that your lack of knowledge in English is preventing you from having conversations about music, then don’t worry. We have the solution.
We’ve already talked about the most common idioms you can find in songs. And we have a guide to help you improve your vocabulary with familiar music. We also have useful posts on how you can learn English with songs, music videos and the latest hits.
In this blog, we’ll teach you the terms you need to know to have a basic conversation about music.
The most popular music genres
Classical music has been playing for centuries. It usually refers to music created in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries or earlier.
Most classical music such as concerto (“concerto”), symphony (“symphony”) and fugue (“fugue”) do not have lyrics. An important characteristic of classical music is that it is written in the form of musical notes.
Like the script of a play, it defines the tone, rhythm and coordination of different instruments in a piece of music. This means that there are fewer possibilities to modify a piece of music, unlike the other genres mentioned here.
This category of music was created at the beginning of the 20th century. Its most important characteristic is the use of brass instruments such as the saxophone and improvisation (modifying the music while playing).
This type of music was developed in New York in the 1970s. Its main characteristics are rhythmic, fast and repetitive lyrics, along with rhythmic music.
Electronic music uses digital tools and electronic instruments to create songs and music. It is quite popular in our time and its sound is artificial. This genre is sometimes called EDM or “electronic dance music”.
Rock music began in the 1950s in the United States. Its most notable characteristics are the use of the electric guitar and the “rock band” culture where the band as a whole is more important than the solo singers (unlike pop music).
This category was also born in the 1970s in the suburbs of the United States and became world famous for its dance culture. Its characteristic vocal effects and electronic synthesizers are still used in many songs today.
Fusion music is the blending of two or more genres to create a new style of music. It usually refers to the blending of so-called “Western” music and the musical characteristics of other traditional music such as classical Indian or Chinese music.
Pop music is popular music. It is the category of music that produces the highest sales. The common elements of all pop music are that its lyrics and music are simple, easy to sing along to and has some catchy repetitive elements.
Unlike all the other genres we have seen so far, this one emerges from the rural areas of the United States. Its most recognizable sound is that of a regular guitar along with a special jib in the lyrics and vocals.
The goal of these songs is to convey a message in a clear way and tell a story. Their most distinctive features are twang and yodeling (yodeling), two forms of singing influenced by the accents you will find in the southern regions of the United States.
“Feeling blue” means feeling sad and down, and this musical genre attempts to turn that feeling into song.
It emerged in late 19th century America in the African-American community and is known for its repetitive lines and brass instruments. It had a great impact on the jazz and country genres.
Meaning: This genre was created in Jamaica by mixing blues and calypso (a musical form of Jamaica). It is known for its unconventional sound and lyrics that speak of social problems.
Meaning: Like pop music, it is not just pigeonholed into one style of music. Indie music is not produced by major record labels that usually produce the majority of well-known songs. This allows indie bands to experiment more and create their own style of music.
Terms to talk about music in English
The rhythm (beat) of a song is the regular repetitive sound. This beat is usually defined as the speed and pulse of the song. If you ever notice that you are tapping your fingers or tapping your feet while listening to music, it means that you are probably following the beat.
A song with a faster beat is usually seen as a more energetic, happy or even angry song. A slower tempo gives the feeling of calm, sadness and peace.
Tempo is the speed at which a particular piece should be played. It defines the rhythm and is usually measured in “beats per minute” or BPM. As mentioned above, a higher BPM gives the feeling of more energy and most pop songs have a high BPM.
Example: I like to listen to slow-tempo songs when I need to relax.
I like to listen to slow-tempo songs when I need to relax.
An “upbeat” song or piece of music is when it has a happy, upbeat sound. Most of these songs also have upbeat lyrics and are composed to provoke these feelings in their audience.
A musical note is a small part of sound that has a specific pitch. A note is the building block that makes up any song, with or without words. You can think of them like syllables in music.