11 Popular Music Genres On Guitar

If you’re looking to expand your guitar playing repertoire, check out these popular music genres! You might just find your new favorite style of music.

Popular Music Genres

Digging Treasures from Music Genres

There are over 50 music genres, a hundred or more if we further classify it to sub-genres and styles. Out of the variety and diversity, you hear different sounds of what lies within them as a person, and that’s finding deep treasures that are truly remarkable.

A music genre is a conventional category classifying music based on shared form and style, characteristics expressed in musical language. This is highly influenced by cultural content and origins.

As a beginner, you don’t actually get to name your favorite genre right away but your influences will show the preferences you make in picking a specific song and artist. You are naturally drawn to a specific sound because you can identify with the form and style and you feel like you can express more in this genre.

You are most likely more exposed to popular music genres. These are any musical style made available to the general audience by mass distribution through public platforms.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play jazz guitar or understand the difference between a metal and country solo? This list of popular music genres will get you started to playing different styles on the guitar.

Pop Music

Pop Music is well loved by many and always tops the chart everywhere in the world. It’s truly living up to its name as the most popular genre in music. You can’t skip listening to pop music because it’s played all over the television and radios in different public places. It gathers a lot of following because of its catchy melody, appealing rhythm and likable lyrics.

Technically, pop music often, if not most of the time, uses easy chord progressions with a key mostly in major chords. It is generally marked by simple themes & structure. Just like its lyrics, major chords are mostly clear and direct in sound and message. 

It doesn’t take a genius to understand this genre, the majority can easily identify with this kind of music both in melody and lyrics. This genre aims to appeal to a general audience, focusing on love and relationships.

It’s a bit tricky though, the terms popular music and pop music are often used interchangeably. The former describes all music that is popular and the latter refers to a certain genre of popular music.

Rhythm & Blues (RnB, R&B)

RnB originated from African-American communities’ experiences and quest of freedom and joy back in the 1940s. It has greatly evolved through time mixing with other genres like soul and hip hop adapting to a softer and smoother sound of RnB. It’s funky and groovy. 

Nowadays, R&B is popular among the African American communities and has found its way to mainstream media. It’s a very popular genre that you can find in clubs and parties.

It involves complex vocal harmony, which often uses minor chords, with syncopated rhythms. Themes are mostly about love, relationships, and heartaches.


Rock is a broad genre evolving from blues to different styles of a more complex, extremely diverse numerous sub-genres. Both lyrics and its music are well crafted to express intense emotion of life struggles, social and political issues.

Music Genres

From the bluesy rock n roll sound, it evolved to glam, progressive and then to heavy metal. The latter is a sub-genre where you hear distortions, faster drum fills emphasizing volume, power and speed both from vocals and instruments.

When you think of rock, it comes with a heavy, dark sound and a heavy strumming using power chords (barre chords) most of the time.


Jazz is another African-American influenced genre. It is more complex in nature with its roots in blues and ragtime, syncopated or ragged rhythm. At a basic level, you can identify jazz with distinctive voices, bent notes, swing and improvisation as its defining elements. As a beginner, although you can’t play it, don’t skip listening to jazz to learn deep in music. 

After all, while it is characterized by complexity, the sound of jazz music has a relaxing and healing influence you would love to enjoy.


Reggae is a modern popular music genre of Jamaica easily identified with its offbeat rhythms played on a guitar or piano on the offbeats of the measure. A simple reggae rhythm is an upstroke rhythm guitar and is all about accenting beats 2 and 4, rather than 1 and 3 with muted notes. Since there are muted chords, it is best played using power chords or barre chords. 

The origins of reggae were ska and rocksteady and is noted for social criticism and religion in its lyrics. However, with reggae’s distinct sound and its tempo, this genre can give you a nice energy boost helping you to calm down and relax.

Hip-Hop and Rap

Hip-Hop is a popular music genre with rhythmic and chanted rhyming witty lyrics which started in the inner city of the United States by African-Americans. Although rap music is sometimes synonymously used for hip hop, these two are not the same. The use of guitar is not necessary for this genre because it uses electronic music but still, any song with a melody can be played on a guitar.

Hip hop music is popular among the youth. It’s often used in movies and television shows that feature urban settings.

Country Music

Country Music is often referred to as cowboy music of the west in the 1920s. You can call it country and western, hillbilly music, old time country rock and western swing. Its folk style origins is the popular mark of this genre with narrative lyrics. It is a highly string-accompanied music characterized by romantic and melancholic ballads. 

Favorite Genre

An easy acoustic country rhythm can be played by strumming on all four beats and all downstrum with accented beats on 2 and 4.

Country music is popular in the United States, Canada, and Australia. You can often find country music in movies and television shows set in the countryside or small towns.

Electronic Music

Electronic Music is also a popular music genre using electronic musical instruments, sometimes called digital music in the late 19th and early 20th century. Although it eliminates the use of actual instruments, you can’t possibly make this without at least a basic knowledge on how to play the instrument; the chords, beats and time signatures.

In general, electronic music is created to make you feel good and have a good time. It can make you feel happy, sad, nostalgic or even hyped up.


Funk is a mixture of soul, jazz and RnB producing a style of dance music in the mid-1960s from African-American communities. It is strongly marked with the rhythmic groove of a bassline of a bass guitar but the syncopated bouncy rhythm from the six stringed guitar adds more flavor to this genre. You may not be able to play the colorful extended chords with seventh and elevenths of funk music yet as a beginner but let it inspire you in learning guitar.

You can often find funk music in movies and television shows that feature urban settings.

Latin Music

Latin Music is a wide variety of genres from the growing influence of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the US market. It is characterized by up-tempo rhythms, rich and festive in nature, and mostly in nicely danceable beats like bossa, samba, salsa and tango.

These can be pretty nice when played on guitar, strumming unique playful rhythms using all your fingers from your thumb to your pinkie. Traditionally most of the rhythms are played with a nylon guitar but still works with steel strings.

Timeless Genre

Lastly, Classical Music may be distinct and occasionally played but it holds a dear spot in the music industry. The younger generation of beginners can choose to start on this route. However, one must prepare for its complex musical form, harmonic organization and sophisticated notational system. It sounds difficult to play but hard work and passion can do wonders in playing classical music.

This genre holds timeless music pieces of art and is considered the brain’s best friend for it’s medically known health benefits. Thus, if you can’t play it yet, listen and enjoy its fruit.

Journeying through Different Music Genres

We don’t have to love everything but we need to at least appreciate it because it represents different cultures, traditions and different groups of people. 

It also helps us understand the world better. As guitar players, we can journey through these popular music genres, learn them and have fun.

Take time to learn these music genres individually and experience the richness of their musical style. You’ll be surprised how these things shape you and spice up your journey in music. Widening your musical horizons will make a significant and beautiful impact on how you will play your guitar.

Let’s open our minds and hearts in learning new things about music. Who knows, we might find a new favorite genre to play on our guitars!

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