The best music genres enjoy huge followings worldwide, selling millions of singles and albums from leading artists.
This gives working DJs unlimited scope when putting together their sets, whether sticking to rock and Roll or blending multiple styles.
Whether you’re a club DJ or running an online radio show, these popular genres are guaranteed to find an audience for your sets.
The 10 Best Music Genres For DJs In 2023
There are many genres of music, in addition to hundreds of sub-genres, each of which has a different style and application depending on the DJ.
We’ve selected a variety of genres to suit everyone, from bar and club DJs to wedding and radio DJs looking for an eclectic playlist.
With our criteria established, let’s get straight into the ten best music genres for DJs:
The term “classical music” is a broad umbrella covering centuries of music written between the early eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries.
When people think of classical music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johan Sebastian Bach, and Ludwig Beethoven spring to mind.
The genre offers an extensive range of musical styles, from four-piece arrangements in chamber music to full-blown orchestral symphonies.
Intricate harmonies and arrangements combined with an evolving structure and variation in themes are characteristic of classical music.
While it’s rare to hear classical music in venues other than restaurants, many DJs play this music on radio shows.
Classical DJs also broadcast live, from a rendition of Chopin’s first piano concerto from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or an Italian opera.
The style is also used widely in movie scores, with composers such as John Williams and Hans Zimmer among the most famous.
Classical music is also an excellent genre for helping with a DJ’s mental health and winding down thought processes after a long gig.
The enduring appeal of classical music has persisted through the generations, and today, there is still a massive audience for this musical form.
While classical music was often composed with religious and spiritual ideas in mind, gospel music is dedicated entirely to the worship of God.
Gospel music emerged during the high point of the classical era in the eighteenth century and is closely linked to church hymns.
A subgenre of Christian music, Gospel is a vocal-driven genre that typically features groups of people singing in unison.
The most famous examples of gospel music can be found in African-American communities and the influence of ancestral African music.
This genre is characterized by acapella singing and harmonies with a euphoric approach to arrangement and vocal style.
While radio DJs mostly play Gospel, its impact on modern popular genres is difficult to understate.
Gospel pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe helped to shape early rock and Roll, while R&B and Soul music is fundamentally based on its vocal style.
The dominance of vocals in Gospel makes it a great genre for making mashups, using clean singing samples in new ways.
The ethos behind the emergence of punk music in the 1970s was a discarding of the conventions of rock and pop at the time.
Bands such as The Sex Pistols and the Ramones took the guitars of rock music and pared it down to its rawest elements.
This stripped-down style carried over to the clothing and philosophy behind the movement, which was deeply anti-establishment and political.
Punk has transformed a range of subgenres in recent years, from hardcore punk and punk rock to grunge bands such as Nirvana.
The modern-day alternative rock scene has been heavily influenced by punk, with bands such as Green Day and the Offspring notable examples.
For DJs, punk rock is a genre often played in bars around America, in addition to many popular rock stations broadcasting on the radio.
The creation of a museum in Las Vegas dedicated to the punk genre is a testament to its continuing popularity to this day.
There are several different types of DJs, ranging from club DJs to radio DJs, and it’s the latter category where country music is played.
A predominantly American genre, country music originated in the Southern United States, drawing inspiration from folk and Cajun styles.
It’s a profoundly grassroots genre that often explores topics linked to working men and their experiences growing up in rural America.
As such, country music is often associated with American traditions, folklore, and the history of cowboy culture.
This is why it is also referred to as country and Western music, with the latter deeply intertwined with the evolution of the former.
There are many subcategories of music associated with country, from honky tonk and bluegrass to distinct genres, including folk and Gospel.
This lends country music a broad appeal, with contemporary artists such as Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw selling millions of albums.
Dolly Parton’s success has seen her become near-synonymous with country music and continue to host sell-out tours worldwide.
With such a vast audience, it’s unsurprising that many great radio DJs opt to play country music on their radio shows.
Folk music reflects a style deeply rooted in history and culture, blending traditional music styles focused on acoustic instruments.
With shades of bluegrass, country, and world music, as well as elements of rock, it rose in popularity during the 1940s.
The American Folk Revival period was associated with an era of political protest and the Beat writers.
Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Josh White helped transform what was once a niche genre into one known for chart-topping hits.
The arrival of Bob Dylan in the 1960s saw the popularity of folk music skyrocket, notably due to his Grammy Hall of Fame album Blood on the Tracks.
This seminal album exemplified folk’s ability to bridge the gap between traditional music and rock to create something truly unique.
The inclusion of singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Simon & Garfunkel cemented its international reputation.
While it’s not a musical genre you’ll often hear in bars and nightclubs, plenty of working DJs dip into it in their sets.
Known for its heavy use of acoustic guitars and percussion instruments, folk music is featured on many dedicated radio shows.
Some early pioneers of jazz music in the United States cut their musical teeth performing in classical orchestras.
This experience influenced jazz’s compositional style, known for its sophisticated melodies and arrangements.
Jazz musicians often expected to improvise are some of the most gifted musicians of all time, reshaping how instruments are played.
The principal instruments used in jazz include horns, piano, drums, and the double bass, although guitars, violins, and others are also used.
Jazz music has also been influenced by the traditional style found in blues music, which has influenced pop and rock music.
Arguably, the most famous jazz musician of all time, Louis Armstrong, helped to popularize the style and take it into the mainstream.
Jazz luminaries such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker are among the most revolutionary artists in the genre.
Working DJs who gig in bars and restaurants often utilize elements of jazz in their sets, and the genre has been frequently sampled.
It’s common to hear snippets of jazz trumpet riffs or vocals from Billie Holiday in electronic music and hip-hop.
It’s also another great musical genre that has many dedicated radio shows and online podcasts where true jazz aficionados tune in.
Rock and Roll, typically abbreviated to rock music, is a broad, catch-all term that covers many decades of popular music.
The term was coined by radio hosts in the 1960s for guitar-heavy music that emerged in the wake of folk and blues music.
Within this music genre, you’ll find sub-categories, including soft rock, indie rock, New Age music, and psychedelic music.
Many classic rock bands, such as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, and the Rolling Stones, are household names.
These artists combined have also frequently smashed records for sales and levels of attendance for their concerts.
While you’ll often hear this music performed on mainstream radio shows, many entertainment venues are also oriented toward rock music.
Mobile DJs will often have an extensive archive of popular rock songs in their playlists that appeal to a broader audience.
If you’re learning how to DJ a wedding, rock is arguably the most popular style you’ll get requests for from the guests.
Pop music, an abbreviation for popular music, covers mainstream artists known for dominating the charts.
It’s a genre you’ll often hear on radio stations worldwide, where they play tracks from iconic stars such as Michael Jackson and Beyonce.
The genre emerged in the 1950s, with groups such as ABBA, The Spice Girls, and New Kids On The Block notable acts.
Singers such as Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, and Madonna are among the most successful solo acts in the pop music genre.
For beginner DJs, pop music is a great way to learn fundamental DJ transitions for quickly blending between two tracks.
Complex beat matching and other more advanced mixing techniques can be overlooked, with quick transitions between songs the norm.
Most pop music songs are structured in a familiar verse/chorus/verse pattern, and these conventions make mixing pop relatively easy.
Radio DJs who specialize in pop music are expected to keep on top of the latest releases, trends, and emerging talent.
Such trends often relate to other musical genres, with pop music drawing inspiration from hip-hop, R&B, dance music, and others over the years.
Hip-hop music is another hugely popular genre that has increasingly dominated the charts over the years.
Acts like Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem have won numerous Grammy Awards for their work and beating rivals from other genres.
Hip-hop culture has also increasingly seen its leading performers collaborate with pop stars and electronic dance music producers.
For DJs, hip hop has a long and studied history with the medium, with the early DJs closely linked to turntablism.
Using traditional decks and vinyl records, these pioneering DJs created their own songs to bring a new music genre to the world.
Hip-hop has drawn on several influences, including soul and jazz, blending these musical sounds with hard-hitting percussion.
DJs learning how to scratch will spend much time exploring hip-hop, creating their own beats from each track.
As hip-hop continues to dominate the music industry, it will continue to build a committed following of DJs playing it in clubs and bars.
1. Electronic Dance Music
By far the most popular music genre for DJs, electronic music is another broad-brush category that covers a wide range of styles.
Having emerged from the disco music scene of the late 1970s, dance music began life in house music venues in New York and Chicago.
It has since broken down into a long list of sub-categories, including techno, drum and bass, trance music, and many more.
Some of the most famous DJs in the world working today are exponents of EDM and other mainstream dance music styles.
Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix, and Marshmello can easily sell out huge stadiums regularly, headlining festivals like Coachella.
Electronic music is predominantly performed by DJs who focus on gigging in clubs and bars, although there are many online radio shows.
It’s also associated with underground parties and raves, notably in the United Kingdom from the late 1990s to the present day.
Most DJs will cut their teeth learning how to mix with electronic music, often signing up for a DJ pool to access the latest releases.
It’s also the go-to genre for DJs who want to expand their horizons and try their hand at music production using the latest software.
The most popular genres for DJs can be played anywhere from bars and restaurants, as well as on internet radio shows.
Whatever your taste in music, these popular styles can be incorporated into your sets for additional variety and broad audience appeal.
It’s a great way to expand your musical horizons and develop mixing skills to make you a better DJ.
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