Blending Musical Genres

John Legend

Lesson time 09:57 min

John shares how blending genres can help you create your own distinct sound.

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Topics include: Create a Unique Sound • Break Through Your Core Genre • Choose a Genre to Write In


When writing music, think about embracing more than one genre in order to expand your audience. I started in gospel music, but I embraced other genres like soul, hip hop, and R&B. Sometimes, people blend genres. So a common thing is for hip hop and soul to blend. So that's a lot of what my career has been based on, and especially some of my earliest work, where I was working with hip hop producers who a lot of times sampled soul music. So they incorporated soul through their use of sampling, and then they used hip hop, drums, and some traditions of hip hop production mixed with these soul samples and then me singing soulfully on top of it. That was genre blending. [MUSIC PLAYING] I work with country artists, I work with pop writers, I work with hip hop producers. If you're working with different people and bringing different energies and influences into the room, then it makes genre blending even easier. You may feel like you can't individually do all the genre blending, but if you're bringing someone else in the room, that's part of what their role can be. They can complement what you do. I wasn't a hip hop producer, but I was able to bring Kanye, and, and Hit-Boy into the room. They brought some of that hip hop influence, I brought my soulfulness. And we made something beautiful together. One of the defining things about soul music in the last 20 years is that we work with a lot of people that work in hip hop as well. And so there's been a lot of back and forth-- some exchanges. So now you hear a lot of rappers singing, for instance. So you're hearing them kind of blend some of the tropes of R&B into hip hop. And then I think a lot of R&B artists still blend a lot of the hip hop tropes into what we do as R&B and soul artists. So you hear that as a genre blend. You'll hear some jazz influence in R&B as well. In country music, you'll hear some R&B and hip hop influence as well. Some of the country singers are rapping and doing more soulful things on their music. You'll hear rock influence in some of these other genres as well. Pop and rock, I think, a lot of times blend together. Pop and R&B, a lot of times they're blended together as well. So you kind of know it when you hear it. You hear different parts of different traditions kind of blending together. I think Ariana Grande is a great blender of pop and R&B. And I think genre blending is part of what makes music, pop music. Because when I'm saying pop music, I'm not saying it in the genre since, I'm saying it in the popular sense. So part of what makes music popular is that it's not just one thing that's targeted toward a niche audience, it's more global and it pulls influences from different parts of the music landscape. So I think genre blending is an important way of making your music have a broader reach. Genre a lot of times is about the stylistic approach to arranging and producing the song more so than it is about the actu...

About the Instructor

When 12-time Grammy winner John Legend released “Free” in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, he called it a prayer for peace. Now the recipient of the first-ever Recording Academy Global Impact Award teaches you how he wrote and recorded the song—and his process for creating hits like “All of Me” and “Glory.” Layer melodies and lyrics, develop your musical point of view, and make music that makes the moment.

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John Legend

John Legend, the EGOT-winning music icon and coach on “The Voice,” teaches you his process for creating music with impact.

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