Listening to music based on the genre it belongs to may lead you away from songs or albums you would actually enjoy, say the authors of a study in the New Journal of Physics.
The research shows that searching for the temporal aspects of songs – their rhythm – might be a better way to find music you like than using current automatic genre classifications.
By studying similar and different characteristics of specific rhythmic durations and the occurrence of rhythmic sequences, the group of Brazilian researchers found that it is possible to correctly identify the musical genres of specific musical pieces.
The researchers studied four musical genres – rock, blues, bossa nova and reggae – looking at 100 songs from each category, analyzing the most representative sequences of each genre-specific rhythm such as the 12 bar theme in blues, which means that the song is divided into 12 bars – or measures - with a given chord sequence.
Using hierarchical clustering, a visual representation of rhythmic frequencies, the researchers were able to discriminate between songs and come up with a possibly novel way of defining musical genres.
"By showing that rhythm represents a surprisingly distinctive signature of some of the main musical genres, the work suggests that rhythm-based features could be more comprehensively incorporated as resources for searching in music platforms," the researchers write.
"Musical genre classification is a nontrivial task even for musician experts, since often a song can be assigned to more than one single genre. With our proposed method, new sub-genres (for example, rock-blues) can arise from original ones. Therefore, we observed a significant improvement in the supervised classification performance."
The next step is to include further aspects such as the intensity of the beat in future research, which could increase accurate genre identification even more.
Citation: Correa et al., 'Musical genres: beating to the rhythms of different drums', May 2010, New J. Phys. 12; doi: 10.1088/1367-2630/12/5/053030
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