3 Types of Reggae Music

3 types of reggae music

Reggae music has long been used as an effective vehicle for social activism and expression, representing Jamaican experiences while at the same time inspiring other musical genres such as hip hop and rap.

Music‘s rhythm can be described by four quarter notes per bar with an empty space on beat one, known as the “one drop” beat.


Dub music originated as part of Jamaican sound system tradition in the late 1960s, emerging as an electronic genre known as dub. A subgenre of reggae, dub is distinguished by heavy bass and drum tracks as well as its use of reverberation effects and echo effects. Dub is now widely used in remixing as well as contemporary dance music genres such as techno.

Osborne Ruddock, one of the pioneers of dub, first coined the term in the late 1960s using multitrack recording techniques that focused on drum-and-bass elements of popular reggae songs to produce instrumental versions dubbed out, or dubed, of each track. This process allowed producers to strip vocals out while creating various versions of one song while producing different variations from it; considered an early form of electronic dance music and contributing significantly towards hip hop, trance music and ambient soundscapes among many other genres!

Dub began as a way to remix existing reggae tracks but quickly developed into its own musical genre. Dub artists typically removed vocals while adding reverb and other audio effects for an otherworldly effect. Dub also had political implications as Jamaican musicians used the music as an outlet against colonial legacy while simultaneously spreading Rastafarianism through dub.

Reggae musicians are well known for their signature bass sound, often highlighted by reverberation. Their bass patterns typically repeat every two or four bars while in more complex chord progressions they may include additional harmonic notes to expand upon its sound.

Reggae rhythms can be divided into three distinct categories: one drop, rockers and steppers. One drop beats use a combination of snare drum and bass drum that generate a single backbeat; they’re counted so the beat falls on two and four strokes on the snare drum; while rocker rhythms feature syncopation which can often be found in songs by Black Uhuru like their hit “Shine Eye Gal”.

Reggae also utilizes various musical instruments, including acoustic and electric bass guitars, keyboards and horns. Lyrically speaking, Reggae lyrics often address love and the struggle for freedom while others explore social justice issues such as peace or self-determination – though those singing English lyrics typically use Jamaican patois as the source.


In the 1960s, Jamaica embraced ska music as its premier popular style, reflecting Caribbean cultural hybridity through influences derived from Trinidadian calypso and African mento combined with American R&B rhythms. This genre eventually formed the basis of reggae music which continues to have an impactful voice today.

Ska music is defined by walking bass lines that synchronize with melody or chord progressions, often equalized so as to reduce upper frequencies while emphasizing lower ones – giving its signature throbbing quality. Bass sounds vary depending on the genre of song being performed (for instance rock songs often feature louder basses than ballads). Vocals in ska are frequently accompanied by horn sections comprising either saxophones or trumpets and these instruments serve to play melodies or countermelodies while emphasizing beats between two and four beats by adding accents on offbeats two and four of each time signature beat.

Ska music was popular at the time of Jamaica’s independence from Britain in 1962. Producers such as Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid sought to produce music which reflected this celebratory mood, by dramatically slowing the tempo of ska music; their creation, known as rocksteady music was short-lived success that brought fame to musicians like Heptones and Wailers.

Reggae emerged following rocksteady’s decline, in 1968. Reggae retained many elements from previous musical genres to distinguish itself: from ska’s signature snare drum-and-hi-hat rhythm to Nyahbinghi drummers’ emphasis on syncopation. Reggae typically follows a slower tempo than either of its predecessors (ska or rocksteady) with less emphasis placed on two and four beats than its counterparts which allows more offbeats from guitar and piano to add to its unique sounds and add syncopated notes to its music.

Reggae music stands out for its political messages expressed through its lyrics. While earlier forms such as ska and rocksteady may have featured romantic themes, reggae was distinguished from other popular genres by focusing on social issues that affected Jamaicans directly; its political message helped distinguish reggae as an unparalleled form of musical entertainment worldwide.

Rastafarian lyrics

Rastafarians are a Jamaican subculture which embraces religious beliefs, music, dance and dance culture as part of a way of life that incorporates religion, music, dance and a message of peace, love, unity which has had an enormous influence on reggae music. People identified with Rastafarianism are typically distinguished by clothing styles, hairstyles and jewelry preferences; as well as frequenting certain clubs or locations; furthermore they may even prefer certain beverages or substances illegal to them.

Reggae music has grown into an internationally significant force since the 1960s. Reggae lyrics often provide social criticism or address religious themes, making this musical genre one that has reached Africa, America and Europe alike.

Reggae stands out from other musical genres with its distinctive rhythms and signature sound, marked by a walking bass line and chanting intervals. Equalizing bass notes so that upper frequencies are dropped out while lower frequencies are highlighted gives reggae its distinct, thick sound; unlike rock where basslines serve only to keep pace with other instruments, reggae’s basslines form the basis of its music.

Musicians of various cultures have adopted its melodic forms, rhythmic patterns and lyrics as their own styles; adapting elements from Jamaican folk music into their own styles for unique sounds. Furthermore, drums and guitars add distinctive timbre and deep, heavy sounds which characterize this genre.

Reggae horns have historically been less central than they were in ska and rocksteady music, yet still contribute a distinctive sound. Additionally, horns have often been used to reinforce political messages within reggae music; dancehall deejays of the 1980s and ’90s perfected the art form of “toasting,” where deejays would rap over instrumental tracks – setting precedent for hip-hop culture that still utilizes reggae’s lyrical style today.


Bass music is an integral component of reggae and serves as the cornerstone for dub, an emerging style of instrumental music characterized by bass-driven sounds that has come to define Jamaican and global reggae music genres alike. Bass music serves as a symbol of resistance against colonialism and oppression – both locally in Jamaica as well as around the globe.

Jamrock combines elements of rhythm and blues and calypso with a heavy four-beat drum beat, syncopation and heavy bass notes to form an original musical genre unique to Jamaica. First created by Jamaican producers like Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd in some of Jamaica’s early recording studios but later made famous by Bob Marley as one of his signature styles, it quickly rose in popularity after becoming more widely heard than its counterparts such as ska or rocksteady.

Reggae music relies heavily on its bass guitar, with its sound being equalized so as to exclude higher frequencies while emphasizing lower ones. Bass lines in reggae often use two or four-bar riffs with simple chord progressions that recur multiple times; another distinctive trait of reggae guitar music is the use of upstrokes on stopped notes for “skanking.” Finally, few horns distinguish this genre from those that came before.

Some of the most acclaimed musicians in reggae music are Rastafarians who advocate that black people should embrace their culture rather than adopting Western ideals. Since Bob Marley, hundreds of such Rastafarian artists have emerged. Many have spoken out against unfair enslavement as well as racism and discrimination; their songs tell tales of struggle to inspire listeners into continued crusades against injustice.

Roots reggae served as an unofficial accompaniment for Michael Manley’s Democratic Socialism during the 1970s and is an expression of support for liberation movements across Africa. Additionally, its lyrics teach younger generations to appreciate and respect their African heritage – these themes being evident in popular reggae songs such as Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” and Peter Tosh’s “Climbing Up The Mountain.” In addition to spreading political messages through music, these artists have also made significant contributions to Jamaican society in other ways as well.