Portrait of Dr Jan Herbst Dr Jan Herbst

j.herbst@hud.ac.uk | 01484 473126


Jan Herbst (b. 1984) is a popular music scholar, musicologist, music producer and guitar player, and he joined the University of Huddersfield in August 2017 as Lecturer in Music Production. His area of teaching includes Music Production, Computer Composition, Popular Music Studies and Musicology. He is Sub area Head of Musicology, Module Leader for Computer Composition 1 and 2 and the Music and Music Technology Coordinator of “Fields – Journal of Huddersfield student research”.

Besides his interests in music production and technology, he is deeply engaged in research. He has published more than 40 books, articles, chapters, encyclopaedia articles and reviews, and he is regularly presenting research papers in different countries. In his second book ‘The Guitar Distortion in Rock Music – Studies on Playing and Aesthetics’ [translation] (2016) he explores the significance of distortion for the electric guitar and its far-reaching implications for the instrument’s aesthetics, playability and expressiveness in the context of pop, rock and metal music genres.

Jan was awarded a PhD in Popular Music Education at Paderborn University with the thesis ‘Network Sound – An Educational Challenge of Popular Music’ [translation], which centres on musical, cultural, social and aesthetic aspects of music production and electrified sound. He further received an MA in Popular Music and Media and a combined BA + MEd in Music Education at Paderborn University. Before, he studied Contemporary Guitar Performance at the Munich Guitar Institute and the Los Angeles Music Academy, where he played with Frank Gambale (Chick Corea), Brad Rabuchin (Ray Charles), Ross Bolton (Al Jarreau), Steve Fister (Steppenwolf), Bill Fowler (Pointer Sisters), Joe Porcaro (TOTO, Stan Getz, Madonna) and Philip Bynoe (Steve Vai).

Jan has taught popular music studies, music production, music analysis, empirical musicology, music history and music theory at the Universities of Paderborn, Bielefeld, Detmold and Muenster (Germany). As a professional guitarist, he has also been guitar instructor at music schools and Head of Music at a vocational college.

Jan is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Teaching and Learning (PGCHE).

Research and Scholarship

Jan works in the areas of popular music studies, music analysis, systematic musicology and the art of record production. Previous and current research includes:


(2014): Network sound. An educational challenge of popular music [translation]

The book deals with music production in popular music genres. The analyses combine cultural studies, popular music studies, media studies, sound studies, art of record production and philosophical approaches to raise awareness of technologically mediated sound in educational contexts. It presents a methodology of popular music analysis based on the means of technological (re-)production as the centre of the music’s aesthetics, cultural inscription and decoding.

(2016): The guitar distortion in rock music. A study on playability and aesthetics [translation]

The book addresses the significance of distortion for the electric guitar and its implications for pop, rock and metal music genres. The issues among others are aesthetics, philosophical reflections on the interrelationship of music technology and expressiveness, the historical development of rock aesthetics based on the development of the guitar sound, and recording and production techniques. It draws upon methods from music theory, empirical musicology, psychology, acoustics and electronic engineering.

Smaller projects

  • The role(s) of the music producer
  • The work realities of professional session musicians
  • Heaviness in metal music
  • Teutonic metal and Germanness in power metal
  • Guitar virtuosity and “shredding”
  • Rock and metal guitar riffs
  • Production of the rock and metal guitar sound
  • Genre-specific use of bass drum sounds in EDM
  • Dub reggae
  • Musicians’ usage of and opinions on musical equipment
  • Gear acquisition syndrome
  • Guitar profiling technology
  • History of popular music


Besides theoretical and music analytical approaches, Jan has specialised in empirical methodologies in his postdoctoral work.

Qualitative: discourse analysis, qualitative content analysis, qualitative spectral and dynamic analysis, videography and iconographic analysis, grounded theory (selection).

Quantitative: quantitative content analysis, standardized surveys and experimental psychology, critical test theory, quantitative spectral and dynamic analysis, music information retrieval procedures (selection).

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Herbst, J (2018) ‘Heaviness and the electric guitar: Considering the interaction between distortion and harmonic structuresMetal Music Studies , 4 (1). ISSN 20524005


Herbst, J (2017) ‘Resonanz [Resonance]’. In: Irgendwie anders: Inklusionsaspekte in den künstlerischen Fächern und der ästhetischen Bildung. Hannover: Fabrico. pp. 217-222. ISBN 9783946320135

Herbst, J (2017) ‘Shredding, tapping and sweeping: Effects of guitar distortion on playability and expressiveness in rock and metal solosMetal Music Studies , 3 (2), pp. 231-250. ISSN 2052-3998

Herbst, J (2017) ‘Akkordstrukturen im verzerrten Rockgitarrenriff: Eine experimental-analytische Studie zur Auswirkung von physikalischen und psycho-akustischen Faktoren [Chord structures in the distorted rock guitar riff: An experimental and analytic study on the effects of physical and psychoacoustic factors]Samples , 15. ISSN 1216-8001

Herbst, J (2017) ‘Historical development, sound aesthetics and production techniques of the distorted electric guitar in metal musicMetal Music Studies , 3 (1), pp. 23-46. ISSN 2052-3998

Herbst, J. and Kathke, P. (2017) ‘Musik und Kunst – ein Überblick [Music and Arts – an overview]Musik und Unterricht , 126, pp. 18-20. ISSN 0937-9568

Herbst, J (2017) ‘Faszination Gitarre: Der gemeinsame Song im Gitarrenorchester [Guitar fascination: The guitar orchestra]Praxis des Musikunterrichts , 127, pp. 34-39. ISSN 1436-1949

Herbst, J. and Holthaus, J. (2017) ‘Music studio operators from Germany’s “Ruhrpott”: Role, services and resourcesEtnomusikologian vuosikirja , 29. ISSN 0783-6821


Herbst, J (2016) ‘Faszination Gitarre: Grundlagen der akkordischen Liedbegleitung [Guitar fascination: Basics of rhythm guitar]Praxis des Musikunterrichts , 126, pp. 38-47. ISSN 1436-1949

Herbst, J (2016) ‘Remixing dub reggae in the music classroom: A practice-based case study on the educational value of music production for listening skills and stylistic analysisJournal of Music, Technology and Education , 9 (3), pp. 255-272. ISSN 1752-7066

Herbst, J (2016) ‘Review of Forsbach, Beate (2015): Fächerübergreifender Musikunterricht: Konzepte und Modelle für die Unterrichtspraxis (Edition Forsbach Verlag)Musik und Unterricht , 122, pp. 75-75. ISSN 0937-9568

Herbst, J (2016) ‘Kommunikation und Wissenskonstruktion: Eine quantitative Studie zum Einsatz kommunikationsanregender Methoden in der Vorlesung [Communication and construction of knowledge: A quantitative study on methods facilitating communication in the higher education lecture]die Hochschullehre , 2. ISSN 2199-8825

Herbst, J (2016) ‘Faszination Gitarre: Phrasierung und die ersten Melodien [Guitar fascination: Phrasing and melodies]Praxis des Musikunterrichts , 125, pp. 38-44. ISSN 1436-1949

Herbst, J (2016) ‘Das virtuelle Mischpult als Instrument [The virtual mixing desk as an instrument]Musikunterricht und Computer , 5, pp. 28-37. ISSN 1617-5816


Herbst, J (2015) ‘Faszination Gitarre: Die Grundlagen der Tonerzeugung [Guitar fascination: The basics of tone production]Praxis des Musikunterrichts , 123, pp. 36-43. ISSN 1436-1949

Herbst, J (2015) ‘He’s a Pirate: Ein höranalytischer Vergleich des Film-Soundtracks mit einer Interpretation David Garretts [An audiological comparison of film soundtracks with the interpretations of David Garrett]Musik und Bildung , 2014 (2), pp. 8-11. ISSN 0027-4747

Herbst, J (2015) ‘“What’s that Sound?” Sound als didaktische Herausforderung der populären Musik [Sound as an educational challenge of popular music]’. In: Popmusik-Vermittlung: Zwischen Schule, Universität und Beruf. : LIT. pp. 133-152. ISBN 9783643129970


Herbst, J (2014) Netzwerk Sound: Eine didaktische Herausforderung der populären Musik [Network sound: An educational challenge of popular music] . Forum Musikpädagogik. Augsburg: Wißner. ISBN 9783896399724


Herbst, J (2011) ‘Die Form macht’s: Angewandte Formenlehre in der Erarbeitung populärer Musik [The form matters: Applied music theory in popular music education]Ueben und Musizieren , 2011 (6), pp. 34-37. ISSN 0174-6065


Jan has presented research papers and published his work in the areas of popular music studies, psychology of music, the art of record production, music technology and music education in the UK, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Finland. He is regular peer-reviewer of the IASPM@Journal, The Art of Record Production and Psychology of Music. Furthermore, Jan is editor-in-chief of the upcoming journal Music, Sound and Meaning. He has taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses, as regular member of staff, visiting professor and as guest lecturer, at the Universities of Paderborn, Detmold, Bielefeld, Muenster (all GER) and Bern (CH). His teaching was honoured with the award for outstanding teaching at Paderborn University in 2012 and with a nomination for the Karl Peter Grotemeyer prize at Bielefeld University for outstanding achievements and personal commitment in higher education teaching in 2016. Jan still actively supervises and examines research theses in Germany.

Membership in academic associations:

  • Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production (ASARP)
  • German Society for Music Psychology (DGM)
  • German Society for Popular Music Studies (GfPM)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM international, UK & I, D-A-CH)
  • International Society for Metal Music Studies (ISMMS)

Research Degree Supervision

Jan welcomes research proposals in the areas of popular music studies, systematic musicology, the art of record production, music technology and music education (please see section “Research and Scholarship”) and is happy to discuss topics close to these areas.

Selection of supervised theses’ topics:

  • Music production and studio tools: styles of music production, auto-tune as expressive means, production and aesthetics of Memphis-rap and French house, percussive body sounds, production conventions of kick drums in EDM, innovations in guitar amplification
  • Roles within music production: self-images of producers and composers, clients of semi-professional music studios, work-reality of session musicians
  • Film music and radio plays
  • Metal music: metal music industry, female singers in extreme metal, selling-out in the gothic festival scene, authenticity, genre theory
  • Audio branding, copyright and sampling
  • Flow experiences, music and wellbeing, musical competences
  • Charts analyses

Enterprise Activities

Between 2006 and 2013 Jan has been an active freelance musician who offered live and studio services as a guitar and bass player in the genres rock, pop, top 40, funk, soul, r’n’b, metal and folk for more than 30 bands. During this time, he had been endorsed by Epiphone guitars, Hughes & Kettner amplifiers and Thomas Vinci strings.

In 2008, Jan started a music studio where he recorded, mixed and produced solo artists and bands playing blues, pop, folk but mainly rock and metal music. He also produced jingles and voice recordings.

Since 2011, Jan has been designing teaching material for music in public schools, which he offers to commercial publishers in the area of music education.

Administrative Responsibilities

Sub area head of musicology

Coordinator of the Fields journal of Huddersfield student research

Module leader of Computer Composition 1 and 2

Member of the School Board

Teaching and Professional Activities

Computer Composition 1 & 2

Popular Music Studies

Individual Projects / Undergraduate Dissertations

Masters and PhD supervision