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Last updated 27th March 2023


Jan Herbst (b. 1984) is a popular music scholar, musicologist, music producer and guitar player who joined the University of Huddersfield in August 2017 as Lecturer in Music Production. He is Director of the Centre for Music, Culture and Identity (CMCI) and Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded project 'Heaviness in Metal Music Production' (HiMMP) (

Besides his interests in the practical aspects of music production and technology, he is deeply engaged in research. He has published more than 40 books, articles, chapters, encyclopaedia articles and reviews and regularly presents research papers in various countries. His published work focuses on the areas of popular music studies, psychology of music, the art of record production, music technology and music education. Jan is a member of several international editorial boards for journals (IASPM Journal, Metal Music Studies, Samples) and book series (Beiträge zur Popularmusikforschung, texte zur populären musik by the German Society for Popular Music) and is editor of the Companion series of Cambridge University Press. Jan is a regular peer-reviewer of the journals Psychology of Music, Metal Music Studies, IASPM Journal and The Art of Record Production and reviewer of Routledge’s Perspectives on Music Production book series. He also serves as Treasurer on the executive committee of IASPM UK & I.

Jan received a PhD in Popular Music Education, an MA in Popular Music and Media and a combined BA / MEd in Music Education from Paderborn University. Before that 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 as Guest Lecturer, Lecturer and Visiting Professor at the Universities of Paderborn, Bielefeld, Detmold, Muenster and Lueneburg (all in Germany) and Berne (Switzerland). As a professional guitarist he was also a Lecturer in Guitar Performance (2006-2012) at a music institute and Head of Music at a vocational college (2012-2015).

Jan is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and the Audio Engineering Society (AES) and holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Teaching and Learning (PGCHE). An award for outstanding teaching he gained at Paderborn University in 2012 and, owed to his exceptional achievements and personal commitment in higher education teaching, he was nominated for the Karl Peter Grotemeyer prize at Bielefeld University in 2016 . Jan continues to supervise and examine research theses in Germany. He also is External Examiner at Leeds Beckett University, the University of West London and Deutsche Pop.

Membership in academic associations:

• Audio Engineering Society (AES)

• Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production (ASARP)

• German Society for Popular Music Studies (GfPM)

• International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM international, UK & I, D-A-CH)

• International Society for Metal Music Studies (ISMMS)

Research Expertise and Interests

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


(2024): Heaviness in Metal Music Production: How and Why It Works (with Mark Mynett; Routledge, forthcoming)

Heaviness in Metal Music Production explores how the fundamental musical quality of metal, "heaviness", is created in the record production process, based on the creation of an original metal track that is mixed by leading metal producers. In addition to the documentation of the song's production, the mixing approaches of the individual producers are compared. With this rich documentation, videos of the entire woring process, interviews about the mixing challenges, and the production material of each professional prodicer, the complexities of producing "heavy" contemporary metal and the producers' solutions to these challenges are analysed. Heaviness in Metal Music Production provides a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between structural, performative and technological components of a metal recording, the perceptual and discursive factors determining heaviness, and the relationship between creative freedom and technical demands in contemporary metal music production.

(2024): The Cambridge Companion to the Electric Guitar (with Steve Waksman; forthcoming)

The Cambridge Companion to the Electric Guitar examines this most fabled of instruments from multiple angles that contributes to a richer understanding of how it assumed such a position of influence. It surveys the electric guitar’s history and legacy while also striving to present a range of new perspectives that address its interlocking roles in association with music technology, musical practice, social relations, and the transmission of cultural meaning across time and space. It takes as its starting point the fact that the past twenty years has seen gradual but steady growth in the range of published scholarly commentary on the electric guitar’s history and cultural significance. Building on this gathering momentum in what might be termed an emerging field of guitar studies, the book presents a state-of-the-field report that also serves as an accessible primer for scholarly and non-academic readers on the many ways in which the electric guitar has come to matter.

(2023): The Cambridge Companion to Metal Music (forthcoming)

Since its inception more than fifty years ago, metal music has grown in popularity worldwide, not only as a musical culture but increasingly as a recognised field of study. This Cambridge Companon reflects the maturing field of 'metal music studies' by introducing the music and its cultures, as well as approaches to their scholarship, from perspectives as diverse as musicology, music technology, media and communication studies, leisure studies, youth studies, religious studies, classical studies, history, sociology, art and design to Scandinavian and African studies. The volume is divided into six parts: Metal, Technology and Practice; Metal and History; Metal and Identity; Metal Activities; Modern Metal Genres; Global Metal. Designed as a textbook, this collection explores the various musical styles and cultures of metal, providing an informative introduction for scholars new to the field and serving as a source of contemporary research for readers familiar with the academic metal literature.

(2022): Rammstein's 'Deutschland'. Pop, Politics, Provocation [translation] (forthcoming)

Rammstein repeatedly cause scandals by cultivating a specific approach to cultural memory. Their album 'Deutschland' (2019) has led to national and international public debates on the relationship between German history, aesthetics, provocation, pop and politics. This book examines various aspects of the political in 'Deutschland'. The focus is on categories central to popular music studies, such as style, form, sound, intertextuality, ambiguity, affect, archive, narrative and the question of the political nature of pop.

(2022): Rock Guitar Virtuosos: Advances in Electric Guitar Playing, Technology and Culture (with Alexander Vallejo; forthcoming)

The guitar became an integral part of popular music and mainstream culture decades ago in many places of the world. This Element examines the development and current state of virtuosic rock guitar in terms of playing, technology and culture. Supported by technological advances such as extended-range guitars, virtuosos in the 21st century are exploring ways to expand standard playing techniques in a climate expecting ever-higher levels of perfection. As musician-entrepreneurs, contemporary virtuosos record, produce and market their music themselves, operate equipment companies and sell merchandise, tablature and lessons online. For their social media channels, they regularly create videos and interact with their followers while having to balance building their ‘tribe’ and finding the time to develop their craft to stay competitive. For a virtuoso, the working situations have changed considerably since the last century; the aloof rock star has been replaced by the approachable virtuoso-guitarist-composer-innovator-producer-promoter-YouTuber-teacher-entrepreneur.

(2021): Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Consumption of Instruments and Technology in Popular Music.

Gear Acquisition Syndrome, also known as GAS, is commonly understood as the musicians’ unrelenting urge to buy and own instruments and equipment as an anticipated catalyst of creative energy and bringer of happiness. For many musicians, it involves the unavoidable compulsion to spend money one does not have on gear perhaps not even needed. The urge is directed by the belief that acquiring another instrument will make one a better player.

This book pioneers research into the complex phenomenon named GAS from a variety of disciplines, including popular music studies and music technology, cultural and leisure studies, consumption research, sociology, psychology and psychiatry. The newly created theoretical framework and empirical studies of online communities and offline music stores allow the study to consider musical, social and personal motives, which influence the way musicians think about and deal with equipment. As is shown, GAS encompasses a variety of practices and psychological processes. In an often life-long endeavour, upgrading the rig is accompanied by musical learning processes in popular music.

(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.

(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.

Other projects

• The role(s) of the music producer

• The work realities of professional session musicians

• Heaviness in metal music production

• Teutonic metal and cultural sonic signifiers in music production

• Guitar virtuosity and ‘shredding’

• Rock and metal guitar riffs

• Production of the rock and metal guitar sound

• Musicians’ usage of and opinions on musical equipment

• Gear acquisition syndrome

• Guitar amplification technologies

• History of popular music

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Research Expertise and Interests

  • Popular Music Studies
  • Metal Music Studies
  • Art of Record Production
  • Music Production
  • Music Technology
  • Music Analysis
  • Musicology
  • Empirical Research
  • Guitar


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