Even with the advent and popularization of pop, soul, R&B, rap and hip-hop in the MTV era, rock is a genre of music that has retained a wide fan base with hordes of enthusiasts since the late 1960s. Read on to learn of the origins of rock music and its proponents... What is Rock?
Essentially "Rock" is an eclectic mix of a prominent vocal melody accompanied by guitar, drums, and bass. Several bands use an innovative mix of piano, synthesizers, saxophone, flute, mandolin and sitar to heady effect. The earliest known roots of rock music as a unique genre of music branching out from rock ‘n’ roll date back to the early-to-mid 1960s. Over the next 5 decades since then, rock has been propelled into being one of the most popular and best-selling branches of commercial music by now legendary artists.
With the wave of popularity of rock ‘n’ roll, made immensely popular by the Beatles, two British bands – Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, in completely contrasting styles, founded the sub-genres of progressive rock and heavy metal. Pink Floyd explored a more psychedelic sound combining electric guitars and keyboards to create amazing sound variations while Black Sabbath delved into a darker, heavier sound emphasizing a slow tempo and tuned down guitars.
The next few years saw an explosion in the rock genres in general giving rise to varied genres discussed in this article along with other less known genres. As you will be able to tell many genres are very hard to define and others overlap with each other making clear lines between genres impossible to draw.
Numerous branches of rock have been born – rock ‘n’ roll, soft rock, hard rock, progressive rock, metal, alternative, grunge... each of which have several subtle variations. e.g heavy metal has branched off into progressive, death, acid, dark ambient, power, symphonic, Goth…the list goes on.
Progressive Rock is a very open and intertwined genre of music which got its start in the late 60s, and continues to this day. Prog Rock artists try to take the roots of rock and apply them to a more classically influenced structure. The music is often very elaborate and generally requires very exceptional musicians with a great deal of talent. It is not unusual for Prog Rock pieces to be very lengthy – Echoes by Pink Floyd is an early example of this phenomenon and the tradition continues to this day in other pieces like First Light by Shadow Gallery.
Heavy Metal or Metal as it is currently called started back in the late ’60s and is often credited to Black Sabbath. Heavy metal found its roots in the blues and psychedelic music genres, and got its inspiration in the misery of daily life in industrialized cities combined with a fascination for mysticism. The stereotypical metal song combines heavy thudding drums sounds (often with a double bass) with thickly distorted guitar riffs, screaming vocals and powerful rhythm.
Progressive Metal or Prog Metal as some call it is a combination of progressive rock and heavy metal which came into popularity during the late ’80s with Queensryche and Dream Theater. Progressive metal has a small but very loyal and devoted group of fans who are enthralled by the combination of many unusual elements inherited from the progressive rock tradition such as incorporation of Jazz, Orchestration and other varied influences. Like in Progressive Rock, it is common for pieces to be in excess of 10-15 minutes and sometimes more like the 24-minute Octavarium by Dream Theater.
Hard Rock is a form of rock & roll that finds its roots in the early 1960s garage rock and draws from jazz, blues, rock and roll, and other influences like folk in the case of famed hard rock artist Led Zeppelin who's main writer and composer Jimmy Page was a famous studio musician and expert guitar player who was interested in Celtic and folk influences. These diverse influences can be clearly heard in one of the most influential albums of this style Led Zeppelin 4. AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden are classic examples of early hard rock.
Over the last 50 years, Rock has become one of the most popular genres of music producing numerous iconic artists who have written the history of rock with their own unique contributions to the memories of many generations.
Amazingly, several of the above remain as popular as ever with Pink Floyd drawing record crowds at the Live 8 concert and several other bands formed in the 70s releasing albums recently.