Rock music is a very popular genre of music that derived from rock and roll music in America around the 1950’s. From Rock and Roll, Rock took influence from Country, Folk, and Blues, and in more contemporary Rock music, Jazz and Classical music often play a part. Live performance, composition, musicianship and a sense of musical authenticity are integral ideas that Rock is frequently centred around.
The electric guitar is usually the signature instrument used within Rock music, and is utilized to play memorable riffs (short phrases of music). A classic example would be Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman,’ which has been voted as one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time. Pianos or keyboards are frequently incorporated, along with other guitars, a bass guitar, drums and vocals. The vocals are often quite harsh sounding, and not too melodic; the focus is more on the raw sound rather than tunefulness.
Drums are a very important part of Rock music, the beat being the integral part of the song. In instrumental sections, the drums may drop out or have a solo, both of which adding to the building tension and excitement of the song. The drums can be heavy, hit with a foot pedal for example, or very light, hit gently with drumsticks, such as snare drums. Both of which can emphasize melodies or instruments.
The 4/4 time signature is the standard within Rock music, as is the verse-chorus structure that is familiar within Pop music. The verses will alternate with choruses and sometimes a bridge, before leading up to a final chorus which has typically reached a crescendo. The lyrics of Rock music are very diverse; love is a common theme explored, but Rock has also been used to convey political and social messages, particularly in the sub-genre of Punk-Rock.
In some ways, Rock is not at all dissimilar to Classical music, often featuring frequently used modes or scales. The harmonies are often between thirds (three semitones’ difference between the notes being played), or sometimes, fourths or fifths which are more unusual, and create a more inharmonious sound, with clashing notes and dissonance, all of which work to convey the often passionate message of the song.
Of all genres, Rock probably has the most sub-genres, ranging from Heavy Metal to Glam Rock. ‘Metal’ music is typically grittier than rock music, with heavy drums, and even more electric guitars. Lyrically the tone is usually darker, and the vocals may even be so rough as to turn into shouts and screams. Glam Rock was also known as ‘Glitter Rock,’ and was essentially a fusion between Pop and Rock music. The musicians wore very performative clothing, with bright colours, platform shoes, and dramatic make-up and wigs.
Rock is still important within our contemporary culture, however, it seems in some ways more diluted. Yes, there may still be catchy guitar solos and riffs, but the subject matter is rarely challenging, unlike older styles of Rock. Within a world of political turmoil and conflicts, both globally and within separate societies, it would be wonderful to reclaim Rock for the use of conveying important social messages, such as Punk Rock used to do. Unfortunately in this day and age, music frequently seems to be more about the image rather than the music, so it seems that Rock has ultimately lost one its core values; its authenticity., and without a cultural revolution, it is unlikely to gain it back any time soon.