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Rock music is a form of popular music that comes in many variations. Rock music has evolved over the years. Today, there are different styles of rock music, and they all have their distinct sound.
The categories in which rock music is divided change per genre, but we shall try our best to explain the varieties of rock music in this article.
This article will discuss 30 different types of rock music, subgenres, characteristics of rock music, and the top rock artists of all time.
Types of rock music
Alternative rock is a style of rock that first grew in popularity during the 1990s. Alternative rock bands usually have soft and melodic vocals and combine other genres such as punk and alternative metal into their sound.
Artists: Nirvana, Radiohead, Blink-182
Rock n roll
Rock n roll is a type of rock music that took shape in the 1950s. It’s one of the most popular types of rock music and was made famous by artists such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard.
Other artists: Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley & His Comet
Blues-rock is a form of rock that developed in the 1960s. Blues-rock bands often combine blues into their music and use an electric guitar to play it to create a unique sound.
Artists: Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Allman Brothers Band
As its name suggests, progressive rock is a type of rock music that originated in the 1960s. Its experimental nature characterizes it. Progressive rock songs usually had long instrumental interludes and complex lyrics.
Artists: King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Rush
Another popular subgenre of rock music is indie rock, which originated in the 1980s.
Independent music labels began releasing this type of music, and it gained popularity because many alternative bands that started during that time embraced driving guitar riffs and honest lyrics.
Artists: The Smiths, Arcade Fire, Pavement
Punk rock is a type of music with the rebellious spirit, distorted guitars, hard vocals, and fast guitar riffs associated with rock n roll.
Punk rock started during the 1970s and was most popularized by bands such as the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and The Clash.
Other artists: Green Day, Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys
Psychedelic rock is a type of rock music that developed in the 1960s.
Psychedelic songs were characterized by psychedelic guitar riffs and their ambient style.
It involves the use of several effects like flanging, phasing, panning, and other sound manipulations.
Artists: The Grateful Dead, Cream, Jimi Hendrix
Heavy metal is a type of rock music that was popular in the 1970s and has a combination of fast guitar riffs and drum beats with aggressive vocals. This often leads to heavy music.
Artists: The Doors, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix Experience
Acid rock is a form of psychedelic music that gained popularity in the 1960s. Acid rock songs often included experimental lyrics, tape sonic and electronic sounds, and dissonant vocals.
Artists: Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead
Soul rock is a type of rock music that developed in the 1960s. Soul rock artists used R&B and soul resources to produce their unique sound.
Artists: The Isley Brothers, The Doors, Etta James
Synth pop rock
Synth pop is one of the many sub-genres of new wave music that was popular in the 1980s. Heavy use of synthesizers and electronic drums characterizes this type of rock music.
Artists: Blondie, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran
Glam rock is a form of rock music that was popularized in the 1970s. This type of music emphasizes pop-like melodies and flamboyant lyrics.
Many glam rock bands were influenced by show tunes because they contained catchy tunes, dramatic lyrics, and theatrical vocals.
Artists: David Bowie
Roots rock is a type of rock music that was popular in the 1970s.
This type of music is often described as “Americana” because it usually features lyrics about American themes, including political issues and folklore.
Roots rock borrows from blue country and rock. The most common subgenres of roots rock are country rock, southern rock, blues rock, heartland rock, and swamp rock.
Artists: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground
The main foundation of folk-rock is folk music. This type of music was most popularized in the 1960s, and it often had acoustic guitars, driving bass lines, and emotive vocals. It also had rock drums and heavy guitar riffs.
Artists: The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan
Arena rock is a subgenre of rock music that was most popularized in the 1970s. The Arena rock has big, sing-along choruses, loud guitars, and strong melodies.
Just like its name suggests, it’s mostly performed in large stadiums and venues, accompanied by fireworks and smoke effects.
Artists: Queen, Journey, Bruce Springsteen
Soft rock combines folk-rock, baroque pop, and brill to create soft rock. It is characterized by acoustic guitars, stringed instruments, and mellow melodies. It’s funny to see the word rock and soft together.
Soft rock bands: Air Supply, Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, and Eagles
This style brings together elements of rock and funk. This genre is very groovy with a jazzy bassline. It became famous in the 1960 and 70s because it was characterized by funky sounds, distorted guitar sounds, and synths.
Articles: Jimi Hendrix Experience, Aerosmith, and David Bowie
Just like its name suggests, garage rock is a subgenre of rock inspired by 1960s garage bands. It had distorted guitar sounds, cat-shh vocals, and short song lengths. This type of music was very popular in the 1960s
Artists: Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Link Wray, and Chuck Berry
Bands: The Beatles and The British Invasion
Space rock involved guitar and sounds immersed in a lot of reverb and texture.
The lyrics involved science fiction. The space rock bands were very creative and abstract with their lyrics.
Bands: Hawkwind, Tangerine Dream, Gong, Pink Floyd
Electronic rock combines electronic music with rock music.
This type of music is characterized by using electronic drums, digital synthesizers, samples, upbeat vocals, mellotrons, synths, and tape techniques.
Examples: Kraftwerk, Daft Punk, Nine Inch Nails, Linkin park
Experimental rock came up because rock artists wanted to try out new things. This subgenre features avant-garde sounds, dissonance, and free improvisation.
Most experimental rock music lacks common song structures like choruses and traditional verse/chorus patterns.
Bands: Frank Zappa, Sonic Youth, Swans, the velvet ground
Surf rock was generated from among surfers of southern California after they heard songs from African American musicians.
This genre has a heavy drumbeat, blaring brass, and lead guitar riffs that are played on the downstroke and vocal harmonies.
Surf rock artists: The Beach Boys, Dick Dale, the Ventures The Surfaris, The Ventures, and The Bel-Airs
Britpop is a subgenre of rock.
At first, Britpop was about being against the grunge movement and American alternative rock bands.
The lyrics were catchy, heavy on guitars riffs, and were set to a background of danceable songs influenced by music from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Artists: The Beatles, Super Grass, Oasis, and Sleeper
Art rock came about in the 1960s. It was a revolutionary movement because it mixed together elements from theater, literature, poetry, and visual arts.
The lyrics were experimental, with no real defined structures or genre conventions. In fact, most art-rock songs are as long as 20 minutes to play.
Artists: Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, The Pretty Things, Pink Floyd, and Procol Harum.
Stoner rock is a sound that involves combining two, three, or more genres of rock music.
This type of music typically has slow tempos, low-tuned guitars, and a “thick” sound. Some genres of stoner rock are sludge metal, post-metal, and psychedelic rock.
Artists: Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Monster Magnet, and Queen of the Stone Age
Instrumental rock is a type of music where there are no lyrics or singing. In other words, all you hear is instruments and sometimes a vocalist providing background vocals.
Artists: Steve Vai, Delicate Steve, and Ry Cooder
Jazz-rock is a hybrid of rock, jazz, and funk. It typically involves the bass guitar, the electric guitar, keyboards, or other electronic keyboard instruments and drums. Basically, all jazz music components.
Bands: Mahavinsu Orchestra, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Soft Machine
Sleaze rock is a type of music that has elements such as breathy vocals, distorted guitars, and song structures with time changes.
Bands: The Donnas, Lez Zeppelin, Hanoi Rocks, Thundertrain. Sleaze mixes glam and hard rock music.
Gothic rock is a form of music that came from the punk movement in the 1970s. The lyrics are dark and have themes of heartbreak, love, death, isolation, independence, nihilism, and religion.
Bands: Cradle of Filth Black Metal
Jam rock is a mix of all musical genres with blues, funk, and jazz influences. It became popular in the 80s and 90s. It focuses on improvisation.
Artists: The Allman Brothers Band, The Grateful Dead, and the Bluesy Riffs
Bands: Slightly Stoopid Phish, Widespread Panic, and My Morning Jacket
Industrial rock typically has heavy beats, metallic sounds, electronic samples, and distorted guitar riffs.
There are some subgenres of industrial rock which include darkwave, electronica, noise rock, or aggrotech. It didn’t become popular until the 90s.
Bands: Nine Inch Nails, White Zombie, and Orgy.
The geek culture inspired Geek rock, which is a genre that mixes pop music with rock instrumentation.
Modular synthesizers are often used in the making of this type of music. Creators also used ukuleles and accordions.
Bands: The Aquabats, They Might Be Giants, and Ken Ashcorp
Reggae rock blends reggae, rock, and skia together. It is a drum and bass-type of music. It became popular in the 90s in Long Beach California.
Bands: Sublime, Big Mountain, Slightly Stoopid The police
Rock music subgenres
Today, there are over 100 rock music subgenres.
This article only mentions a few – Acid rock, Afropunk, beach music, bandana thrash, Celtic punk, dance-punk, folk punk, heavy metal, Latin rock, math rock, hardcore, occult rock, pub rock, skate punk, trall punk, and so forth.
Characteristics of rock music
Instrumentation: male vocals, backing vocals, electric guitars, double bass, drums, piano, harmonica, saxophone, and other brass
- The fast tempo of up to 140 bpm
- Energetic vocals screaming and shouting
- Distortion of vocals and guitars
- Heavy beats
- Driving bass lines.
- Rhythm changes or alternating time signatures
- 12 bar Chord structure
- Electric or distorted guitars, power chords, and bass guitar, drums are very powerful.
- Strong lyrics/meaningful lyrics, occasionally political themes. Rock lyrics are about emotional and personal issues. They can also be about social issues, like war.
Top rock artists of all time
- Frank Zappa
- Bruce Springsteen
- Bob Dylan
- Elton John
- Elvis Presley
- Led Zeppelin
- The Rolling Stones
- The Beatles
FAQs on rock music
Rock music is a traditional form of popular music that emerged as a defined musical style in the 1950s.
It has its roots in the 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, rhythm and blues, country music, bluegrass, and folk music. Rock subgenres include hard rock, progressive rock.
Classic rock is a radio format that plays music from the mid-sixties to the late seventies. It has a classic, hard rock, and progressive rock songs. “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones.
Today, there are more than 100 rock music subgenres. Examples include acid rock, Afropunk, beach music, bandana thrash, Celtic punk, dance-punk folk-punk, heavy metal, Latin rock, math rock, hardcore, occult rock, pub rock, skate-punk, and so forth.
The most famous rock genres include classic rock, alternative rock, and hard rock.
I hope you found this article helpful. Rock music is a style of popular music, and its history includes many influences from other genres such as country, jazz, blues, and classical music.
Rock subgenres include hard rock, progressive rock, and heavy metal. As you have seen, categorizing rock music as one genre is wrong because it is broad.
The Beatles and Led Zeppelin are the two most famous artists throughout all eras of rock music.
We have covered up to 30 styles, but there are over 100 subgenres. You can read more on other types of genres on Wikipedia here.
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