What Is Rock Music? Genre, Trends, And The Future

People at Rock Concert

Rock music is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. 

The sound of rock in its purest form was largely defined by several major bands and musicians, including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley.

 

Rock music has been very influential in developing other genres, including pop music. Rock was initially defined as a combination of rhythm and blues and country music, an amalgam of the gospel, blues, jazz, and country with a strong back beat. 

However, it soon evolved into something more than this; like the term “pop” it has come to mean any kind of popular music. 

It is also used as a synonym for “rock ‘n’ roll“, which is generally considered to be more uptempo than rock.

photo of persons doing rock hand sign

History of Rock Music

Rock music had its roots in the 1950s when it emerged as a distinct style of popular music. The term “rock and roll” was used by Alan Freed to describe the music he played on his radio show, though it wasn’t until the early 1960s that it became part of the lexicon of American youth. 

With its roots in blues and R&B, early rock and roll took shape in the form of cover bands playing songs by Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and others.

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In 1957, Chicago-based Chess Records released “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets, which became one of the biggest hits of all time and is considered by some historians to be the first rock song ever recorded. 

By 1958, hundreds of rock bands were active across America’s urban centers — including New York City’s Harlem district — with many making recordings for national distribution.

As with most art forms, rock music was influenced by many other genres throughout its relatively short history. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album (1967) includes elements from classical music, while Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited album (1965) borrows heavily from folk music traditions.

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Rock music has been popular for decades. It has become a part of the culture and has shaped it in many ways. Rock music can be traced back to the 1950s when it began as a combination of country and blues music.

The term rock is used to describe the genre of music that evolved from these influences, but today rock refers to any kind of popular music that uses electric guitars and drums as its primary instruments.

The Beatles were the first band to make rock popular. They started their career in 1962 when they released their first single, “Love Me Do.” The song instantly succeeded and quickly reached number one on the British charts. 

The Beatles’ popularity continued with their second album, “Please Please Me,” which also reached number one on the charts. 

After this success, they went on tour throughout Europe and America with great fanfare, which helped spread their name throughout the world.

rock band on stage

What are the different types of rock?

The term “rock music” is used to describe various genres. It is difficult to place all the different types of rock music into a single category because they have different origins, sounds, and styles.

Rock music can be divided into several subgenres based on their distinct characteristics. The following list contains some of the most common subgenres:

group of people in front of stage

1. Acid Rock

Acid rock is a subgenre of rock music that evolved from the mid-1960s garage punk movement, emphasizing extended improvised jams and a more brutal, edgier sound. 

Its distinguishing characteristics come from its psychedelic lyrics and riffs, long guitar solos, and a loud “wall of sound” production style. 

Acid rock is often used to describe any rock music that incorporates psychedelic rock elements or ideas but is generally considered too broad in scope to be an actual genre on its own.

The term “acid rock” came about when bands started playing loud distorted guitar riffs with long sustained notes and heavy distortion; this was intended to imitate the sound of acid dropping onto plastic, hence the name “acid rock.”

2. Alternative Rock

Alternative rock is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular in the 1990s. In this instance, “alternative” refers to the genre’s distinction from mainstream rock music. 

The term initially referred to musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply punk rock’s independent, DIY ethos. This music laid the groundwork for an alternative in the late 1970s.

At times it has been used as a catchall phrase for rock music from underground artists in general, although this has been criticized as misleading because it implies that these genres are interchangeable.

 

3. Arena Rock

Arena rock is a genre of rock music that originated in the mid-1970s. In the mid-1970s, the increased power of sound systems allowed more extensive and larger venues to use. 

Smoke, fireworks, and sophisticated lighting shows became staples of arena rock performances. In many countries, arena rock was marketed through activities such as record-breaking concerts, television appearances, and festivals.

The largest of these venues were commonly known as “arenas”. These venues achieved their classic look with circular or semi-circular stages, which accommodated many musicians and instruments. 

Arena rock became popular in the 1970s among rock fans who enjoyed the spectacle of large stadium concerts. 

The performers also enjoyed it because they often shared the same stage with their audiences after their respective sets had ended.

man singing on stage in front of people

4. Art Rock

Art rock is a subgenre of rock music with ties to progressive rock and the avant-garde. It typically uses complex musical structures, innovative forms, and unusual sounds. 

Art rock aspires to elevate rock from teen entertainment to an artistic statement, usually with intellectual or quasi-intellectual themes.

5. Blues Rock

Blues rock (or simply blues rock) is a fusion genre combining elements of blues and rock. It is mostly an American phenomenon, where artists such as Cream, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Fleetwood Mac, and the Yardbirds introduced blues influences to a rock & roll audience.

The term “blues-rock” was coined by combining the names of two other genres. Blues is a form of music that focuses on using guitar to improvise melodies over traditional harmonic structures (a blues chord progression). 

Rock & roll is a style of music influenced by rhythm & blues, country music, and jazz that developed in the mid-1950s.

6. Britpop

Britpop rock is a type of rock music that emerged in the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s. Britpop is a combination of alternative rock, British, and pop music. The genre’s popularity peaked around 1997 and declined by the decade’s end, with most of its bands failing to maintain their commercial success.

Britpop was inspired by 1960s British Invasion bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, who were heavily influenced by American rhythm and blues (R&B) artists such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. 

In addition to these influences, another major factor for many Britpop bands was the desire to be seen as part of a scene or movement that was different from the grunge movement that had dominated rock music until 1994 when Kurt Cobain committed suicide.

 Britpop also developed out of the baggy scene associated with bands like Happy Mondays and Black Grape.

silhouette photo of people watching concert

7. Electronic Rock

Electronic rock is a subgenre of rock music that draws on electronic music, often without using guitars, drums, or other conventional instruments. In general, it may be considered a subgenre of alternative rock, experimental rock, or industrial rock.

Electronic rock artists often perform in front of live audiences who are more accustomed to traditional rock and pop-oriented acts. The genre has been popular among American indie bands such as The Faint and LCD Soundsystem and British acts such as Ladytron and the Klaxons.

8. Experimental Rock

Experimental rock is a subgenre of rock music that pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance techniques or experiments with the genre’s essential elements. 

Artists aim to liberate and innovate, with some of the genre’s distinguishing characteristics being improvisational performances, avant-garde influences, odd instrumentation, opaque lyrics, and an uncompromising attitude towards studio experimentation.

While progressive rock and art rock are sometimes used interchangeably, “experimental rock” is sometimes used to describe bands who combine different genres or experimental music with rock.

9. Folk Rock

Folk rock is a form of folk music that arose in the United States and the United Kingdom around the mid-1960s. 

The Byrds pioneered the genre and developed their unique blend of folk rock by mixing elements of folk music and country rock, with the other members of the Los Angeles folk-rock scene providing further influence. 

Folk rock acts, such as those loosely associated with the British Invasion, often adopted electric instruments and increased the use of melodies and chord changes that were not usually found in traditional folk music.

three people playing assorted instruments on stage

10. Funk Rock

Funk rock is a fusion genre that mixes elements of funk and rock. It was most popular during the mid-1970s through the early 1980s and played a major role in the development of funk music while influencing contemporary rock, classic rock, and new wave. 

Funk rock songs typically have a thick, bass-and-drum-dominated sound with electric guitar cuts, guitar riffs, and funk-styled vocals. Like much funk music, funk rock songs tend to feature call and response vocals and long instrumental sections.

11. Garage Rock

Garage rock is a raw and energetic style of rock and roll that flourished in the mid-1960s, most notably in the United States and Canada. The term derives from the perception that groups were often made up of young amateurs who rehearsed in the family garage. 

The style, a precursor to psychedelic rock and punk rock is often characterized by aggressive and unsophisticated lyrics and delivery, sometimes using guitars distorted through a fuzzbox, as well as other effects and electronic instruments such as harmonica, saxophone, or theremin.

The sound of many garage bands was often enhanced by the vocal harmonizing of the lead singer and other members who would sing along with the melody in unison (rather than in harmony). Sometimes they were referred to as “garage bands” or “proto-punkers.”

lead guitarist doing guitar show on stage

12. Glam Rock

Glam rock is a style of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom in the early to mid-1970s, often characterized by a flamboyant, androgynous appearance, elaborate live shows, and a theatrical performance style. 

The glam rock style was widespread throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, bringing acts such as David Bowie, Lou Reed, Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople, and Gary Glitter to prominence.

The term has been used in various pop culture contexts since the mid-1980s to describe various styles, including music acts, clothing, and fashion. 

Aesthetically glam rock can be distinguished from 1970s punk due to its emphasis on image and performance. 

Glam is most noted for its sexualized lyrics dealing with personal identity and sexual freedom. 

Glam rock’s visual aesthetic features came from British glam artists who were influenced by American acts such as Alice Cooper, who had a look based on wearing makeup and dressing in drag. 

Glam artists would wear heavy makeup and usually colorful clothes with lots of eyeliner, mascara, and thick lips. 

Their hair would also be styled very theatrically sometimes, and they would wear wigs or other headgear to exaggerate theirs.

13. Gothic Rock

Gothic rock is a style of music that emerged from post-punk in the late 1970s, but it has been associated with the goth subculture. 

Although some have criticized gothic rock as a soporific backwater of the post-punk movement, the genre’s detractors have been silenced by its influence on later musical genres.

Gothic rock draws on post-punk and new wave music but adds a dark element to the formula: lyrical themes typically revolve around death, doom, gloom, and despair. Its influences include Joy Division and The Cure.

14. Indie Rock

Indie rock is music that is produced independently from commercial or corporate interests. It is generally associated with alternative rock but includes more experimental and avant-garde styles. 

The term became popular in the United States in the 1980s as a marketing category for independent record labels, which typically produce one-off recordings and releases.

Indie rock has been defined as a “variety of guitar-based music [that] flourished in the US and UK during the 1980s and early 1990s…notably characterized by its lack of commercial ambition”. 

It has also been characterized as an “unfashionable” musical style that produces nonconformist lyrics and melodies.

grayscale photo of person in hoodie top watching a concert

15. Instrumental Rock

Instrumental rock is a subgenre of rock music that emphasizes musical instruments and features little or no singing. 

Modern instrumental rock is played on electric guitar, electric bass, electronic keyboards, and drums, which are all the main traditional rock instruments. 

Some bands use traditional instruments such as acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and piano to create their sound.

16. Jam Rock

Jam Rock is a style of rock music that developed in the 1990s, often associated with grunge and alternative rock. 

The genre has been described as a “proto-post-grunge” sound that combines elements of jam bands with funk and soul influences. 

In contrast to the slacker nature of grunge, which was often characterized by an apathetic or even nihilistic outlook on life, Jam Rock artists were often inspired by the struggles and issues faced by everyday people.

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The term “jam band” is often used to refer to bands whose live shows focus on extended improvisation and interplay between band members. Jam bands also often incorporate elements of other genres such as reggae or funk.

17. Jazz Rock

The term “jazz-rock” often refers to the first wave of rock bands that played with a free approach to their instruments. In contrast to other rock genres, jazz-rock emphasizes improvisation, interaction, and technical prowess. 

Improvisation in jazz is more structured than in some other idioms, as instrumentalists are expected to use written scales and chord progressions for framework and guide over the course of performance.

The approach was taken from the jam band scene of the 1960s and 1970s; however, many bands who have been labeled as “jazz-rock” have also incorporated elements from post-bop, hard bop, and avant-garde jazz into their style.

five assorted-color string guitars

18. Progressive Rock

Progressive rock is a genre that came about in the 1960s, and it was the natural offspring of psychedelic music. The main idea behind progressive rock is to create music that moves forward rather than simply repeating itself. This is done by adding new elements and styles during a song or album.

The most important thing about progressive rock is that it’s not just a style of music but also an attitude towards making music. Prog bands don’t always play long songs with multiple parts and unusual time signatures (although they often do), but they always try to do something new with their music. 

They’re not afraid to experiment with sounds or genres, and they don’t always stick to one musical style throughout their career.

Prog bands tend to have complex arrangements, and intricate songwriting structures and sometimes even use instruments you wouldn’t expect from rock bands like flutes or violins.

19. Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s, partly inspired by the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin. Its users were often called “psychedelicists”.

Psychedelic rock generally tends to have distorted electric guitars and other effects such as fuzz bass or feedback, sonic elements of improvisation, sonic effects, wild, vocally droning vocalists, and an emphasis on extended instrumental solos rather than melody. It often attempts to replicate the effects of psychedelic drugs.

 

20. Punk Rock

Punk rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. 

Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as proto-punk music, punk rock bands eschewed the perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. 

They typically produced short or fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. 

Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through alternative channels.

21. Rock ‘n’ Roll

Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. 

Its immediate origins lay in a melding of various musical genres of the time, including rhythm and blues and gospel music; its name also serves as a retroactive label for the music played by these “rock” bands. 

Rock and roll was one of the influences that led to the creation of both skiffle and then rock, which developed into subgenres.

The use of the term “rock” was not widespread until after World War II: before then, it was called “race music”, or sometimes “hillbilly music”, usually with a derogatory connotation. 

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The term “rock and roll” now identifies any form of popular music performed by using beat-driven instrumentation, whether or not played on guitars, keyboards, or other stringed instruments; at its core is a combination of rhythmic and chord-based improvisation with an emphasis on strong beats and heavy reliance on rhythm.

22. Roots Rock

Roots Rock is a subgenre of rock music that was popular in the late 1950s and 1960s. 

It was strongly influenced by American folk music and combined the various elements of blues, country music, gospel, and R&B with a strong emphasis on vocal styles.

Roots rock is typically played with a combination of electric guitar, bass guitar, and drums. 

The style usually features a heavy beat, simple chord progressions using the same chord changes used by many traditional rock and roll acts, an emphasis on melody over rhythm, and lyrics which consist of themes common to roots music including patriotism, working class life, romance, criminal behavior and tales of personal struggles such as alcoholism and drug abuse.

23. Sleaze Rock

Sleaze rock is a subgenre of glam metal that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, often as a reaction to the larger-than-life spectacle of hair bands. 

Sleaze rock artists often address themes of lust, sex, drugs, and alcohol use and abuse, as well as topics like a rebellion against authority or social norms. 

Lyrical topics often include sexual fantasies (especially those involving groupies), the singer’s sexual prowess, members of the singer’s own band or crew, or even references to the music industry itself.

24. Soft Rock

Soft Rock is a genre that emerged in the 1970s. It was originally intended as a derogatory term for a mellow, laid-back form of rock music. 

Back in the day, real hard rockers looked down on soft rockers as being too commercial and lacking edge. But over time, the term changed to become more of an affectionate term used by fans of the genre. 

Soft rock music is generally characterized by acoustic instruments and often features vocal harmonies. Although the lyrics are not always political or socially conscious, many songs have some kind of message.

Soft rock artists often have wide appeal with their music, which has made them popular around the world.

red and black abstract painting

25. Space Rock

Space Rock is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, partly as a continuation of the experimental and psychedelic rock of the 1960s. 

It is characterized by a preoccupation with extraterrestrial themes and occultism, largely inspired by the unproven claims of secret contact between humans and extraterrestrials.

Space rock often features strange noises and distorted sounds, bizarro guitar solos, and unusual time signatures. The lyrics are often surreal or science fiction-themed, with references to outer space, UFOs, or robots.

26. Stoner Rock

Stoner rock is a subgenre of rock music that emerged during the late 1990s and 2000s. 

The genre is also often known as stoner metal, although this term is commonly used to refer to a different style of music.

Stoner rock is typically slow-to-mid tempo and features a heavily distorted, groove-oriented bass-heavy sound, melodic vocals (often screamed or sung in an aggressive manner), and lyrics with an emphasis on psychonautics, drug culture, or spirituality.

27. Surf Rock

Surf rock is a subgenre of rock music associated with surf culture, particularly found in Southern California. 

It was especially popular from 1962 to 1964 in two main forms: the initial “Surf” style and a later “Beat” style, which was influenced by the British Invasion. 

The genre has been described as “sunnier, more hopeful, good-vibration music” that can be distinguished from the “angry and desperate” lyrics of garage rock.

The genre’s most prominent instrument is the electric guitar, but surf rock bands sometimes employ electronic keyboards such as organ or piano.

Lyrical themes include science fiction and adventure, beach culture; cars and driving in general; girls; teen tragedy; parties and dance crazes, and other topics aimed at young people, including surfing, drag racing, and hot rodders.

Surf music is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “surf rock” due to confusion over the actual genre name.

The rock music trends of today are a continuation of the rock music trends of the past. The evolution of rock music has been an integral part of the history of music and, as such, will continue to be influential in the future.

Rock music has been around since the 1950s, when it was first introduced by artists like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. These artists had a huge impact on American culture, and their influence can still be seen today in many aspects of life.

Rock music is not just about lyrics and melody; it also includes other elements like instrumentation and production. These elements all come together to create a unique sound for each artist, which helps them stand out from other artists within their genre.

Rock music has changed over the years from being dominated by male singers like Elvis Presley to having more female singers like Madonna and Beyoncé Knowles dominating charts and awards shows today. 

Rock music has also gone through many phases over time, including punk rock and grunge rock, among others. 

The most recent phase seems to be EDM (electronic dance music), which combines electronic sounds with traditional instruments like drums and guitars that became popular in the 1990s with bands like Nirvana.

photo of band playing on stage

The Future of Rock

Rock is a genre that has been around for decades. It started off in the 1950s as a combination of rhythm and blues and country music. 

The term “rock” was used to describe the style that combined these two genres, as opposed to other types of popular music such as jazz or classical music.

As time went on, rock music evolved into what we know today. It became more complex, incorporating other genres into its sound. 

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The 1960s was an important decade for rock music because this is when it became mainstream and became more widespread across cultures. 

In the 1970s, artists like the Beatles began incorporating psychedelic elements into their music, which led to many new subgenres being created.

Over the past few years, there have been major changes in how people listen to music and how they create it as well. With the rise in popularity of streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music, there has been an increased focus on singles rather than full albums by artists. 

This means that artists are expected to release a new single every few months or so instead of releasing entire albums at once like they used to do back in the day when CDs were still popular (many artists still release full albums, though).

FAQ

What is considered rock and roll?

Rock ‘n’ roll is a popular music genre that combines elements of rhythm and blues (R&B), jazz, and country music with the addition of electric instruments. Originally associated with youth revolt and transgression, the genre is known for energetic performances, catchy melodies, and often insightful lyrics

Why is music called rock?

Rock music has been called many things, but one of the most common is “the best thing ever.” The name comes from the fact that in rock songs, the beat is always “rocking” or moving very fast. 

Rock music is usually played with an electric guitar and strong drum beats. It can also include piano or keyboard melodies, synthesizers and other instruments.

Who started rock music?

Rock music was born in the 1950s, when a new generation of young people embraced rhythm and blues (R&B), which had been popularized by musicians like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Little Richard.

What is the most listened-to song?

The most listened to the song is Shape of You, by Ed Sheeran. Released in January 2017, it has been streamed over 1.6 billion times. It is Sheeran’s biggest hit and the most streamed single of all time.

Who is rock king?

Elvis Presley is, quite simply, the King of Rock & Roll. In 1954, the performer kicked off a musical revolution by modernizing traditional genres such as blues, country, and bluegrass for contemporary (and more youthful) audiences.

Is rock and roll dying?

Rock and roll has been around for decades now, but in recent years its popularity has started to decline. It’s not hard to see why this is the case — after all. 

There are so many different types of music out there nowadays that it can be difficult to decide which one you want to listen to.

What makes rock music different?

Rock music has a unique sound that can’t be duplicated by other genres. Rock music is defined by its loud, distorted guitar riffs and drum beats played over an electric bass guitar. These instruments are usually accompanied by a piano or keyboard.

Is rock music good for workouts?

It can help you keep up with the rhythm and pace of your workout. Rock music is also known to increase your heart rate and make you sweat more than other genres.

How do you identify rock music?

Rock music is traditionally defined by a driving backbeat, distinctive vocals, and guitar, bass, and drums.

Are pianos used in rock music?

Pianos are used in rock music, but they’re not always the most prominent instrument. Some bands, like The White Stripes, use a piano as their main instrument. Other bands, like Radiohead and The Beatles, use pianos only as background instruments.

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