Rock N Roll Genres Essay

Rock’-n’-roll is always changing and evolving into specific subgenres. Sub-genres break down a general genre of music into a more specific and sophisticated type of that category. For example, rock has many different branches, including soft rock, southern rock, and hard rock. Rock in general typically has a lead electric guitar with a vigorous 4/4 beat produced by the drums. Yet, in the sub-genre of southern rock, a southern country rhythm is combined with a touch of rock and roll.

Hard rock separates itself by sustaining a loud, powerful, voluminous sound, whereas soft rock maintains a slower and smoother rhythm while still possessing the rock tone. Each sub-genre contributes their own uniqueness while also preserving rock characteristics to create extremely diverse styles of rock. These diverse sub-genres are increasing rock’s popularity in society, pleasing everyone’s own interest in music. The subtle differences and the variety of soft rock, southern rock, and hard rock, allow a larger assortment of people to enjoy rock as a whole.

Soft rock is classified in the rock genre but, it has a much more melodic sound than that of a hard or metal rock and puts more emphasis on the lyrics instead of the beat. Rather than a forceful and rough beat like the more prominent style of rock, soft rock tends to come across the listener in a smoother and more fluid tone. The themes of soft rock also greatly differ from everyday rock-‘n’roll. Most soft rock artists tend to lean towards the popular subject of love.

The pioneers of the music industry that fall under the sub-genre of soft rock include, Elton John, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, and even some songs from the band Journey. Today, the popular entertainers who engage in this sub-genre are performers and bands such as John Mayer, James Blunt, and Train. The essence of soft rock is best captured in the lines of the classic song Tiny Dancer when the chorus states, “hold me closer tiny dancer/ count the headlights on the highway/ lay me down in streets of linen/ you had a busy day today” (John).

The soft, tranquilizing beat and beautifully composed figurative language in the lyrics paint a picture in one’s mind of eternal love and compassion. The lyrics of Elton John’s songs often times speak to people on a deeper level than expected, and this can also be said for many performers who distinguish themselves as soft rock artists. Soft rock embodies the fulfillment and peacefulness that comes along with obtaining love and compassion in an individual’s life. On the other hand, soft rock can also remind one of a deep rooted pain that was experienced in their life at one point.

Soft rock is arguably the most sentimental and touching form of rock. While soft rock brings out the emotions of the listener, southern rock adds a country swing to rock as a whole. This sub-genre originated in the southern United States from the inclusive rock genre. Southern rock has a strong lead beat that focuses mainly on vocals and the electric guitar. Just like country music, southern rock tells a story and that is what makes the lyrics and vocals so important.

Southern rock is a lot like country music as a whole, but separates itself by being louder, adding a heavier beat, and speeding up the song. Southern rock maintains a rock aspect by its amplified electric guitar lead and continues to carry a solid beat. Southern rock started to develop in the mid-1960’s and began to hit its peak in the 1970’s. The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Outlaws, The Marshall Tucker Band, and ZZ Top were a few of the great early bands in southern rock. Southern rock is still a popular genre, including Kid Rock, Shakey Graves, Drive-By Tuckers, and Blackberry Smoke.

Atlanta Rhythm Section, a popular southern rock band, is known for one of their most popular songs, Homesick, released in 1981. This song is categorized as southern rock due to its hard driven beat and the lead electric guitar feature. This song begins with an electric solo that supports the classification of rock, but then begins to add riffs that compliment the electric guitar solo with a touch of the south. Throughout the song, the lyrics contribute to the anthem’s southern side by telling the story of “a native son in a foreign land” (Atlanta Rhythm Section).

This song is a perfect example of a southern rock song. It correctly displays all characteristics of southern rock including a lead electric guitar with a steady beat lead by the drums telling a story in a country style. This style containing a mixture of two main genres, rock and country, creates the exclusive sub-genre of southern rock. Hard rock is a form of rock that is mostly known for a firm, heightened sound and intense, distorted electric guitars. The role of the guitar is highlighted immensely in this form of rock.

Many songs include complicated guitar solos or are heavily dependent upon the rhythms and tunes provided by these instruments. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s single Free Bird which contains a five minute triple guitar solo is an example of the large role the guitar plays in hard rock. Aggressive vocals are another defining aspect to this branch of rock. Hard rock was first heard in the 1960’s and became popular about a decade later. The 70’s introduced some of the most well known hard rock groups such as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Van Halen, and Aerosmith.

These defining figures of hard rock have been enjoyed by many for the past decades. Hard rock is unique from the larger umbrella of the rock genre because it exemplifies harsher and louder sounds. This special form of rock also contains more of a focus on guitar riffs and prominent drum beats. Aerosmith’s classic song, Walk This Way provides a good example of this genre of rock. The harshly sung chorus loudly exclaims, “Walk this way/ walk this way / just gimme a kiss / like this” (Aerosmith). The chorus is then followed by a short guitar solo before entering into the next verse.

Walk This Way is a perfect model of the aggressive vocals, guitar embellishments, and prominent beats known to hard rock. This sub-genre contributes an upbeat and heavier style to rock while also increasing the popularity of the guitar in rock music. Just like its name, hard rock is the hardest, most aggressive form of rock. Soft rock, southern rock, and hard rock each emanate an array of sounds, thus increasing the amount of people who listen to rock. These sub-genres each add their own unique contributions to rock as a whole.

Within the diverse assortment of styles, all different tastes of rock-‘n’roll are satisfied. These three rock styles have expanded the popularity of rock as a whole in the world today because of the mix of rhythms and beats that are added to them. Rock speaks to the souls of many individuals, since it has a wide range of sub-genres that exist today. Society should not just look at rock as one big category, but realize that rock is a variety of different themes mixed together. Due to the ever-changing nature of rock’-n’-roll, the next generation may be listening to a sub-genre that has not been created yet.