Rock music originated from the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1950’s. It is derived from the rock and roll genre, which, in turn, was derived from blues and country music. The term “rock” started to be used independently of “rock & roll” in the 1960’s. This period has later been dubbed as “classic rock”. In that decade, the British rock band The Beatles achieved unprecedented levels of popularity. This, in turn, gave way to many new rock bands, such as The Rolling Stones and The Who, also from the UK; and to so-called “garage rock bands” in the US, such as The Standells and The Seeds. Many rock subgenres emerged as well. The most popular subgenres at the time were blues rock, folk rock, and country rock; which were later followed by psychedelic rock, then punk.
Rock music tends to be played by bands rather than solo artists, although that rule is not absolute. The classic set-up of a rock band is made up of four musicians: a lead singer, a lead guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. Even solo rock musicians, like Billy Joel, have back-up bands, but they’re not involved in the songwriter process and don’t have big stage presence in live shows, like in a “regular” rock band.
Physical instruments over electronics are preferred, with guitars and drums being most heavily featured on the instrumentals. Also, rock songs tend to have solo parts featured for instruments only. Vocals are still the most prominent, but they are less prominent than in pop music.
Most songs feature a classic drum beat with 4/4 time signature. The tempo is quite fast, most commonly around 100 beats per minute. So-called “blues scales” are often used in rock songs, which are chord progressions made up of a 5-note scale plus a one chromatic note, often referred to as “the blue note”. The blue note is the flattened version of the 5th note in the given chord. The song structure follows the verse-chorus pattern, with sometimes a bridge.
Rock songs can have varying themes. The most common ones are love and sex, a hedonistic lifestyle, but also feelings of isolation, social issues, and rebelling against the status quo.
Some of the most successful rock musicians of today have successfully fused their music with pop.
One of these bands is the British Coldplay. With over 100 million copies of their albums and singles sold, they’re the best selling band of the 21st Century. Their biggest hits are “Hymn for the Weekend” (2016), “Paradise” (2011), and “Adventure of a Lifetime” (2015). Other good examples of famous pop-rock bands are Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, and Jonas Brothers.
As for more classic rock, the American Foo Fighters was originally started as a solo project by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. Now, they’re a widely successful rock band with such great songs as “Everlong” (1997), and “The Pretender” (2007). Oother classic rock bands from the US that are still around and successful are the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns N’ Roses, both of whom started in the 1980’s.
While the band AC/DC has always been based in Australia, most of their members have been British. They have been around since the 1970’s. Their long catalog includes such classics as “Thunderstruck” (1990), “Back in Black” (1980), and “Highway to Hell” (1979). While some people put them in the heavy metal category, AC/DC considers themselves “rock & roll”.