Characteristics of Rock Music

Daze of Dawn

There is something really special about good rock music. It is hard to describe, but let me give it a try. When you hear good rock music, something in the song reaches down through your body, grabs you by the “cojones” and makes your entire being pay attention. It motivates you to bang your head, break into air guitar solos and sing along off-key alone in your car. It helps you to “go that extra mile”, to howl at the moon, and do things (often whiskey related) that you may even come to regret later on.

Devil´s music? Hardly, but there is a wild aspect to rock that grows wilder and more amazing the more you throw good musicians at it. Virtuosos are revered as probably the coolest people on the planet. Famous actors and athletes would trade their own mothers to become real rock stars because it is a talent that has “cool-ass motherf*¿_er” built right into it. Millions of kids are not downloading tab for “Tom Cruise´s Acting Method” to study and get better at their acting skill, but Jimmy Page´s guitar licks live on in the hearts, minds and muscle memory of millions of guitar players the world over (and counting).

Rock music is a huge genre with many sub-genres. It was born out of the 1950´s rock and roll movement and became the underlying theme music for everything revolutionary and exciting. But let´s not get things confused. Sorry Pop Music, your list of characteristics are pretty similar to Rock Music, (4/4 time, verse/chorus structure, steady beat, lyrical hooks) except you SUCK by comparison. Pop Music is everything that Rock Music is not in the eyes (or ears) of a true rock fan and really lacks the driving forces of totally awesome coolness that powers rock music. Of course we are getting into a bit of a subjective area here, but it always pisses me off when I hear the radio DJ say “and now for one full hour of rock with no commercials” and then spins a Coldplay song…..screw you Mr. DJ!

rock bandThere are other characteristics of rock music to consider, like the standard formation of drums, bass, electric guitar and vocals and sometimes keyboards. There are the repetitive and catchy riffs and melodies and the steady beat and contagious energy behind everything. Complex bass lines are common on the bottom end and flourished among bass players after hotshots like Paul McCartney and John Enwhistle arrived on the scene – but it´s not a requirement. The bass player from ACDC, has probably has the easiest job in all of rock for the most simplistic bass lines ever! Listen closely next ACDC comes on the radio and you´ll see what I mean. That´s OK though, they make up for it in spades with guitars and vocals.

Equipment is often Gibson or Fender guitars, Marshal Amplifiers, classic Hammond keyboards and distortion pedals. The very first guitar distortion effects came from musicians using a pin to poke holes in the actual amp speakers. With enough holes in the right spots you could get real physical distortion because the speaker cone was essentially “broken” and made this cool new sound. Later they created FX pedals to emulate and improve upon this guitar turbo-charge that is so dominant in rock music.

gibson guitarAnd then there is the band behind the rock music – basically bunch of hairy, dirty, sweaty dudes with big attitudes and a boatload of talent. There is usually a flashy guitar player, some show-off drummer and a bass player that runs around the stage a lot. And don´t forget the all-important lead singer who is really “the face” of the band and who writes the lyrics and is the one responsible to make that first connection with the listener.

The truly unbelievable beauty and miracle of rock music is that somehow a group of regular kids with big dreams can form a band and produce some of the greatest songs in the history of the world. There is a “never give up” and “fuck you world” rebel-attitude inherent in rock music (again, sorry Pop-music….you are just too wishy-washy) that gives you optimism in spite of all the obstacles you face in the world. I think ultimately that this is the final, crucial characteristic and is essentially what we identify with when we listen to rock music and feel, even if it is just in the moment, that we are somehow as cool, as deep, as angry, as sad or simply just as awesome as the songs we listen to.

By Klyde – Daze of Dawn

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