One thing is the origin of a specific genre of music and another is its crowd or audience, which have the big cultural repercussions on their hands, as it happened with rock.

There is a need to make this particular difference because there are indeed too many genres of music to remember, there are so many ramifications and small variants at this point that many people just say that they listen about everything to avoid getting into a very boring and complex subject of labels and names.

However there is just not an audience for each genre of music that exists out there; if we take the word “audience” as a group of peoplethat listens to a type of music, we should also add to it the power of cultural movements and change.

According to Jordy Cummings:

The important distinction, thus, to make, when gauging the origin of a specific cultural form is not merely the origin of the form itself, but the origin of its audience, which can roughly be dated to 1955 and 1956, the years of “Tutti Frutti”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, and “Blue Suede Shoes”. This audience exponentially grew in the fifties, among young men and women, among white people and people of colour, largely due to the advent and mass-availability of television sets, ‘Hi-Fi’ systems, and the growth of music-oriented radio stations along with radio ‘personalities’.

Forces of Chaos and Anarchy: Rock Music, The New Left and Social Movements, 1964 to 1972, Jordy Cummings

The Message


Rock adn Roll delivered a very simple message, it was one of autencity and rebellion against the suit and tie. At the time the world was steering towards a well oiled modern machine with the boom of media, advertising and technological advancement. For many people it was easy to find themselves in this sort of sentiment, and it spread fast and easy.

This was a message in a bottled that was then carried by the hands of bands like “The Beatles” to “Nirvana” and now artists like ” Jack White” and “Josh Homme” from “Queens of the Stone Age”.

The message is still the same, even though the eviroment has changed the establishment will always close doors and the counterculture will find their way to break its windows.

In and Out

While the rock audience used to strongly represent the counterculture, there is now a more of a gray area, since everything that has a strong enough impact is a money maker, this happened with rock as well.

As established entertainment conglomerates took over rock and roll and created its own star system, the means with which one could be unique depended far more on self-marketing, mystique and virtuosity. Or it could just as well mean being buddies with people at the major labels, hippies turned hip capitalists. Rock criticism, as form, started out in the“underground press”, including the newspapers of the far-Left, with smatterings of material in the journals of the intelligentsia, notably the New Yorker.

Forces of Chaos and Anarchy: Rock Music, The New Left and Social Movements, 1964 to 1972, Jordy Cummings

It’s actually a bit strange because the nature of what makes rock what it is, revolves around the fact that it’s all about going against the establishment in some way, that “I don’t care attitude” and making music just for the sake of playing, however with such a big audience it’s hard for it not to be mainstream sometimes. With bands such as “The Beatles”, “Nirvana”, “Metallica”, or “Queen” there is a very underground beginning which ended in them being extremely famous, but there are some layers to this fame.

Different Rock Audience

After the sixties, began a transition, which in turn changed the audience.

At its best, this transitional form led to real sonic inventiveness, even sometimes the use of traditional folk instrumentation alongside a rock rhythm section, other times predominantly covering other artists and quite literally superimposing Dylan with the Beatles, as was the case with the Byrds. In England, this took the form, for The Kinks in particular, of incorporating music-hall and vaudeville type songwriting.

Forces of Chaos and Anarchy: Rock Music, The New Left and Social Movements, 1964 to 1972, Jordy Cummings

Rock also began to be a middle ground between all other genres, due to its flexibility an incredible amount of sub genres began to appear, but there was always the “rock” part of it alive in every single one.

As for the rock audience, they may very well be just people that want to enjoy something real, something that screams from inside and resonates with passionate locked ideas and inspire them to keep going, to be more specific is impossible after the 60s and 70s.

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There is something that tends to happen with young students which is that they don’t stay within the limts of classical music which is the standard for music education, and they follow the energetic appeal of music such as rock and electric guitars, but there are some differences beyond just how to play this type of music and its instruments.

Electric Guitar Gear

For starters, there is some essential gear that is needed to be confortable making rock music, this ranges from pedals to amplifiers. First of all an overdrive or distortion pedal is a must, an overdrive being a more clean distortion. Rock is a genre that is known to have lots of distortion with guitars and even bass sometimes. Next would be a few complementary pedals such as a chorus, and a reverb. These two can help achieve a specific sound by playing a bit with the knobs, or use a specif effect for a particular moment.

There are many more effects that will eventually become a part of your arsenal as a guitarist but first, the essentials.

Electric, Loud and Messy

This article is mostly to help young musicians that started their journey in music school but are very interested in rock, this is a very common thing but it is a very different experience despite still being just music.

While in other musical genres acoustic is what matters in order to get the best sound possible, in rock music, amplifiers, volume and all sorts of equalization is essential to get the best sound possible.

Everything Works In Rock


If there is a genre that welcomes any genre and blends differents types of music is rock, and one of the biggest mistakes of young musicians is to believe that rock is “cooler” than the music they’re taught in music school. Rock is different, but it’s also a place in which they can be extemely creative without falling far from the genre.

This is one of the reasons why rock is amazing for beginners, because it allows a lot of creative freedom, but more than that, the sense of freedom and energy that young musicians have is very present in this genre.

The attitude towards rock excludes everything that could be boring about music and provides an experience that can be fun and educational, while at the same time connecting with the ones learning how to play. Imagine for example telling a student to use what they’ve learned from scales and classical interpretations in an original rock song. The idea would be that any restraints, either psichological or composition wise would be broken, allowing creativity to flourish in a way that music academies sometimes overlook.

In this sense the electric guitar is one of the easiest instruments to make that transition while also feeling a very strong difference in the overall feel of the music being played.


While it is something that affected this genre for decades, it shouldn’t be an issue anymore.

Meanwhile, academic job listings around the country show an unprecedented demand for popular specializations. These developments result in a new kind of irony, for there is, as yet, no clear “discipline” of rock studies, no consensus on what might constitute its focus or its limits, as a field of study or set of approaches; and it is not clear that there ever will or should be. It is not that scholars have failed to attempt to address such questions. On the contrary, the interested reader is no longer lacking in stylistic overviews, encyclopedic histories, theoretical treatises, and college textbooks. But these manifold projects are beset from the outset by ideological and methodological controversies, while still lacking the solid underpinning of serious, close musical analysis that is needed if clear musicological understanding is to be obtained.

John Covach and Graeme M. Boone, Understanding Rock

Rock is an opportunity to blossom in many ways, and it is the best way to just go crazy mixing different styles of music, which will encourage a music student’s education.

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There is nothing like a live performance, while making records and streaming music is usually the way that music gets to a large amount of people, there is something about it being played and heard in the moment that makes a deeper bond and greater connection with the audience.

Jack White has an interesting “rule” when it comes to playing live. Live performances usually follow a setlist, which is the order of songs to play during the show, however Jack White doesn’t follow this structure, and the reason behind it is that he believes that the crowd and the player sometimes feel a certain way and other times react differently, the way he does it is that depending on how the crowd reacts or feels, he will then react with a song.

I want the show to be alive,” he says. “And I want each show to be different so that the crowd is in control of what’s really happening onstage, whether they know it or not.

Jack White

He thinks that there is a connection that arises during shows on stage that makes musicians feel in sync even if they don’t know eachother very well.

Maybe one day, it’d be interesting to do a tour where none of the musicians are allowed to speak to each other. They only see each other onstage. That would be an interesting experiment.

Jack White

This makes the experience even more unique as the musician and the crowd interact in the same way a band reacts to improvisation.

Live Performance and Improvisation

Improvisation is also an important part of the live act, not just as a planned part of the show but also as a way of dealing with unforeseen events such as a string breaking or tumble on stage, or some sound malfunction. The idea of going prepared and with specific orders in mind can only take you so far, there is a whole other reality when everything is happening.

Of course depending on the music genre, there is a different approach to these situations, for example, Rock is a lot more malleable and free in terms of improvisation and “going with the flow” but on the other hand, a string quartet has to follow a strict pattern in which every sound and every movement needs to line up. The way a Rock band deals with a broken string could be with humor, rage and even keep playing without any concerns whatsoever, but in a string quartet, if a string were to break (which is highly unlikely) the piece could not go on. That is not to say that one live experience is better than the other, it’s just a different thing

It is important to remember that classical music once welcomed improvisation into their performances, mostly piano composers, but why isn’t it a common thing now?

The great piano composers were all fluent improvisers. Bach, Mozart, Chopin and so many others are reported to have improvised to audiences regularly. Beethoven’s improvisation duel against Daniel Steibelt, which he won to become the most lauded improviser in Vienna, proves this point whilst it also demonstrates how many virtuoso pianists of the time were skilled improvisers. So when did improvisation cease to be part of the job description for classical pianists, and why?

Phil Best

The reason is not really a strong one, in reality what happened was a combination between the separation of composer/performer and the idea from the 20th century of bringing all the music to the most faithful interpratation possible.

While there are still some pianists such as Robert Levin and Gabriela Montero, it’s not a very regular thing to happen today.

There is much to talk about when it comes to live performances, but it’s good to remember that some of the things that happen in those situations cannot be reproduced or copied, every show, every event is a one in a lifetime thing.

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