The Different Types of Rock Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


From Hard Rock to Metal and everything in between, read on to learn about the different types of rock music.

Classic rock

Classic rock is a radio format which developed from the album-oriented rock (AOR) format in the early 1980s. In the United States, classic rock developed from early AOR radio stations that played only album tracks by classic rock artists.

The term “classic rock” is used to describe a wide range of popular music produced between the 1960s and the 1990s. The genres which are considered “classic rock” vary considerably, but they all share a common origin in the standardization of popular music in the 1960s. Classic rock is generally considered to be music produced before alternative rock became popular in the 1990s.

Classic rock is often used as a term for music that is not contemporary. It typically refers to music from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, although some define it as extending up to the mid-1990s or even later. Classic rock n roll is sometimes used interchangeably with classic rock, but usually refers specifically to songs from the 1950s and early 1960s which helped to shape the sound and style of Rock and roll.

Hard rock

Hard rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and often accompanied with keyboards.

The hard rock genre developed into a major form of popular music in the 1970s, with bands such as the Who, Boston, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Kiss, Nazareth and Van Halen. In the 1980s, some hard rock bands moved away from their hard rock roots and more towards pop rock. Established hard rock bands made a comeback in the mid-1980s and hard rock reached a commercial peak in the 1980s with bands such as Mötley Crüe and Whitesnake.

Prog rock

Progressive rock, often shortened to prog or proggy, is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rooted in 1960s psychedelic rock and other forms of experimental pop music, prog is characterized by song structures that are complex and lengthy, often containing shifting time signatures, instrumental passages, and an overall collaborative approach to composition and performance.

Punk rock

Punk rock is a type of rock music that emerged in the mid-1970s. Punk rock bands are typically characterized by their DIY approach, fast-paced songs, and aggressive or angsty lyrics. Punk rock began as a reaction against the overblown and polished sound of mainstream 1970s rock music. Early punk bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols were often associated with anti-establishment sentiments, helping to fuel the punk rock movement.

New wave

New wave is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the late 1970s and continued through the 1980s. With ties to punk rock, new wave evolved into a more commercially successful style that incorporated elements of pop and disco. New wave artists rejected the label of “punk” and instead self-identified as “new wave” to distance themselves from the aggressive connotations of punk rock. Some notable new wave artists include Blondie, Talking Heads, and Duran Duran.

Indie rock

Indie rock is a genre of alternative rock that originated in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1980s. Indie rock is extremely diverse, with subgenres that include lo-fi, post-rock, math rock, dance-punk, noise pop, emo, and indie pop. The term “indie rock” is often used to describe a musical artist who is signed to an independent record label or who is unsigned.


Britpop was a musical movement that occurred in the United Kingdom in the early 1990s. The term Britpop referred to a group of bands that were influenced by British pop music from the 1960s and 1970s. The bands included Oasis, Blur, Pulp, and Suede.


Grunge was a rock music genre that emerged in the early 1990s. It was characterized by angst-filled lyrics, distorted guitars, and a general sense of dissatisfaction with society. Grunge bands became popular in the Seattle area of the United States, and the genre soon spread to other parts of the country. Some of the most popular grunge bands included Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains.


Post-rock is a type of rock music that is informed by postmodernism and characterized by the abandonment of traditional rock song structures, norms, and aesthetics. This style of music emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with bands such as Sonic Youth and Slint experimenting with new sonic possibilities offered by alternative rock and punk rock. Post-rock generally eschews conventional rock song structures, opting instead for extended instrumental sections and a focus on texture and atmosphere. This often results in a more ambient soundscape than what is found in traditional rock music.

Math rock

Math rock is a type of indie rock that is characterized by complex, intricate rhythms and melodies. Math rock bands often make use of unconventional time signatures and song structures. The term “math rock” was coined by music journalist Moynihan in the early 1990s to describe a new breed of indie rock bands who were influenced by the complex, polyrhythmic sound of avant-garde jazz and 20th-century classical music.

Math rock bands are often lauded for their musicianship and technical prowess. Many math rock bands make use of extended techniques such as odd time signatures, atonal tunings, and angular guitar riffs. Math rock is not always easy to listen to, but many fans find the challenging, cerebral sound to be rewarding.

Some well-known math rock bands include: Tortoise, Don Caballero, Slint, Shellac, Polvo, June of 44,Mission of Burma, Pinback, This Will Destroy You.

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