Some minor research on the basic differences between rock and pop will leave you with some evasive opinions and lots of confusion. Most of the answers don’t differentiate between pop music and “popular music.” Answers on rock music come with a ton of time-consuming history and lots of names. If that wasn’t enough, rock music is considered to be better than pop music. Is this comparison necessary and is it really true?
To cut through all of the confusion, this article will discuss the basic differences and characteristics of the genres and prove that both are equally important, necessary, and enjoyable.
Table of Contents
Pop Music and Rock Music are Sub Genres of Popular Music – What?
Several dictionaries and establishments have tried to define the genres but have failed to capture them precisely because of the eclectic nature of both styles of music. One thing that confuses most people⏤be prepared for this mindbender⏤both pop music and rock music are sub-genres of popular music, but “pop” in pop music is also short for “popular.”1 Yes, you read that right; it’s really confusing, but this explanation should clear things up a bit.
Any music that appeals to a wide audience is categorized as “popular music.”2 The terms pop and popular are not supposed to be used interchangeably as popular music is a larger category, like classical and folk music, and similarly, several other sub-genres fall under the category, such as the bules, jazz, rock’N’roll, pop, country, etc.3
What are the Basic Differences Between Pop Music and Rock Music?
While there is no difference between the themes of the songs, most issues, experiences, emotions, etc., are covered more deeply in rock music when compared to the lighter, more moderate approach of pop music. You can pick a theme and easily find songs based on it in both genres with varying intensity and depth.
This is also why pop music has a wider audience. Pop songs just skim the surface of most issues and don’t engage their listeners more seriously. It has a broader audience since most people are just mildly aware and slightly interested in everything, and only have a few interests or issues that they take seriously depending on their personal experiences. When it comes to rock music, the themes go beyond the surface level and go a bit deeper, making the music appealing to a more specific audience, which also means fewer listeners compared to pop music.4
What is Rock Music?
Rock music is usually performed by a group of music artists, and it is called a rock band. The genre is also well known for its use of instruments to create raw, expressive music. The creativity and artistic expression of the band members is usually prioritized more than the monetary aspects of the music business. Some other characteristics of this genre are as follows.
Instruments are just as important as the singer, if not more, in this genre. The guitar, bass, and drums are almost always a part of rock music. Electric guitars are the instruments that are most commonly associated with rock bands, and the bass is focused on playing the simple notes that are fundamental to rock music. Drums provide a steady beat that supports the other instruments and add impact to the sound of rock music.5
Rock music usually follows the 4/4 time signature aka the “common time,” as it is the most frequently used time signature. It refers to the rhythm of the song and the count of the musician’s strumming. Songs with a 4/4 time signature have 4 beats per bar or segment.6
Rock music has used the verse-chorus form in its songs since the 1960s. The verse/chorus structure is built around two repeating sections, comprising of the chorus and the verse. The most memorable parts of the melody are added to the chorus. The chorus is usually repeated several times throughout the song and has the same lyrics. The verses have different lyrics and are added between the chorus repetitions.
Rock music has lots of lyrical hooks or catchy phrases. These are found usually in the title of the song and are a part of the chorus or appear near the chorus most of the time.
Rock music is usually performed by a band, which is a group of artists. Each member possesses a musical talent or skill. Some members are good at playing instruments such as electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboard, etc., and others may have vocal skills necessary for singing.7
What is Pop Music?
Pop music is known to be commercial and it caters to societal trends and their collective experiences. This genre is usually focused on vocals and is therefore often represented by solo artists. Here are some other characteristics of the genre.
Pop music prioritizes catchiness over deeper meaning.4 The songs are composed based on a tried and tested method called the “pop-music formula,” which gives the songs a good rhythm with a catchy melody and lyrics that make it easy to sing along. The chorus is usually repeated several times with two or more verses.8
Pop artists are usually solo performers, however if it is a pop music band, almost all of the group members are usually skilled vocalists and prefer singing over playing any instruments.7
Pop music is usually entertaining, light-hearted, and focused on easy listening.9 The genre rarely ventures beyond its dance-oriented themes as it is not meant to engage our minds with serious progressive issues or developments. It is mostly focused on revenue and there are several decision makers when it comes to the creative process of the artists, along with the artistic expression and impression of the final product on the market.10
These details should be more than enough to understand how both genres have their place and an audience. Moreover, most of us are drawn to more than one genre depending on our mental state, the occasion, or our circumstances. Sometimes we want to dive deep into emotions and prefer genres like rock, but sometimes when we need a break, we need fun music like pop.
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1. What is the difference between rock and pop music? (2006, January 21). The Times of India. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/what-is-the-difference-between-rock-and-pop-music/articleshow/1380920.cms
2. Popular Music Genres | Vocabulary | EnglishClub. (n.d.). English Club. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/music-popular.htm
3. List of Music Terms | Vocabulary | EnglishClub. (n.d.). English Club. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/music-vocabulary.htm
4. McCall, I. (2021, December 16). Pop Vs. Rock: Which One is Better? – Music Voices. Medium. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://medium.com/music-voices/pop-vs-rock-which-one-is-better-5f4c86265d5d
5. THEWORDMAN, T. W. M. (2021, February 12). The Elements that make Rock Music Rock Music. HubPages. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://discover.hubpages.com/entertainment/The-Elements-that-make-Rock-Music-Rock-Music
6. Rock Music Characteristics That Make Music (2022 UPDATED). (2022, April 4). Gemtracks Beats. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.gemtracks.com/guides/view.php?title=rock-music-characteristics&id=359
7. Rock and Pop. (2011, February 21). Difference Between. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-rock-and-pop/#ixzz7SyzZImCj
8. What is Pop Music? | Vocabulary | EnglishClub. (n.d.). English Club. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/music-pop.htm#:%7E:text=Songs%20that%20become%20hits%20almost,and%20two%20or%20more%20verses.
9. Rojek, C. (2011). Pop Music, Pop Culture (1st ed.) [E-book]. Polity. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://books.google.co.in/books?id=u_FYpzAljCUC
10. Warner, T. (2003). Pop Music: Technology and Creativity: Trevor Horn and the Digital Revolution [E-book]. Ashgate Publishing. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://books.google.co.in/books?vid=ISBN075463132X&redir_esc=y