The Development of Pop Music from 1950 to the Current Day
Info: 9681 words (39 pages) Dissertation
Published: 1st Sep 2021
The term ‘pop music’ refers to the music which has formed the backbone of the music recording industry from 1950 to present day. ‘Pop music’ includes many varied forms of blues, rock ‘n’ roll, rock, country and western, soul, rap, dance, urban and new wave styles of music. It is covered by the common recorded and broadcast formats, as well as live gigs and concerts. ‘Pop music’ has also had influences and has been influenced by classical music and world/folk music.
The emergence of popular or pop music began in the late 19th century, following scientific and technological breakthroughs by Emile Berliner and Thomas Edison. In 1877, Edison discovered that by rotating a wrapped strip of tinfoil around a metal cylinder, sound could be copied. These ideas created what is known as Edison’s phonograph, and is what inspired Berliner to develop the gramophone. Berliner’s gramophone was used to record sound onto flat discs. The discs used enabled the mass production of sound recording due to them being a cheaper and easier alternative to the cylinders used in Edison’s phonograph. Both of these impacted hugely on the popular music industry as they enabled those of middle class standing to acquire technology, which in the past were only available to the elite.
Tin Pan Alley is an area of New York in which many music publishers gathered. This area quickly developed into a creative source for pop music, as the publishers that emerged from here were able to produce sheet music which met the demand of the expanding middle-class. This song publishing continued throughout the early 20th century.
The genres of popular music span from styles of classic opera to vaudeville – a type of ‘variety entertainment’. Vaudeville includes little acts such as singing, dancing, magic and comedy, expanding the ways in which publishers could sell music promoted by live shows and ragtime. A syncopated melody characterizes ragtime – a style of piano music.
The microphone, electrical amplification and loudspeakers are considered vital to popular music. These technologies still remain fundamental to every musical production and reproduction. The impact of the microphone on musical style was both subtle and intense; for example, the string bass could be heard clearly, than previously.
Pop Music in the 1950s to 1960s
Blues originated from African Americans in the Deep South of the United States at the end of the 19th century. Blues has its roots in African-American work songs, European-American folk music and also in African musical traditions. The genre incorporated shouts, chants, work songs and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues genre is easily recognisable by the call-and-response pattern. The twelve-bar blues is the most common blues scale and specific chord progression.
Twelve-Bar Blues Structure
I I I I
IV IV I I
V IV I V
A trance-like rhythm which gives a repeating effect commonly known as the groove is highlighted by the blues walking bass. The lyrics and instrumentation further characterize the style. The most traditional early blues verses consisted of a single line repeated four times. However, over time, the blues structure has changed, with the common structure being the AAB pattern – this consists of one line which is performed over the first four bars, which is then repeated over the next four and culminating in a longer line over the final bars. A blues composition has a basic 12-bar framework and is reflected in a 4/4 time signature by a standard harmonic progression of 12 bars. Twelve bar blues are typically associated with a set of three different chords which are played over the 12-bar scheme.
Over time, blues has evolved from unaccompanied vocal music, into a wide variety of styles and subgenres. There have been many influences on blues music, such as: Bluegrass, Jazz, Jug Band, Ragtime, Rock and Roll and Country. There are many key artists of blues, such as: Bo Diddley, Eta James, Robert Johnson, Big Mama Thornton, Chuck Berry and Otis Rush.
Typical instruments used in blues music include: guitar, piano, bass, drums, blues harp and slide guitar.
‘Talk to Me Baby (I Can’t Hold Out)’ which was written by Willie Dixon and was recorded by Elmore James, is an example of a blues song that uses a slide guitar.
Another style of pop music in the 1950s and 1960s was Dance music, this was composed specifically to accompany dancing. It can consist of a complete musical piece or can also be a section of a longer musical arrangement. It originated from the late 19th century Western ballroom and social dance music. It’s popularity increased in the 1920s and in 1950 Rock ‘n’ Roll became the most popular dance music, followed in the late 1960s by the rise of soul and R&B music. The escalation of disco in the early 1970s led to dance music becoming increasingly popular with the public. The Drifters, James Brown, Chubby Checker and the Shadows are some of the key artists of the 1950s and 1960s.
This time also saw the rise of popular ballads. Originally narrative folk songs written to accompany dances, ballads are emotional songs about romance, breakup and longing. Due to ballads being intended to accompany dance, they were composed with refrains in alternate lines as well as in couplets. The dancers would then sing the refrains in time with the dance.
A major feature of ballads is repetition. This can be seen in a variety of ways; as a refrain; the fourth lines being repeated in succeeding stanzas; occasionally repetition of third and fourth lines of a stanza and sometimes of entire stanzas. Popular ballads follow a verse/chorus structure with some songs including a pre-chorus, middle 8/bridge or an intro/outro.
Typically, these ballads use acoustic instruments such as guitars, pianos, saxophones, and sometimes a full orchestra. However, many modern, mainstream ballads tend to feature synthesizers, drum machines and even, to some extent, a dance rhythm.
Key artists of popular ballads during the 1950s and 1960s include: Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Otis Redding and the Drifters.
Typical instruments include: drums, bass guitar, lead/ rhythm guitar (often acoustic), lead vocals, backing vocals, keyboard/synth, solo instrument e.g. saxophone
Musicians that compose and/or sing ballads are known as Balladeers. Perry Como was a very famous balladeer, writing songs mainly for the older generation. Como had many of his songs in the Great American Song Book. Some of his songs include ‘And I Love You So’ (1968) and ‘Because’ (1947). With his career spanning more than half a century, Perry Como was one of the most influential balladeers at this time.
Novelty songs were another style seen in the 1950s and 1960s – a song, performed principally for its comical effect. The term originiated in Tin Pan Alley to describe one of the main parts of popular music. Novelty songs attained great popularity during the 1920s and 1930s, with a resurgence of interest in the 1950s and 1960s. Many novelty songs use unusual lyrics, subjects, sounds, or instrumentation, and may not even be musical. A famous 1950’s novelty song is ‘(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window’, written by Bob Merrill, which became well-known for its extensive play and backlash. Another famous novelty song is ‘Rabbit’ by Chas and Dave (1981). Other significant artists of novelty songs include; Ray Stevens, Stan Freberg, Bobby Pickett and Sheb Wooley. George Martin was mainly known for his work with The Beatles, but he was also known for producing novelty and comedy records, working with Bernard Cribbins, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, in the early 1950s.
Typical instruments include: guitar, bass, drums and keyboard
R&B is a genre of popular African-American music that originated in the 1940s. Bands that play R&B tended to consist of piano, one or two electric guitars, bass, drums, saxophone, and sometimes background vocalists.
The lyrical themes of R&B often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy. The lyrics frequently focus on the themes of successes and failures in terms of relationships, freedom, economics, aspirations, and sex. One main feature of R&B is the common use of the 12 bar blues structure such as that in ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ by Elvis Presley or the 16 bar blues structure such as in ‘I Got a Woman’ by Ray Charles.
Johnny Ace, Etta James, Chuck Willis, Joe Turner and Clyde McPhatter are just some of the main artists of R&B. An example of an 1960s R&B band are The Rolling Stones.
R&B has influenced many other music genres, such as: doo-wop, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, ska, disco, psychedelic rock, reggae, hip-hop and garage rock. In addition, R&B contributed to the development of rock ‘n’ roll over the years.
Typical instruments include; drums, bass, saxophone, horns, piano, organ, electric guitar, vocals, background vocals
Originating in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, rock ‘n’ roll is a genre of popular music that was developed from African-American musical styles such as gospel, jazz, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues, with elements of country music.
Aspects of rock ‘n’ roll can be heard in country records of the 1930s and blues records from the 1920s. The earliest rock ‘n’ roll styles of the late 1940s and early 1950s often featured piano or saxophone as the lead instrument.
The rock ’n’ roll beat is essentially a blues rhythm with an accentuated backbeat – almost always provided by a snare drum. It is usually played with a double bass or an electric bass guitar (such as the Fender bass), a drum kit and one or two electric guitars (one lead and one rhythm). However, in rock ‘n’ roll hits of the 50s, the electric guitar was rarely the featured instrument.
A walking bass line outlining the chord is a feature of some rock ‘n’ roll hits with the piano playing off the block chords accompanied with a left-hand doubling bass. Brushes were still common place for drummers on these records such as ‘All Shook Up’ by Elvis Presley, where it was emphasised by the backing singers clapping on beats two and four.
Many rock ’n’ roll hits followed the 12 bar blues form. Songs such as Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘Great Balls of Fire’ follow this 12 bar blues structure and feature raucous virtuoso piano playing, which was very popular with the listeners. The essence of an icon was born in the rock ‘n’ roll period continuing with solo artists such as James Brown breaking into their own, in the 60s developing from music.
I vi IV V chord progression, is also used in songs today by the likes of Megan Trainor and ‘Stand by Me’ by Benny King from 1963, and even a parody of that chord progression in the musical ‘Grease’s ‘Those Magic Changes’. Even 80s rock bands used this chord progression such as in Pearl Jam’s ‘Last Kiss’, and also in ‘Run Around Sue’ by Dionne and The Bel-Montes.
Rock ‘n’ Roll has had many influences on other genres of music, such as rock and pop rock. Key artists of Rock ‘n’ roll include: Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino and The Everly Brothers. Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’(1955) is an example of a rock ‘n’ roll song from this time. Larger-than-life characters such as Little Richard were also very popular throughout the rock ‘n’ roll period with their flamboyant costumes and lively stage personas and catchy lyrics such as in ‘Tutti-Frutti’ by Little Richard.
Typical instruments include; electric guitar, double bass or bass guitar, drums, piano (optional), saxophone (optional), vocals (optional)
Originating as ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ in 1950s America, Rock music is a genre of popular music that widened over time into different styles. With its roots in 1940s’ and 1950s’ rock ‘n’ roll, its influence has come from country music, blues and rhythm and blues. This style also reflected on many genres such as folk and electric blues, as well as taking influence from classical music and jazz.
Typically, rock songs have a 4/4-time signature, using a verse-chorus form. Lyrics often stress romantic love but may also address a wide variety of other themes that are social or political in nature. By the late 1960s, a number of distinct rock music subgenres had emerged, including blues rock, folk rock and country rock; many of these contributed to the development of psychedelic rock. The sound of rock is traditionally centered on the amplified electric guitar, and is typically supported by an electric bass guitar, and percussion produced from a large drum kit, using big cymbals and large drums (such as John Bonham’s drum kit from Led Zeppelin). These instruments can often be accompanied by others, particularly keyboards such as the piano, synthesizers and a Hammond organ. ‘Thank You’ by Led Zeppelin is an example of a rock song that uses a Hammond organ.
Rock music is characterized by a repetitive snare drum back beat on beats two and four. Harmonies range from the common triad to parallel fourths and fifths. The power chord is also a key feature of rock, with the guitar outlining the chord using the root and the fifth only, omitting the third from the chord. This can be heard in the introduction to songs such as ‘You Really Got Me’ by The Kinks (1964). More dissonant harmonic progressions and adventurous harmonies also feature in rock such as the so-called Hendrix chord E7#9, which is this chord borrowed from the jazz vocabulary. This can be heard in such songs as ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Foxy Lady’. The introduction to ‘Purple Haze’ also features the use of the tritone to create a tense harmony between the bass and the guitar in the 2 bar intro.
The use of jazz harmony in rock music progresses more in psychedelic rock in the 70s with the experimentation of chromatic and jazz harmony. The so-called Hendrix chord is not heard in early rock ‘n’ roll music of Chuck Berry or music from The Beatles (from the 60s) as popular music at the time was generally centered around more traditional harmonic progressions. These types of artists, in their early days, preferred dominant seventh and major sixth chords. Such chords can be heard at the end of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ by The Beatles and ‘Johnny B Goode’ by Chuck Berry.
New-age and Synth Pop are just some of the genres that have been influenced by Rock Music. Some of the key artists of rock music include: Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Roy Orbison and Joni Mitchell.
Typical instruments include: electric guitar, bass, acoustic guitar, drums, piano, synthesizer, keyboards and vocals.
Skiffle is a musical genre with its roots in jazz, blues and folk music. Usually using homemade or improvised instruments, Skiffle played a major part in beginning the careers of later renowned jazz, pop, blues, folk and rock musicians. British blues, British folk revival, British rock and Beat music of the 60s are a number of genres that have been influenced by Skiffle. Key artists of Skiffle include: Lonnie Donegan, Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen, Johnny Duncan and the Bluegrass Boys and Lead Belly.
Typical instruments: washboard, jugs, tea chest bass, kazoo, cigar-box fiddle, musical saw, comb and paper, guitar and the banjo.
Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music, it datesback to the early 1950s in the United States. It blends the differing sounds of Western musical styles such as country with rhythm and blues. It was also influenced by western swing, boogie woogie, jump blues, and electric blues.
The rockabilly sound was characterized by vocal twangs, strong rhythms and the use of the tape echo on the lead guitar and lead vocal. This style was made popular by artists such as: Elvis Presely, Bob Luman, Bill Haley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
The aspects of rockabilly recordings have been described by the following terms: slapback echo, tape delay echo, slapback, flutter echo, reverb and echo. An example of slapback can be heard in ‘Heart Break Hotel’ by Elvis Presley (1956).Slap bass is the percussive sound of the strings hitting the fretboard of the double bass to create a driving swinging rhythm, which is also a feature of country music by the likes of Johnny Cash such as Folsom prison blues, and ‘Jump Jive and Wail’ by Louis Prima from 1984.
Key artists of rockabilly include: Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins. Rockabilly has had many influences on other genre of music, such as: Psychobilly, Punk rock, Gothabilly and Country rock. Rockabilly is still a popular style of music today, both in the US and the UK, with artists such as Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats and Imelda May making the rockabilly revival popular on both sides of the Atlantic.
Typical instruments include: guitar, double bass, drums, piano, and vocals
Artists in the late 50s started to take advantage of the brand new recording style that became available – the Magnetic tape. Before the Magnetic tape, early pop styles in the 50s had to be recorded onto a disk phonograph. This meant that songs were recorded straight onto the disk and couldn’t be changed. The Magnetic tape allowed artists to record, erase and re-record on the same tape. The tape could also be manually edited by cutting the tape and re-joining it. In addition, the drummer was able to hit the drums harder especially on the back beat, giving a more driving feel more suited for dancing; this couldn’t have happened with the phonograph recording system as it made the needle jump.
Pop music in the 1960s to 1970s
Pop music in the 60s was more advanced compared to the 50s, due to technological advances. Artists were now taking advantage of new recording techniques. In the late 60s, Ray Dolby’s noise reduction systems, ‘Dolby A’ and ‘Dolby B’ were developed. By using these systems, the sound of the late 60s was clearer and less distorted than the 50s sound.
As the production of music in the 1960s became more advanced, the timbre in songs became more focused. For example, The Beach Boys, have a clearer tone in their vocals and instruments in their songs in comparison to ‘I Gotta Woman’ by Elvis Presley. This clearer tone in their vocals and instruments can also be heard in their 1963 song ‘Surfin’ USA’.
George Martin was well known for his work with The Beatles. Martin’s more formal musical capability helped refine The Beatles’ talent and distinguish their sound. A sound different from other groups, which eventually made them successful. Martin made vital contributions to other songs, including the piano part in ‘Lovely Rita’, and the harpsichord part in ‘Fixing a Hole’. Another example where Martin contributed vital parts to was the song ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles. Martin played in the style of Bach to show the different voicings that could be used.
The Beatles were one of the first artists to use a PA system and this was all down to the help of George Martin making use of advanced technology. The Beatles and George Martin experimented how to creatively use a resonating glass bottle, a tape loaded the wrong way round so it played and accidental guitar feedback. Martin’s arranging abilities, expertise in the studio and The Beatles longing to create different sounds on each recording, all largely contributed to the success of their records.
Along with advanced studio techniques such as double tracking, unconventional microphone placement, vari-speed recording, tape loops and sound effects, The Beatles enhanced their music using instruments that were uncommon in rock music during this time. Such instruments included those popular in Indian culture as well as string and brass ensembles. In their song ‘Norwegian Wood’, the Indian instrument, the sitar can be heard. As well as these unconventional instruments, The Beatles also used electronic instruments, such as the Mellotron in the introduction of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. An oboe-like sound was created using an electronic keyboard on ‘Baby, You’re a Rich Man’. Other artists at this time were experimenting with new sounds that were available at this time such as phasing distortion Wah-Wah pedals, reversed tape, loops.
One genre of popular music heard in the 1960s to 1970s was Merseybeat. Developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960s, Merseybeat is a pop and rock music genre which is a fusion of rock and roll, doo-wop, skiffle and R&B. Merseybeat was originally a music publication in Liverpool, England in the early 1960s, founded by Bill Harry. The most distinctive characteristic of the music was the strong beat, often heard with a driving emphasis on all beats in a 4/4 bar.
Simple guitar-dominated lineups were common in Merseybeat groups as well as having catchy tunes and vocal harmony. Typically, the instrumentation of Merseybeat groups featured three guitars (a lead, a rhythm and a bass guitar) in addition to drums. This instrumentation was popularized by both The Searchers and The Beatles. Merseybeat vocalists often sang both verses and choruses in close harmony, such as in ‘Love me Do’ by The Beatles.
Merseybeat had many influences on other genres of music, such as: Power pop, Britpop, Ye-ye, psychedelic rock, Garage rock, Pop punk and Group sounds. Influential artists of Merseybeat include: The Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Big Three and The Cryin Shames. The structure of The Beatles can still be seen 40 years later by the band Oasis, who used the same structure as The Beatles.
Typical instruments include: guitar, bass, drums, vocals, keyboards and the harmonica
Motown music is one of the most influential genres of music of this time. Beginning as a record company in 1959, Motown developed substantially over the years. Motown is a type of soul music which is characterized by prominent and typically melodic electric bass-guitar lines, distinctive chord structures and a ‘call-and-response’ style of singing originating in gospel music, as well as the use of tambourines to accent the back beat.
Techniques used in pop production, such as charted horn sections and orchestral string ensembles and carefully arranged background vocals, were key in the production of the Motown sound. Popular Motown tracks featured two drummers instead of one and three or even four guitars tended to be used. Two drummers were often used in Motown music to enhance the force of the beat. Instruments were typically overdubbed and duplicated, to make a better sound. Furthermore, bands of Motown, were usually manufactured, by using a backing band e.g. The Funk Brothers, as well as in house writers being used e.g. Holland and Dozier.
The most recognizable part of a Motown song is the ‘Motown drum fill’, which has a number of variations; this can be heard in many songs such as The Supremes ‘Can’t Hurry Love’ (1966). In more recent years the ‘Motown drum fill’ has been used in songs such as The Spice Girls ‘Stop’ (1998) and Dionne Bromfield’s ‘Mama Said’ (2009). The ‘Motown drum fill’ was ground-breaking for the evolution of pop music, as this was the first time these grooves and fills were being played.
Songs were usually arranged with a Steinway piano and guitars, particularly in the early days, when recording tracks were limited. The Beatles used a Steinway piano in the song ‘Misery’ (1963). The electric keyboards and electric guitars were recorded directly through a custom-made amplifier to guarantee separation between instruments.
Some of the most popular Motown artists include: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Temptations and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande’s 2016 song ‘Faith’ contains this 12 bar blues structure, showing that the 12 bar blues structure can still be seen in today’s music, many years later.
Richard Allan and Benny Benjamin, best known for their part in The Funk Brothers, set a foundation in which the majority of today’s music (eg. rap, rock and drum and bass) is dependent upon. Allan and Benjamin also played on many other Motown tracks.
Typical instruments used to create the Motown Sound include: electric/ upright bass, drums, electric guitar, keyboard, strings (additional), vibes (additional), harmonica (additional) and saxophone (additional)
Another genre of pop music from the 1960s is California Sound, a style that originated with American pop and rock recording artists from Southern California in the 1960s. California Sound has influenced other genres of music, such as Sunshine pop. Artists that perform this California Sound include: The Beach Boys, Dick Dale and his Deltones, The Ventures, The Atlantics and The Surfaris.
Southern California is also the birthplace of Surf Music. This is a subgenre of rock music associated with surf culture, especially popular from 1962 to 1964. Surf Music is heard in two major forms. The first being instrumental surf, characterised by a heavily reverbed electric guitar, which is used to suggest the sound of crashing waves. This style was largely pioneered by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones. Vocal surf, the second form of Surf Music, added vocal harmony backed by the typical ‘Chuck Berry rhythms’ to the original surf sound. Vocal surf was dominated by The Beach Boys, rivalling Motown and girl groups to the top of the American music industry at its most popular time.
Pop punk, Garage punk, Skate punk and Garage rock have been influenced by Surf Music. The aforementioned, key artists of California Sound, were also said to be those that performed Surf Music.
Typical instruments include; electric guitar, fender bass and the saxophone
Soul music is a popular music genre that originated in the United States. Soul music originated in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues and jazz.
Catchy rhythms, stressed by handclaps are an important feature of soul music. Other characteristics are a call-and-response between the lead vocalist and the chorus, as well as an especially tense vocal sound. The style occasionally uses improvisational additions, twirls and auxiliary sounds.
Soul Music has had many influences on other genre of music, such as: Funk, Contemporary R+B and Disco. Key artists of Soul music include: Solomon Burke, James Brown, Etta James, Hank Ballard and Clyde McPhatter.
Typical instruments include; electric guitar, bass, piano, drums, horn section, keyboards, Hammond organ, clavinet, and vocals
Combining elements from rock music and folk music, Folk rock is a musical genre that arose in both the United States and the United Kingdom in the mid-1960s. Popular folk rock artists include: Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Arlo Cruthrie, The Chambers Brothers and Eric Anderson. Folk Rock has influenced other genres of music, such as: Acid rock, Neofolk, Folk metal and Sunshine pop.
Typical instruments include: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, Hammond organ, piano, harmonica and the fiddle
Country and Western is a genre of popular music that originated in the south of the United States, in the 1920s. Its roots are in genres such as folk music and blues music from the south-east of the US.
With mostly simple forms and harmonies, Country music often depends on dance tunes and ballads and is usually accompanied by string instruments, including dobros, fiddles electric and acoustic guitars, banjos and harmonicas.
The influences of Country and Western music can be heard in other genres, such as: Rockabilly, Dansband, Roots rock, Southern rock, Western swing and Heartland rock. Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, George Jones and Loretta Lynn are just some of the popular Country and Western artists of this time.
Typical instruments include; vocals, acoustic guitar, drums, fiddle, bass, mandolin, banjo, double bass, piano, organ, dobro, electric guitar, steel guitar, pedal steel guitar and the harmonica
Progressive (prog) rock is a broad subgenre of rock music that was heard in both the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid to late 1960s. Prog Rock is categorized by it’s use of long solos, overlong albums, fantasy lyrics, elaborate stage sets and costumes, and an obsessive dedication to technical skill. The genre is based on a fusion of styles, approaches and genres; involving a continuous movement between formalism and eclecticism.
Prog rock was an attempt to broaden the music of psychedelic bands who left the traditional standard pop to move towards techniques associated with folk, jazz or classical music – especially instrumentation and compositional techniques.
Prog Rock has had many influences on other genre of music, such as: Krautrock, New-age music, Post rock and Symphonic pop. Key artists of Prog rock include: Frank Zappa, Yes, Genisis, Pink Floyd and King Crimson.
Typical instruments include: electric guitar, organ, bass, drums, electronic keyboard, a synthesiser
Emerging during the mid-60s around the time of folk and blues rock bands in the USA and UK, Psychedelia music is based on the experiences produced by psychedelic drugs. It attempted to replicate the hallucinogenic experience of using drugs or enhance the experience of using them.
Psychedelia music often drew on non-western sources and used electric instruments and electronic effects. Psychedelic songs have many complex components such as their structures, modal melodies, key and time signatures and drones. There is, also, a strong emphasis on extended instrumental solos, featuring a heavily distorted electric guitar as the main instrument. The electric guitars were plugged into large, powerful amps – high in volume and used with heavy distortion to create feedback. Electric guitars were often played using a wah-wah pedal, along with a heavy fuzz box or distortion effects. Psychedelic music often used exotic instruments. The sitar and tabla are some of the common exotic instruments used. Seemingly, there was a strong keyboard presence in most Psychedelia music. This music, in addition, tends to use elaborative studio effects, e.g. backwards tapes and long delay loops. Later forms of Psychedelia also used repetitive computer-generated beats.
Key artists of Psychedelia include: Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Soft Machine. Psychedelia has influenced many genres, such as Acid rock, Psychedelic soul, Alternative hip hop, Gothic rock, Psychedelic pop and Space disco.
Typical instruments include: electric guitars, keyboards, harpsichord, theremin, electronic organ and the mellotron
Reggae is a musical genre that originated in Jamaica, in the late 1960s. It is strongly influenced by traditional mento – a style of Jamaican music – as well as rhythm and blues and American jazz. Reggae usually relates news, social gossip, and political comment in its lyrics.
Stylistically, reggae incorporates musical elements of rhythm and blues, jazz, mento, calypso and African music. Off-beat rhythms are one of the most easily recognizable elements of Reggae, for example, staccato chords played by a guitar or piano on the off-beats. The concept of ‘call-and-response’ can be found throughout Reggae music. The bass guitar plays the vital role in this drum and bass lead style. In Reggae music, the sound produced by the bass is heavy and thick. It tends to be equalized so that the lower frequencies are emphasized and the higher frequencies are removed. The off-beat rhythm in Reggae is often played by a guitar. Reggae music is instantly recognisable from the counterpoint between the bass and drum downbeat and the off-beat rhythm section.
Reggae has had many influences on other genre of music, such as: Dancehall, Dub, Hip Hop, Ragga and Drum and Bass. Key artists of Reggae include:Bob Marley, Johnny Nash, Toots and The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tash.
Typical instruments include; bass, drums, percussion, guitar, organ, piano, synthesizers, brass instruments and melodica
One specific music production technique of the 1960s/1970s was Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’. Phil Spector is an American record producer, musician, songwriter, and businessman who developed the Wall of Sound. He is known as one of the most influential figures of pop music history.
Spector recorded with multiple instruments and used overdubbing/ multitrack. One type of recording Phil Spector was known for was Stereo Recording, which was seen as the norm type of recording, in the 1960s/1970s. Stereo Recording consisted of Hard Panning, which is where people are panned a certain way so that you hear different instruments, which revolutionized The Beatles sound.
One of Phil Spector’s ‘best work’ was ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ by Tina Turner. The track was recorded using Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ production technique, and required 21 session musicians and 21 background vocalists. Spector’s perfectionism in the studio, meant that Turner had to sing the song repeatedly until Spector felt that he had the perfect vocal recording for the song.
Another type of recording used in the 1960s/1970s was Mono Recording. This sound was intended to be heard as if it were a single channel of sound perceived as coming from one position. An example of a band that used this recording style is The Beach Boys. They recorded over and over, which created a thick sound. Their songs often included over-dubbing, for example, ‘Good Vibrations’. The song featured a Hammond Organ, which was played through a Lesley Speaker and also had a polyphonic texture in the middle vocals, which all contributed to the very thick sound. The Beach Boys also used a full orchestra in the song ‘Good Vibrations’, to create the famous ‘Wall of Sound’. In many of The Beach Boys songs they used a tremolo guitar and close vocal harmony to create this thick sound.
Pop music in the 1970’s to 1990’s
One genre of pop music that was popular between the 1970s and 1990s was Electronica. This genre incorporates a multitude of electronic-based styles such as house, ambient, jungle, drum and bass, techno and industrial dance. The term Electronica is one used to describe the popularization of electronic music styles which are intended to be both listened and danced to.
Electronica gained from advancements in music technology, especially drum machines, music sequencers, synthesizers and digital audio workstations. Due to technological developments, individuals and smaller groups were able to produce electronic songs in small studios or even in project studios.
Electronica has had many influences on other genre of music, such as Alternative dance and Post rock. Key artists of Electronica include: Pet Shop Boys, David Bowie and Soft Cell.
Typical instruments include: synthesizer, drum machine, sequencer, keyboard, and a sampler
In the early 1970s, Glam rock developed in the United Kingdom as a style of rock and pop music performed by musicians who had extravagant looks – wearing outrageous costumes, makeup, and hairstyles. English psychedelic and art rock scenes of the late 1960s were the birth place of Glam rock. Glam artists fused many diverse sources ranging from bubble-gum pop and ’50s rock and roll to cabaret theatrics, science fiction, and complex art rock.
These artists drew on such musical influences as bubble-gum pop, stomping rhythms, 50s rock ‘n’ roll and the brash guitar riffs of hard rock.
Key artists of Glam rock include: David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Sweet, Slade and T. Rex. Glam Rock has had many influences on other genres of music, such as: New wave, Synthpop, Gothic rock, Punk rock, Post-Punk and New romanticism.
Typical instruments include: guitar, electric bass, drums and the keyboard
Developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Heavy metal is a style of rock music largely developed the United Kingdom and the United States. Originating in blues rock and psychedelic/acid rock, Heavy metal bands created a thick sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, forceful beats, and overall loudness. Machismo and aggression are both often associated with the lyrics and performance styles of Heavy metal artists.
The rhythm in metal songs is forceful, with deliberate stresses. The main groove, in many heavy metal songs, is signified by short, two- or three-note rhythmic figures, which tend to comprise of quaver or semi-quaver notes. The staccato attack which these rhythmic figures are performed, are created by using a palm-muted technique on the rhythm guitar. Whole notes or dotted quarter note length chords are also used in longer rhythmic figures in power ballads with a slower tempo. One of the key characteristics of the genre is the guitar power chord which is the Root and Fifth of the chord (there is no 3rd in the chord outlining an ambiguous tonality). Power chords can, and often do, form parts of riffs such as ‘Back In Black’ by ACDC.
Heavy metal music is generally based on riffs created with three main harmonic attributes: tritone and chromatic progressions, the use of pedal points and modal scale progressions. The tritone is a note borrowed from the blues scale and the blues genre, which adds tension to a riff or melody, as seen in Bar 2, beat 2 + of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. The use of the low E pedal note is seen in “Master of Puppets by Metallica.
Heavy Metal has influenced other genres of music, such as Grunge. Key artists of Heavy metal include; Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Metallica and Iron Maiden.
Typical instruments include: electric guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals
Soft Rock is a subgenre of rock music with a more commercial and less offensive sound. It originated in the early 1970s in Southern California. The style relies on simple, melodic songs with big, lavish productions. Elton John, The Bee Gees, Bon Jovi, David Bowie and Wheels Are Turning are some of the popular artists of this genre.
Typical instruments include a variety of acoustic instruments e.g. acoustic guitar
Another style of popular music from the 1970s to the 1990s is Pop Ballads. Pop Ballads are emotional songs about romance, breakup and longing. The ballad was originally a narrative folk song and has influenced jazz musicians, mostly with improvisation. Artists that performed pop ballads include: Celine Dion, Elton John, Mariah Carey, Tom Jones and Whitney Houston.
Typical instruments include: drums, electric bass, electric guitar, keyboards, strings and solo instruments such as the saxophone
Girl Power is used as a term of female empowerment, independence and self sureness. The term ‘Girl Power’ became popular in early and mid 90s punk culture. The Spice Girls, Destiny Child, Bananarama, Tina Turner and Madonna are some of the bands and artists that used this style of music to spread these positive messages.
A Girl Band is a musical act featuring several female singers who stereotypically harmonize together. It w used mainly in USA to represent the wave of American female pop music singing groups, many of whom were influenced by doo-wop. Girl Band has had many influences on other genre of music, such as: Boy bands, Teen pop, Riot grrrl and Bubblegum pop. Key artists of Girl bands include; Spice Girls and Destiny Child.
Typical instruments include: vocals, electronic backing, sampler, sequencer, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums and the keyboard
A Boy Band is a vocal group, usually consisting of young male singers. At the time of formation, members tend to be in their teenage years or in their twenties and sing love songs marketed towards young females. Many boy bands dance as well as sing, with performances being highly choreographed. Boy bands are most often created by talent managers or record producers following auditions; however, on occasion they may evolve out of church choral groups or gospel music groups.
The earliest sign of music from boy bands began in the late 19th century as acappella barbershop quartets – a group of men, who sang in a four-part harmony. The popularity of barbershop quartets was prominent into the early part of the 20th century. The late 1940s and the 1950s saw a reemergence of the male vocal groups through the use of doo-wop music.
Even though most boy bands take influence from R&B or pop music, other genres are represented – most markedly country and folk music.
Take That, The Beatles, Westlife, Backstreet Boys and Boyzone are some of the most popular boy bands in this time. Boy Bands influenced other genres and styles (eg. Girl groups, Teen pop and Bubblegum pop).
Typical instruments include; studio instrumentation such as: vocals (mostly in harmony), samplers, electronic backing, sequencers and usual live instrumentation: synthesizers, drum kit, piano, electric guitar, bass guitar, with an optional horn: either solo saxophone or horn section.
Britpop is a UK based alternative rock subgenre and culture movement in the mid-1990s. It produced bright, catchy pop music, in part as a reaction to the US led grunge music and the UK’s own shoegazing music scene. Britpop influenced other genres such as Britpop. Key artists of Britpop include: Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Suede and Supergrass.
Typical instruments include: vocals, electric guitar, electric bass, drums, and keyboards
Emerging in the late 1960s, Northern Soul is a music and dance movement that began in Northern England from the British mod scene. Northern Soul is used mainly for dancing and has influenced many genres, such as: Modern soul, Madchester, Mod revival and Rave culture. Key artists of Northern Soul include: Jackie Wilson, Little Anthony and The Imperials, The Impressions, Gloria Jones and Troy Keys.
Typical instruments include: strings, guitar, horns and vocals
During the mid-1980s, Grunge emerged in the American state of Washington as a subgenre of alternative rock. It fuses together elements of punk rock and heavy metal, including the distorted electric guitar used in both genres.
Lyrics of Grunge music often address themes such as social alienation, boredom, confinement, and a desire for freedom. Grunge is easily recognisable by a sludgy guitar sound with a “thick midrange” and rolled-off treble tone. Also, it contains a high level of distortion and fuzz, which is usually created with small stompbox pedals, with some guitarists linking several fuzz pedals together and attaching them to a tube amplifier. Grunge guitarists using pedals was the opposite of other rock genres using expensive, studio-grade rackmount effects units.
Grunge has had many influences on other genre of music, such as: Post grunge and Nu metal. Key artists of Grunge include: Nirvana, Truly, Green River, Mad Season and Hole.
Typical instruments include: Electric guitar, bass, drums and vocals
Developing between 1974 and 1976, across the US, UK and Australia, Punk is a rock music genre. Typically producing short or fast-paced songs, Punk bands were embodied by their use of hard-edged melodies and singing styles, along with their stripped-down instrumentation. The lyrical themes of Punk rock music were often political and anti-establishment.
Typically, the instrumentation of punk rock included an electric bass, a drum kit, and one or two electric guitars, alongside vocals. Punk rock songs tend to be shorter than those of other popular music genres. The majority of early punk rock songs kept the verse-chorus form of traditional rock ‘n’ roll and 4/4-time signature. Punk rock vocals can, on occasion, sound nasal and seem to be shouted rather than sung. Highly distorted chords and barre chords are synonymous with punk rock guitar parts, while bass guitar parts tend to be uncomplicated. Punk rock drums are typically heavy and dry and of minimal set-up.
The production of punk rock music is minimalistic, with some tracks being produced on hope tape recorders or simple four-track portastudios. An objective of punk rock production is for the recording to sound un-manipulated to reflect the commitment and legitimacy of live performances.
Punk has had many influences on other genre of music, such as: Post punk, Alternative rock, Britpop, Gothic rock, Grunge, New wave, No wave, Noise rock and NWOBHM. Key artists of Punk include: The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones, The Stooges and Television.
Typical instruments include: vocals, electric guitar, bass and drums
In the 1970s, Hip-Hop is a music genre formed in the United States. It is a style consisting of stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping. This genre developed within the hip-hop culture – a culture outlined by four key elements: MCing or rapping, DJing or scratching, breakdancing and graffiti. Turntablist techniques – such as scratching, beat mixing and/or matching, and beat juggling were used. Some themes of Hip-Hop songs include hardship, racism and poverty.
In the early days of hip-hop between 1976 and 1983, hip-hop was typically dance music using ‘call-and-response’. One example of this technique is in ‘Rappers Delight’ by Sugar Hill Gang – ‘ho-tel, mo-tel ho-li-day-inn’. This song is considered the first song that popularized hip-hop in both the US and over the rest of the world. Despite not being the first single to feature rapping, it was the first Hip-Hop single to ‘go gold’ in 1979.
The earlier Hip-Hop artists sampled many types of music, like funk, soul, and jazz. In the later years of Hip-Hop special effects were used alongside samples, as well as experimentation with other techniques. These techniques included the rotation or scratching of records back and forth, which created a rhythmic pattern. Kool Moe Dee’s ‘How Ya Like Me Now’ is one example of this technique. This track includes samples from ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ – the classic funk song by James Brown.
A second influx of rap artists brought inner-city rap to young Americans, at the beginning of the 1980s, by combining rap and hard guitar rock. This style was pioneered by the likes of Run-D.M.C and The Beastie Boys.
The 1980s saw the expansion of Hip-Hop with the development of more complex styles. Some early examples of this expansion can be heard in songs such as ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel’ by Grandmaster Flash (1981) – which is consist of simply sampled tracks.
In the early 1980s, the rise in Hip-Hop records can be linked to the new beat making abilities that became available, due to the ‘Roland TR-808’ used by producers. Increasing in popularity, the ‘Roland TR-808’ was used by many producers due to its affordability and synthesized drum sounds. This technology allowed for quick release of Hip-Hop records, this met the high demand for songs of this genre. Currently, Hip-Hop artists and producers still use the ‘Roland TR-808’ due to the quality of the drum sounds.
One of the most well-known features of Hip-Hop music is the ‘Amen Break’. This is a 4-bar drum groove, which has been sampled almost 2500 times. The ‘Amen Break’ was first performed by GC Coleman from The Winstons, which is where the break originated in their 1969 song ‘Amen, Brother’.
Many genres were influenced by Hip Hop, including: Breakbeat, Drum and bass, Trip bass, Grime, Neo soul, Big beat, Old school jungle, Trap and Electro. Key artists of Hip Hop include: LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Outkast, Will Smith and Eminem.
One of the most sampled songs in history, especially in Hip-Hop, is the Chic’s ‘Good Times’. This sample is heard in the aforementioned ‘Rappers Delight’ where the bass line plays the same rhythm and notation.
Typical instruments include rapping and turntables
Developed alongside house music, Garage is a subgenre of electronic music. Garage music was developed in New York in the Paradise Garage Nightclub. In the 1980s, Dance music was made mostly of electronic instruments such as synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines – a vital component of Garage – as well as the use of gospel-influenced piano riffs and female vocals. Garage has had many influences on other genres of music, such as: UK garage and Speed garage. Key artists of Garage music include: Tuff Jam, Joey Negro, Todd Terry, Change and Cevin Fisher.
Typical instruments include: turntables, synthesizer, drum machine, sequencer, keyboards and vocals
One of the most common formats for pre-recorded music between the 1970s and 1990s was The Compact Cassette. This was first alongside the LP record and then later with the Compact Disc (CD). The Compact Cassette is made up of two minute spools. A magnetically coated polyester type plastic film is passed and wound between these spools. Two stereo pairs of tracks (4 tracks in total) or two monaural analog audio tracks were available on the tape. When moving in one direction, a stereo pair or a single monophonic track is played or recorded. A second pair/track is recorded/played when it moves in the opposite direction. Changing the direction could be achieved in two ways – by manually flipping the tape or by the recording device changing the direction (this is known as ‘auto-reverse’).
Pop Music in the 2000’s
The foundation of Urban Music was set in the American black music culture and the key events that influenced the direction of its fast evolution mostly took place in America. Key artists of Urban Music include: Stormzy, Skepta, Dizzee Rascal and Lethal Bizzle.
Typical instruments include: vocals, synthesizers, keyboard, drum machines, drums, talk box and the piano
Pop Rock is a lighter, smoother version of rock music and is similar to the style of commercial pop music. Pop rock was originally an alternative to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, and was influenced in its early stages by the style of rock ‘n’ roll and doo wop as well as its beat and arrangement. The genre places a heavy emphasis on profession songwriting. The majority of pop and rock music has tended to have a similar sound – both in the instrumentation and lyrical content of the music. Pop and rock music, that comprises of elements from rock music, that has been commercially successful has been popularly known as ‘pop rock’ or ‘power pop’
Influences of Pop Rock music has been seen in many other genres such as: Brill building and Soft rock. Key artists of Pop/rock music include: Coldplay, Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Fall Out Boy and Rod Stewart.
Typical instruments include: vocals, synthesizers, keyboard, drums, piano, electric guitar and the electric bass
Over the 2000s, internet-based indie artists have found fame through social media (eg. Youtube and Facebook). These artists often begin their careers covering popular songs, following some fame they begin to perform original songs. Boyce Avenue, Jake Bugg, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Tori Kelly and Us the Duo are just a number of popular artists that began as internet-based artists.
Now one of the most popular artists in the world, Ed Sheeran first became popular on Youtube by recording and posting videos of him singing both covers and original songs. In one of his recent hits ‘Shape of You’, he uses a chord progression that is heard in many popular songs from both the past and present. The chord progression that is used is ii vi iv v (in the key of C#m). ‘Shape of You’ also contains a technique called Looping – a technique that can be heard in The Beatles work (eg. ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’). This continually popular and common technique shows the influence that The Beatles have had on today’s music.
Music from the 2000s to present day is difficult to divide into major styles. This is because there is a diversity of styles and many artists may combine styles in their music. There are a multitude of new formats that can be used to listen to music, such as online, on streaming sites and on smartphones. These new formats have helped many artists to become successful, such as the internet-based artists aforementioned. This variety of listening platforms also gives the artists the freedom to choose how to produce and release their music.
There has been an increase in influences from other media platforms such as television. Over the years, TV talent shows such as The Voice and X Factor have had a substantial impact on popular music and today’s music industry. Not only has TV impacted the music, it has also given many artists the experience and exposure they need to succeed in their career.
The launch of Apple’s iPod in October 2001, has transformed the way we listen to music. In later years, Apple’s production of the iPhone in June 2007 and iPad in April 2010 has also significantly impacted our access to music. In the development of these products, Apple opened up a completely different and new format to not just listen to music but to also purchase and download it. This has now become the easiest way to listen to music anywhere, and at anytime.
Unfortunately, this new format of purchasing music has had a detrimental effect on other music retailers such as HMV (His Masters Voice) and other physical music stores. As this new music platform is instant, it is obvious why buying CDs is now less popular. For a fraction of people, this is seen as the music industry collapsing. On the other hand, many people see this as an exciting development that is shaping the future of music.
In conclusion, the development of pop music from the 1950s to the current day has seen; changes in the production of pop music in different genres, the way we listen to music and recording techniques used. Artists have a wider choice of instruments and how they can use them. For the listener there is a wealth of genres to listen to now, compared to the 1950s, however, this earlier style of music remains influential. As technology advances further, artists will have the capacity to be more experimental in the production of their music.
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