I enjoy playing guitar and also listening to music with good guitar tracks and riffs. In this page I will be exploring different guitar playing styles and genres of music associated with guitars (classical, blues, metal etc). I will also talk about what influenced those genres and how those playing styles have influenced others. Talking about every genre would be ridiculous because they are so many, so I will stick to the main ones, and my personal favorites. I will try and go chronologically but I may wander off in some places. Enjoy 🙂
Classical guitar has different styles, not just classical orchestral songs converted to the guitar.
One of my favorite guitarists that is a master of all of these styles is Estas Tonne (who I found while researching different type of guitar styles for this blog. I never really looked into this type of music before).
Classical guitar styles have inspired many songs or at least parts of songs, because of the sound/tone and technicality of the playing style. You can hear classical influences in these examples I have found (below).
Anastasia – Slash ft Myles Kennedy and the conspirators
(Intro and solos)
Battery – Metallica
Canon (rock) – Jerry C
African slaves brought their musical traditions with them when they were transported to work in the North American colonies. Early types of African American music included spirituals (religious songs using vocal harmony) and work songs. These were sung whilst doing work they used call and response style music.
When the guitar was introduced, that style of music joined with the folk music of the colonies formed the early blues. The songs were about working hard all day and included their pain and emotions. The guitar tunes matched the tone of the meanings behind the songs and was riff based and repetitive.
There are numerous Rock genres. One of the earliest is Rock n Roll which originated in 1940’s America. It is an evolution of Blues and Jazz and you can hear the influences of these styles in Rock n Roll music. Elvis Presley was one of the most famous in this genre at the time.
Then, Rock n Roll took another step in it’s evolution when the distortion amp was invented.
The story is that when Willie Kizart, the rhythm guitarist of Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats, was getting his equipment out of his car, he dropped his amplifier, which resulted in the distorted sound. And the rest as they say is history.
The link to the song below was the first recording of distorted guitar.
As the distorted sound developed, more sounds were possible on the guitar. Blues Rock evolved with heavier riff sounds and better solos. One of my favorite blues rock guitarists is Gary Moore. He is a good example of Blues Rock solo guitar.
At the time Rock was new, and it allowed people to explore new genres and ways of thinking, which people thought made them different and stand out. It also offered release from the ‘humdrum’ lives they lived. The Boat that Rocked shows this well. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a pirate radio station that plays new rock and pop music without permission from broadcasters. It shows the release people got from listening to this music.
Rock obviously takes inspiration from Blues and Jazz, but I have also seen resemblance to Classical guitar. A good example is Stairway to Heaven by Led Zepplin
… Another is one of my favorite Slash songs, Anastasia. (Mainly the intro and the solo/closing solo).
As Rock evolved, more sub-genres and styles of playing evolved out of it. Such as:
Metal was ‘believed to have started’ on 13th February 1970 when Black Sabbath released Black Sabbath. This song was heavier than anything else before it.
The main riff in this song is clearly based around Gustav Holst’s – The Planets – Mars (well the introduction anyway)…
…Which brings be onto to how metal takes inspiration from other genres.
There is a genre called Neo-Classical metal, which takes inspiration from classical, orchestral songs and ‘metalizes’ them (more so than the Black Sabbath song). They are instrumental and very much based around arpeggios. A good example is Yngwie Malmsteen. He is one of the best and is a pioneer in this sub-genre.
Metal has ties with to blues as well because of the topics of the songs. They are both usually emotional and ‘come from the soul’. The songs are very riff based. For example, Iron man by Black Sabbath, Enter Sandman by Metallica etc etc.
The reason people listen to Metal music is, similarly to rock, the feel a release when they listen to it. The aggressiveness in the songs reach people on another level, (like Dubstep might to people who like Dubstep (not me)). Look at mosh pits, the songs get to people and ‘make them’ aggressive, but it’s a controlled aggression and it brings the crowd together and they get a ‘tribal’ feeling.
Metal has a lot of sub-genres, and I mean a lot. My personal favorites are Heavy, Rock, Speed, Nu and glam to a certain extent.
The video below shows the different styles, I don’t expect you to sit through all of it (unless you want to) but just flick through it to see the scale of the number of sub-genres.
Punk developed in England in the mid 70’s. Famous bands from that era include The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Ramones etc.
During the 1980’s, faster, more aggressive styles had become predominant in punk rock. Musicians identifying with or inspired by punk also pursued a broad range of other variations, giving rise to pos punk and alternative rock. At the end of the 20th century, punk rock had been adopted by the mainstream, as bands such as Green Day and Blink 182 brought the genre widespread popularity.
The sound of Punk is fairly similar to Metal. Aggressive, fast and hard edged. However, the reasons why it separates itself from Metal and other genres is that it was mainly politically based and the lyrics are anti-authoritative. The riffs are quite simple and repetitive. As I mentioned before, artist started experimenting with new variations of the genre. Above are some examples of modern, mainstream punk bands. You can hear that Green Day is more similar to original Punk Rock in terms of sound and meaning more so than other modern Punk bands like. Blink 182