Prog rock fundamentals?

Discussion in 'Lessons & Techniques' started by Dadou, Nov 29, 2013.

  1. Dadou

    Dadou Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2013
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    350
    Location:
    Paris, France
    Hi all, I was wondering if anyone here could tell me what the fundamentals of prog rock are (pink floyd and genesis mainly), im talking about music theory, of course. I know Gilmour's playing is essentially if not entirely blues-based, but what about the chord progressions? Or maybe, how would you write a prog song? Thanks in adavance for your help! :)
     
  2. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Messages:
    9,958
    Likes Received:
    3,774
    Location:
    California
    Interesting....

    There have been some prog rock musical criticism books, and I've read a number of them.

    Genesis and Pink Floyd are obviously top classic prog rock bands, along with ELP and Yes and several other bands.

    Genesis and Pink Floyd operate under different principles. Genesis , when a 5 man band, was more out of the Yes/ELP mold with musical virtuosity, multi-keyboards, obvious classical music influences. etc.

    Pink Floyd usually is in its own category - as both one of the most popular prog bands and one that does not ( sorry Gilmore fans) feature instrumental virtuosity as a basic part of the music.

    Floyd's origins in the late 60's London psychedelic scene under original leader Syd Barret were that of a trippy band with a cool lightshow and long strange odd pieces of moody music; eventually the Roger Waters songs became the band's signature.

    However musically Pink Floyd has not been in the same "class" as Yes/ELP/5 man Genesis - but may have had bigger overall success and lasting popularity than those bands.

    Genesis proved that it ultimately was a songwriter's band - as they lost Gabriel and Hackett the band stripped down musically too and became very popular as a trio playing pop music.

    Hence most of the "progressive" elements of early Genesis were based on the arrangements of the songs, which is really true of Yes and other bands.

    Much of what makes prog rock "prog" is the way the music is arranged. Fancy licks, instrumental sounds, odd time bits, etc. are what makes the music sound progressive.

    In Floyd's case, it is more of the mood and such that makes the music progressive; some critics say that "Dark Side of the Moon" was the best selling mediocre recording of all time, in that the actual musical content is basically simple, a few odd chords here and there, but create and sustain a deep mood.

    I'm not sure this is helping answer to question, though.
     
  3. Dadou

    Dadou Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2013
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    350
    Location:
    Paris, France
    Well, first of all, thank you, I've read somewhere in one of your posts that you've played a lot of prog in your early career if I'm not wrong, so I was definitely hoping for you to reply. (Help form other members is obviously greatly appreciated as well! :thumb: )

    I didn't know DSOTM had received such a "hostile" welcoming... my question actually takes origin from that album, as I've played some of its songs acoustically in the last few weeks. I definitely noticed a significant presence of minor and 7th chords, which help create that moody sound, like you said.

    But what if you wanted to create your own prog song? I mean, if I wanted to write something that sounds reminiscent of AC/DC for example (yeah, I'm taking an easy one) I'd most likely use open position A, G, D chords and strum the hell outta my SG, if you see what I'm trying to say..:hmm: is there a writing process you think one could use to write a prog song, or at least a prog rock guitar part or is it all a matter of pure inspiration? I don't know if I am clear either..:laugh2:
     
  4. smitty_p

    smitty_p Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2012
    Messages:
    4,840
    Likes Received:
    3,470
    Some "critics" can be self-absorbed snobs, too.

    Please, understand, I'm not accusing you of that, David. You are certainly not a snob!

    I would say that a musical piece that is capable of creating a deep mood while maintaining musical simplicity borders more on genius than mediocrity.

    But, getting back to the OP, I think it's important to listen to other forms of music. Referencing Pink Floyd, again, I was fascinated to learn that the musical idea behind, "Another Brick In the Wall, part 2" was actually the idea of their producer Bob Ezrin. He pushed Gilmour to go to some disco clubs and see what was happening there. That developed into the signature clean, guitar strumming in the tune. It doesn't sound like disco, but there is a hint of a disco rhythm there.

    Prog Rock is alot about arrangement, as David suggested. It seems to me that a lot of progressive rock is not all about guitar, though there are important guitar parts. The guitar is there, and plays a key role, but it is almost more like another part of the whole. The keys are a critical element also.

    The Alan Parsons Project is another prog rock band. This is one of their most popular pieces. Listen to the guitar at about 1:20. You'll see that it is definitely a prominent sound at that time, but is not in your face. It has a more symphonic quality about what it's doing. The rest of the instrumentation is important to what's happening.

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCR85u9QngQ[/ame]

    BTW, here's the link to the Wikipedia article on "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Another_Brick_in_the_Wall
     
  5. Syrinx

    Syrinx Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    114
    Location:
    Ohio
    Well I have been giving this some thought... In my mind, there are two different forms of "progressive rock". In one camp we have Yes, Genesis, ELP. The other camp we have Pink Floyd, Wishbone Ash, King Crimson. (There is certainly more Prog bands, I am just using a few of the more popular ones for a example.)

    In the first camp the style is more about writing music in more of a "classical" music style within a rock context. You have a songs with long arrangements with different sections that are held together by a common theme. For example, Genesis "Suppers Ready" is 23 minutes long and has 7 sections.

    The other camp is more "progressive" from a thematic standpoint. Oftentimes they are playing straight ahead rock n roll, but with a different message or concept than most "mainstream" bands. For example, Pink Floyd used a concept for Dark Side of the moon. They tied together pieces of music, that we're not musically related in any way other than the record concept. They tied the songs together with special effects to make it "progressive" (clocks, talking, odd noises to create atmosphere)

    I guess to sort of answer your question, Prog rock does not have a music theory to follow. In my opinion, it's about your approach to writing songs. You just take a song wherever it goes regardless of the song length. Look at the Beatles Sgt. Peppers album, I would call that progressive. Rush 2112, to me, is progressive. Yet, they sound nothing alike. That's the great thing about it and why I love it!
     
    Dadou likes this.
  6. smitty_p

    smitty_p Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2012
    Messages:
    4,840
    Likes Received:
    3,470
    Syrinx is right. Defining progressive rock is difficult. Wikipedia has a very long article on it, and provides a lot of descriptions, but doesn't really tell how to create it!

    Perhaps a good way to get a handle on it would be to download the chords of a few progressive rock songs you like and see how those were written.
     
  7. Dadou

    Dadou Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2013
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    350
    Location:
    Paris, France
    Lots of interesting inputs here guys, I really appreciate it! :)

    Some of the things you mentioned, I am quite aware of them (keyboards role, -a saucerful of secrets or echoes are pretty good examples, especially the "live at pompeii" versions etc...). I know APP, I think Parsons was also the audio engineer for the floyd during the DSOTM recording sessions, but yeah, he did some very good stuff.
    As for the wall, it's an album that I still haven't fully understood and it still hasn't "grown on me" beside the astonishing comfortably numb track, maybe because it's too much related to Water's own story, I mean, my dad didn't die in WWII, I didn't go to school in the UK in the 50s and I'm definitely not going to become a rockstar (unfortunately! :( ) and so on, but great album nevertheless.

    I have searched for the chords already, like I said earlier in this thread, I already play my share of PF songs and that's exactly what brought me to the question "is there a way to define prog rock?"
    And I must admit that the ressources you can find online are a bit confusing and leave you with a big "NO" and in fact, apart from the abovementioned comfortably numb, I wouldn't classify the wall as a prog album, sound wise at least, but that's just my own opinion.

    I focused on the guitar part because it's the only instrument I can play (well, I try to do so at least) and I've come to the conclusion that Gilmour's licks (just to stick to the floyd context) are nothing but blues licks with a massive amount of overdrive, delay, reverb and fancy equipment like rotative speakers or phasers etc.. played over a base. If you take all the elements that color his sound, you just get good ole blues stuff. I am afraid the secret might be the keyboard part and the timing... what do you think?
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  8. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Messages:
    9,958
    Likes Received:
    3,774
    Location:
    California
    Well put.

    If you want to see how prog rock is based on arrangements, look on youtube for the acoustic version Jon Anderson plays of "Long Distance Runaround"; then compare it to the standard Yes full arrangement, and it is really the added instrumental parts that take a pretty but simple song and make it "progressive".

    Funny you mention Sgt. Peppers - I consider that the first "prog" recording!

    I also like those other bands like Wishbone Ash!

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOHdxT3l_UI]Jon Anderson - Long Distance Runaround - YouTube[/ame]

    with the arrangement:

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDNFpGOCB80]Yes - Long Distance Runaround/The Fish - YouTube[/ame]
     
    Dorian likes this.
  9. weemac

    weemac Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2013
    Messages:
    267
    Likes Received:
    138
    Location:
    Stralia
    Simple tricks for playing prog..
    Play cleanish.
    Play melodic.
    Leave oblique.......... but meaningful (even when the lyrics aren't) gaps in what you play..

    Eden..
     
  10. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Messages:
    9,958
    Likes Received:
    3,774
    Location:
    California
    Yup...add:

    key changes, that is, use the same material in various tonal centers, not just one tonality

    varied backings - if there are 3 verses in a song, each one is backed up differently, say acoustic guitar first, next time piano and bass, finally the whole band, for example

    Use rhythms other than 4/4 - odd time sections..and Yes played in 3 (or 6) a lot.

    counterpoint - each instrument does a unique part, rather than all jamming on the same riff. Gentle Giant was the one of the best at counterpoint!

    Use many tone colors: keyboards use piano, electric piano, harpsichord, B3 organ, church organ, synths, mellotron/sampler, etc.
    Guitars use acoustic, 12 string, classical, clean and many varied distorted electric guitar sounds.
     
    smitty_p and Dadou like this.
  11. Relic61

    Relic61 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2012
    Messages:
    3,794
    Likes Received:
    2,812
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    I always thought of Progressive Rock as a category or label that was given to music that had some complexity to it, musicianship, chord movement beyond the simple and yet remained light in the sense it didnt fall under the Hard Rock, Metal, Heavy Metal etc etc niches. Rather broad when you think of it and who gets labeled such. How different is RUSH from Floyd for instance?
    [​IMG]

    So if you are looking to establish elemental music theory that defines & typifies Progressive Rock such as chord progression, I'm not sure it is easy undertaken as examples of prog rock is as varied as the many artists that fall under such a category.

    [​IMG]

    Obviously the best way of gaining such understanding is to pick out the artists you like and study, learn and understand there music inside and out. Some of that is easier for some groups than others (just listen to some RUSH riffs) but with todays technology & media assisting us it is totally possible to nail any song we are willing to put the time into. Then its a matter of adding those songs together with the combined knowledge each brings until you yourself are qualified to define by your understanding the answer to this very question.

    I just don't think it is an answer that can be easily or completely given with accuracy. It's almost a matter of knowing what isnt progressive! And why that would fall into a different category.

    For an extremely excellent definition I would suggest at least reading the wikipedia link for some way cool insight that gives light into the depth the category covers & why such things as typical chord patterns just cant spelled out as boundaries that define what is progressive rock. It even takes on describing some of the musical form used and talks about all the groups mentioned here so far. Great page.

    Progressive rock - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    As always, Rock On.
     
    dbb likes this.
  12. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Messages:
    9,958
    Likes Received:
    3,774
    Location:
    California
    Also read:

    http://adamironside.com/wp-content/...side-Progressive-Rock-Issues-and-Concepts.pdf

    [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Rock-Essays-Musical-Analysis/dp/0195100050]Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis: John Covach, Graeme M. Boone: 9780195100051: Amazon.com: Books[/ame]

    Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis

    Progressive Rock Reconsidered - Google Books

    Progressive Rock Reconsidered

    Rocking the Classics_English Progresive Rock

    Rocking the Classics_English Progressive Rock

    Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture - Edward Macan - Google Books

    Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture

    [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Music-Yes-Structure-Progressive-Contemporary/dp/0812693337]Music of Yes: Structure and Vision in Progressive Rock (Feedback: The Series in Contemporary Music, Vol. 1): Bill Martin: 9780812693331: Amazon.com: Books[/ame]

    Music of Yes: Structure and Vision in Progressive Rock

    .........

    Just to remind everyone - I think Yes in its prime was the best of the whole bunch of prog rockers.
     
  13. Relic61

    Relic61 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2012
    Messages:
    3,794
    Likes Received:
    2,812
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    Damn Dave! You been thinkin 'bout this much er what?
     
  14. smitty_p

    smitty_p Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2012
    Messages:
    4,840
    Likes Received:
    3,470
    So, here's a question....

    What makes progressive rock different from pop music?

    If you accept Pink Floyd as prog rock, it would not likely be mistaken as pop. But, I could see where some Yes material skirts pop music.
     
  15. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Messages:
    9,958
    Likes Received:
    3,774
    Location:
    California
    Of course!

    I'm a 70's prog rocker at heart. As other styles of music became popular and killed prog as a commercial force, I've been running a rear-guard action to keep the ideals of prog music alive.

    Plus, as a music scholar, I read criticism and musical analysis for fun and profit.

    All pop means is that the music is "popular"...that it sold enough to be popular!

    Obviously Pink Floyd was and is still very popular! Their records sold BIG TIME, making them both "prog" and "pop".

    Same with bands like ELP, Yes, the Moody Blues, that had lots of chart action in the early 70's.

    Yes was a major "pop" band in the early 70's, with similar magazine coverage as Led Zep and Deep Purple, and had chart hits and lots of ticket sales for live concerts.

    So they too were both "pop" and "prog", as were many other bands.

    I have a book from circa 1972 called "Progressive Rock Classics".

    At that time ALL of the following bands were considered "progressive":

    Yes
    ELP
    Derek and the Dominoes/Clapton
    Allman Brothers
    Cream
    Iron Butterfly
    Led Zeppelin
    Mountain
    The Who
    The Doors
    Todd Rundgren
    Uriah Heep

    So back then the concept of "prog" was a lot wider than we think and covered a variety of styles and approaches.

    If that book came out a few years later it would include Boston, Kansas, Styx, and similar "light prog" rock bands that also sold a lot of records.
     
  16. Dadou

    Dadou Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2013
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    350
    Location:
    Paris, France
    Great stuff coming out of this thread guys! Thank you all for the info, keep it coming :)
     
  17. Relic61

    Relic61 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2012
    Messages:
    3,794
    Likes Received:
    2,812
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    Pop (outside of Don Mclean's American Pie) usually had to fit in the constraints of a time limit usually under 4 minutes or so. Also frowned on was crazy formatting, strange time signatures & prolonged instrumental lead playing. Of course there are many examples that did these things and the song still made it's way to top 40 rotation, often as a novelty of sorts and often becoming big hits. Bunches of those as I sit and think just real quick but, yall get my point I'm sure.

    Back in the 60, 70 & even 80 there was still that 'formula' that record execs wanted & nearly demanded for that single to get pop airplay. I like to blame the downfall of the record industry & the record exec who used to run the music business on the deterioration in quality music that is heard on air these days. At least back then you had to convince a record company or executive you had something special. Now anybody can make & promote a record.

    I never thought music as I knew & loved it would become so endangered & replaced by a sense of sadness instead of the uplifting joy we could once experience listening to the radio.

    'and the times they are a changin'
     
    dbb likes this.
  18. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Messages:
    9,958
    Likes Received:
    3,774
    Location:
    California
    Interesting point....even Yes and ELP had to cut songs or use short songs for a radio hit's time constraints - think of the single of "Roundabout" and "Lucky Man", both chart hits.

    ""Roundabout" has become one of the best-known songs by Yes. The song was shortened and released as a single with the track "Long Distance Runaround", followed by a live version recorded and released in January 1972. It peaked at number 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart."

    Number 13!

    "Lucky Man" was 4:36 long, it didn't need to be cut, and reached circa 50 on the charts 2 times, 1971 and 1973.

    "Light My Fire" by the Doors is certainly "progressive" for it's time in the mid 60's, and it needed to be cut to be a radio hit:

    "a single version was edited to under three minutes with nearly all the instrumental break removed for airplay on AM radio."

    It was worth it:

    "Released as an edited single in April [1967], it spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in late July, and one week on the Cash Box Top 100, nearly a year after its recording."

    thanks Wikipedia
     
  19. Relic61

    Relic61 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2012
    Messages:
    3,794
    Likes Received:
    2,812
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    Quite the entity, a living sort of information dictionary meets encyclopedia capable of growth & correction! I seen them soliciting money one of the last times I logged on. Don't know if that was legit or a scam but... it truly is useful as much as a marvel.

    So much so, I often wonder why folks come here with any of the types of questions Wikipedia is capable of answering so well. It must be for the lively conversation & conjecture.

    I did pick the word 'conjecture' intentionally, as described meaning,..
    conjecture; "form an opinion or supposition about (something) on the basis of incomplete information". Often that seems the case for one man alone as I feel we are seldom fully & completely informed on our own and it takes the 'collective' of our thinking to fill out & complete all the information on a topic. That is quite possibly where we excell as an entity ourselves. Well that and the fact that Wiki doesnt answer questions, you have to do research and look up the answers for yourself.

    Just so I'm understood, I am not saying folks shouldnt ask questions here and look for answers themselves, I am saying that Wikipedia is a wonderful tool and full of great information on a surprisingly wide array of subjects, like 'Prog Rock'. Whoddah thunk it?
     
  20. Dadou

    Dadou Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2013
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    350
    Location:
    Paris, France
    Is this referred to me, opening the thread or to smitty asking the difference between pop and prog?
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice