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Why is rock music different from pop music?
Both rock and pop are mainly in 4/4, but rock tends to have a more pronounced backbeat, reflecting its roots in R&B.
Rock melodies are more likely to incorporate blues scales (pentatonic scales with flatted third, fifth and seventh degrees as inflections) than pop melodies, which are more major-scale oriented.
Rock is a style based on the textures available to a small, heavily-amplified, guitar-oriented ensemble, sometimes just a trio of drums, bass and guitar. Because of the masking effect of distortion, chord structure in "hard" or "heavy" rock is often limited to tonic and fifth degrees. Pop tends to have more elaborate arrangements, with less emphasis on drums and bass. Prior to the 1980s, pop arrangements frequently included strings and brass, but those textures have been largely replaced by synthesizers. String and brass sections were rarely used in rock, as they were too expensive to take on tour.
Rock tends to have more elaborate instrumental breaks, featuring improvised solos--a technique borrowed from jazz. Pop is almost entirely centered around the vocals.
In the 1960s, particularly in response to the Vietnam War, rock music incorporated protest songs (which had previously been the exclusive domain of folk musicians). While that particular theme has faded, rock lyrics are still more likely to capture a theme of rebellion, non-conformity, or social alienation than pop music, which consciously avoids most negative associations.
 Jun 25 2012

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