Music Tech: Characteristics of rock N roll

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Special focus- Rock'N'Roll
The term Rock N Roll is applied to many types of rock music. It originally
meant music from the Southern states of the USA during the 1950's.
Vocals, backing vocals, electric guitar, double bass or electric, piano, acoustic
guitar sometimes, harmonica, saxophone, brass.
The ensembles were usually small-vocals, 1or 2 guitars, bass and drums
Performance and Arrangement
Fast tempo-140 bpm
Energetic delivery- vocals loud with screams and shouts
Often based on 12 bar chord pattern
Mostly major keys but with blues scale for the vocals and lead
Strong backbeat on rhythms 2 and 4
Uses a shuffle rhythm- slightly swung quavers
Walking bass line often played by ascending or descending pattern of
root- 3rd, 5th,flat,7th,6th,5th,3rd
This line is often doubled by the guitar
2nd guitar plays rhythmic pattern of chords- use of 6th and 7th extensions
of chords
Use of `stops' where instruments play only on beat 1 and leave space for
vocals or instruments
Guitar solos
Call and response- often between vocals and guitar
Backing vocals are usually simple and unison is common
Piano shares the feature of the guitar-chordal chops, triplet quavers,
soloing, left hand mimics bass line
Technology and Production
Liver recording direct to tape- mixing was done `on the fly' meaning
the levels were changed on the mixing desk during the recording
Capture of instruments was compromised by poor frequency
reproduction due to mic positioning and spill. No multi mic set-ups on
drums, usually one overhead mic
Loud guitars and drums created new challenges for recording-
recording levels were becoming louder through the desk and onto tape,
leading to altered sound through driving pre-amps hard and tape
saturation (the point when the magnetic particles on a tape will no
longer respond to magnetic force.)
Vocals were usually added later (Overdubbed) for better clarity and
minimize spill
Some 3 track-recorders were used in 1950's recordings.
Alternatively, overdubbing was created by using 2 tapes recorders
and mixing the backing track that was already recorded with the vocal

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Some good recording were achieved despite the limitations- mics,
desks, processing and tape recorders were capable of producing
high-quality results
Music was released on vinyl, which has superseded 78rpm. Vinyl had
better quality and much wider frequency production and better
dynamic range.…read more

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He recorded most of his music at sun studios alongside
chuck berry and other influential artists. Rolling stone said `Elvis made Rock n
roll the international language of pop' and was voted the 2nd best English
language singer after Sinatra. Little Richard said of Presley, "He was an
integrator. Elvis was a blessing. They wouldn't let black music through. He
opened the door for black music.…read more

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He Provided one of the most impressive stage shows
in early rock and Had a sense of musical drama unmatched by his peers save
Elvis Presley. His backing band the Blue Caps, particularly lead guitarist Cliff
Gallup, was a major influence on rockabilly and its descendants. Instrumental
in establishing the rock craze in England. He was the 1st star to wear a full
leather outfit on stage and this later influenced Jim Morrison to do the same.…read more

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Key facts and Terminology
Produced during the 1950's with widespread popularity and
commercial success in the USA and UK
Developed in urban areas of Southern States of the USA e.g. Memphis
A notion of the Pop star with the clothing and ownership of the music
by the young reflected the changes in society
Prosperity in the 1950's increased availability and the promotion of
music through radio, TV, and vinyl singles. They all played a part in
youth culture.…read more


Grace Christiansen

This is so, so helpful! I have my exam tomorrow and found these pages really helpful for my revision! Thanks! :)


This helped me with my musical analysis (of a rock song), thank you!

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