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The Individuality of Rock Musicians


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This thread is about how a rock musician should write, perform, and release music. Consider the rock artists you respect: are the majority of them bands or solo artists? Rock as most of us know it is usually marked by vocals, guitar, bass, and drums. The need for these four talents lends itself to the fact that the majority of rock musicians are in bands. That comes to four people if you have one vocalist, one guitarist, one bassist, and one drummer. This is the format that Led Zeppelin took, and Led Zeppelin molded the image of the hard rock band in its own. The four-piece rock band had been around for much longer than Led Zeppelin, and it wasn't set in stone that all rock bands after this had to take this set-up; nevertheless a standard was established. These things obviously change from case to case. There are countless examples of bands where the vocalist also plays one of the instruments. A lot of bands which are clearly in a hard rock mode have two guitarists (one lead, the other rhythm; less often there are two guitarists on co-lead). And there is often a keyboard player as a fifth member (or fourth if the vocalist plays an instrument). Of these various positions, the vocalist is typically the frontman, and usually in that respect the leader, as well as the songwriter. Here's a look at the amount of recognition the band that each type of rock player gets (vocalist, guitarist, bassist, keyboard player, drummer) assuming that there is a band with each type and none of the responsibilites interlap (e.g. vocalist/guitarist):

Rock Band #1

* Vocalist - The frontman and probably the songwriter. Easily gets the most direct recognition.

* Guitarist - Provides most of the song's arrangement. Gets a lot of prestige as there is a great interest in the guitar.

* Bassist - Must provide the song's bassline. Because his instrument's range is lower it is often ignored in favor of what can be heard by the guitar and keyboards. Arguably gets the least recognition.

* Keyboard Player - Sometimes provides a fundamental part of the song's arrangement, other times works off of what is being played on guitar. Gets more recognition than the less audible bassist, but not as much as the guitarist.

* Drummer - Provides the rhythm that the song works off of. He is always restricted into playing for the benefit of the other instrumentalists. Because there is more interest in drums than there is in bass and keyboards (from a rock perspective), the drummer receives more recognition than the bassist or the keyboard player.

I don't have the patience to write everything I have to say right now (there are a lot of things to address), but I'd like to see discussion about how much say a bandmember has in the making of the music he plays.

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Well in Rock music its the guitarist who would most often come up with the idea, the riff, melodic hook that repeats through the song, if there is a keyboard player/arranger, they would normally(not always) embellish what the guitarist has done, beefing it out, adding the texture likes say in "Kashmir". Singer the words etc.

It depends who has the biggest ego, in Deep Purple, it seems Ritchie Blackmore came up with almost everything, then Jon Lord would as I say embellish. If your Queen all four members wrote the music to all their hits .If your Iron maiden The bass playe Steve harris is the leader and as such comes up with most of the ideas or at least in the early days. If your flamboyant like Jimmy/Ritchie it comes through that you have alot of if not most of the say in writing, or at least the ideas (this ony what I think with these guys, i do not know). Take alook at the main guitarist in Maiden Dave Murray, great underated player but is very reserved on stage,and as such doesnt have as much input in writting or at least credits etcas Steve Harris who onsatge is very annimated and has come up with the bulk.

I think I am talking poppy but its a theory.

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Well in Rock music its the guitarist who would most often come up with the idea, the riff, melodic hook that repeats through the song, if there is a keyboard player/arranger, they would normally(not always) embellish what the guitarist has done, beefing it out, adding the texture likes say in "Kashmir". Singer the words etc.

It depends who has the biggest ego, in Deep Purple, it seems Ritchie Blackmore came up with almost everything, then Jon Lord would as I say embellish. If your Queen all four members wrote the music to all their hits .If your Iron maiden The bass playe Steve harris is the leader and as such comes up with most of the ideas or at least in the early days. If your flamboyant like Jimmy/Ritchie it comes through that you have alot of if not most of the say in writing, or at least the ideas (this ony what I think with these guys, i do not know). Take alook at the main guitarist in Maiden Dave Murray, great underated player but is very reserved on stage,and as such doesnt have as much input in writting or at least credits etcas Steve Harris who onsatge is very annimated and has come up with the bulk.

I think I am talking poppy but its a theory.

I'm glad you understood what I was getting at - I was a bit worried that the message of my original post wasn't going to come through. I have heard that about Ritchie Blackmore, although nowadays he isn't really working in a rock field.

First to come to mind after Zep for me--The Firm and Bad Company...all I am saying :)

You mean to say that those bands are examples of a dominant musician using the rest of the band as a vehicle of sorts for his own music? I haven't heard any music by either of those bands so cut me some slack.

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I'm glad you understood what I was getting at - I was a bit worried that the message of my original post wasn't going to come through. I have heard that about Ritchie Blackmore, although nowadays he isn't really working in a rock field.

You mean to say that those bands are examples of a dominant musician using the rest of the band as a vehicle of sorts for his own music? I haven't heard any music by either of those bands so cut me some slack.

No he isn't in the rock field anymore :(

"The Firm" (if you didn't know) was a band with Paul Rogers and Jimmy Page, I think Deb ment that in "The Firm" paul Rogers was or seemed to have the more dominant role and as such the music was leaning a little to the how can I say drab side. Could be wrong but when You look at Coverdale/Page album, Jim wrote his best ever stuff since Zep. Jim may well have been the dominant one, look at Page/Plant, Plant to me had more of a say in that album going in a direction he wanted (it seems that way and I have no way of knowing).

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Van Halen comes to my mind as well. :)

Dave would provide all the lyrics and vocal melodies.

Edward would come up with the riffs and sometimes the whole tune.

Alex would help his brother structuring the song (sometimes with Dave).

Mike would add ... humm ... nothing, but his powerful backing vocals.

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Yeh when your in a jam every one just pitches in. Its not like your composing for an orchestra so normally each intsrument would write his own part even if say the guitar comes up with riff, chorus etc.

As a guitarist we do not listen to anyone else, we want it all our own way because our deficiences...oh thats just me :) . Also getting on with other musicians is vital in getting your music and point across.

Edited by leddy
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Radiohead's Thom Yorke was asked how his band operated, was he the boss or was it a democracy where all had a say.

He replied "Well, we operate like the U.N. - And I'm America!"

So he doesn't get much say then :whistling:

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No he isn't in the rock field anymore :(

"The Firm" (if you didn't know) was a band with Paul Rogers and Jimmy Page, I think Deb ment that in "The Firm" paul Rogers was or seemed to have the more dominant role and as such the music was leaning a little to the how can I say drab side. Could be wrong but when You look at Coverdale/Page album, Jim wrote his best ever stuff since Zep. Jim may well have been the dominant one, look at Page/Plant, Plant to me had more of a say in that album going in a direction he wanted (it seems that way and I have no way of knowing).

It's too bad to see that Blackmore is no longer interested in playing rock (or rock in any sense of the term that most of us understand it by) although he's still on guitar (occasionally electric though I could be wrong). I like to see musicians evolve, but I think they should always recognize their roots. Then again, Blackmore might consider renaissance folk music to be his roots (how should we know). Nevertheless everybody remembers him for his work with Deep Purple.

My G F who plays guitar says it's the guitar player who should be doing the writing in a band....naturally, hehehe :)

I see what she means. Personally, my favorite musician of all time at this point in my life is Jimi Hendrix. He played guitar (no shit), he wrote the music, and he did the vocals. Furthermore I believe him to be among the highest echelon of innovators in 20th century music (including popular, classical, and folk). I like it when a guitarist has the balls to do the vocals him/herself even if his/her voice isn't necessarily great (Hendrix had a decent voice, but it doesn't hold up to the likes of vocalists like Robert Plant and Freddie Mercury). In this vain, I like Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Jack White, and probably others who aren't coming to mind. The guitar is just the natural rock instrument - it becomes the mode for the guitarist to hold a powerful position in the band.

You mean to say that those bands are examples of a dominant musician using the rest of the band as a vehicle of sorts for his own music? I haven't heard any music by either of those bands so cut me some slack.

Unless I misunderstood, I was thinking of bands with four members that all contributed to making great music. Those two are still at the top of my list (The Firm and Bad Company)...not sure what you mean by cut you some slack as there was no intent of anything in a bad way.

leddy, thanks for trying to clarify my response. :peace:

Haha, sorry if I came off as rude. I really didn't know anything about the Firm or Bad Company.

Van Halen comes to my mind as well. :)

Dave would provide all the lyrics and vocal melodies.

Edward would come up with the riffs and sometimes the whole tune.

Alex would help his brother structuring the song (sometimes with Dave).

Mike would add ... humm ... nothing, but his powerful backing vocals.

I'm a marginal Van Halen fan. They're definitely one of the great hard rock bands of the '80s. I'm not the one to be judging bassists, but I always thought Michael Anthony was pretty good, even if he and Alex were overshadowed by Eddie on guitar and Roth and Hagar on vocals (the line-up with Roth brought rock to the next level).

Yeh when your in a jam every one just pitches in. Its not like your composing for an orchestra so normally each intsrument would write his own part even if say the guitar comes up with riff, chorus etc.

As a guitarist we do not listen to anyone else, we want it all our own way because our deficiences...oh thats just me :) . Also getting on with other musicians is vital in getting your music and point across.

Yeah, jamming is a fair platform for everybody to shine. I suck at it.

Radiohead's Thom Yorke was asked how his band operated, was he the boss or was it a democracy where all had a say.

He replied "Well, we operate like the U.N. - And I'm America!"

Thom's definitely an eccentric one...

To fuel discussion: what rock artists come to mind when you think of the themes of this thread?

Edited by SelfDevouringSnake
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