Justn Purdy

Senior Composition


  Battle of the Bands:  Classical and Hard Rock



             Classical and Hard Rock:  they can seem like complete opposites in the world of music at times.  The word ‘classical’ evokes thoughts of serenity; bluebirds twittering in the crisp air of an early spring morning and the like.  On the other hand, the words hard rock draw forth images of shabbily clad, angst-filled 20-somethings with distortion guitars and slap basses screaming words about just what’s wrong with the world to cheering audiences.  However, a closer glance reveals a number of similarities between the two art forms.  Classical music’s and hard rock’s similarities and differences can most obviously be seen in the actual sound of the music, the instrumentation in the two genres, and in the effects of the songs.

            The biggest difference between hard rock and classical is, of course, the actual sound of the music.  Hard rock is typically very loud throughout, with quiet passages replaced by periods where the singers scream their lyrics without the backup of guitars.  Of course, the lyrics in themselves are a huge difference from almost all classical music, for there are few classical songs which make use of vocal parts.  Also, chords vary in a huge way.  In rock music, more emphasis is placed upon the individual note, rather than any sort of harmony.  This was made very obvious during the punk rock era that the British went through in the 1980’s.  Many of the groups there were just barely in tune, instrument-wise, and incredibly out of it as far as singing went.  Adversely, in classical music, every instrument must be present to gain the full effect of the tune.  If a single G or B-flat is out of place, the chord intended to be played is destroyed, and the effect of the song changes dramatically.

            Secondly, the instrumentation of the two genres is incredibly varied.  In fact, about the only instrument that is a constant between the two is the drums.  Hard rock is typically played with one or two electric guitars – usually used in conjunction with an amplifier that distorts their sound – an electric bass guitar, and a trap set.  A singer lays out the melody line, and these instruments back it up, sometimes taking over for a measure or two.  So at maximum, the typical hard rock band is made up of 6 players.  On the other hand, classical music involves a large variety of instruments.  There are the woodwinds, which range from flutes to clarinets to saxophones, the brass section, which includes everything from trumpets to trombones, the string section, which includes the violins and cellos, and the percussion section, which also enfolds several instrument types.  Also, every instrument will typically have two or three parts written for it, demanding that most sections have at least 6 players.  This almost demands that orchestras have about 100 players in all to gain the full effect of the song, which places is at nearly a 17 to 1 ratio with a hard rock band.

            Finally, the effect, or feeling, given by a song is typically very different in classical and hard rock.  Most hard rock songs will draw out the more extreme emotions, like hate, anger, and determination.  This is accomplished mainly through the meaningful lyrics of the songs mingled with the blaring of the guitars.  Listening to hard rock music is not a passive experience.  Even if you can’t understand the words spoken, you almost feel obligated to move yourself to the beat of the song, whether that be by ‘head-banging’ or by dancing.  However, classical music doesn’t typically evoke such passion.  The emotions are more subtle, but also more deeply felt, with a wider range available.  A classical song may make you feel at peace, or it may pull out a deep sense of unease.  It typically doesn’t inspire you to dance, though you may find yourself tapping your foot to it. 

In closing, it should be said that these two forms of music aren’t wholly different.  They are both windows into the soul of mankind, for anything that can inspire such feeling within us tells us something about ourselves, and through that, each other.  Indeed, all music is truly something special.


Author's Note:  CORNY!!!  Yes, "Indeed, all music is truly something special"... lol 1 2ux0R!!!  Er... anyway, such are the things that must be said when you have to write in this style.  If you didn't like it, well... there's a REASON I rated it 0.