Instruments of Rock and Roll!

instruments of rock and rollSince the beginnings of Rock and Roll people have been drawn to the beat and the sound it creates. There is always a lot of emphasis placed on the vocalist and their abilities. But what about the instruments of rock of roll? Without them Rock and Roll would be a totally different genre. The sound would be completely different. Take a moment and think about it. Choose your favorite rock and Roll song and remove the instruments.

  • No Guitar

  • No drums

  • No keyboards

  • no instruments at all

instruments of rock and roll

All you have left is a vocalist trying to convey a message or story.  Would you still tap your toes? Would you still feel like dancing? Only you know your answer but for me the lack of instruments would be a game changer.

The Purpose of Musical Instruments in Rock and Roll

Musical instruments have a variety of purposes in rock and roll music. They are the back bone or heart beat of the band. Without them the music feels empty. It is the instruments that makes the rock and roll sound. Lets take a closer look at why musical instruments are so essential to rock and roll music.

Accompaniment – Perhaps the most simple reason for musical instruments is the provide accompaniment. Accompaniment is music written to back up a soloist. It has 3 main purposes.instruments of rock and roll

  • Harmonic background – The harmonic background is the chords used within the song. It is usually provide by one or more instruments who play a specific chord progression. Rock and Roll is most often based on tonal music, meaning there are specific chords and pitches present within the music. The harmonic background is often played on the piano or guitar because of their ability to play several notes at once, but it is not uncommon to use solo instruments as well. The Bass guitar or string bass is often used to provide the bass note for each chord. For example, A C major chord consists of the notes C, E and G. In this case the bass note is C. Thus the bass instrument would play a C whenever the C major chord was played.
  • Beat – In rock and roll the beat is often provided by the percussion section. Most often the percussion section is a drum set but many other percussion instruments can also be used. More on that later.
  • Tempo – The tempo is the speed that the song will played.

Mood – The mood of a song is extremely important when trying to convey a particular message.  The mood is basically  the feelings that are conveyed. While the vocalist can convey a particular message through words and emotion, the musical instruments can add to this using the basic elements of music which include:

  • Dynamics (Loud and soft)
  • Tempo (Speed of music)
  • Texture (The number of instruments playing at once)
  • Tonality (major or minor chords)

It is important to realize that all the members of a rock and roll band have equal importance. They all contribute to creating a polished final performance that conveys the message they are trying to create.

The Instruments of Rock and Roll

Now that we have a better understanding of the purposes of instruments in rock and roll. Lets take a look at the actual instruments themselves.The exact instrumentation of a rock band varies depending on the group but there are several instruments that are present in almost all rock and roll bands. Here is a list of the most common instruments found in rock and roll music and there purpose within the group.

Guitar – The guitar is perhaps one of the most popular instruments in rock and roll. Manyinstruments of rock and roll young guitarist get their inspiration from famous rock and roll guitar players. Both the electric and acoustic guitar are used. Quite often the choice is dependent on the sound and mood that the band is trying to create.

The guitar is often given a solo within a piece of music. This solo is often improvised meaning the guitarist makes it up as they go. The guitar solo is often placed in the middle of the song and given significant importance.

instruments of rock and rollBass Guitar– The bass guitars primary purpose is the provide the bass note for each chord but quite often they are also given a solo. The bass player also plays a role in maintaining the beat.

Piano (Keyboards) – The piano or keyboards play ainstruments of rock and roll similar role as the guitar. It is often used to provide the harmonic structure and embellish the accompaniment. There are many instances in which the piano will provide accompaniment alone.

instruments of rock and roll

Drums – The drum set is the heart beat of the band. It is responsible for setting the tempo and setting the basic beat. Drum solos are very common in Rock and Roll music.

Although the drum set is the most popular percussion instrument in a rock band, many other percussion instruments may be present. These include the tambourine,  maracas, and the cow bell.

Other Instruments found in Rock and Roll

While the guitar, bass guitar, piano (keyboards) and drums are the most common instruments found in Rock and Roll many other instruments were added as the genre began to evolve and influence other musicians. Today Rock and Roll actually refers to two types of music. The original Rock and Roll, which was established in the 1950’s, and what we know today as Rock music. Todays rock bands have been known to utilize  many different instruments including:

The Orchestra – There have been many rock groups in history to have an orchestra as part of their accompaniment. The orchestra can provide a wide array of tone colors and set a mood quite effectively.

Brass instruments -It is not uncommon to find rock bands with one or several brass instruments. They are very useful for adding embellishments such as shots and solos.

Saxophone – The saxophone can serve the same purpose as brass instruments.

Strings – Violins and cellos have also been used in rock and roll. They are fabulous instruments for creating specific moods.

Like many other genres the sky is the limit when choosing instruments for a rock band. Regardless of the instrumentation used musical instruments have a very important purpose and role. The instruments of Rock and Roll are responsible for creating the sound and mood that we all expect and love. The next time you are listening to your favorite rock and roll song see how many instruments you can pick out and imagine them not being there at all. I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment if you have something to add or perhaps a favorite rock and roll musician you would like to highlight.


14 thoughts on “Instruments of Rock and Roll!

  1. You are absolutely right… music would be totally different without instruments. However acapella groups do sound pretty cool. But you can’t have rock n roll without instruments… just wouldn’t be the same.

    I will forward this site to a friend of mine who use to play in a band… but when he lost his eye site he left the band. He still plays the guitar but misses playing in the band. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I love hearing an acapella group perform. It is amazing what a person can do with the human voice, which in my opinion is our greatest instrument. You will often hear musicians say if you can sing it, you can play it. However, rock and roll is all about the beat and the guitars so in this case acapella just wouldn’t work (Well perhaps for a portion of a song to create a mood or effect).

      Thank you for forwarding my website. I sure hope he does continue to play music. We don’t need our sight to create music. Just determination and a whole lot of love for music.

  2. I totally agree that the instruments do make the total band to create the musical sound your looking for. The singers can be great but they do need the band behind them to bring it all together. Sometimes I feel the singers get more credit than they need compared to the actual musicians. As you mentioned it takes each member to make up the whole band and when you have each member the best at what they do, your in for a real treat.
    Great post rock on!

    1. Thanks! As an instrumentalist I have to agree that sometimes the singer does get a lot of the credit. But sometimes the instrumentalist prefer not to be acknowledged which is fine I guess. I went to a Johnny Reed concert a few years ago and man his band was hot! And he introduced every single one of them.

  3. Although my musical tastes have changed over the years, rock and roll was my thing. And the instruments were actually more important to me than what was being said at least half the time. Some of my favorite songs I didn’t even know the words because I was focusing my attention completely on the instruments. Because like you said, the instruments help create the mood and I loved rock and roll because it expressed my mood at the time. That is why music is considered the universal language and why even if people speak a different language and don’t understand the words or why babies and little kids that don’t understand what a song is about can all love a song – because the instruments and the mood of the song speak to our emotions, which is really cool I think!

    1. The instruments sure do help express the mood of any song. But Rock and Roll really does need the instruments to create that familiar sound. You are right regarding an universal language. There are several songs that I like but don’t understand a word. My daughter bops around to all my music and I know she’s not listening to words. Thanks for your comment.

  4. I enjoyed reading your article. I learned to play drums from one of the local school of music in our city. I don’t know how to play the rest but I am into rock bands and a really big fan of Elvis.

    I totally agree when you say that may put too much emphasis on the vocalist. I was like that. But after learning to play drums, sometimes I listen more to the beats instead of the voice and it gives a whole new perspective to the song like even if it is an old song, it becomes something new. It’s hard to explain but it’s like that.

    What is you favorite musical instrument and how dis you learn it?

    1. Thank you so much for reading. It is true that even old songs can sound new when we focus on other aspects. I often choose specific instruments to listen to when listening to music (Maybe the music geek in me :))

      now that is a hard question! I love all instruments but I must say I have always enjoyed the flute. It was my first choice in junior high but ended up on the trumpet (I certainly do not regret this option. love my trumpet). I can play the flute a little. I had to take a flute course in university but I also practice on my own using the method books from school.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  5. Hi Melody.
    Thinking about Rock N’ Roll invokes excitement, because that’s exactly what it creates. As soon as you hear it, it makes you want to jive. If anyone doesn’t get a bang out of that Chuck berry riff then they surely have no pulse.

    Hearing a rock n roll band in unison is one of the greatest things ever to be heard in music, whether it’s Gerry lee on piano or Little Richard shrieking over the other guys, instruments of Rock N, Roll fire me up big time.

    Start to away the rhythm and it loses it’s identity, Double bass, Vocals , cowbell, whatever, all parts make the whole to make a Rock N’ Roll band fire on all cylinders.

    Great post!

    Long live Instruments of Rock N Roll!

  6. There are few things in life that sound much better than a rock and roll band in full flow with great instruments. I love to hear a great band play, and I love to dance to them! The quality of the instruments really makes a difference to the level of performance, and I completely agree with what this article says. Do others think the same as me?

    1. Thanks Molly!!! I think there are a lot of people who feel that same way as you. Theres nothing better then a good solid rock and roll band. :)

  7. Hi Melody, Being a former musician myself I must compliment you on an excellent article in which you explained the importance of instruments and their inclusion on all rock and roll songs.

    Without instruments adding harmony as accompaniment to the vocalist(s) or in some cases carrying the tune, (usually guitars) for certain parts of a song along with the percussion instruments providing the rhythmic beat; all you would have is a singer trying to convey the message behind the lyrics. And quite frankly it would be uninteresting.

    I liked your brief explanation of the notes, (at least 3) found in a chord. It brought back memories first of high school music theory classes I took a long time ago, (I’m 58). You explained it just enough so that the non-musician would have a basic understanding to allow him/her to understand chords and how they often make up the harmony heard in rock and roll.

    I have to ask, understanding that you’re both a musician and educator – what do you think of the music of today that people under 30 listen to? Personally I can’t stand it. All of the computer-aided songs of today imo, don’t hold a candle even to music of the 1990’s stretching backwards. And don’t get me started concerning the Justin Bieber’s of the world!

    Excellent article Melody! Your article contained just the type of information to help the non-musician understand the importance of instruments and their connection to rock and roll music!


    1. Thanks Jeff for your fabulous comment. I am glad you enjoyed my article. I am actually in the process of creating a series of posts discussing many different aspects of music theory. I have not quite got to chords yet but will get their eventually. I will be sure to update this post when I have written about chords in that particular series. In meantime you can How To Read Music: A Beginners Guide to find the page that will provide links to all my posts/tutorials designed for beginners. I will add new links as the posts are completed.

      I have to be honest, regarding the new music of today, I do like some of it as I love all types of music.However, with that being said I do not like when the music is heavily depended on computers. I don’t think they belong in music other than to aid with music production and composition. I aways say to each its own. As for Justin Bieber I think his social issues have greatly clouded his potential as a musician. Too much focus has been placed on image as is the case with many new singers and musicians.

      Thanks you again Jeff! You gave me a lot to think about,

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