Magoosh English Class: All About Rock Music!

Silhouette of a drum set behind rock music performers at a show

Welcome to the next lesson in our free English class series about Music in America! Today, we’re going to dive into an iconic American music genre: Rock and Roll.

Goals:

  • Explore some of the history, influences, and genres of Rock and Roll music in America
  • Learn about a few subgenres of Rock music
  • Learn basic English terms used around musical topics
  • Explore the use of subordinating conjunctions in your writing

Difficulty Level:

C2 Learners

Time:

Approximately 15 minutes

Rock and Roll Music in America

Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.

Originally called Rock and Roll, Rock music began in the United States in the late 1940s as a mixture of musical styles from the blues and country genres. Most importantly, it drew from a subgenre of music called electric blues that featured the use of electric amplifiers for various instruments. Over time, other influences like jazz, classical, and folk music stylings made their way into songs and albums.

The electric guitar is the central element to rock music and is usually accompanied by an electric bass, drums, and a singer. However, this composition can vary from band to band. Each rock song typically uses a specific time signature and features a verse and chorus format. The classical rock format has evolved and expanded over time.

Rock music spawned a variety of sub genres during the 1960s. Some of these, like blues rock, country rock, folk rock, and southern rock, existed as a mixture of previous musical styles. Others emerged as their own distinct style.

Psychedelic rock was the earliest example of a distinct musical style. It was a key element in the Counterculture Movement of the 1960’s and existed as an anthem for the movement. Another example is progressive rock, which incorporated more artistic elements into rock melodies.

In the 1970s, performers started using visual elements like costumes and makeup to create glamor rock. Another genre from this era, heavy metal, added volume and speed to rock music.

Late in the 70s, rock music changed forever with the emergence of punk rock. The genre simplified the musical formulas and showmanship that evolved in the 1960s and mixed short, fast-paced songs with politically-charged lyrics. It was the main influence on alternative rock, which is still played on mainstream radio to this day.

Rock evolved into a worldwide phenomenon and spawned numerous genres over the years. Though it was replaced by hip-hop as the most popular American genre in 2017, rock music still exists as one of the most popular musical forms of artistic expression.

Here’s a great video summing up the history of American Rock Music:

Word Focus

  1. Subgenre – (noun) – A lesser, or sub-category within a specific genre. A subdivision of a genre. Sub means lower or beneath.
  2. A legal thriller is a subgenre of the thriller genre in writing.
  1. Album – (noun) – A collection of songs released as a single entity (a CD, a record, or another medium).
  2. Did you hear that Elton John is going to release another album next year?
    1. Time Signature – (noun) – Indicates how many beats are in a measure of music. They’re located at the beginning of a scale and are indicated by two numbers written like a fraction.
    2. Rock music is usually played in a 4/4 time signature.
      1. Verse – (noun) – A set of rhyming lyrics usually written in a loose poetic stanza for a song. The verse usually has the story and/or detailed elements of a song.
      2. I really love the second verse of that song as it speaks to me on an emotional level.
  1. Chorus – (noun) – The part of a song that contains the main idea or big picture of the song. Usually, the chorus is part of the title and is repeated throughout a song.
  2. I’ve always loved the chorus to Tiny Dancer. Definitely one of my favorite songs.
  1. Anthem – (noun) – An inspiring or uplifting song or body of music that is associated with a group or cause.
  2. We Will Rock You is one of the greatest rock anthems ever created.
  1. Lyric – (noun) – The words of a song.
  2. The melody of the song is great, but it’s the lyrics that are truly impactful.

Grammar Center

Look at this sentence from the passage:

Another example is progressive rock, which incorporated more artistic elements into rock melodies.

This sentence is a perfect example of the use of a subordinating conjunction.

Subordinating conjunctions are conjunctions that join together a dependent and independent clause. They’re meant to indicate the relationship between two clauses and are very helpful when elaborating on a subject.

A common list includes words like: how, which, then, though, until, since, whenever, while, once, where, if, although, unless, and many others.

You can use these conjunctions to indicate things like cause and effect, time, concession, a location, a condition, a reason, or a relation.

Let’s break down the sentence from the passage into its clauses.

Another example is progressive rock which incorporated more artistic elements into rock melodies.

The bolded part is the independent clause that is supported by both a subject and a verb. It would be grammatically correct on its own.

The second clause (bolded below):

Another example is progressive rock which incorporated more artistic elements into rock melodies.

This is the dependent clause, which relies on the independent clause to create a full sentence. Dependent clauses cannot make a full sentence.

Lastly, the subordinating conjunction which joins these two clauses and introduces an adjective clause. In this instance, which is also used as a relative adjective.

Here are a few more examples:

  • I’m talking about the book that I left on the table.
  • He’s the one who turned off the lights.
  • I wasn’t sure whether to stay or go.
  • She was fine once she started her breathing exercises.
  • John seems okay with it although he left in a hurry.

Quiz

  1. Of the following statements, which captures the central idea of the passage?A. Rock music songs have a specific time signature and verse and chorus format.B. The 1970s was the most interesting era of Rock and Roll in America.C. Though rock music has a general format, it has created many subgenres.

    D. Rock music has a rich history that shows the evolution of a classic genre of American music.

  1. Which style of rock was an anthem for the Counterculture Movement of the 1960’s?A. Glamor RockB. Punk RockC. Psychedelic Rock

    D. Progressive Rock

  1. Based on your understanding of the list of vocabulary words, which of these two words make up the lyrics of a song?A. Verse and ChorusB. Time Signature and ChorusC. Anthem and Album

    D. Album and Verse

  1. Which of these would you find on a music scale?A. LyricsB. SongsC. Albums

    D. Time Signatures

  1. Of these sentences from the passage, which one is an example of the use of a subordinating conjunction?A. It was the main influence on alternative rock, which still exists on mainstream radio to this day.B. Some of these, like blues rock, country rock, folk rock, and southern rock, existed as a mixture of previous musical styles.C. Over time, other influences like jazz, classical, and folk music stylings made their way into songs and albums.

    D. Rock music spawned a variety of sub genres during the 1960s.

  1. A relative clause is a type of subordinate clauseA. FalseB. True

 

Show Correct Answers:
  1. D
  2. C
  3. A
  4. D
  5. A
  6. B
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