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The terms "Rock," "Metal," and "Alternative Rock" are incredibly broad. Here's a guide to some major sub-genres. This list only includes a few larger sub-genres that I can think of at this given time. I'll add others if I find them appropriate.

Celtic Rock/Punk
Years of Popularity:
Began in the early 1980's, but it is more popular today
Most Notable Bands: Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, the Pogues
Common Instrumentation: Guitar, Electric Bass, Drums, Banjo, Violin (or Fiddle), Bagpipes, Tin Whistle, Accordian, Mandolin

Samples:
Dropkick Murphys - The State of Massachusets

Flogging Molly - Seven Deadly Sins

Photo 5921

Symphonic Rock
Years of Popularity:
70s, 90s, and today
Most Notable Bands: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Metallica + the San Fransisco Symphony Orchestra, Apocalyptica, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Common Instrumentation: Orchestral Instruments, Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Electric Violin

Samples:
Metallica with the San Fransisco Symphony Orchestra - Until it Sleeps
Apocalyptica - Bittersweet
Vanessa Mae - Storm



Industrial
Years of Popularity:
90s - Today
Most Notable Bands: Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein, Depeche Mode and Disturbed are known to venture within the realm of industrial music
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Drums, Drum Machine, Synthesizer, Keyboards

Samples:
Rammstein - Amerika
Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus



Grunge
Years of Popularity:
1989-1995 (post-grunge 1995-today)
Most Notable Bands: Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains (post-grunge: Days of the New, Foo Fighters)
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Drums

Samples:
Pearl Jam - Even Flow
Alice in Chains - No Excuses
Days of the New - Touch, Peel, and Stand



Psychadelic Rock
Years of Popularity:
Mid 1960's
Most Notable Bands: The Beatles, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Drums, Synthesizer, Organ

Samples:
Iron Butterfly - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (In The Garden of Eden) Note: This song is famous for being 17 minutes long.
Jimi Hendrix - Wild Thing



Rockabilly
Years of Popularity:
1950's, 1980s
Most Notable Bands: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bill Kirchen
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Guitar, Drums, Keyboards, Double Bass (Upright/Acoustic Bass)

Samples:
Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock
Bill Kirchen - Hot Rod Lincoln



Indie Rock
Years of Popularity:
1980's - Today
Most Notable Bands: Radiohead, The Strokes, The Vines, The Rapture, The Killers
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Guitar, Electric Bass, Keyboards

Samples:
The Killers - Bones
The Rapture - Whoo! Alright, yeah! Uh huh...
The Strokes - Reptilia



Arena Rock (often referred to as "Hair Rock," as a reference to the associated hair style of many bands)
Years of Popularity:
Late 1970's - 1980's
Most Notable Bands: Boston, Styx, Foreigner, Journey, Queen, Bon Jovi
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Drums, Keyboards

Samples:
Boston - More Than A Feeling
Bon Jovi - Livin' On a Prayer



Punk
Years of Popularity:
1970's - 1980's
Most Notable Bands: The Clash, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Drums, anything else that makes noise

Samples:
The Clash - London Calling
The Ramones - Rock N' Roll High School



Heavy Metal
Years of Popularity:
1970's - Today
Most Notable Bands: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Drums, Keyboards

Samples:
Led Zeppelin - Black Dog
Black Sabbath - Paranoid
Deep Purple - Hush (Cover)



Ska
Years of Popularity:
1980's - Peak in late 1990's
Most Notable Bands: 311, Sublime, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Drums, Saxophone, Trumpet

Samples:
Sublime - Santeria
Mighty Mighty Bosstones - The Impression That I Get



Alternative Metal/Nu Metal
Years of Popularity:
Late 1980's - Today
Most Notable Bands: Korn, Linkin Park, System of a Down, Coheed and Cambria
Common Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Drums

Samples:
Korn - Freak on a Leash
System of a Down - Chop Suey!



New Wave/Art Rock
Years of Popularity: 1960's - Today, although stylings have changed through the years
Most Notable Bands: David Bowie, David Byrne, Brian Eno (early); Moby, The Mars Volta (modern)
Common Instrumentation: Keyboards, Synthesizer, Drums, Electric Guitar, Electric Bass

Samples:
The Talking Heads - Burning Down the House
The Mars Volta - Goliath
Moby - Porcelain




  1. oLahav saidTue, 29 Jul 2008 16:42:46 -0000 ( Link )

    This is a great comprehensive list! Examples are great too.

    My favourites from these genres would be Celtic (I am partially Celtic myself), Psychedelic (In a Gadda Da Vida is an awesome song!), a bit of arena (my hair rocks! ask anybody) and heavy, early ska, and post-punk.

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  2. acrosstheuniverse saidTue, 29 Jul 2008 18:00:00 -0000 ( Link )

    I’m a big fan of indie rock, I like seeing bands in an intimate setting, something you can jam out to, dance along to or just sit and listen. And it’s funny that you mentioned “Arena Rock” because my parents absolutely adore that subgenre of music and I’ve seen old pictures, they were definitely mirroring the hair trends of their favourite bands! Plus, if you want to see a band like Styx, chances are you’re going to be seeing them in an Arena to fit all the fans, go figure!

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  3. saratheman saidTue, 05 Aug 2008 07:37:08 -0000 ( Link )

    indeed a great list it was an insight i was searching for quite a long time now,some of these never left my playlist like jimi hendrix and apocalyptica, but if we have to categorise “korn” which sub-genre willl serve best?

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  4. oLahav saidTue, 05 Aug 2008 15:43:20 -0000 ( Link )

    My question is, what would a band like the Talking Heads fall under? I can’t really find any category that fits that sound.

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  5. oLahav saidTue, 05 Aug 2008 17:17:53 -0000 ( Link )

    Good call on the new wave/art rock, although it’s true that the category is a bit broad. By the way, I like the “anything else that makes noise” comment in the Punk instruments. It’s all about the noise.

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  6. acrosstheuniverse saidTue, 05 Aug 2008 17:23:12 -0000 ( Link )

    Is there a sub-genre associated with low-brow? I know they have what is called low-brow art, but I’m wondering if this can apply to music and rock as well.

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  7. BassPlayer saidTue, 05 Aug 2008 17:34:59 -0000 ( Link )

    The things that classify lowbrow art are epression and humor, according to wikipedia (I don’t have extensive art knowledge, lol). Wikipedia actually specificaly mentioned punk music as an influence of lowbrow art, and I would agree that punk could likely be considered the “lowbrow” phase of rock.

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  8. acrosstheuniverse saidTue, 05 Aug 2008 17:50:35 -0000 ( Link )

    Cool, thanks for the insight BassPlayer!

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  9. Carsten saidMon, 15 Sep 2008 16:36:40 -0000 ( Link )

    This is a really cool lesson, one of my faves so far on LearnHub!

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  10. hcraig saidMon, 15 Sep 2008 21:07:43 -0000 ( Link )

    I’ve got another classification question!

    Bands like the Plaid Tongue Devils and Gorgo Bordello. Where do they fit?

    New category of Gypsy Rock? I always to throw bands like this, plus the Celtic rock bands into ‘folk rock’ but doesn’t that seem a bit of an oxymoron? What do you all think?

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  11. hcraig saidWed, 17 Sep 2008 15:35:00 -0000 ( Link )

    I disagree – Celtic really denotes Ireland, Scotland, Wales; maybe include Gaelic or whereas s a band like Gorgol Bordello area Roma based and have a totally different history to draw on, use different languages, etc etc etc.

    I do agree however they both use traditional instruments, often sing about traditional things – but are very different at the same time. I think I"m going to keep rocking the ‘folk rock’ lable

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  12. manishthelivinglegend saidWed, 05 Aug 2009 13:53:43 -0000 ( Link )

    Great trivia.i’d like to know how do you classify green day.

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  13. Justin Brunsvold saidSat, 28 Apr 2012 22:16:17 -0000 ( Link )

    Awesome list, a site I came across ViewingTree.com allows users to create and share video playlists using these genres. Very interesting concept.

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  14. Justin Brunsvold saidSat, 28 Apr 2012 22:17:31 -0000 ( Link )

    Awesome list, a site I came across ViewingTree.com allows users to create and share video playlists using these genres. Very interesting concept.

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