Music Discussion: What makes Prog ... Prog?

Hey All.

I’m in a philosophical bent today and didn’t want to start with Cage’s 4′33". So, I began thinking, what makes Prog … Prog. If I hear some music, how is it categorized as Prog? Is Prog about album side long compositions or compositional complexity? Is it about the level of musician-ship and must incorporate instrumental virtuosity?

Clipped from the all knowing Wiki:

the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favour of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music.

So, is “Tommy” by the Who or " Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, Prog? I would certainly classify “Revolution 9” from the White Album as prog.

And, then, while we associate this mainly with Rock since that was it’s origin, I don’t think Rock holds the exclusive domain on “Prog”. Other genres might give it a different title, but, it is still “prog”. Or is it?

Can there be Prog R&B, Prog Hip Hop, Prog Dance, Prog Jazz? If so, how does one identify what makes that track/record/artist in effect “Prog”. In the quote above, it describes ROCK as being influenced by classical, folk, and jaz. If that is the case, then the opposite should also be true. Jazz, folk, classical, etc that begin to incorporate elements of Rock, R&B, Soul should be Prog representatives of their genres?

I still don’t really have an answer for myself, just wanted to see what others thought about it.



One thing I think might apply is time signatures that change within one song. A UK music magazine ran an article on the top prog albums and chose Radiohead’s Ok Computer as their number one prog album, and I think it’s fair that they included it.


This is a hard discussion to have. It’s hard and possibly even wrong to categorize music, but humans are evolved to put things in categories. It’s how we make sense of the world. Progressive rock is typically defined as rock music that incorporates classical, jazz and/or folk elements. Other genres have done the same however they usually have developed their own nomenclature. For instance jazz that incorporates rock is not know as progressive jazz but is called jazz fusion. Many times these labels are applied for convenience sake and don’t really mean much. Take the band ELO. Many would label them prog rock. Others think they’re pop music or even classic rock. Does it matter? Only in terms of your own musical library and how you access your music. The music doesn’t care what you call it and whatever you call the music doesn’t change it.


I (mischievously) believe it’s positively correlated to how seriously a band take themselves…


Good summary here I think


I have my own idea of what is Prog, and it mostly occupies a narrow moment in time. We’d all most likely agree that Suppers Ready is Prog, but what about Home by the Sea? Is that Po-prog? Yes hits the mark with Close to the Edge, but Owner of a Lonely Heart?

Marillion and Rush are sometimes associated with Prog, but not for me. OK Computer… that’s skipped a few iterations of musical expession. What about Hollis and Sylvian? They precede Radiohead, and I can’t pigeonhole them into Prog no matter how hard I try.

It’s probably one reason why I stopped using genre tagging a while ago. Great music and musicians evolve, experiment, and explore many different influences.

So, maybe for me, the best music, whether we call it Prog or not, is timeless.


I have up on genres when I first looked at roon and saw fifty percent of my songs were pop/rock (or 20 different variations of the two words)


If you were to look at the question as a flow chart, it may play out something like this:

Does anyone in the band wear a cape?
If NO, not Prog
If YES, continue:

Does the band have at least one synth player?
If NO: not Prog
If YES: Continue

Is there at least one ballad per album?
If NO: not Prog
IF Yes: Continue

Are the remainder of the songs over the top bombastic?
If NO: Not Prog
If YES: good chance you got yourself a Prog band!

While not perfect, this should help in weeding at least what’s not prog… :grinning:


Is there one song referring to mysticism, dwarves, elves, mythical creatures or Greek/Roman/Norse gods?


In the oldest and purest sense of the term, Progressive Rock is rock music that incorporates key elements of classical music, most typically ALL of the following: 1) direct inspiration from classical composers; 2) classically-inspired chord progressions; and 3) classically-inspired song structures — most or all of which can typically be directly attributed by the songwriters. The earliest bands to earn the moniker involved bands that incorporated at least one classically-trained (usually in the UK) musician who had more than just a couple of years playing a classical instrument as a youth.

In that sense, the originators of the style also seemed to share at least a small — and sometimes significant — motivation to rebel against classical music purists/snobs who frowned upon rock music…a form of cognitive dissonance, if you will, with a sneer.

All the above taken into consideration, neither the Beatles nor Rush are considered true Progressive Rock, although Rush was certainly inspired by Progressive Rock in key ways.

Of course, the term has been loosened up a bit in its application over the years, but if one starts with this conservative, initial meaning, it’s easier to see where it can apply, and where it begins to lose some sense…

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I got in a twitter argument with someone who claimed Al Stewart’s The Year of the Cat was prog because it was produced by Alan Parsons. My own definition is “I know if when I hear it” but otherwise it’s difficult to define.

but as someone who works for a company that takes genres far more seriously than Roon does, I can say emphatically, YOTC is not prog.

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There’s no need to put labels on music so for me it’s irrelevant :wink:

LOL, well, it is labeled as Progressive Pop in Wikipedia, so, I’m not sure you will ever stamp that idea out.

Rick Wakeman in a cape, makes Prog!

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You’re a real fine critter, you’re the pick of the litter You’ll be my special date.
Wrap you in Rick Wakeman’s cape and you’ll never escape

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Wow! I didn’t know that existed, great minds eh!

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