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Soft rock
Stylistic origins Pop rock, rhythm and blues, folk rock, rock and roll, smooth jazz
Cultural origins Late 1960s
Typical instruments Electric and acoustic guitar, bass guitar, twelve string guitar, drums, piano, synthesizer, saxophone, string section
Mainstream popularity Brought into the mainstream in the 70s and 80s.
Derivative forms country pop, new age music
Other topics
Neo-progressive rock

Soft rock (also referred to as mellow rock, light rock, or easy rock) is a style of music which uses the techniques of rock and roll (often combined with elements from folk rock and singer-songwriter pop) to compose a softer, more toned-down sound for listening. Soft rock songs generally tend to focus on themes like love, everyday life and relationships. The genre tends to make heavy use of acoustic guitars, pianos, synthesizers and sometimes saxophones. The electric guitars in soft rock are normally faint and high-pitched.


From the late 1960s it became common to divide mainstream rock music into soft and hard rock. Soft rock was often derived from folk rock, using acoustic instruments and putting more emphasis on melody and harmonies. Major artists included Carole King, Cat Stevens and James Taylor.[1] It reached its commercial peak in the mid- to late- 70s with acts like Billy Joel, Chicago, America and the reformed Fleetwood Mac, whose Rumours (1977) was the best selling album of the decade.[2]

Soft rock became hugely popular later in that decade. By 1977, some radio stations, like New York's WTFM and WYNY, had switched to an all-soft-rock format.[3] By the 1980s, tastes had changed and radio formats reflected this change; the genre evolved into what came to be known as "adult contemporary", a pop categorization that bore less overt rock influence than its forebear.[4]

See also


  1. ^ J. M. Curtis, Rock eras: interpretations of music and society, 1954-1984 (Popular Press, 1987), p. 236.
  2. ^ P. Buckley, The Rough Guide to Rock (Rough Guides, 3rd edn., 2003), p. 378.
  3. ^ C. H. Sterling, M. C. Keith, Sounds of Change: a History of FM broadcasting in America (UNC Press, 2008), pp. 136-7.
  4. ^ C. H. Sterling, M. C. Keith, Sounds of Change: a History of FM broadcasting in America (UNC Press, 2008), p. 187.


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