Progressive music styles

There's a large amount of bands doing different kinds of what is usually considered as progressive music. This page is not intended to be the ultimate effort to classify them, but a guide into some different types of progressive approaches that one can found. Probably the number of lists that can be made equals the number of people doing them. See the Gibraltar encyclopedia of progressive rock for the original issue. Be critic if you want to. Thanks for the comments, additions and changes already suggested.


Something more than a minimalist kind of electronic music (although not always electronic). The bands trying to make this kind of music have always been very experimental.
  • BandsEno, Cluster, los primeros Kraftwerk, Neu, etc.

Art Rock:

The very border of progressive music in which more commercial styles of music were created at a different angle. An overview of how to do more commercial but beautiful music. Not much progressive but almost.
  • Bands: Be Bop Deluxe, early Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Toto, etc.

Author Music

This kind of compositions are often written, performed and produced by just one person, so they are usually very identified with them. Mike Oldfield, for example is one of the clearest instances, who wrote themes mixing elements from hard to celtic music, becoming very popular. There are a lot of influences and approaches to this music, as expected.
  • BandasMike Oldfield, Jean-Pascal Boffo, Jean-Michel Jarre, Alfredo Carrión, Lluis Llach (algo), etc.


A region in England where a unique style originated. The region's name has now become the label for the style of music. Maybe the earliest form of progressive, Canterbury bands wallowed in complexity and sounded extremely English. The ideas resulting from this form of music were very original. Often quite jazzy in a light and airy sort of way.
  • Bands: Caravan, Soft Machine, Hatfield & The North, etc.

Classical Progressive:

More accessibly related, bands starting with The Nice that fused classical symphonic music, i.e Bach, Beethoven with rock structures and were often quite pompous yet were quite successful at their time. Usually a three man format, but not neccessarely.
  • Bands The Nice, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Le Orme, The Enid, Ekseption, Trace, Sky, etc.

Commercial Progressive

There are a number of bands playing good music that could be categorised as progressive or not depending on who listens. At least their music is at times complex and beautiful. We are again in the borders of progressiveness, from rock to pop. These are accesible bands for almost any listener, maybe that's why some of them are among the most popular bands in the prog (and not prog) world.
  • Bands Queen, Supertramp, Electric Light Orchestra (al principio), Dire Straits, Boston, Moody Blues, Asia, etc.

Dutch Euro-Rock

These bands had a certain common sound. It's something dificult to describe except by the fact that they used to have a strong guitar presence.
  • Bands Focus, Finch, Supersister, Crucis (Arg.), Earth & Fire, etc.

Early British Progressive

Most of this material is associated with the original label "Vertigo". This style combined the psychodelic music of late 60's with the symphonic rock of the 70s mixed in equal proportions.
  • Bands May Blitz, Cressida, Spring etc.

Electronic Progressive:

Often mis-categorized by being called 'new age', much of this music was around far before they coined that awful term. Arguably the most explorative of the prog genres, this is a wide open field and is categorized by the use of almost all electronic equipment. Often quite ambient and soothing but not necessarily! Only for the very patient.
  • Bands Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Steve Roach, early Popol Vuh, Heldon, Pinhas, etc.


Flexible label that tries to describe a kind of progresive music more straight. There is a lot of material from the german label Bellaphon from the early 70's. Often combined with "Kraut Rock". The labels Ohr, Brain, Komische, and Pilz can be included. Some bands were characterized by the presence of female vocalists.
  • Bands Nektar, Message, Amon Düül II, Can, Faust, Nine Days Wonder, Earth & Fire, Sandrose, Analogy, etc.


Very weird genre that may do anything at any time and can be quite stunning to quite horrible depending on what you are listening to. A lot of this is organised noise, electronics and samples. Mainly textural rather than melodic or rythmic.
  • Bands Orb, Nurse With Wound, Current 93, Cranioclast, Biomechanoid, etc.

French Theater/Symphonic

Close to the symphonic genre but clearly french - a style consistent of progressive rock and theater sensibility that was continued by the disguising acts of gabriel.
  • Bands Ange, Mona Lisa, Angipatch etc.


More explorative jazz-rock that took this simple form of music to a new level of innovation. Maybe a little jazzier than most progressive music, but rockier than most jazz. Basically instrumental themes, usually with melodic-soloist structures coming from jazz. On the other hand, there are other more rocker-symphonic varieties.
  • Bands Mahavishnu Orchestra, Brand X, Bruford, Colosseum, Iceberg, Embryo, Area, Dixie Dregs, etc.

Italian Progressive

A dificult Genre to be defined except for the fact of coming from Italy. Maybe the care for the vocal sophistication, the dynamics and the elegant music they make.
  • Bands Premiata Forneria Marconi, Banco, Nuova Era, Semiramis, New Trolls (some), etc.

Neo-Classical Progressive:

Music that fused Bartók, Prokofiev, and Satie 20th century classical music with Crimsonian rock structures and chamber rock. Can be difficult to get into, as bands like these were way out on a limb and quite different. Also, it tends to be very complex, requiring many listens to get a grip on it. Generally always worth the effort.
  • Bands Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, ZNR, etc.


Symphonic rock done in a typically more simple or commercial format. Very lush but lacking the complexity of tradition progressive rock. Mostly an 80's and 90's phenomenon.
  • Bands: Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, Twelfth Night, Aragon, Jadis, Grey Lady Down, Arena, etc.

Progressive Folk:

A variety of music that took simple folk songs and did something quite new with them. There were many forms of this exploration.
  • Bands Emtidi, Witthuser & Westrupp, Malicorne, etc.

Progressive Metal:

Here we explore the frontiers between symphonic and hard rock, where the borderline is fuzzy. Some can see this as complex heavy metal, some others as power symphonic rock. Rhythmic complexity, soloist exhuberancy, power vocals and spectacular productions are some of their features.
  • Bands Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Magellan, Shadow Gallery, etc.

Progressive Space Fusion

Very jazz-oriented but with a hard-metal component more evident than for fusion bandas. Important doses of synthesizer effects are used and they are incredibly rhythmic.
  • Bands Gong, Magma, Ozric Tentacles, Neo, Carpe Diem, Djam Karet (algo), etc.

Rock In Opposition (RIO):

A form of music coined by ex-Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler. This type of music consistently defies categorization (except for `RIO') and is extremely challenging and often hard to listen to. However, it is very rewarding in the long run. The lyrical bent is often political, especially for those bands Cutler has a hand in. Technically, bands like Art Zoyd and Univers Zero are RIO as they subscribed to Cutlers broad musical ethic. however, their sound is generally subsumed under the 'Neo-Classical Progressive' heading.
  • Bands Henry Cow, Art Bears, Samla Mammas Manna, News From Babel, Thinking Plague, etc.

Space Fusion:

Jazz oriented but typically with a heavier rock edge or 'punch' bands in this category used heavy amounts of trippy synth effects and were incredibly rhythmic.
  • Bands You era Gong, Magma, Ozric Tentacles, Neo, Carpe Diem, Djam Karet (algo), etc.

Space Rock:

Like the above but without the jazz edge, more of a straight forward type of space rock. Hawkwind were almost the be all and end all of this genre and were the innovators.
  • Bands Hawkwind, Amon Düül [UK], etc.

Symphonic Progressive:

Characterized by lush instrumentations and very melodic vocals and usually written like a piece of classical music, put to a `rock' orchestra. Different from Neo-progressive by being much more complicated, especially in rhythm or scale structure.
  • Bands Yes, Genesis (early), Kansas, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Camel, Atoll, etc.

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