Top 10 Elements of Progressive Music

Metal_Treasure
I am familiar with progressive rock and metal music but this list is not limited to them. If you can give examples from other music genres, it would be great.

The Top TenXW

1Classical influence

Progressive rock music is more classically influenced than your typical, blues-based rock music.
Metal music is classically influenced by default but this is more obvious in progressive subgenres. I don't mean only prog metal but also some other subgenres with significant presence of prog elements: symphonic metal, prog power metal, prog death metal, and more or less all subgenres with the word "technical" in the title (technical thrash, technical death metal, and so on). Technical virtuosity is also part of the "progressive" definition. - Metal_Treasure

Is it classical influence? I didn't know it - zxm

2More complex compositions

An ordinary rock song usually goes "verse-chorus, verse-chorus, verse-chorus, end" and the listener knows what to expect after the first "verse-chorus" cycle (same music repeated with different lyrics).
But a prog piece is less repetitive and may have bridges, pre-bridges, pre-choruses, etc. So the cycle is extended and there are more music ideas / melodies that are not repeated as often as in an ordinary song. - Metal_Treasure

I want to add that many metal songs don't even have choruses and they reach the complexity limit of the progressive song structure. Have you noticed that some of the most iconic metal songs are without any chorus: Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden), Holy Wars...The Punishment Due (Megadeth), Ghost of Perdition (Opeth), Phantom of the Opera (Iron Maiden).
You can see more songs of this type on my list: 'Top 10 Metal Songs Without a Chorus'. - Metal_Treasure

3Higher standard of talent set by the progressive artists

Most of the prog musicians could be considered virtuosos in their fields. - Metal_Treasure

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4Superior vocals

@Billyv - there are superior vocals in classical and jazz music but I think these genres are progressive in general so superior vocals are there by default.
I will answer your question with an example - no matter how much I love AC/DC, I can't imagine Brian Johnson singing something classically inspired, longer than 15 minutes, with a complex composition and instrumentation, and so on. His vocal skills are not enough for that and his singing style is gonna sound ridiculous on a song by Queensrÿche, Dream Theater or Blind Guardian. Besides, Brian Johnson probably can't even sing most of their stuff. - Metal_Treasure

Operatic vox, outstanding vocal skills. - Metal_Treasure

5More complex instrumentation

Ordinary rock and metal bands usually don't have piano, keyboards, strings, flute, etc. But progressive rock and metal bands use these instruments to setup the "progressive" sound. - Metal_Treasure

6Longer songs (lengthy stuff, “epics”)

Metal fans enjoy pieces longer than 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes. So this is a very typical element but I put it at #6 because I think some other elements are actually more important. For example, there are songs shorter than 7-9 minutes but they are still progressive. It is possible because these songs may have most of the other progressive elements that I put higher. - Metal_Treasure

7Odd time signatures

Many people associate prog music only with this characteristic but this isn't correct because it's a too narrow understanding.
Prog bands use odd time signatures because they make a song sound different. Very often such songs are more difficult to play.
Odd time signatures/ meters, such as 5/4, 6/4, 7/8, 9/8, 13/8, 23/16...
The default time signature for metal is 4/4 (i.e. march) so anything different from 4/4 is odd in metal.
Sometimes odd time signatures appear because some prog bands include folk tunes from all over the world and these folk tunes come with odd time signatures (example - Blind Guardian). - Metal_Treasure

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8Folk elementsV1 Comment
9More complex conceptual ideas (concept albums)

Prog bands tend to make concept albums but this is not absolutely necessary. - Metal_Treasure

10Heightened lyrical content

@Billyv - I don't think I ignored that. On the contrary, I said that non-progressive rock artists may have this quality, too. And I also put this item at #10 and not at #1, meaning that this feature can be found outside prog music. But you can't say a song is progressive judging by the lyrics only.
However, the heightened lyrical content in prog music is a tendency and the mentioned lyrical content is available more often. - Metal_Treasure

Hypothetically, even non-progressive rock artists may have some heightened lyrical content but it isn't typical. - Metal_Treasure

The Contenders

11Time Signature Changes

The Dance of Eternity (Dream Theater) has 108 time signature changes! Of course this is extreme - usually there aren't so many changes but you got the idea. - Metal_Treasure

12Complex Guitar Solos

Well prog rock has complex guitar solos - zxm

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