Top 10 Elements of Progressive MusicI 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 Ten
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.
Is it classical influence? I didn't know it
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'.
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.
@Billyv - I'm so happy you commented because I honestly didn't expect any votes and comments on this list. But now I see that a meaningful discussion may happen.
I think that classical and part of jazz music are very progressive in general but some of their subgenres are even more progressive. From what I've read, I can conclude that many music genres can have "progressive" subgenres, "progressive layers" within the genre. Some styles in folk music from certain regions are also considered progressive.
This is from wiki - how waltz can become progressive (or art music):
"Classical composers traditionally supplied music for dancing when required, and Franz Schubert's waltzes were written for household dancing, without any pretense at being art music. However, Frédéric Chopin's surviving 18 waltzes were clearly not intended for dance. They marked the adoption of the waltz and other dance forms as serious composition genres."
Most of the prog musicians could be considered virtuosos in their fields.
@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.
Operatic vox, outstanding vocal skills.
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 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.
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).
Songs with odd time signatures - examples:
Sound of Muzak by Porcupine Tree (7/8)
Windowpane by Opeth (6/4)
No, I don’t mean folk metal - it isn’t progressive!
But Blind Guardian are progressive - they incorporated folk tunes in some of their songs without becoming folk metal (Nightfall, Mirror Mirror).
A good example from rock music are Jethro Tull.
Prog bands tend to make concept albums but this is not absolutely necessary.
@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.
Hypothetically, even non-progressive rock artists may have some heightened lyrical content but it isn't typical.
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.
Well prog rock has complex guitar solos