Difference Between Hard Rock and Metal

Now, here's another one of my posts. This post is a series of the previous post "Difference Between Punk and Metal". On that post I defined differences between punk rock and metal. And on this post I am going to tell you the differences between hard rock and metal. After all, these two genres are very confusing. Now this one is kinda tough. Because both sound very similar. Sometimes. But still I will my my best. But before starting anything I have to prove my facts here. Right? So, this time I am going to suggest one more video here. It's "Rock vs. Metal" by Raz Ben Ari. Can be found on YouTube. The main problem of this video is, the rock isn't only about hard rock. The video has other rock genres too. But you'll understand which riffs are hard rock as you know the basic differences. So, let's get started.

The Myths:
Like punk and metal, hard rock and metal differences has also got some myths. Like metal is louder than hard rock. Some even consider hard rock and metal to be very much same. But it's all just myths. Without any proofs. Let me give you an example of it. If metal would be loud, then what about tapping licks and solos. Both metal and hard rock tapping licks/solos aren't very loud. You won't find the differences in tapping solos/licks. So, it's not really a difference.

Difference (With Some Similarities):
If we are going to learn what is hard rock and metal, then we have to learn about the origins of these two genres.
Hard rock was invented in the mid 1960s. Some prominent bands who invented hard rock are, The Kinks, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones. The firs hard rock song is now considered as "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks. Hard rock was mostly inspired from genres like garage rock, blues etc. While, heavy metal started in the late 1960's or in very early of 1970s. There are a lot of debates about who were the first heavy metal band. Some say Deep Purple. Some Black Sabbath. And some even say bands like Led Zeppelin or Steppenwolf. But we can all agree that in 1970, most of the metal albums were released. Deep Purple's Deep Purple In Rock and Black Sabbath's Paranoid were one of the most popular metal albums.

And now we come to the main difference. The riffs. It's kinda hard to define these two genres riffs. Cause metal means a whole genre with lots of sub-genres. But hard rock means only a sub-genre of rock. But still these two genres have some basic riffs structures. Hard rock riffs are kind of Slow. By slow I didn't mean slow like blues. By slow I meant a gap/pause between strumming time. For example check the riffs of Kashmir, Smoke On the Water or Back In Black. You'll see when they are playing those riffs, they usually strum the most strings. Like low E, A, D, G etc strings at same time. Sometimes even all the opening six strings. Now, when we strum all the strings, they keep ringing for quite a long time. Not like 2 or 3 minutes. Comparably lesser than metal riffs. Then when we strum it again a heavy sound has been made. It's very obvious I can play all the strings fast at same time. The strings will block my speed. So you have to strum it slowly.

Now, metal riffs. In metal riffs, guitarists usually play fewer strings. Mostly the low strings like low E, A, D etc. But not at the same time. I mean not all the six strings. Just one, two or three at a same time. But they strum those strings very fast. Brutally. In opposite of hard rock, less strings will block will your strumming speed lesser. You could check the covers of Master of Puppets, Highway Star (yes the main riff is metal) or Fear of the Dark. You'll know the riffs.

Now, here we come to some similarities. The first is, both hard rock and metal riffs sound very deep. However metal sounds deeper than hard rock. And another one is, both hard rock and metal guitarists prefer thicker picks to strum the strings. And both guitarists can hold the picks firmly. However in metal, holding picks firmly is a must. Otherwise it'll drop off of your hand when you are strumming the strings. But in hard rock you can still hold it loosely. But not very loosely. Otherwise it'll sound softer.

Final Words:
So, I hope I could help you. I am not a very expert of this thing. But you will be sure that I am stating the facts here. The video up there is a proof of that. Anyway, thanks for reading. See your on another post. Goodbye :)


I didn't add things like metal is dark, violent, epic etc. Cause these aren't any actual differences. It's just a theme of those genres. In a matter of fact, a lot of genres can be dark, violent, aggressive too. - zxm

By the way, the low E doesn't mean downer string of a guitar. It means the upper string of guitar. A guitar has two E strings. Low and High. Low E makes low pitched sound and High E makes high pitched sound, noisy sound. Sometimes in acrostic guitars (most I've seen) the Low E is golden/yellow colored, the high E is silver colored. Saying it because if someone confuses these strings. - zxm

Also check this, "How to Play Power Chords | Heavy Metal Guitar" this video was instructed by Alex Skolnick. - zxm

I think you left out hard rock uses blues scales and metal uses classical scales. - Skullkid755

I know, but its not really strictly. It may depend on the artist. I also wanted to add that metal is based on minor keys. But I decided not to include that it may variable. - zxm

I see what you mean with the slower riffs, how in songs like Back in Black the differentiating of notes is extremely easy, and surely slower. But metal riffs' notes are a good bit hard to differentiate from one another. Like the solo from Good Girls Bad Guys (metal or not,) the strumming sounds almost like it's pulsating note.
*And also most FiR solos are good examples* - EliHbk

Right. Differentiating metal from other genres is easy. But differentiating metal riffs in metal is quite hard. I know my explanation in this post wouldn't work with doom metal. But what I was saying in general metal riffs are faster than hard rock riffs. Though there are some exceptions. Like, Whole Lotta Love riff is quite faster than most hard rock riffs (I still believe its more than just hard rock). - zxm

According to guitarist Charlie Parra del Riego Whole Lotta Love riff is a metal riff. He used the riff in "Riffer Madness - 20 CLASSIC METAL RIFFS MASHUP! " - zxm