Alternative Rock and Guitars
It can be quite difficult to define the phrase alternative rock. Originally coined mostly for punk rock bands with their loud lyrics and hard driving musical instruments, alternative rock became a catch phrase for many different kinds of rock. While considered to be solely influenced by the sounds of traditional rock bands using electric guitars, bass guitar, drums and keyboard synthesizers, alternative rock was also influenced heavily by other music genres such as jazz and folk music.
Some alternative rock bands have enjoyed commercial success. REM and Talking Heads both enjoyed a significant period of popularity in the 1980's on mainstream radio stations. Before the eighties, most of these bands had little air time in most venues. While originally alternative music had it's roots in punk, as the genre opened up to more diverse musicians, the musical instruments used became more important to the sound. A higher level of skill on an electric guitar, beyond just making it screech loudly, was demanded by a more sophisticated audience.
Alternative rock became a spotlight for serious musicians well trained in their musical instruments. A lead singer now was expected to play a melody on their electric guitar and the bass guitar player was expected to compliment the lead singer. Drums were no longer something to just beat randomly at in a frenzy, a drum needed to set the beat for the performance.
One of the largest influences on alternative rock in the 90's was Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. Creating a whole new subcategory to alternative music called grunge, this band had talented musicians that wrote amazing lyrics that were the core of their popularity while still rocking the house during performances. Most performers use electric bass guitars and drums in their performances, Kurt was known to pick up an acoustic guitar occasionally to give his songs a whole different sound.
Alternative rock fills the holes left by bands that can't be pigeonholed into another established category of music, thus creating an interesting and largely varied genre of music.