Henry Haynes states, "To define Rock n' Roll music as black blues and rhythm-and-blues music mixed together with gospel music and white country music is far too simplistic. There was a cross-fertilization of the Southern music forms long before rock came along, and a different definition is necessary. He goes on to say that rock music is beat-oriented music that in its origins embraced the newly-created electric guitar as its primary instrument for melody. Rock music usually has youth-oriented lyrics dealing with romance, the pangs of young love, cars, surfing, and school problems to name a few."

Claire Suddath wrote in an article for Time Magazine, "I can't define rock 'n' roll. I can tell you when it started, and I understand how it evolved. I can name-check offshoots and side genres (soul, punk, new wave, grunge, heavy metal, hardcore) to prove the depth of my musical knowledge. I know that rock 'n' roll involves a bass, drums and a guitar, except for sometimes when it doesn't. Sometimes there's a keyboard. Sometimes there isn't. If I had to provide only one example — if I had to offer one song that defines what rock 'n' roll means to me — I'd go with Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock." After that, probably something by the Beatles."

"Our definition of rock 'n' roll is very broad," says Jim Henke,The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's vice president of exhibitions. "It's not just skinny white guys who play guitar." Henke argues that in the context of the museum, rock 'n' roll isn't just a sound; it's a culture. That culture extends from doo-wop harmonies and dance routines to people who bite the heads off bats."

Most Influential Rockers of All Time (Student Project Fall 2010)