Historically, Gothic rock started with Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure and Joy Division, bands that were contemporaries of such early punk bands as The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Buzzcocks and Generation X in the UK in 1977 - 1979. However it only began to be defined as a separate movement with the emergence of Bauhaus in 1979.
While Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Cure have retained their goth imagery throughout their careers, their music has strayed from the Gothic style.
Siouxsie up to and including the Nocturne (1983) album is undeniably goth rock. After 1983, their output shifted to softer focus on Gothic themes. The Cure's contribution to the genre is centered around Faith[?], Seventeen Seconds and Pornography[?]. This sound originated from the song "Three Imaginary Boys" on the first album (Three Imaginary Boys, 1979), which is generally considered closer to being a New Wave album.
Joy Division was a consistently Gothic band, though after the death of Ian Curtis, the group reformed as New Order and became a New Wave/disco group. Bauhaus is also a consistently Gothic band, strongly influenced by English glam rock, such as David Bowie and T. Rex. Some of the members of Bauhaus formed Tones on Tail after the disintegration of that group, releasing Gothic music influenced strongly by Pet Sounds-era The Beach Boys and psychedelia.
Early English Goth rock follows a standard Hard rock lineup, but often adds synths, or at least guitar effects that sound like synths. The front person strategy varies, because the music is more introspective than high energy Hard rock:
Goth rock is at its most basic level a combination of punk rock & new wave. Between 1979-1985 it was variously known as post-punk , alternative, & new wave.
Lyrics are generally very poetic in nature, and follow melodies in the instrumentation of the song.
Guitar settings are the most notable influence to the overall musical style. Single coil pickups are important to achieve the correct sound, Fender Jazzmasters, Jaguars, & Mustangs fit the bill nicely. The guitar sound before processing ranges from clean, to warm overdrive with gain settings at approx 50%. Dynamics to this can include just turning all amp knobs to the right for chaotic amp-driven sounds found in some Bauhaus & Siouxsie material. For the most part, the combination of the following effects will give you this sound:
Bass is very warm and round sounding.
Drums tend to be played by a human with an electronic kit, BPM ranges are from 80-150.
Synths usually have the above listed guitar attributes, and are generally based on a 'Strings' type of synth patch with a 25% attack rate. Invariably the synths are analog.
This type of gothic rock requires a fairly capable musician, as it will often include modal scales in song construction. Additionally, finger picking & up/down arpeggiation of chords will be found in many verse parts.
Overall song construction is similar to Hard rock, but the solos are more moody & intellectual than aggressive.
There is much room for variation, and repetition of verses & choruses.
Early Gary Numan material from Tubeway Army to The Pleasure Principle can be considered to be goth, although the image was new wave. The use of analog synths and subject matter were a definite influence on later goth bands. His imagery & fashion have influenced contemporary goth Cyberpunk fashion.
The band which has most influenced contemporary Goth music is The Sisters of Mercy, which is significantly different from the original sound of Gothic music. Stemming from these changes, a movement of Goth dance music was created.
Contemporary Goth music is generally sequenced, making heavy use of FM & digital synths. It is characterized by a crisp snare drum sample and a heavy bass drum sample. The auto-arpeggiate feature of modern synthesizers is used in often complex sounding multiple simultaneous arpeggiations. Vocals tend to be either spooky or lovelorn.
Contemporary dance club goth evolved simultaneously with industrial music, and both use the same techniques and types of synthesis equipment. The main difference is that industrial is "harder" sounding, and goth is "softer" sounding. Modern goth has the evolutionary feel of new wave or synth pop, while industrial is an evolution of synth pop and heavy metal music. The guitar is not used much in contemporatry goth, but is often used extensively (with a LOT of distortion) in industrial.
See Gothic fashion, Death rock, Death rock fashion, Black metal, Black metal fashion, Punk, Punk fashion, Cyberpunk fashion, BDSM fashion, Electroclash, Industrial music, Music theory, Music technology.