This is a topic that I have been interested in for awhile, mostly because of my love of music. I hadn’t realized it, but I have been listening to some Electronic Dance Music (EDM). I know that there are multiple subgenres of it, and because I have been curious about it myself, I decided to find out more and do a post of what I found out. So here you have it.
There is a lot of confusion for most people about labels and stuff in this genre. Many people call it Techno, but that’s actually a subgenre of EDM. Rave music is another term that is sometimes used to describe it.
So there are 12 subgenres that I’m going to be discussing. They are house music, techno, trance, dubstep, drum and bass, grime, trap, hardstyle, breakbeat, and downtempo. There are other subgenres, but those are the ones I’m going to be focusing on. This is the website I’m getting most of my information on.
Notable Subgenres: Deep House, Progressive House, Electro House, Tech House, Tribal House, Moombahton, Garage house, Hard house, Jazz house, Kwaito, New Beat, Progressive house, Trival
Notable Artists: David Guetta, deadmau5, Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, Frankie Knuckles, Afrojack, Hardwell, Daft Punk, Claude Von Stroke, Benny Benassi, Zedd, Wolfgang Gartner, Danny Tenaglia, Erick Morillo, Sasha
Notable Labels: Spinnin’, Anjunadeep, Musical Freedom, Size Records, Revealed Recordings, Toolroom Records, 100% Pure, Dirtybird Records, Ed Banger Records
Origins: Late 1970s – Early 1980s in Chicago, United States
Musical Origins: Disco, boogie, soul, funk, electro, dub, Hi-NRG, jazz/swing
Instruments: Sampler, Drum machine, Synthesizer, Turntables, Sequencer, Personal computer
Tempo: Between 118 to 135 beats per minute (bpm)
Characteristics: Repetitive 4/4 beats, off-beat hi-hat cymbals, synthesized baselines. Kick drum on every beat
The rhythm is defined by electronic drum machines…. While early house music has similarities to disco music, there have been many different changes with in the genre itself. A lot of off spring genres are based on the original house music.
Basic Elements: The basic beat of House music is often defined by drum machines…. The Beat is one of the most important element with in a genre like house music. The main issue with House music is that you may use a lot of different percussion elements can and will be used in any type of sub genre. It may also be noted that the percussion elements will drive your music in a specific mood.
I have listened to a lot of the artists that play house music, although I didn’t know that was the specific name. It is clearly the most mainstream of these subgenres, as you can see from the list of notable artists.
Notable Subgenres: Minimal
Notable Artists: Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Victor Calderone, Nicole Moudaber, Adam Beyer, UMEK, Chris Liebing, Brodinski, Gessaffelstein, Boys Noize
Notable Labels: Music On, Intec Digital, Drumcode, Bromance Records, Boys Noize Records
Origins: Mid 1980s, Detroit, United States
Musical origins: Electro, post-disco, industrial, funk, synthpop, house music
Instruments: Synthesizer, keyboards, sampler, drum machine, sequencer, personal computer
Tempo: Between 130 to 150 bpm
Characteristics: Repetitive instrumental music. 4/4, with bass drum on each quarter note pulse, backbeat played by snare on second and forth pulses, and open hi-hat on every second eighth note.
One thing that became obvious as I read: Techno is NOT a way to describe all of electronic music, but it is one of the genres that’s been around the longest. It”s not my favorite of these styles, but I do enjoy listening to it every once in a while.
Notable Subgenres: Progressive Trance, Tech Trance, Vocal Trance, Goa/Psytrance
Notable Artists: Armin Van Buuren, Tiēsto, Roger Shah, Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Judge Jules, Dash Berlin, Markus Schulz, Aly & Fila, Paul Oakenfold, BT
Notable Labels: Armada Records, Anjunabeats, Garuda, Magic I, AVA Recordings, Perfecto Records
Characteristics: Trance is known for repetitiously building up and breaking down huge melodies.
The best way to generally describe the trance genre is that of dance music based around rifts and anthems, which can be either highly energetic or very chilled out. Trance tracks often intermix major and minor chords to create “epic” sounding, similar to classical organ music. Most trance is built around the 4/4 beat, and a lot of trance can be very uplifting. Uptempo, uplifting and often euphoric energetic synthesized sounds pumped by a beat and massive hooks, often with long breakdowns building slowly to create a tension and expectancy on the dance floor.
From what I’ve heard of trance, I’m not as much of a fan of this as styles like house and trap, but there are a few songs of it that I have and liked, such as Armin Van Buuren, and Paul van Dyk.
Notable Subgenres: Brostep, Luvstep, Thugstep
Notable Artists: Skream, Benga, Skrillex, Borgore, Coki, Mala, Nero, Flux Pavilion, Kode 9, Rusko, Bassnectar, Excision, Datsik, 12th Planet, Caspa, Joker
Notable Labels: DMZ, Tempa, Wheel & Deal, Dub Police
Tempo: 138-142 beats per minute
Characteristics: Dubstep… is a minimalist interpretation of its lineage. It has no interest in garage’s dramatic excesses; even vocals are rare. Nearly all dubstep productions are focused on low-end frequencies that pummel the listener like a wrecker’s ball.
Contrary to popular belief, dubstep was not directly born from a love of dub music; it started as a darker, more experimental take on the 2-step sound that was running through London in the late 1990s.
Dubstep has its roots in 2step garage and early dubstep, sounds that managed to balance their gender references– low masculine bass with high feminine vocals– to create a delicious blend.
I have to be in the mood for it to enjoy this music. Too me, it comes off pretty hard in a way that I don’t always like. Also, I prefer vocals in my music.
Drum & Bass (Jungle)
Notable Subgenres: Drumstep, Liquid Funk, Techstep, Neurofunk, Jump-Up
Notable Artists: Goldie, Ed Rush & Optical, Bad Company, Roni Size, Dillinja, London Elektricity, High Contrast, Andy C, Netsky, Pendulum, Noisia, Chase & Status, Sub Focus
Notable Labels: Metalheadz, Ram Records, Virus, Hospital Records
Tempo: 160-180 BPMs
Characteristics: Jungle is the most rhythmically complex of all forms of techno, relying on extremely fast polyrhythms and breakbeats. Usually, it’s entirely instrumental — it is among the hardest of all hardcore techno, often consisting of nothing but fast drum machines and deep bass.
Drum & Bass might be one of the most intense, misunderstood sounds within the EDM scene. While its roots are in the hardcore rave scene of London in the early 1990s, it mutated into a darker, more sinister sound all to its own, gobbling up reggae/dancehall sub-bass with sped-up breakbeats. The obvious emphasis on the drum work and bassline gives dnb its name.
Based almost entirely in England, Jungle (also known as drum’n’bass) is a permutation of hardcore techno that emerged in the early ’90s… As its name implies, jungle does have more overt reggae, dub, and R&B influences than most hardcore — and that is why some critics claimed that the music was the sound of black techno musicians and DJs reclaiming it from the white musicians and DJs who dominated the hardcore scene.
There’s one band I like, Krewella, which plays music which contains elements of house, dubstep, hardstyle, electonic rock, and drum and bass. I like a lot of their music, so I attached a link of one of my favorites.
If you’re interested in a more characteristic sample of it, here’s this:
Notable Subgenres: 8-Bar
Notable Artists: Terror Danjah, Wiley, Tempa T, Dizzee Rascal, Kano
Notable Labels: Butterz, No Hats No Hoods
Tempo: 130 – 140 bpm
Characteristics: Grime, like drum & bass, is a genre born from a number of different sounds. You can trace parts of dnb, garage, hip-hop, and dancehall as influences, but the hyper take on the 140 BPM zone, packed with half-time beats at one moment into string-driven 4×4 kicks the next. Grime has remained an underground phenomenon, even if acts like Dizzee Rascal and Kano have received mainstream love.
One thing was made clear from what I read about the subgenre: grime is NOT a sub-genre of hip-hop.
Grime is an underground curiosity in North America, but remains a foreign language to this continent’s mainstream. And that might never change: grime is faster than hip hop, darker than pop and nowhere close to rock. So far only one grime star, Dizzee Rascal — government name Dylan Mills, b. 1985 in East London’s Bow estates — has managed a ripple of retail attention on this side of the Atlantic.
Grime is a music that was born in East London, lives in East London… and maybe only makes sense in East London. It is a mutt genre, a bastard blend of street English, Jamaican dancehall reggae and two kinds of rave music: (1) drum ’n’ bass, an electronic party monster built from breakbeats, or loops fashioned from the percussive “breakdown” sections of other songs; (2) a U.K. delicacy called garage, which rhymes with carriage and feels like R&B running a fever. The sum is a fast clatter of syncopated claps, alien chirps and machine bursts. Grime vocalists resemble turbo-charged rappers, racing to match backing tracks that thump about 130 times per minute — near your target heart rate for vigorous physical activity.
So I’ve been following youtube channels that have provided some commentary on grime, especially from Blackpool. There’s a youtube channel called BGMedia that showcases a lot really, really young people attempting grime. There’s a short documentary on it. There’s one that particularly stands out and is featured on other channels named Afghan Dan. I’m not sure of how much of typical grime act he is, but here is a sample.
Notable Subgenres: n/a
Notable Artists: Heroes x Villains, CRNKN, Carnage, Mayhem, UZ, Flosstradamus, Baauer, RL Grime, Branchez, Brillz
Notable Labels: Mad Decent/Jeffree’s, Fool’s Gold
Tempo: 70 -110 bpm
Characteristics: Trap rap is defined by the content of its lyrics, but it also comes with a trademark sound: booming 808-style sub-bass kick drums, twitchy sixty-fourth-note hi-hats, dive-bombing tom fills, and chilly cinematic strings. … But the underlying principle of trap music is simple: instead of combining trap-style drum patterns with a rap by Rick Ross or Waka Flocka Flame or whoever, you pile EDM synths onto them.
To simply break it down, Trep music would be best described as a combination of:
- 1/3 hip hop (tempo and song structure are similar) – with vocals sometimes pitched down
- 1/3 Dance Music – High pitched Dutch synth work, Hardstyle sampling, as well as a plethora of trap remixed of popular EDM songs
- 1/3 dub (Low frequency focus and strong emphasis on repetitiveness throughout a song)
Trap, in an EDM sense, is the 808-heavy sound that dance music producers have been working within since early 2012. Many credit the production of hip-hop producers like Lex Luger and artists like Rick Ross and Waka Flocka as bringing a new acceptance to what had been for years a sound almost synonymous with southern rap artists like T.I. and Young Jeezy. EDM producers started applying the build-ups, drops, and breakdowns found within many dance music genres to this style of production, and created a monster. An obvious beginning to this scene was Flosstradamus’ remix of “Original Don” by Major Lazer, complete with samples culled from the infamous Trap-A-Holics mixtape series, and the sound exploded, to the point where previously-unknown artists like Baauer (with a little help from a meme that spread like wildfire) were catapulted to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this year.
Trap is a pretty harsh sound, but it’s one of my favorite styles of EDM. I have a trap playlist on youtube that I listen to sometimes while I write. I have a sample here from it.
Notable Subgenres: Hard Trance, Hard Dance, Happy Hardcore
Notable Artists: Showtek, Headhunterz, Wildstylez, Angerfist, DJ Issac, Tuneboy, Psyko Punkz
Notable Labels: Scantraxx, Fusion
Tempo: 140-150 BPM
Characteristics: The hardstyle of today is typified by tracks around 150BPM that are heavy on the distorted kicks thrown under insanely catchy melodies. Until , professional vocals were really rare in this genre. Most vocals were only used for simple vocal stutters or clumsy monologues. … Other genres that can get used with hardstyle are Trap, House, R’n’b and Drum and bass.
I don’t have any original songs in this style, but I do have some remixes. I have a remix here of a song that I really like.
Notable Subgenres: Breaks, Florida Breaks, Big Beat
Notable Artists: Hybrid, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, DJ Icey
Tempo: 80-160 bpm, hovers around 130 bpm
Characteristics: Breakbeat is often mistakenly categorised as music which is not in 4/4 measure. However the most common criteria for breakbeats are clear drums and percussion in a 4/4 measure. The snare usually plays on 2 and 4: so . 2 . 4. … Basically, a breakbeat is the beat in that break…. In Primer notation: 1 2 33 4.
The unique percussion rhythm upon which the genre is based is one of the basis for the name. (The other refers to the Electronic music genre itself.) What makes this rhythm special is the use of a non straightened 4/4 drum pattern. This pattern is not to be found in House, Techno, or Trance. The rigorous use of syncopation and polyrhythm are the key features of this rhythm. Shuffling hi-hats and its beat-skipping kick drums are also other attributes of Break. Both of these have close connections with hip hop and b-boying.
You have to love how the idea of “breakbeats,” the isolated parts of classic funk and soul records that b-boys would dance to, started being used in a number of genres, including jungle and hardcore, to the point where an entire genre circulated around these beats was spawned. Acts like the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim turned their devotion to these beats and used them as the backbone of their sounds, finding the perfect sounds and creating their own tracks – gaining a huge following during the “electronica” wave of the mid to late 1990s.
When I read about it, the names I recognized were Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers, but the Chemical Brothers are the only ones I really listen to. So here’s a sample from the last Hunger Games movie soundtrack.
Downtempo (Trip Hop)
Notable Subgenres: Chillout, Lounge
Notable Artists: Moby, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Nightmares on Wax, Boards of Canada
Notable Labels: Warp
Tempo: 90-120 bpm
Origin: In 1994, the genre of ‘trip-hop’ emerged as a combination of slowed down breakbeats, hip hop tempo, but usually without rap. Trip-hop also had elements of drum and bass, ambient and jungle thrown in: it was originally very much a British genre. …
Characteristics: Trip-hop wasn’t necessarily relaxing like ambient music; it was often moody and dark. The one thing it did have in common with ambient music, however, was its slowed-down tempo.
An interesting thing about trip-hop is that, while the name of the genre is hardly used today, the slowed down electronic and sampled beats gradually merged with other genres to such an extent that by the turn of the millennium, pop, rock, dance and even folk artists may use beats that were originally the preserve of trip-hop artists.
I think out of all these styles, I listen to this type the least. The closest I have come to it is listening to DJ Shadow.
House and Techno source:
Drum and bass source:
Other subgenres not mentioned: Garage Music, Dub, Hardcore, Ambient, Juke, Electro Music, Electronic Rock, Electropop
Other EDM examples I like: