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what is edm

What is EDM? An In-Depth Exploration of the 10 Main Genres of Electronic Dance Music

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In recent decades, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has emerged as a global phenomenon, captivating audiences around the world with its infectious beats, pulsating rhythms, and euphoric melodies. However, it’s important to note that the term “EDM” itself is a relatively recent classification that encompasses a wide array of electronic music genres that have been evolving for several decades. In this article, we’ll take an extensive dive into the the question “what is EDM?” and highlight the 10 main genres of EDM, tracing their roots, exploring their distinct characteristics, and celebrating the influential artists who shaped their unique soundscapes. Join us on a journey through the vibrant evolution of electronic dance music.

What is EDM?

House Music

History and Origins

House music, born in the bustling cities of Chicago and New York during the early 1980s, emerged as a cultural force that reshaped the music industry. Rooted in the black and gay club scenes, house music became a symbol of liberation and unity. Influential artists such as Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, and Marshall Jefferson pioneered the genre, creating a sound that blended elements of disco, funk, and electronic music.

Characteristics and Subgenres

House music is characterised by its steady 4/4 beat, infectious basslines, and soulful vocals. Within the vast realm of house, numerous subgenres have emerged, each with its unique flavour. Deep house, known for its atmospheric and introspective sound, takes listeners on a meditative journey with its laid-back grooves. Tech house combines the rhythmic elements of techno with the soulful essence of house, resulting in a fusion that is both energetic and captivating. Progressive house, with its gradual build-ups and melodic progressions, creates a sense of euphoria on the dancefloor.

If you’re interested in the origins of house, check out our post on “Chicago House DJs” Here.

Techno

what is edm

History and Origins

Originating in the industrial landscapes of Detroit in the early 1980s, techno revolutionised electronic music and paved the way for many genres to come. Artists like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson crafted a futuristic sound characterised by its mechanical beats, pulsating basslines, and sci-fi-inspired atmospheres. Techno’s global impact and enduring legacy have made it one of the most influential genres in electronic music history.

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Characteristics and Subgenres

Techno’s driving force lies in its relentless rhythm and hypnotic energy. It is characterized by its repetitive motifs, synthetic textures, and a constant forward motion that entices listeners to dance. Minimal techno takes the genre’s stripped-down approach even further, focusing on sparse arrangements and intricate sound design. Acid techno, with its distinctive squelching basslines and 303 synthesizer, adds a more raw and psychedelic edge to the genre. Detroit techno pays homage to its birthplace, incorporating elements of funk, soul, and jazz into the mix, resulting in a distinct blend of grooves and melodies.

We made a list of our favourite 90’s Techno mixes

Trance

History and Origins

Trance music emerged in the early 1990s as a response to the underground rave culture in Europe. Originating in Germany and the Netherlands, it quickly spread across the continent, captivating audiences with its melodic richness and emotional depth. Trance evolved from its early roots in rave and techno, developing its own unique identity and becoming a mainstream success.

Characteristics and Subgenres

Trance is characterized by its soaring melodies, ethereal atmospheres, and uplifting energy. It often features driving beats and powerful basslines, creating a sense of euphoria and transcendence. Progressive trance builds upon the genre’s foundation, adding complex arrangements and evolving structures that take listeners on an immersive sonic journey. Vocal trance incorporates captivating vocals, adding an extra layer of emotion and connection. Psytrance, with its intense and hypnotic soundscapes, explores the realms of psychedelic consciousness, immersing listeners in a world of intricate rhythms and mind-bending textures.

Drum and Bass

History and Origins

Drum and bass, commonly referred to as D&B or jungle, originated in the underground clubs of the UK in the early 1990s. Born out of the fusion of breakbeat, rave, and reggae influences, drum and bass revolutionized electronic music with its high energy, complex rhythms, and deep basslines. The genre quickly became a staple of the UK’s vibrant music scene and gained international recognition.

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Characteristics and Subgenres

Drum and bass is characterized by its fast-paced breakbeats, syncopated rhythms, and deep sub-bass frequencies. It fuses elements of jungle, techno, and hip-hop, creating a diverse sonic landscape. Liquid funk, a subgenre of drum and bass, infuses soulful melodies and atmospheric textures into the mix, resulting in a smoother and more melodic experience. Neurofunk, on the other hand, delves into darker territories, with its aggressive basslines, intricate drum patterns, and sci-fi-inspired sound design. Jump-up, known for its energetic and playful nature, features catchy hooks, heavy basslines, and infectious rhythms that ignite dancefloors.

Dubstep

History and Origins

Dubstep emerged in the early 2000s from the vibrant South London underground scene, where artists like Skream, Benga, and Digital Mystikz pushed the boundaries of electronic music. Combining elements of dub, 2-step garage, and grime, dubstep quickly gained a massive following worldwide and left an indelible mark on the EDM landscape.

Characteristics and Subgenres

Dubstep is characterized by its powerful bass drops, syncopated rhythms, and dark atmospheres. The genre’s signature sound relies heavily on sub-bass frequencies and aggressive wobbles, creating a visceral and captivating experience. As the genre evolved, subgenres like brostep emerged, which added heavier, more aggressive elements to the mix. Trapstep fused elements of dubstep with trap music, resulting in a hybrid sound that combined heavy basslines with hip-hop-inspired beats. Future garage, another subgenre of dubstep, incorporated elements of UK garage and ambient music, creating a more atmospheric and introspective vibe.

Electro

History and Origins

Electro traces its roots back to the early days of electronic music in the ’80s and ’90s. Inspired by the sounds of Kraftwerk, Afrika Bambaataa, and other pioneers, electro emerged as a genre that merged elements of hip-hop, funk, and electronic music. Its influence can still be heard in contemporary EDM and other genres to this day.

Characteristics and Subgenres

Electro is characterized by its robotic sounds, synthesized melodies, and infectious grooves. The genre often features catchy hooks, vocoder vocals, and a pulsating bassline. Electro house, a subgenre of electro, took the energy and elements of electro and incorporated them into the four-on-the-floor beats of house music, resulting in a fusion that dominated dancefloors worldwide. Electroclash, on the other hand, combined the futuristic sounds of electro with punk aesthetics, creating a rebellious and edgy subgenre. Nu-disco infused the classic sounds of disco with modern electronic production techniques, revitalizing the genre and introducing it to a new generation of listeners.

Progressive

History and Origins

Progressive music encompasses both progressive house and progressive trance, two genres that share a focus on gradual progression and evolving structures. Born out of the desire to push the boundaries of traditional electronic music, progressive music gained prominence in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

Characteristics and Subgenres

Progressive music is characterised by its evolving melodies, intricate arrangements, and seamless transitions. It often features longer track lengths, allowing artists to create immersive sonic landscapes. Progressive psytrance, a subgenre of progressive music, combines the melodic elements of trance with the psychedelic nature of psytrance, resulting in a unique blend that mesmerises listeners. Progressive breaks infuses elements of breakbeat and drum and bass, adding a rhythmic complexity and diversity to the genre. Progressive techno explores the fusion of techno and progressive house, resulting in a sound that is both driving and melodic.

Hardstyle

History and Origins

Hardstyle emerged in the Netherlands in the early 2000s as a fusion of hard trance, hardcore, and techno. With its energetic beats, distorted kicks, and melodic elements, hardstyle quickly gained popularity within the EDM community and developed a dedicated fanbase.

Characteristics and Subgenres

Hardstyle is characterized by its energetic and driving beats, aggressive synth lines, and euphoric melodies. The genre often features a distinctive kick drum sound, known as the “reverse bass,” that creates a powerful and pounding rhythm. Euphoric hardstyle incorporates uplifting melodies and emotional vocals, creating an immersive and euphoric experience. Rawstyle, on the other hand, embraces a darker and more aggressive sound, with distorted kicks and intense atmospheres. Reverse bass, a subgenre of hardstyle, places emphasis on the powerful rhythmic patterns created by the distinctive reverse bass kick.

Future Bass

History and Origins

Future bass emerged in recent years as a popular EDM genre, drawing influences from trap, R&B, and hip-hop. With its lush chords, pitched vocal chops, and vibrant melodies, future bass captured the imagination of listeners around the world.

Characteristics and Subgenres

Future bass is characterized by its dreamy and emotive soundscapes, combining electronic elements with soulful vocals and intricate melodies. The genre often features a combination of uplifting and melancholic moods, creating a bittersweet sonic experience. Chillstep, a subgenre of future bass, infuses ambient textures and downtempo rhythms into the mix, resulting in a more chilled and atmospheric vibe. Wave, another subgenre, combines elements of future bass with elements of trap and hip-hop, creating a fusion that is both smooth and edgy. Future garage blends the sounds of garage and future bass, incorporating deep basslines and intricate rhythms into a more garage-inspired structure.

Final Thoughts

The world of EDM is a vibrant tapestry of sound, pulsating with energy and creativity. Exploring the 10 main genres of electronic dance music reveals an intricate web of history, influences, and innovation. From the soulful rhythms of house music to the futuristic soundscapes of techno, from the uplifting melodies of trance to the high-energy beats of hardstyle, each genre offers a unique experience for music enthusiasts. By embracing the diverse genres and subgenres of EDM, listeners can embark on a transformative musical journey, discovering new sounds, and expanding their sonic horizons. So, immerse yourself in the kaleidoscope of electronic dance music and let the rhythm guide your soul.

Here’s our “what is EDM?” breakdown.

GenreHistory and OriginsCharacteristicsSubgenres
House MusicOriginated in Chicago and New York in the early 1980sSteady 4/4 beat, infectious basslines, soulful vocalsDeep House, Tech House, Progressive House
TechnoEmerged in Detroit in the early 1980sMechanical beats, futuristic soundscapes, minimalistic arrangementsMinimal Techno, Acid Techno, Detroit Techno
TranceEmerged in Europe in the early 1990sSoaring melodies, uplifting energy, driving beatsProgressive Trance, Vocal Trance, Psytrance
Drum and BassOriginated in the UK in the early 1990sFast-paced breakbeats, intricate basslines, fusion of jungle and rave influencesLiquid Funk, Neurofunk, Jump-up
DubstepEmerged in South London in the early 2000sHeavy bass drops, syncopated rhythms, dark atmospheresBrostep, Trapstep, Future Garage
ElectroRoots in the ’80s and ’90s, fusion of hip-hop, funk, and electronic musicRobotic sounds, synthesized melodies, catchy hooksElectro House, Electroclash, Nu-disco
ProgressiveDevelopment in the late ’90s and early 2000sEvolving melodies, intricate arrangements, gradual progressionProgressive Psytrance, Progressive Breaks, Progressive Techno
HardstyleOriginated in the Netherlands in the early 2000sEnergetic beats, distorted kicks, melodic elementsEuphoric Hardstyle, Rawstyle, Reverse Bass
Future BassRose to prominence in recent yearsLush chords, pitched vocal chops, vibrant melodiesChillstep, Wave, Future Garage

If you’re interested in putting a DJ mix together, check our Youtube vid here

Frequently Asked Questions about “what is EDM”?

What is EDM and its main genres?

EDM genres refer to the different styles and subgenres of electronic dance music. They encompass a diverse range of musical styles, each with its distinct characteristics, rhythms, and sounds.

What is EDM?

Electronic Dance Music, commonly known as EDM, is a genre of music characterised by its electronic instrumentation, danceable beats, and emphasis on rhythmic elements. It encompasses various genres and subgenres within the electronic music spectrum.

What is house music?

House music is a genre of EDM that originated in Chicago and New York in the early 1980s. It is characterised by its steady 4/4 beat, infectious basslines, and soulful vocals. House music has evolved over the years, giving rise to subgenres such as deep house, tech house, and progressive house.

What is techno?

Techno is a genre of electronic dance music that emerged in Detroit in the early 1980s. It is known for its mechanical beats, futuristic soundscapes, and minimalistic arrangements. Techno has influenced various subgenres, including minimal techno, acid techno, and Detroit techno.

What is trance music?

Trance music is a genre of EDM that originated in Europe in the early 1990s. It is characterised by its soaring melodies, uplifting energy, and driving beats. Trance music has evolved into subgenres like progressive trance, vocal trance, and psytrance.

What is drum and bass?

Drum and bass, also known as D&B or jungle, is a genre of EDM that originated in the UK in the early 1990s. It features fast-paced breakbeats, intricate basslines, and a fusion of jungle, breakbeat, and rave influences. Subgenres of drum and bass include liquid funk, neurofunk, and jump-up.

What is dubstep?

Dubstep is a genre of EDM that emerged in South London in the early 2000s. It is characterised by its heavy bass drops, syncopated rhythms, and dark atmospheres. Dubstep has influenced subgenres such as brostep, trapstep, and future garage.

What is electro?

Electro is a genre of EDM that originated in the ’80s and ’90s, fusing elements of hip-hop, funk, and electronic music. It is characterised by its robotic sounds, synthesized melodies, and catchy hooks. Electro has given rise to subgenres such as electro house, electroclash, and nu-disco.

What is progressive music?

Progressive music encompasses both progressive house and progressive trance, which share a focus on gradual progression and evolving structures. It is characterised by evolving melodies, intricate arrangements, and seamless transitions. Subgenres within progressive music include progressive psytrance, progressive breaks, and progressive techno.

What is hardstyle?

Hardstyle is a genre of EDM that originated in the Netherlands in the early 2000s. It features energetic beats, distorted kicks, and melodic elements. Subgenres of hardstyle include euphoric hardstyle, rawstyle, and reverse bass.

What is future bass?

Future bass is a genre of EDM that rose to prominence in recent years. It combines elements of trap, R&B, and hip-hop, featuring lush chords, pitched vocal chops, and vibrant melodies. Subgenres of future bass include chillstep, wave, and future garage.