The Essentials

A Noobs guide to Electronic Dance Music

A Noobs guide to Electronic Dance Music

Kostya V.

April 9th, 2015



We all love dance music, but, then, how much do we know about it? What is it that the often used term EDM refers to? Yeah, of course, the term is the abbreviation for Electronic Dance Music, but what does that mean? Don’t say that EDM is house music, or trance music, because it’s not — because an entire musical category can’t be defined and shouldn’t be defined by one of its genres.

Electronic Dance Music, popularly known also as EDM, club music, dance music, or just “dance,” isn’t actually a name of a specific genre in the context; rather, it’s an umbrella term referring to many different genres and sub-genres of specialized music created by using electronic synthesizers, which generally shake our body and make us dance. Although the music has been here for decades, the term was first adopted by the U. S. Music industry and the musical press, who started to use both the acronym and the abbreviation to refer to the increasingly popular commercial electronic music scene of the early 2000s. Now, this particular type of music has an industry of many superstar musicians who are worth around $6.2 billion in any given year.

House Music: Rising from the cemetery of disco music in Chicago in 1980, House music, the truly American born genre of Electronic Dance Music, is one of the most popular genres of EDM, both in the club scenes and mainstream. It is also regarded as the most “human” sounding genre of them all, and was once referred as the “church for people who have fallen from grace,” for its sympathetic lyrical themes about social outcasts. Although much deviated in forms, nature, and sound in modern days, House music still has kept the traditional core of 120 – 130 BPM, and four to the floor beats of repetitive kick drums. The genre has many notable sub-genres such as Deep House, Tech House, Progressive House, etc., along with some widespread fusion genres. Superstar DJs like David Guetta, Afrojack, Avicii, Daft Punk, Zedd and many others are currently ruling the EDM scene with nothing but their distinctive sounds of House music.

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Electro House: Electro, also known as electro-funk or electro-boogie, is a distinctive form of House music inspired by the TR-808 drum machines and funk sampling. It has a direct influence from electroclash, pop, and synthpop, along with some inspiration from the tech house genre. Like the House genre, it also features a kick on every beat, but with more speed and energy, in addition to a special focus on the bassline. This genre doesn’t feature vocals much, and it is generally distorted when it does. The form includes some big name DJs often featured in the DJ Mag’s top 100 list, like Kaskade, Knife Party, Madeon, Porter Robinson, and others.

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Dutch House: Don’t refer this sub-genre as “Dirty Dutch” again, because Dirty Dutch isn’t a music style, but is rather a dance event associated with this style. Dutch House, the Netherlands born style of Electro House which originated around 2006, is all about music and has nothing to do with dirt. Initiated by DJ Chuckie and Vato Gonzalez, the style has come into prominence within three years of its origin. Set at the tempo of 125 – 145 BPM, the sub-genre combines complex percussion and/or drum beats, with dramatic buildups and shorter high-pitched synths. The style has a deep similarity with the modern day Hip Hop songs. Compositions of artists like Sidney Samson, R3hab, Silvio Ecomo, Switch, and some of the early compositions of Hardwell are the notable examples of this style.

Fidget House: Fidget House, this relatively weird term, was first referred to by DJs and producers Jesse Rose and Switch, as a joke that has now become a distinctive term to refer to a special variant of dance music derived from the Electro House genre. It is a style equipped with very short and high pitched notes of erratic melody created by altering the percussion pitch, which is based around a repetitive bassline and mesmerizing beats. The tempo usually varies around 128-130 BPM, and is often influenced by styles such as Chicago House, bouncy techno, Dubstep, bassline, hip hop, and world music, etc. Performers of this sub-genre include some big names like The Bloody Beetroots, Danger, Sinden, Crookers, and Switch.

Moombahton: Moombahton, one of the most prominent fusion genres of House music, is produced by creating a fusion of Dutch House and Reggaeton. Set within the range of 110 BPM, the style can easily be differentiated by its slower tempo and spread out bass accompanied by a two-step pulse filled with quick drum beats. The style was accidentally created in 2009 by the Washington born DJ and Producer Dave Nada, when he slowed down the tempo of an Afrojack remix, “Moombah,” in order to give the audience a taste of Reggaeton. The style reached its fame with the contribution of artists such as Tittsworth, Ayres, Munchi, Sabo, Bro Safari, David Heartbreak, and Dave Nada himself.

Tech House: A British born style, Tech house is a sub-genre of the widely accepted House music that combines the techno styles of Detroit and the UK with the style of the progressive house. It relates to the House genre with a BPM of 120 to 130 but produces a different type of sweet but powerful sound, by replacing the kick drums with shorter, darker, and often distorted kicks. The style also features speedier hi-hats, noisier snares, and more synthetic melodies. From the mid to the late ‘90s, the sub-genre developed into a highly popular scene in England, based on clubs such as The Drop, Wiggle, and Heart & Soul, with the contribution of DJ legends such as Eddie Richards, Terry Francis, and Mr. C and G, among many others.

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Progressive House: In the early 1990s, a more modern style of House music emerged, as an advancement of the European and American house music of the late 1980s. The sub-genre is known as Progressive house and ranked first on the list of the top genres by TopDeejays. The genre was heavily influenced by Trance and big room house in the ‘90s, but has started to take inspiration from Eurodance in the mid-2000s. The English born style has a tempo of around 120 – 134 beats per minute. The sub-genre often uses extended synthesizer wash, and is distinguished from trance by using lesser drum rolling, crescendos, and choruses. The list of stars doing progressive house includes names such as Hardwell, Martin Garrix, Avicii, Afrojack, Dada Life, etc.

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Deep House: Yes, Deep House is the name of the style, because it can touch your heart deeply! Initiated in the 1980s, Deep House, a sub-genre of the hugely popular House music, was initially used to create a fusion of different styles of music such as Chicago House, Jazz-funk, and soul. This sub-genre is a slower version of the traditional House, with a BPM of around 120, which often features pretty, warm and touching melodies. The tracks usually have a length of seven to ten minutes and can occasionally give an acoustic feeling. Musicians such as Blue Six, Miguel Migs, Moodymann, and Late Night Alumni, are the flag bearers of Deep House.

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Club/Dance House: Club House, or Dance House, isn’t a specific genre or sub-genre of electronic dance music, let alone the House music genre. Rather, it’s a term that refers to any style of the house music played in the clubs, most notably funky house, electro house, and disco house. Usually, people use this term to describe the music they listen to and dance with while visiting a nightclub or dance club. So, inevitably, the list of notable contributors of this style overlaps with other prominent genres, and includes names such as Spencer & Hill, Fonzerelli, Benjamin Diamond, Inna, as well as advice & Sebastien Drums.

Trance Music: Trance music, a German born style under the EDM umbrella, is one of the most popular genres of dance music. Trance does exactly what its name refers to, taking the listeners into a hypnotic state of heightened consciousness, with its highly emotional melodic tunes and synth repetition. Set at a tempo ranging from 125-150 BPM, trance music effectively plays with human hearts with a specifically prefigured buildup that collapses after reaching the mid-song’s climax. The genre is always popular in America, but the European scene is totally out of the world. Superstars like Armin Van Buuren, Roger Shah, Judge Jules, Markus Schulz, and Tiēsto have all reached fame by creating this trance music.

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Dubstep: There is a popular belief that Dubstep was born from the unconditional love of Dub music. Well, that’s not true, as the Dubstep genre was created from a grave and darker experiment taken on the late ’90s most popular two-step beats in the London club scene. Played at the average tempo of 130-145 BPM, the style is comprised of two-step garage, broken beats, jungle, dub, and reggae. Although the origin can be traced back to early 1980’s Jamaican party scene, the sound came to its popularity during the year 2005, with the help of DJs like John Peel and Mary Anne Hobbs. Initially, the style created much less aggressive tracks than are heard today. The style has a great list of composers, including Skream, Benga, Skrillex, Kode 9, 12th Planet, etc.

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Drum & Bass (D & B): Drum & Bass, also written as Drum ‘n’ Bass, D & B, or D ‘n’ B, is a genre of the English electronic music that emerged in the early 1990s in England. It is probably the most misinterpreted genre of EDM. The style has gotten such a name due to its great emphasis on the drums and basslines. It is characterized by the fast breakbeats of 150-180 BPM, accompanied by synthesizer-created heavy bass and sub-basslines. Although rooted in the aggressive rave scene of London, the sound has risen to its commercial peak due to its more sinister and darker tones, created by combining the styles of mainstream Jazz, Soul, Hip Hop, etc. Notable artists of this genre include Goldie, Bad Company, Ed Rush & Optical, London Elektricity, etc., among many others.

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Drumstep: Drumstep is a very prominent and popular sub-genre of its mother style Drum & Bass. The style is formed in a way similar to the tempo and melodic pattern seen in its principle style, D&B. However, it does have some obvious dissimilarities; otherwise, it wouldn’t be considered a sub-genre. The main characteristic of this particular style is that it combines the Drum & Bass with Dubstep, often creating confusion among the listeners. Since 2010, this particular style has gained huge attention, with some of its tracks racking up more than 10 million views on YouTube. The most famous artists of this sub-genre include Tristam & Braken, Modestep, and Netsky, along with Skrillex and Knife Party.

Liquid: Also known as Liquid funk or Liquid DnB, the style Liquid is a distinctive sub-genre of the Drum and Bass, which uses the same basslines of that off D&B but differentiate itself with its use of more instrumental layers and fewer bar-oriented samples. The style uses both of the synthesized and natural layers, and a sweet combination of harmonies and melodies giving the genre an emotional atmospheric identity. Like many of the DnB styles, it was also originated in the UK, during the early 2000s. Mainstream music, such as Jazz, Soul, and occasionally blues, has a great influence over the final production of Liquid sound. DJs such as Calibre and Marcus Intalex are very well known among Liquid fans.

Mid-Tempo: Mid-Tempo, also often referred as midtempo breaks or midtempo house, is a relatively new genre of EDM scene that refers to any tune between the BPM rate of around 105-120. However, it’s often doesn’t depend on the tempo rate, rather the speedy feel of the musical combination defines the Mid-tempo genre. This style of the music is very similar to that of glitch hop, but effectively differentiate itself by its Hi Hat pattern, which is generally double time or swung, on contrary to the half time or broken up style of glitch hop. Some midtempo tracks created by artists such as Qwince, MC2, Orfaz, Sushi Girl, etc. has been very popular in the internet.

Jungle: Jungle, also known as the Old school jungle, is a genre of Electronic Dance Music that combines the style of some other genres such as Breakbeat hardcore, reggae, dub, dancehall, etc. The style is easily recognizable for its fast tempo ranging around 150 to 170 BPM, breakbeats, highly synthesized effects and samples, accompanied by the reggae influenced slower and lyrical basslines. Although some people refuse to differentiate this genre from the D ‘n’ B, due to their lack dissimilarities, it is now widely accepted as a stand-alone genre for its uniquely produced “rolling” qualities. DJs such as Ed Rush, Aphrodite, 4Hero, Andy C, Pascal, Goldie, etc. are the notable contributor of this genre.

Underground: Underground, the newly created buzzword of EDM, refers to any type of dance music created and sometimes released that goes against the general commercial norms and rules. This is not a genre but is rather a movement to break the barriers and step out of the box to experiment with untraditional styles and genres. The movement is gaining pace day by day, and the recent declaration of the Ultra Music Festival that they will have an entire stage devoted to the movement is an obvious encouraging sign. The movement is currently dominated by the European tech-house mainstays such as Maceo Plex, Dixon, tINI, Umek, etc., while gaining increasing support from the main stage performers like Tiësto and Martin Solveig.

Glitch: Glitch, while used without the term “house” beside it, usually refers to a genre of electronic dance music that produces sound deliberately using malfunctioning audio devices. Although it can be traced back to the early 20th century, the genre really came to its form in the early 1990s and is often discussed as the aesthetic of failure. Characteristically, this style is created by a combination of small samples and beats made out of glitches, clicks, scratches, or any sort of sounding noises. Instead of using the traditional percussion instruments, this genre uses skipping CDs, circuit bending, scratched vinyl records, etc.

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Trip Hop: Trip hop is the referral term of a genre that describes a specific type of downbeat electronic music. The style has emerged in Bristol, UK in the early 1990s, while the term was first referred by the British media as a means to describe the then emerging, highly experimental, breakbeat variant, which also took its influence from the likes of Soul, Funk, and Jazz. The style is commonly characterized by its bass-heavy drumbeats and slowed breakbeat samples. The vocals of Trip hop are usually female, with some obvious exceptions. Tricky, Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps, Lendi Vexer, etc. are the prominent figures in the trip hop scene.

Breakbeat: Breakbeat, a non-straightened four to the floor drum pattern occasionally seen in classic funk and soul records, has been used so much in electronic dance music over the years that it has now been given a totally distinctive genre of the same name. DJs, such as Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim in the mid to late 90s, have devotedly used breakbeat as the backbone of their sound, and thus pioneered the style. The genre extensively uses shuffling hi-hats and beat-skipping kick drums, which are closely connected to hip hop and breakdance. Along with the two pioneers, composers such as Hybrid, DJ Icey, and Annie Nightingale are the famous names performing this style.

Dub Reggae: Dub Reggae is a genre of electronic music that developed from traditional reggae music. The origin of this genre can be traced back to the late 1960s, when the Caribbean musicians started to tinker with the reggae genre. The sounds of this genre are usually created by aggressive manipulation of existing recordings. Set at the tempo of 60-90 BPM, the Dub removes out the vocals from the records while the drums and bass get emphasized. Add to that a touch of echo, reverb and panoramic delay, and you will get a track of Dub Reggae style. Dub Reggae was pioneered by Osbourne Ruddock, Lee Perry and many others, while the present day stars include Liquid Stranger, Ticklash, Victor Rice, Victor Axelrod, and others.

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