Electronic dance music or EDM as a genre is all too often dismissed as one simple category.
If the music is created with electronic instruments and/or computers, it’s filed under the broad definition of EDM. In reality, the genre is far more diverse than that with plenty of genres, sub-genres, artists, and festivals devoted to the nuances of each different sound. It’s understandable for anyone who is not familiar with EDM to miss the sometimes subtle differences between the genres, especially as they are evolving all the time. Here we’ve put together an overview of the key genres within EDM to help those new to the style understand the complexity of the scene.
House has been around for decades and originally began in Chicago after the disco era. It is one of the most popular types of EDM with its famous four-on-the-floor rhythm sound often found in clubs.
Artists: Eric Prydz, David Guetta, Swedish House, and Daft Punk.
Techno is sometimes incorrectly used to describe all forms of electronic music as it’s one of the longest established genres. It began in Detroit with DJs trying to add more depth to digital tracks.
Artists: Derrick May, Victor Calderone, Carl Cox, Nicole Moudaber and Richie Hawtin.
Trance is another popular style, but this genre began in Germany rather than in America. The genre is famous for repeatedly building up and then breaking down the melody and is hugely popular in raves across the world, particularly in Europe.
Artists: Armin van Buuren, Judge Jules, Paul Oakenfold, Roger Shah or Dash Berlin.
Dubstep has been around as a genre for a long time, but it emerged in a big way if the mid-2000s. It started as an experimental interpretation of 2-step dub music which was in London in the 1990s. The genre has become more aggressive in recent years.
Artists: Skrillex, Skream, Excision, Joker, and 12th Planet.
Drum & Bass
Drum & Bass is another London-born genre which first emerged in the 1990s hardcore rave scene. Its darker sound with heavy drumbeats and basslines at around 160-180BPMs gives it a sinister edge and can often incorporate other EDM sounds or different genres like jazz, hip-hop or soul.
Artists: Ed Rush & Optical, Bad Company, Goldie, London Elektricity, Pendulum and Chase & Status.
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Garage originated in House music but evolved to rely more heavily on time-shifting beats and vocal samples which were sped up for the UK scene.
Artists: Todd Edwards, The Street, Artful Dodger, and MJ Cole.
Grime incorporates a variety of different sounds from Garage, Hip-hop, Dancehall, and Drum & Bass. The genre often features a 140BPM with half-time beats followed by 4×4 kicks and the MC is as important as the producer.
Artists: Dizzee Rascal, Kano, Wiley, and Tempa T.
Trap has been emerging in the EDM scene since 2012 with hip-hop producers incorporating southern rap with EDM production techniques like build-ups, drops, and breakdowns.
Artists: Flosstradamus, RL Grime, Heroes x Villains, and UZ.
Hardstyle is known for its distorted kicks and catchy melodies with tracks running around 150BPM. It’s been popular in Europe for years but has recently started to enter the American EDM scene.
Artists: Wildstylez, Tuneboy, and Showtek.
Classic funk and soul feature isolated parts known as breakbeats which people would dance to. The breakbeat genre turned these beats into tracks all of their own with the main wave taking place in the mid-late 1990s.
Artists: Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and DJ Icey.
The downtempo genre filled the need for relaxing, feel-good, dance music for the chillout areas of raves with a calmer and slower pace.
Artists: Moby, Kruder & Dorfmeister and Boards of Canada.