It’s tempting for outsiders to lump every song together that uses electronic sounds rather than right old-fashioned physical instruments. There’s a range of distinctions in elements like rhythm, tempo, and tone that not only define the EDM sub-genre but determine optimal settings and audience for an EDM track. You don’t have to be an avid rave-goer to be into electronic music – but it definitely helps.
In the House
House is a genre you might’ve heard of but don’t honestly know what it is. Is it played in a house? Does it mean it’s free, as in, “on the house”? Neither of those things. It is, however, a sub-genre of EDM that every electronic music fan knows. It emerged almost 30 years ago in Chicago, rising like a Phoenix from disco’s ashes. It’s not hard to recognize: if you feel overwhelmingly compelled to count to four in your head, you’re probably listening to house. The piano is commonly used, as are vocals with gospel stylings.
Dubstep: The Drop
Dubstep received a lot of attention a few years back when it became quite trendy. It’s defined by heavy beats and a mind-shattering “drop” in which the bass suddenly explodes in a wobble that feels like it’s going to shatter the earth, and a shuffling rhythm drives it all the way home. The chords and melodies of dubstep catalyze heightened emotions: joy, sorrow, or sometimes just general uneasiness.
The Techno Union
Techno is what some people tend to call all of EDM, especially in a derogatory way. In reality, techno was the second EDM genre, invented by mad music scientists of Detroit. They picked some ideas from disco and house but drew the bulk of their inspiration from Japanese and European musicians who were pioneering the idea of making music with computers. Techno leans into the digital sound and shares the house’s characteristic “four-to-the-floor” beat.
In a Trance
If you want your EDM to take you to another universe, trance is what you’re looking for. From sawtooth synthesizers that give you tingles to ethereal drum beats with hypnotic rhythms, it’s hard to tell if you’ve been listening to trance for a few hours or 15 years.