How to Easily Distinguish Styles of Electronic Music

Many people immersing themselves into the world of electronic music culture have little to no knowledge of the different genres. Even those attending festivals regularly have difficulties deciphering between artistic styles. For many people, it takes years and a lot of listening to be able to figure out the subtle differences in styles.

The occurrence is common among fans of electronic dance music (EDM) and is challenging to any novice intent on learning the styles. The situation is complicated by the numerous lists of genres and sub-genres of EDM that grows by the day. Most artists want to explore the diversity in EDM styles, and knowledge of the stylistic distinctions is needed to appreciate the techniques involved.

There are dozens and dozens of EDM genres and subgenres such as ambient, breakbeat, disco, downtempo, drum and bass, electro, electronic rock, dub, electronica, hardcore, jungle, industrial, and techno among others.

A comprehensive list of the genres and sub-genres is available here.

The expansive nature of EDM means things are too grey nowadays to get specific about the classification of styles. Distinction takes into account a number of factors including genres and sub-genres, notable, labels, artists, and songs, and bits per minute.

House

House is one of the most popular styles of EDM. The genre is almost 30 years old and represents a truly American born style. Notable subgenres include:

  • Deep House,
  • Progressive House,
  • Electro House,
  • Tech House,
  • Tribal House

House is known for its BPM & Style Distinctions: 120 – 130 BPM; percussion-driven rhythms, complex melodies, jazz influences, synthesized bass lines, 4/4 beats.

House EDM style evolves constantly but is characterized by four quarter beats per measure and its “untz”-ing sound.

Techno

Techno is an original electronic genre that originated in Detroit. Its popularity in clubs and parties was unrivaled but has declined nowadays.

The main characteristics that distinguish it include the 125 – 150 BPM; often a darker, more futuristic/spacey/mechanical sound; more focused on rhythm; slow, subtle changes; industrial; gritty sounding.

Techno employs repetitive synth chords and melodies, in addition to subtle drops. Its four on the floor (4/4) beat claps and snares between the quarter notes pulse.

Common subgenres include experimental and minimal, specialists of notable artists Gesaffelstein & REZZ and Richie Hawtin & Deadmau5 respectively.

Trance

Born in German, this genre of EDM is the most popular and has sub-genres such as Progressive Trance, Tech Trance, Vocal Trance, Goa/Psytrance.

It is characterized by a 125 – 150 BPM; happy, yet emotionally intense; longer, uplifting builds in contrast to drops; focuses on musical progression; melodic, with repetitive synths. This genre of EDM is known for its repetitive building up and breaking down of huge melodies.

The music of the main stage at Ultra is the sound of trance music, where ravers can get lost, follow a track’s rise, then revel in the release.

Dubstep

Dubstep was a craze around 2012, owing to its uplifting, fast-paced, aggressive melodies with abnormally squeaky and wobbly drops. Notable subgenres include Brostep, Luvstep, and Thugstep.

Clocking in at 140BPM, the early sound of dubstep was far from the aggressive tracks that are associated with the genre today. The 70 – 140 BPM; relying heavily on sub-bass; slower (sometimes); darker; “wubbly”; atmospheric sounds; dissonant harmonies; aggressive scattered rhythms. The consistent, thumping bass of the genre is meant to envelop listeners with overwhelming sub-bass.

Americanized dubstep (given the slang name “Brostep”) relies more on mid-range sounds, “robotic fluctuations,” and distorted bass riffs. In comparison, UK dubstep focuses more on sub-bass.

Trap

The style has no subgenres and is merely an EDM sense, characterized by the 808-heavy sound, a project of music producers since 2012. The genres are more like rap, but more electronic. Listeners can decipher elements of rap in it such as the beat, melody, and type of vocals.

Trap can also have more Dutch House elements in it like a heavier and more melodic synth/lead. Notable artists in the genre include Diplo, Skrillex (Jack U), RL Grime, Flosstradamus, and Carnage.

Distinguishing styles if electronic is a difficult task complicated by the constant evolution of the genres. The styles allow for creativity and innovation, creating variations that are unrecognizable by the day. However, most styles have distinctive features that can assist in their recognition. The dependence on other styles is also a bonus.

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