Electronic dance music is quickly rising as one of the most popular music genres in the world. Once only reserved for the underground, the now versatile genre has moved into the public eye with globally successful heavyweights such as Calvin Harris, David Guetta and Avicii embracing the electronic sound and converting the culture into chart topping singles. Whilst these artists and many more may be flying the flag for EDM in the mainstream, it really is just the tip of the iceberg.
To save pigeonholing yourself when you’re starting to learn how to be a DJ, it’s really important to know and understand the different EDM styles that are out there. Here’s the lowdown on popular sub-genres that have contributed to the worldwide phenomenon that is dance.
Think lazy Sundays. Best described as a mellow style consisting of mid-tempo beats, minimalistic instrumentation and often soothing vocals, this is the genre you listen to when relaxation is your goal. It’s simply exactly what the name implies – chill out.
Traditional 4/4 house music elements are intertwined with influences of soul and jazz funk to create thought provoking sounds specific to Deep House. It’s often rich in intensely deep tonality whilst being subtly progressive but always in a minimalist way (don’t expect the drop!). Deep house at its roots is groovy and profound.
Drum and Bass
As suggested in its title, this genre utilises heavy bass and fast breakbeats, likened to the hard and loud sounds of the drums which are present throughout the productions. DnB doesn’t generally stick to one specific tempo range although the majority of purists like it hard and fast.
One of the youngest additions to the EDM genre pool, Dubstep has been popularised by superstars like Skrillex and Flux Pavilion although it originally emerged from the underground. Lending its influence from sub-genres like Drum and Bass, Dubstep is heavily fused with modern synths, massive drops and heavy bass.
Stemming from traditional house music, Electro follows all the same time signature and tempo principles with the addition of one key characteristic – electronic sounding elements. Electro house exploded in the mid 2000’s as the industry began rapidly improving music production software and it continues to thrive to this day.
The perfect clash of music and technology, Electronica accounts for a broad range of sub-categories across the electronic dance music field. This too, like many other EDM genres has made its way into popular culture through pop icons like Madonna, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers all utilising the eclectic sounds of the Electronica scene.
Who said glitches aren’t a good thing? CD skipping, electric hum, distortion, bit rate reduction, hardware noise, computer bugs, crashes, vinyl record scratches and system errors are some of the sounds you’ll hear which define this quirky genre. Glitch hop is a definite underground sub-genre, with its structure lending itself to that of Hip Hop.
Characterised by the hard-sounding kick drum, Hardstyle consists of intense fading or reversed bass lines, which accompany an up-tempo beat, alongside distorted and dark sounds. Definitely one for the ravers as this genre has given rise to some of the most iconic festivals around the world.
House music overarches all of Electronic Dance Music so much so, that the phrase ‘house music’ is often replaced simply with ‘dance music’. From the beginning of Disco, the movement has evolved into all the eventuating sub-genres within. Despite this, uniquely House continues to be present in its own right whilst managing all of the above.
Indie Dance/Nu Disco
Defined by its merge of rock and dance music, this category manages to combine two very different sounds and make them work. Much like other fellow EDM categories over the years, this once underground culture has gained popularity being exposed beyond the club scene.
This genre takes repetition to a new level by keeping the tunes simple and memorable – Minimal tracks are definitely difficult to get out of your head.
Generally a mix of experimental elements developing from House music, Progressive House has elements of dub, big riffs and extended track lengths.
This genre tends to have more bpm’s than other techno or trance music and has a distinctive, fast paced sound. The tranquilising sound comes from a mixture of funk, techno, acid house, eurodance and trance creating the monster sound that is Psy-Trance.
In Reggae/Dub while bringing out the root of Dubstep, this genre is defined with a combination of distinctive reggae sounds. Generally emphasis is placed on drum and bass parts and the genre normally consists of instrumental remixes.
This genre mixes elements of Techno and House music to combine a form of super dance genre. The aspects of techno are merged with the harmonies of Progressive House tracks to form a kind of love child of the two genres.
Generally repetitive instrumental music and often associated with futuristic sounds, this genre defines a great portion of the EDM category. The genre has been defined as innovative as it’s associated with forward thinking ideas and new sounding structures.
Trance characteristically features repetitive melodic phrases coupled with the rises and falls. The genre aims to induce emotions associated with a euphoric trance.
Remember: When learning how to be a DJ it’s important not to pigeonhole yourself in one style, learn as much as you can about as many other genres as possible.