EDM is constantly being used as an umbrella term for all different types of genres that make up dance music. However, the mistake with categorizing all music under one term is that it undermines all the different dance music genres characteristics.
As an up-and-coming DJ/Producer, you should familiarize yourself with the proper terms for all dance music genres characteristics. By doing so, you will sound more professional when asking established DJ’s for advice as well as ultimately understanding more about the music itself. You will also avoid the mistake of sending a trance demo to a trap artist like Flosstradamus.
Dance Music Genres Characteristics Defined
The 5 most popular subgenres to Electronic Dance Music are Electro House, Trap, Progressive House, Trance and Deep House. Below, I will try my best to describe what some of the different dance music genres characteristics are.
Let's start with what is arguably the most popular of the 5 genres at the moment. Electro House often uses a tempo around 128 to 130 BPM. Electro House also contains prominent basslines, dominating synthesizer leads and minimal amounts of percussion. All these dance music genres characteristics are specific to Electro House.
Well known DJ’s such are Hardwell, David Guetta and Afrojack all fall under the category of producers who makes Electro House tracks. Arguably, Benny Benassi's track 'Satisfaction' is what brought Electro House into the mainstream. The track's enormous success, both on the airwaves and in the club scene, is what ignited a huge interest in Electro House music.
Another subgenre of EDM that has recently exploded onto the scene is Trap. Originally, Trap music emerged from hip-hop. However, a new movement of electronic music producers and DJ’s such as: Baauer, Flosstradamus and RL Grime have begun incorporating elements of Trap music into their electronic works. The dance music genres characteristics that are associated with Trap include a BPM of 140, re-sampled hip-hop/rap vocals, rhythmic snares and deep 808 sub-bass kicks.
The dance music genres characteristics that are most influential in Progressive House are a tempo of somewhere between 126-128 BPM and a constant layering of synthesized sounds. Another reliable sign that you are indeed listening to Progressive House is the simplicity of the melodies. The melody is usually 'extremely catchy' and it often lacks lyrics. The most notable and current DJ's and Producers of Progressive House are Eric Prydz, Axwell and Alesso. These three DJ’s, along with many others, have lead the way in creating some of the most beautiful Progressive tracks.
Without a doubt one of my favorite subgenres is Trance. Trance is the most beautiful and soulful of all the previously mentioned genres. The dance music genres characteristics of Trance include a tempo of 130 to mid-140 BPM. It often includes repeated melodies, vocal cuts, atmospheric build ups and breakdowns throughout a track as well as euphoric lyrics. The most successful and influential Trance DJ’s are Armin van Buuren, Andrew Rayel, Above & Beyond and Dash Berlin. The constant and relentless work of these men has made Trance into one of the most popular genres of EDM.
Last but certainly not least is Deep House. Artists such as Oliver Heldens and Matthew Dekay have brought the sound of Deep House to a more mainstream audience. Heldens’ track 'Gecko' reached #1 in the overall Beatport Chart and held the coveted spot for a several weeks. The dance music genres characteristics of Deep House are the length of the track, which is usually between 7-10 min, with tempos usually ranging between 120 to 130 BPM. The music is often considered to be 'chill' or relaxing. Deep House is often the music you hear when you walk into a club way too early. Personally I’m not a huge fan of the sound of Deep House but I do see its merits.
If you want to become a respectable authority figure on all things EDM, then you must first learn to differentiate between dance music genres characteristics. It all starts by taking the time to listen to a track and attempting to figure out all the different elements that it includes.