Music Education

Beginner’s Guide to Electronic Genres

Electronic music is one of those genres where tracks can transcend many different genres or even create a whole new niche sound. One could say that electronic music is on a spectrum where one track may flow between certain classifications but is awesome nevertheless. 

Some of the biggest electronic genres include electro, house, techno, trance, drum & bass, and dubstep. All of which have subgenres typically associated with them. This beginner’s guide is designed to explain these six main genres and fuel your own research into the crazy world of electronic music.

Electro – Inspired by the funky era of music and the 808 drum machine, electro music takes hip-hop and funk and combines it with the tempo of the likes of house music to produce an electronically based funkiness with groovy rhythms. This genre of music has come back into the underground scene as of the early 2000’s and has grown since.

House – House music got its start in the late 70s in Chicago with a focus on 4/4 time (4 beats per measure) and the “untz” sound that many casual listeners may consider as most electronic music. It is one of the most changing genres in this guide and has more subgenres than I have fingers and toes to count. Some sub-genres include progressive house, deep house, and electro-house that all deliver a fresh take on the bass-focused genre.

Techno – A Detroit-born native in the late 80s, techno takes a dystopic approach to the up and coming house music by focusing on darker, faster beats. Some of the inspiration for techno music arises from the automotive industry that was in recession at the time. The term “techno” was coined by the media to describe the new, darker sensation of house music. Techno is another genre with difficult sub-genres to classify, but overall try to stick to a darker, almost mechanical sound focusing on grit and subtle rhythms.

Trance – Trance grew in popularity in the 1990s in the US but was inspired by UK house as well as techno music from the late 80s. Trance is typically described as a focus on melodic synths and builds that seem uplifting with drops that attempt the opposite effect. Most trance music is divided into two categories: uplifting and progressive trance. Uplifting trance focuses on the emotional side of music, creating happy atmospheres that help cheer up listeners. Progressive trance draws from futuristic sounds with long, aggressive builds and slower, milder drops.

Drum & Bass – As the name implies, drum & bass relies heavily on drum rhythms and basslines to deliver a quick and dirty experience. Drum & bass is the type of music that takes after dubstep and breakbeat to create a high octane experience. Most songs in the drum & bass category typically clock in around 175 BPM and will get anyone’s heart pumping at the conclusion of the track.

Dubstep – Dubstep’s birthplace comes from UK Garage and Drum & Bass in the 90s, featuring bass that can only truly be experienced from massive sound systems. Dubstep focuses on the low-end, trying to consume the listener in bass and aggressive rhythms. Across the pond, Americanized dubstep, hailed “Brostep,” focuses on the mid-range with distortion and robotic sounds being the key characteristic. Dubstep also has inspiration from hip-hop and metal.

This is a good starting point into understanding the electronic music world but there are tens, even hundreds of different genres and subgenres that fit into the umbrella term, electronic. Even today, people are creating new sounds and new niche groups that don’t quite fit the norm of conventional genres, but that’s what makes the electronic world of music so incredible; its versatility and ever evolving nature.