EDM has an endless list of genres – some have been around since the beginning, while others are popping up every year.
If you look online at other music genre resources, they often give an oversimplified view of the genre, without delving into the specifics.
That’s why we’ve created this resource. We cover the production techniques behind each genre, so you aren’t left guessing.
We haven’t included every single sub-genre ever, because the list would be far too long. We have included genres that are ‘big enough’ in their own right to have a section, but we may have missed some.
We also aren’t experts in all of these genres, so feel free to reach me over at [email protected] if you would like to add any suggestions or even new genres we haven’t covered.
(And if you’re not sure what EDM is in the first place? Check out this article first.)
Let’s start off on the quieter end of the spectrum.
Ambient music is one of the oddballs in this list, given that it typically omits drums as an element of the composition.
Pioneered by Brian Eno, this genre has no detectable meter (although a slower tempo may be used from a production standpoint), a vague sense of rhythm and is heavily characterised by sonic movement, rather than by defined melodies, rhythms and chords. Everything is a blur.
Song length tends to exceed 5 minutes, was a lot of the track featuring subtle, evolving modulation on pads, drones and soundscapes to keep it interesting, although the purpose of the genre might not necessarily be ‘interest’ as much as it would be ‘paying attention’.
Although the rules of music are often there to be broken, ambient music tends to not feature much of the high-end hiss of 10-20kHz, and if so, it’s often subdued heavily. This gives the genre a warmer feel, especially with deeper bass pads that fill out the low-end.
- slow attack and release on synths
- reverb, delay and echo
- low-pass and band-pass filters
- stretching audio to extended lengths
- layering elements with no particular feature
- slow LFO’s on parameters like volume, pitch and filter cutoff
- playing in key – key changes or modulations don’t sound as nice with a bunch of reverb applied
- experimental sound design and FX processing
Notable Artists: Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Tim Hecker, Boards of Canada, William Basinski
This modern form of house music combines the ‘screeches’ and ‘womps’ from brostep and bass music in general, with the danceable beat of house music. A clear winner for the dancefloor.
With an emphasis on energy, this genre is on the faster end of house music at ~130BPM and features a very ‘digital’ sounding production.
While it does borrow the growls and bass sounds from dubstep and bass music in general, a lot of bass house is still focused on the low end and ‘deeper’ bass sounds, as heard in the example track below. This stays true to the original house genre.
- High-energy house drum patterns, spiced up with boosted highs and OTT/compression
- Often borrows elements from pop music, including hooks and vocals
- Heavy use of FX like risers and sweeps to build tension
- FM synthesis and complex bass design
Notable Artists: Jauz, Valentino Khan, Ephwurd, Habstrakt, Joyryde
Big Room House
1, 2, 3, JUMP!
Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, especially if you watched any of the Ultra Music Festival live streams around 2012, or basically anything on Spinnin’ Records.
Big Room House is a distinct departure from traditional house music with the festival in mind. While it’s initial hype has died down significantly, it’s still prominent at key events like Tomorrowland and EDC.
While it keeps many elements from its predecessor, it tends to the faster end of the house spectrum (128-130BPM), and features a very simplistic drop with a sub-kick and reverb-heavy lead.
- 4-on-the-floor kick drum pattern, featuring a tonal, distorted kick
- Heavily compressed lead synth with a lot of reverb to fill out the space
- Intense buildups with lots of risers, percussion and FX
- Simple drops with a kick, lead and often sidechained noise
- Typically in a minor key – sounds more serious
Notable Artists: Hardwell, Avicii, Nicky Romero, Blasterjaxx, Martin Garrix
Breakbeat (or simply ‘Breaks’) is quite a broad genre, and technically could encompass other genres featured in this list, like drum and bass, garage, hip-hop and jungle, but I’ll cover it for its own sake.
This genre is based around sampled drum breaks from funk and soul records, pitched up to a danceable BPM similar to that of house music.
A ‘breakbeat’ or a ‘drum break’ is a sampled section of a song that just features drums, playing a rhythm that doesn’t feature a kick on every beat. The most famous example of a drum break from the song ‘Amen, Brother’ by The Winstons.
Much like house music, there are many different forms, from the deep kind to a more commercial variety, so it’s hard to specify what makes up this genre on its own. Perhaps think of it as an alternative way to approach house music, instead of the 4-on-the-flor kick pattern.
- Sampled breakbeats, such as the Amen Break above
- ~~120-130BPM tempo
- Pads, bass and keys from synths like the Minimoog, Jupiter-8 and/or Juno-106.
- Can borrow bass design techniques from genres like drum and bass, like the reese bass
Notable Artists: Many house and techno artists jump between this genre and house, so it’s difficult to note down specific artists. The Prodigy would be considered a breakbeat group on the higher end of the energy spectrum.
I had to include this as a separate genre to ‘dubstep’, as there is a markedly different sound in this modern form – ‘brostep’.
In terms of tempo, drum patterns and general structure and arrangement, you’ll find a lot of similarities between Brostep and original Dubstep.
- Half-time drum pattern – a kick on the 1 and a snare on the 3
- Focus on bass sounds
The difference in ‘brostep’ is the following:
- Digital bass sounds, typically utilizing complex sound design techniques
- Distortion and compression
- Greater loudness and brightness
- Sometimes includes elements found in pop music
- Intensely-processed kick and snare
One of the main factors in contributing to the ‘largeness’ of ‘brostep’ is the OTT plugin/preset – a multiband dynamics processor, adding lots of compression to a sound. This tends to give the genre it’s ‘in your face’ energy, which the original form of dubstep lacks.
Many people attribute the birth of this genre to none other than Skrillex, with purists calling it the ‘Americanization of dubstep’. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard his music.
- FM synthesis (play in lower registers to get interesting bass textures)
- Xfer Serum and/or NI Massive (or similar)
- Complex sound design and FX
- OTT and compression
- Distortion and clipping
- High-quality drum samples and presets
- Transient shaping and compressing for punch
Notable Artists: Skrillex, Excision, Zomboy, 12th Planet, Virtual Riot
Deep house has birthed many different branches of house music over the decades, but here, by deep house, we mean the OG stuff, heavily influenced by Chicago house in the ’70s and ’80s.
There are many other modern forms, such as the future house variety, featuring a strong bassline and groove, or the melodic house variety, offered by labels like Anjunadeep.
The cornerstone of this classic genre would have to be the Roland TR-909 drum machine, with its club-ready kick drum, tight clap and distinctive, energetic hats and rides. Today, many tracks in this genre still make heavy use of these sounds, perhaps with the production value amped up a bit.
A lot of the time, the drums feature what is known as a ‘groove’
Beyond the percussion, you’ll find a lot of groovy basslines, courtesy of some of the pioneering synths at the time, such as the Roland Juno-60.
Smooth pads are also a genre staple, featuring complex chord extensions and voicings from jazz. Oftentimes, producers back in the day would sample a jazz chord, load it into a sampler, and play it back at non-diatonic intervals, giving the genre it’s dissonant, out of key sound.
Sprinkled in between the groove, are sampled or recorded vocals, typically from female soul singers.
- TR-909 drum loops/samples
- Warm, analogue synths (or analogue-modelled synths) for bass and synth
- Vocal samples
- Other music to sample
Notable Artists: Larry Heard, Kerri Chandler, Moodymann
Disco was born in the 70’s, and heavily influenced the development of house and techno in later years.
While disco sometimes crossed over into pop, for the most part, it had a very distinct sound, featuring the use of drum machines, rhythm guitars, pianos, and synthesizers.
While disco has largely evolved since that time period, it has influenced a lot of pop music and other genres.
- Four-on-the-floor drum pattern
- Snare/clap on the 2 and 4
- Recorded electric guitar
- Straight drum patterns from a drum machine, like the Roland TR-707, or from a real drum kit
- Funk-inspired bass lines, often with a syncopated rhythm
Notable Artists: Donna Summer, Gorgio Moroder, Diana Ross, Chic
Sharing similarities with ambient, IDM and trip-hop, downtempo is a genre that is, well, typically lower on the BPM spectrum (100 and below).
As the name suggests, you wouldn’t go fist-pumping to this at Coachella. Quiet drums, soft pads and delicate vocals and leads are the name of the game here. As with its sister genres, experimentation is a common element throughout the genre, and no two songs sound the same.
Later down the track, downtempo gave way to more modern forms like chillwave and vaporwave.
- Drums in the form of one-shots or sampled breakbeats
- Vintage synthesizers playing pads with long attack and release.
- Often borrows pop elements in terms of song structure and arrangement – many downtempo songs have vocals
- Experimental yet subtle sound design and selection
- 70-110BPM in 4/4 time
Notable Artists: Massive Attack, Tycho, Moby, Bonobo, Portishead
Although it started out as a branch of reggae music, Dub quickly became a genre in its own right, borrowing elements from electronic music and reggae at the time.
Although the genre still features a lot of traditional instruments like drums, trumpets, rhythm guitar and other brass/wind instruments, it’s the use of electronic FX and subtle synth elements that give it its fresh sound.
In fact, it was dub that innovated on the concept of the ‘dub delay’, a high-feedback triplet delay that had a distinct ‘echo’ to it, giving the music a trippy feel.
- ~140BPM half time drums
- Heavy use of triplet and untimed delays with high feedback amounts
- Rimshots instead of snares
- Reggae-inspired vocals
- Trumpet solos with reverb and delay
- Subtle synthesizer motifs throughout
- Recorded or sampled drums
- Lots of dynamics to capture the drums
Notable Artists: Lee Perry & The Upsetters, Mad Professor, Fat Freddy’s Drop
This time, we’re talking about original dubstep. If you’re meaning the more modern variant, ‘brostep’, then check that one out.
Dubstep, the child of UK garage and drum and bass, is stylized by a half-time 140BPM drum beat, meaning there is a kick on the one and a snare on the 3. The similarity in drum pattern to ‘Dub’ is where the name comes from.
Sub-bass wizardry is what makes dubstep, dubstep. That’s why it was designed for big sound systems with huge subs.
- ~140BPM half time drum patterns
- Loud sub-bass with saturation, filter/volume modulation and FM synthesis
- Heavy use of atmospheric leads and recordings with reverb and delay
Notable Artists: Skream, Benga, Kode9, Loefah
Drum & Bass
Drum & Bass is one of those genres where I could break it down infinitely because there are so many different sounds and subcultures. But here I’ll be talking about the modern drum and bass sound, featuring filthy basslines, heavy drums and the occasional pop hook (for the subgenre junkies, think Neurofunk and Jump Up).
Also heavily reliant on breakbeats, drum & bass sits on the faster end of the tempo spectrum at ~175BPM. It shares production techniques with dubstep (both the brostep form and the original form) and bass music in general, but D&B often is in a league of its own.
- Heavy drum samples processed with compression and limiting
- Complex bass sound design using Serum and FM synthesis
- ~175BPM breakbeat samples sped up, often reinforced or replaced by processed one-shot drums for modern production value
- Heavy focus on loud sub-bass – designed for club use
Notable Artists: Noisia, Andy C, Chase & Status, Camo & Krooked
Not to be confused with Electro House, Electro is a genre that features heavy use of the 808 drum machine, playing drum patterns that sound like hip-hop and funk patterns sped up to house and techno tempos.
Interwoven between these breakbeats are bleeps, bloops and zaps that come from an oscillator with crazy pitch modulation, all on the bed of subtle rhythmic pads and groovy basslines that fill out the atmosphere.
The resulting sound is an old-school dream that is equally funky as it is interesting. The genre is quite dependant on electronic sounds and went on to impact other genres, including the creation of electro house, which evolved into what it is today.
For a while, this genre was very much dead, but it’s resurfaced in the underground in recent years, hence why I’m including it in this article.
- Use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine, particularly the hats and snare
- Funk-oriented bass lines
- Use of vocoding, particularly a retro-sounding one (if you’re on Ableton, try the Retro mode)
- Bleeps and bloops from pitch-modulated sine waves – try using envelopes, LFO’s and macros on the pitch of an oscillator
- Pads and FX to fill out the atmosphere
Notable Artists: Drexciya, Dopplereffekt, Aux 88, DJ Stingray
Not to be confused with Electro, which I just mentioned. That being said, most people still refer to electro house as ‘electro’ due to its overwhelming popularity, so call it what you want.
Electro House was born in the early 2000s, featuring heavy use of digital synthesizers on a house beat. Eventually, it gave way to subgenres like fidget house, complextro and dirty dutch, both of which featured squeaky lead synths with a lot of top-end definition.
Today, complextro exists in the similar form of bass house, while fidget house and dirty dutch have gone back underground.
Now we have other, bigger subgenres like big room house and bass house, which have almost disregarded the electro house name.
- 128-130BPM with a typical 4-on-the-floor pattern
- Featuring distorted basslines and bright chords
- Typically written in a minor key for energy
- Synth sounds to create risers for energy, like noise and pitch-modulated oscillators
- Sidechained noise to fill out the background
Notable Artists: Zedd, Wolfgang Gartner, Steve Aoki, Swedish House Mafia, Knife Party
One of the hottest genres of 2018, future bass is a modern amalgamation of many genres, fusing the beats of hip-hop, trap and dubstep with the supersaws of trance, all in a clean and bright package that reflects modern bass music.
- ~140BPM tempo
- Processed trap 808 drums
- Trance detuned supersaws with filter and volume modulation (LFO’s)
- OTT and compression for a big sound
- Autotuned vocal chops from acapellas
- Digitally-distorted basslines
This term is normally conflated with future bass, but future beat(s) is a different breed.
While it borrows a lot from hip-hop and trap, it forgoes the supersaw focus and replaces it with 808’s, interesting samples and interesting sounds and layering. It has a big focus on experimentation, and typically sounds quite literally ‘futuristic’.
It’s the kind of music DJ Shadow got kicked off stage for playing back in 2012. It’s the kind of music that labels like Soulection have pushed for a while.
Lastly, the spectrum varies quite widely for this type of music, from super chill to a neo-trap kind of sound.
- Hip hop/trap drums with lots of saturation and clipping
- Experimental sound design with leads, keys and pads
- Heavy focus on using 808 bass sounds with processing
- Loud kicks and snares
Notable Artists: Sam Gellaitry, ODESZA, Cashmere Cat, Flume, TOKiMONSTA
When big room died down in 2014, two main genres emerged from the ruins – Bass House and Future House.
Unlike its aggressive sister, Future House is more focused on the kick-bass groove, while retaining a crisp digital sound.
Most future house tracks feature a lead bassline in the drop section, with a nice plucky transient that pokes through the mix.
- Digital plucked bass sound, with fast decay and low sustain – often multiple sounds layered to achieve fullness
- High-energy house drum patterns, spiced up with boosted highs and OTT/compression
- Simple drums, similar to big room
- Uses a lot of swing and groove patterns to achieve a traditional house feel
- Often borrows elements from pop music, including hooks and vocals
- Heavy use of FX like risers and sweeps to build tension
Notable Artists: Tchami, ZHU, Don Diablo, Oliver Heldens
Also known as UK garage, this genre developed out of a yearning for a more energetic and percussive version of house music. So the groove and swing stayed, but the tempo and percussiveness increased.
Garage is a great example of dance music, combining well-produced drums that shake the dancefloor, with basslines that get people moving.
- ~130-140 BPM tempo
- Strong sense of groove/swing
- Focused on grooves in the bassline
- Syncopated rhythms for interest
Notable Artists: MJ Cole, Jamie xx, Zomby, Zed Bias, Todd Edwards
Glitch is considered to be in a league of its own. Generally considered a part of IDM, digital production techniques are the reason for this genre’s existence.
Through complex audio editing, such as beat repeating, brash cuts at small intervals and synths that sound like they came straight out of your hard drive, the genre evokes a certain aesthetic that is unparalleled in it’s plasticism.
Notable Artists: The Glitch Mob, Tipper, eDIT, Mr. Bill
As you may have guessed, this genre combines elements of hip-hop and glitch. Chuck in some modern bass techniques and drum production and you’ve got glitch-hop.
The modern variety of Glitch-hop is often called ‘Neurohop’, featuring the basslines from Neurofunk Drum and Bass.
- ~100BPM tempo
- Swung hip hop drums with modern production
- Borrows glitch elements from Glitch music
- Borrows complex bass design techniques from genres like dubstep and drum and bass
Notable Artists: KOAN Sound, Culprate, ill.Gates, Kursa
If drum and bass is breakbeats sped up really fast, then hardcore is techno sped up really fast. The difference in happy hardcore is that, as you might have guessed, it’s happy.
Borrowing synths from trance and pop, happy hardcore is basically the most bubblegum thing you could think of. Not for the faint of heart.
- Major key
- ~180BPM loud four-on-the-floor kicks
- Trance pads and supersaws
- Bright, autotuned vocals
Notable Artists: S3RL, Scott Brown, DJ Paul Elstak, Brisk & Ham
If we have happy hardcore as the happy version, straight hardcore is the dark version.
Distorted techno and gabber kicks sitting around 180BPM is a recipe for something else.
- ~180BPM tonal kicks with lots of distortion
- Kick, crash and claps typically on the same beat as the kick
- Distorted, atonal synths that create an atmosphere of noise
- Lots of bass
Notable Artists: Angerfist, Neophyte, Paul Elstak
Seeing as we are at ‘H’, we are getting a lot of the ‘Hard’ genres, right. Hardstyle is probably the least ‘hard’ of them all.
Hardstyle sits at an interesting 150BPM, too fast for a house tempo, but too slow for thrashing about. This is why hardstyle, along with its predecessor, Gabber, is known for it’s ‘shuffling’ movement.
Sharing a lot of similarities with Hardcore, Hardstyle has had more mainstream appeal due to it’s lower BPM and its influence from Trance. You’ll find lots of distorted basslines and kicks still, but in the breakdown, you can often find euphoric supersaw build-ups (especially nowadays).
- Distorted kick drums on the beat, usually based off a 909 kick with a lot of processing. Often called bass kicks.
- Trance supersaws in the buildup
- Heavy use of crashes and noise for energy and tension
- Spoken vocals in the breakdown to evoke a sense of atmosphere
Notable Artists: Headhunterz, Noisecontrollers, Wildstylez, Da Tweekaz, Brennan Heart
You might be wondering why I’ve included hip-hop as a genre of electronic music. Although it’s considered a separate branch of music, hip-hop has its roots in electronic production techniques.
Originally, hip-hop sat between 70-100BPM and sampled, chopped and rearranged breaks from funk and soul tracks. Also layered in would be some hook and bassline that was once again, sampled and chopped into a new form.
It was also the norm to have a rapper over the top of this beat, carrying the track rhythmically and lyrically.
Today’s hip-hop is wide and varied, from trap to fusions with rock music. But it’s core and heart is in sampling and processing.
- Chopped up drum samples, typically done on a sampler such as an MPC
- Rap vocals
- Jazz, soul or funk tracks chopped and arranged along with the beat
Notable Artists: A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang Clan
An umbrella term for many different varieties of house music, House originally came out of Chicago and featured a prominent 4/4 kick drum with swinging percussion and hats, giving it the distinctive sound it’s known for.
Add emphasis to the rhythm, the basslines in these tracks added something special, that along with the kick and percussion, you couldn’t help but move to it.
As mentioned, house music has taken on many different forms today, but the core sound still influences many of them.
- ~120BPM tempo with drum machine kicks, normally an 808 or 909
- Clap on the 2 and 4
- Closed hat or open hat on the offbeat, often alternating
- Syncopated basslines
- Vintage synths and samplers
Notable Artists: Many artists mentioned in other subgenres
No, not EDM.
Intelligent Dance Music, often shortened to IDM, is a broader form of electronic music focused on complex rhythms and sound design, rather than the simplistic form of genres like house and dubstep.
For some people, this encompasses genres like Ambient, Breakbeat and certain forms of house and techno. Regardless of form, IDM is mostly characterised by its focus on experimentation – thus it is hard to describe as a genre rather than an approach to making music.
Warp Records is the key pusher in the scene, signing a lot of the prominent acts. But words aren’t often the best tool to describe this sound, so it’s best you listen for yourself and make your own deductions.
- Complex and fast rhythms featuring random and rapid velocity changes
- Unexpected elements that are juxtaposed from the previous material – think big noise sweeps with distortion layered on soft, lush pads smothered in echo
- Glitchy, short percussion sounds with short decay times
- Lots of layers in the arrangement, from foley layers to modular synth bleeps to 80’s analog keys
- Non-traditional song structure that differs every time
- Occasional or frequent use of atonal sounds and instruments in the arrangement that aren’t diatonic to a specific key
Notable Artists: Oneohtrix Point Never, Squarepusher, Autechre, Venetian Snares, Amon Tobin
Sharing a lot of similarities, Jungle is a genre that features breakbeats at ~175BPM. The difference in Jungle is that it typically features the breakbeats of old funk and soul tracks, pitched up and then chopped, screwed and arranged into new patterns.
Jungle is also heavily influenced by Ragga and Reggae music, and thus features prominent elements from those subcultures, with a focus on deep bass patterns and hype MCs.
- ~175BPM breakbeats, resampled into new forms through chopping
- Deep sub-bass, often loaded into a sampler and pitched around
- MC vocals as the focus
- Hip-hop sampling techniques
Notable Artists: Goldie, DJ Hype, LTJ Bukem, Roni Size
Although hip-hop had a low fidelity sound when it was first growing as a genre, modern production techniques soon eliminated so-called limitations like low sample rate and bit depth. Hip-hop became very clean sounding. Samples were used less due to copyright issues.
Now, lofi hip-hop has emerged thanks to a longing for that nostalgia – dusty drums, vinyl crackle, pitch wow and flutter, low sample rates, sampling, you name it.
Thanks to the flexibility of modern production, there is are subtle differences in ‘old school hip-hop’ and this new variety, but it remains as a nod to those times.
- ~80BPM drum grooves, usually featuring processed one-shots chopped from old drum loops
- Samples chopped up and rearranged
- Low-pass filters, bit crushers and saturation to add a lo-fi feel
- Layered vinyl and cassette noise
Notable Artists: Knxwledge, Joji, jinsang, Idealism, bsd.u
Big Room House created a rod for its own back when everyone started releasing the same sounding tracks over and over around 2012, so Melbourne Bounce quickly took over as an alternative sound, thanks to Melbourne-based artists like Will Sparks and Joel Fletcher.
Record labels soon picked up this sound, and it became a hit. Instead of big sub-kicks that roared through festival crowds, bounce had an emphasis on the off-beat bass, similar to psytrance but at a house tempo, layered with compressed, shuffle-driven leads.
This rhythmic combination propelled some of these artists into mainstream success and made the Melbourne Bounce sound world-famous.
- Electro house and big room elements
- Offbeat sub-bass
- Thin melodic lead lines
- Lots of reverb
- Punchy kicks
Notable Artists: Will Sparks, Joel Fletcher, TJR, New World Sound
As requested by an EDMProd reader, Midtempo (or Midtempo Bass) is a relatively newer subgenre that has been popularized by artists like REZZ.
Essentially, you take the bass sounds from modern dubstep/brostep & bass house and apply them to a ~100-110BPM tempo.
But this isn’t Glitch Hop. This genre features more of a consistent house/techno drum pattern, following the kick-clap motion.
The resulting feeling created by this combination of elements is a head-nodding rhythm interspersed with huge shows of bass design wizardry, really allowing you to appreciate the technical side of the production.
- House kick-clap pattern
- Heavy bass elements borrowed from bass house and techno
- Dark, industrial like sound effects
Notable Artists: REZZ, Kayoh, 1788-L, LICK
Combining reggaeton and house music brought this rhythmic and tribal feel to dance music.
While earlier forms of this genre were closer to reggaeton, artists like Dillon Francis and Diplo gave it a noticeably more electronic touch, namely borrowing elements from genres like Electro House.
- ~110 BPM
- Focus on offbeat drum rhythms
- Electro house leads, often featuring pitch modulation and are played in a higher note register
Notable Artists: Dillon Francis, Diplo, also a lot of Electro House Artists
Nu-Disco, or Indie Dance, is a very ill-defined genre, and everywhere you go someone will tell you different things.
Some say it’s essentially disco with more modern house techniques used in house and techno, some would equate it to a more synth-heavy indie dance genre. For this example, we’re going with the second.
- 100-120BPM kicks playing a 4-on-the-floor rhythm
- Snares on the 2 and 4
- Heavy use of brass, arps and keys synths, normally vintage or analogue
- Often features vocals, typically similar to that found in alternative music genres
Notable Artists: Chromeo, Todd Terje, Goldroom, Classixx
Pop doesn’t really exist as a genre. The only thing that remains constant is catchy hooks and solid chord progressions, whether it’s borrowing elements from rock, electronic music or country.
As of late, pop has developed an inherently electronic sound, and it’s here to stay, even if DJ Khaled whips out his electric guitar for a rock lead on the drop.
- Hard to say, but normally simple chord progressions on a synth
- Autotuned vocals singing the melody
Notable Artists: Ariana Grande, DJ Khaled, Madonna, Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish
Progressive House is another one of those genres that nobody can tend to agree on. Originally, it referred to any house music with longer structures that slowly added or subtracted layers of elements.
The issue is, in 2011-2012, big room house and electro house DJ’s started making tracks with big euphoric leads, borrowing them from genres like trance, and then calling it progressive house. Beatport also labelled a lot of the music like this, although it had more in common with electro house.
Progressive house, in this case, refers to the chill, melodic and percussive side of house music, that builds up over time. Artists like Eric Prydz and deadmau5 were the biggest names in this space, while labels like Anjunadeep regularly release this type of music.
- ~125BPM house patterns typically focused on the kick and clap rather than offbeat percussion
- Synthesized chords and melodies
- Plucked supersaw sounds with a low-pass filter, controlled by an ADSR envelope
Notable Artists: Eric Prydz, deadmau5, Arty, Lane 8
Ok, where do I start? To be honest, I didn’t realize how many different varieties of psytrance there was before I started this article. But hey, you learn something new every day.
Psytrance is typically characterized by a trance tempo and deep electronic bass occurring on every quarter note, giving it a certain sense of energy. For this reason, it’s very popular at certain festivals around the world, such as Burning Man.
- ~138BPM with kicks on every beat (normally very punchy and short)
- Plucky, deep bass on every quarter beat, typically sidechained to the kick
- Glitchy and percussive effects that add variety throughout the beat
Notable Artists: Infected Mushroom, Astral Projection, Astrix
Artists in the ’80s and ’90s started introducing synths and drum machines into their tracks, but some more so than others.
People referred to this subsection of pop music as ‘synthpop’, because, well, it used a lot of synths.
Yes, it still had vocals, but for the time, it was notably more electronic than what anybody was used to, especially in pop music.
Today, this genre exists as a microcosm of people who try and emulate that kind of sound, which featured the cheesy sounds of the ’80s.
- Gated snare reverb
- Oberheim-OBX to get the bright, cheesy sound
- Linndrum drum machine samples
Notable Artists: New Order, Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran
Imagine the ’80s but you can only make music with synths and drum machines. No vocals (at least not many), no traditional instruments.
In all seriousness, this genre has a dedicated fanbase and the music has a very nostalgic and driving feel to it. It’s very easy to listen to a mix of it for an hour.
- Sits between 80-110BPM
- Features analogue and vintage synth elements for bass, melodies and chords
- Heavy usage of drum machines like the Linndrum, kicks on 1 and 3, snares on 2 and 4
- Straight drum patterns, no swing
- Subtle FX, delay and reverb to add atmosphere
Notable Artists: Com Truise, HOME, Kavinsky, Mitch Murder
Tech House combines the tempo and rhythm of house music with the slightly more industrial influences of techno, creating a percussive and groovy genre that gets the dancefloor going.
In recent years, this genre has risen in popularity quite a bit. Labels like Defected Records are known for propagating this genre for a long time now.
- House drums, with a focus on louder off-beat percussive elements, like hats and snares
- Groovy, short-phrased basslines that repeat
- Spoken word phrases that repeat
- Lack of chord elements and melodic elements (usually)
Notable Artists: Hot Since 82, CamelPhat, Carl Cox, Green Velvet, Patrick Topping
I live in Melbourne, so I can’t really escape techno.
Jokes aside, techno is one of those genres that have forged many different kinds of electronic and dance music over the years. It emerged out of Detroit around the same time house music was coming out of Chicago.
A lot of the varieties that exist of house music, generally apply to techno. It can be deep, progressive, breakbeat and more.
- Kick on every beat, claps not always on 2 and 4 (at least not as often as in house music)
- Focus on percussion and bass
- Use of 909 drum machine, namely kick and hats
Notable Artists: Adam Beyer, Carl Cox, Robert Hood, Chris Liebing, Richie Hawtin
Recommended: How To Make Techno – 11 Need-To-Know Techniques
While its popularity has dwindled in latter years, trance still retains its diehard fanbase.
This genre is very energetic, anthemic and uplifting, blending club energy with evocative chords and melodies. While the faster BPM might scare some, for other’s it’s a sweet balance between techno and house with added emotion.
- ~138BPM tempo with thumpy club kicks on every beat
- Meticulously mixed and mastered
- Emphasis on supersaws and driving bass patterns, normally playing on every quarter note
- Euphoric melodies and chords, often with many layers to create a full sound
- Typically drum patterns do not contain swing
Notable Artists: Above & Beyond, Cosmic Gate, Paul van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, Paul Oakenfold
Trap is one of those genres that had always been there, but then the EDM scene started to ride it heavily, creating a new plethora of tracks that borrowed elements from bass music.
Trap tends to have 2 streams now – the music that charts well, featuring so-called ‘mumble rappers’ (closer to the original version of trap music, and the more bass-music influenced variety. The latter is often called ‘hybrid trap’.
- ~140BPM half-time drums, similar to dubstep but with processed 808 drums – look up the Lex Luger kit
- Booming 808 sub-bass
- Snappy 808 snare drum and ‘machine gun’ 808 hats in rapid succession
- Processed leads and basses with a lot of compression
- Leads with reverb and delay, playing eerie melodies and chords (typically in darker modes like Phyrigian or Aeolian).
Notable Artists: Flosstradamus, RL Grime, DJ Snake, What So Not, Metro Boomin
Trip-hop is a difficult one to put in a box. Firstly, it’s very similar to ‘downtempo’, except normally it’s considered slightly closer to hip-hop and features a lot of ‘psychedelic’ elements, like delays, reverbs and synth modulation.
- 70-100BPM hip-hop beats, sampled breakbeats or other
- Use of FX like delay and reverb on pads
- Washed out vocals
- Focus on experimental composition and sound design – uncanny sounds can pop up from time to time
Notable Artists: Portishead, DJ Shadow, Unkle
As a relatively new kid on the block, Tropical House has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, thanks to artists like Kygo who has created many pop remixes in this particular genre.
It can be distinctly seperated from other genres with its focus on relaxation, catchy melodies and bright, ‘poppy’ sounds.
- 110-125 BPM, usually on the slower spectrum of house music
- Features ‘tropical’ instruments like steel drums, or synthesized bell sounds
- Lots of major keys, major chords and simple triads
- Plucky and short percussion, using lots of soft claps/snaps
- Heavy featuring of vocals across many tracks
Notable Artists: Kygo, Sam Feldt, Matoma
Need I say more?
Jokes aside, vaporwave developed purely on the internet, originally as a meme genre made to poke fun at our consumerist society.
But it’s grown into a genuine genre with a decent fanbase and many artists. It’s similar to the chillwave and synthwave sounds, mixed with sampled jazz and elevator music.
- Use of slowed down samples
- Straight kick-snare patterns at ~100BPM
- Samples of ironic sounds or audio bytes, like interviews from the ’80s and ’90s
- Vintage synths with lots of unison, lowpass, delay and reverb
Notable Artists: Blank Banshee, Skylar Spence, Macintosh Plus (Vektroid), ECO VIRTUAL
Being that there are so many genres of electronic music, I’ve probably missed something.
If that’s the case, shoot me an email at [email protected]. As long as your requested genre isn’t post-wave crunkstep and is something real, then I’ll likely consider adding it.