Introduction to Electronic Dance Music: Breaking Down The Genres

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Have you ever wanted to start listening to dance music, but have no idea where to start?

Electronic Dance Music is a tough field to break into, especially without some help. It’s full of vocabulary, genre labels, and artists that all have distinct identities and sounds, but to someone just trying to get into the music it’s almost impenetrable. It’s clearly a rising movement in music, but differentiating between trends and even identifying what you like is a daunting task. This introduction should help dispel some of that.

This is a guide to the basics. We came up with the major EDM genres you should know and explained them. Where they started, who’s a major player in the genre right now, what it sounds like and how fast it is. It’s a rough template for all the music out there but should teach you more than enough to get started.

Consider this your jumping off point to the next big thing.

Words by Midas & Constant Gardner

Hit “next” or press shift+right to read the guide.

  • http://rockthedub.com khal

    i fucks with what you guys did here, but i wouldn’t have separated dubstep and brostep. there are a number of different styles of dubstep, and in the end, brostep is more of a term like “clownstep” is a term for a particular sound of drum & bass.

  • http://soundcloud.com/eidn b1tcha$$n1gga

    Nice breakdown, could’ve included Minmal Techno/House (Extrawelt, Stephan Bodzin, Pantha Du Prince) and IDM. Though minimal I think is not as popular in the US as it is in Europe and IDM is not that sharply defined. So it’s probably ok to leave them out.

  • Jumi

    Thus solidifying my deep hatred for electronic sub-genres. Good article though.

  • http://rockthedub.com khal

    hah minimal ANYTHING in EDM isn’t big in the US. kind of sad, b/c a few years ago, a LOT of minimal dubstep and Drum & Bass was being made.

  • http://pigeonsandplanes.com/ Midas

    There was a lot we would have liked to include, but it just came to the point where we weren’t sure if people would want to read that much or when it becomes information overload. A follow up on less major genres is a definite possibility, we just tried to cover the big ones here.

    And IDM is a really weird term I’m not sure I like, so you’re right about how roughly defined it is. I see a lot of stuff on this list as “intelligent,” so I’m not sure how I would even cover it, personally.

  • http://soundcloud.com/eidn b1tcha$$n1gga

    IDM for me are guys like Aphex Twin or Venetian Snares, so more in the glitch/breakcore genre. But you’re right, it’d be crazy to not call James Blake or Nicolas Jaar intelligent.

  • http://www.pigeonsandplanes.com Constant Gardner

    @khal It would be great if there were a less loaded term than brostep (maybe we could just call it wobble?) but at the moment it is such a hugely popular area of EDM, with producers using a different sonic palette and aiming for a different audience, that we figured it was worth it’s own section.

    On top of that, the term brostep is being used so much that it’s useful or people who are new to EDM to understand what it is, and what all these crazy people on YouTube are arguing about!

  • http://themissingculture.com Tasha
  • http://www.mautztastaton.com Mautz & Tastaton

    This overview is made brilliant! Great work!!!

    Best regards from Switzerland!

    Mautz & Tastaton

  • Eddy

    Great breakdown. Now that i know what Moombahton is, I dig it.

  • http://rockthedub.com khal

    my point is, you’re speaking as if “brostep” is a different sound entirely. i go by what Skream defined dubstep as: “anything at 140 BPM”. the term brostep was a derogatory term anyways. and truthfully, if you were going to move it into it’s own lane, Drumstep could’ve been just as easily moved. same idea.

  • Brian

    Really dig the article…but there’s a ton of huge notable trance artists that should’ve been included besides Tiesto (Above and Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Armin…just to name a few) – would’ve loved some more background there, seeing as Trance is my favorite genre right now.

  • Gram

    Rusko isn’t really “Brostep”. His material sticks to a more reggae infused dubstep and uses cleaner bass hits. Not the intense dirty (hate to use the term) drops that you here from artists like Skrillex and Flux Pavillion. You could say he makes a little bit of both, but I wouldn’t have him at the top as a pure example of brostep.

    Great article though. A lot of people need to read this and learn stop calling all of EDM dubstep and complaining about the lack of “drops” *cringe*

  • Patti Duke

    I’m glad u explained the difference between dubstep and brostep. I listen to Burial and woud never label them “dubstep” because I associate dubstep with that fucking robotic R2D2 sounding bullshit! But guess I hate “brostep” not dubstep. Who knew. Appreciate this site taking the time to go thru al the sub genres of electronic music. Interesting and informative.

  • JohnHaxx

    If you’re looking for a “less loaded” term for Bro step, it’s Progressive Electro House. And Brostep isn’t a derogetory term, it’s a phrase that’s used by a lot of the producers who make it.

    Great read though.

  • Viceroy

    I would check your facts slightly. This could use a huge revision.

  • http://ElectroJams.com Jake

    This article….needs work.

    It’s innacurate in a lof of ways, and fails to really classify certain music correctly, and leaves out a lot of important acts in “notable artists” I believe this should stay a hiphop blog, and leave the EDM to the professionals.

    Thanks,
    Jake @ ElectroJams.com

  • C

    ^seeing as no one has heard of this guys site maybe he should back off. if you were a “professional” maybe someone would have heard of you, loser

  • http://rockthedub.com khal

    brostep didn’t start out as a happy joy term. it got appropriated by those who made that style of dubstep pretty early on. end of the day, i don’t think it’s worth the trouble of disassociating it from dubstep, when it’s the same thing.

  • http://soundcloud.com/djdc303 DC

    Stop spreading straight up misinformation. ELECTRO HOUSE IS NOT ELECTRO!! Yes it’s been around since the 70’s, unchanging. Real electro music is still being made and has stayed true to it’s roots. Anthony Rother, Afrika Bambaataa, Debonaire, Dynamix II, Twilight 22…these are electro.

    Don’t even get me started on the fact that breaks and or breakbeat doesn’t seem to exist in your list of genre’s….at all?????

  • http://www.pigeonsandplanes.com Constant Gardner

    We do understand there are a plethora of other genres of dance music, and of course a huge amount of crossover and overlap between genres. It’s art after all…subjectivity rules, so talking about the “real” meaning of something is always rash! Anyway, as it says in the title it’s an introduction to the basics.

    We’ve highlighted the genres that are popular now (hence breakbeat not having its own section) and described the terms that people who dont know much about EDM will hear mentioned, and want to understand.

    Specifically re. Electro/electro-house, we mention the longevity of the term electro, and that the meaning has changed over time. While purists may not agree, I’m afraid that by virtue of common usage the term electro has come to mean more than what DC calls “real” electro.

  • http://soundcloud.com/djdc303 DC

    So you maintain that breaks aren’t “popular” right now so you’re not including them? You’re trying to educate people on genres but CHOOSE not to include the style that spawned drum and bass and dubstep????
    Your logic would mean that disco is more relevant an electronic music style at the moment then?
    I’m not talking splitting hairs here this is BASIC. Wikkipedia doesn’t seem confused. Why should I be surprised a guide that specifically lists EDM styles chooses mislead readers.
    Use Ishkur’s guide to electronic music kids. It’s been around for quite a while and is on point where genre guides are concerned.

  • http://facebook.com/dancingdormouse smashie

    I really can’t even believe you are saying breaks aren’t popular right now, I hear breaks all the time when I go out and I even PLAY breaks out from time to time.
    And the fact that brostep is even listed is a fucking joke.
    There is so much misinformation here, and anybody trying to be educated on EDM in general would benefit in no way from this.

  • http://the-lost-art.com Trippy hippy

    I really wish that people who not have a clue what they writing about would stop writing crap like this!

  • theBroKing

    hey guys great read. just want to point out that this site never works on my iphone! ( the comments section i mean). whenever i try to open the comments on this site on my mobile it never allows me. ive tried other iphones too.. u shlould check it out

  • Confusion

    To those who feel like “brostep” shouldn’t be included, keep in mind that this article is intended for people who are just getting into EDM now, in 2012. In 2012, brostep has become was a lot of people think defines dubstep. We thought making that distinction was important.

  • Filo5900

    To CG, Midas, and Con,

    Great article, I have always been of the belief the more controversy something creates the better it is. Keep up the strong work.

    Oh and fuck the haters! P&P does great work in expanding the music knowledge of its readers in all forms of music

  • http://soundcloud.com/djdc303 DC

    If you want to know about Kanye West and Rhianna sure get your info here. Get the facts straight if you want to “educate” people about electronic music.

  • http://soundcloud.com/djdc303 DC

    I used to let the noob’s be, but it just gets worse and worse. At this point i’m speaking up and calling bullshit when I see it or electro will be pushed further into obscurity. There’s still plenty of guys making this music and not getting the credit they deserve.

  • Baxter

    For the people screaming bloody murder over the fact that breakbeat isn’t her and brostep is or that electro and electro house isn’t here unde3rstand that the whole point is not necessarily to name every genre, just what people who don’t know EDM would be hearing. When many local DJ’s in big clubs play a basic set that’s not pandering to a particular audience many will drop brostep, it is what it is, so why not explain it? To deny Skrillex and Rusko societal importance while adding genres that many casual listeners won’t generally hear would be pretty stupid. Wikipedia doesn’t get it wrong, you’re right, but Wikipedia articles on this are written by people like you who appear to be EDM purists anyway. STop being so butthurt about a basic beginner guide, well done P&P.

  • Justin

    You have a section for brostep! yet no section for UK Garage. FAIL

  • http://darthwookius.tumblr.com/ Badgerboy

    Came here to say one thing. Boys Noize is Acid House. Extremely different genre. Derp.

  • FrickSanome

    Ummm….Deep House and Tech House did not make your “list”? I’ll stick to that shizz Ishtar site.

  • vleem

    The examples are not playing

  • hardstyle?

    Where the hell is hardstyle at all on this list? I mean thats a pretty big thing to miss

  • matty

    You missed:

    Trap
    Moombahcore
    Drumstep
    Hardstyle
    Deep House
    Tech House
    UK Garage
    Glitch Hop

  • BlueTooth4269

    Misleading.
    “Electro” is a term currently most commonly used to refer to Electrohouse (see Dada Life etc). This is, however, a completely separate genre both in its history and in its stylistic criteria from that known as “Electro” 20-30 years ago (Kraftwerk etc).
    And no, Electrohouse is NOT characterized mainly by its synths, but first and foremost as house by its basic 4/4 beat, and then by its (usually quite distinctive) heavy synth-basslines.

  • BlueTooth4269

    Also, Hardwell has never done Trance (more of a Prog House and Electrohouse man), and Tiesto hasn’t done Trance in YEARS.
    Better examples would have been Armin van Buuren or Above and Beyond.

  • morgz

    sooo sorry to say .. this is super inaccurate . i’m all about spreading the knowledge of edm .. but spread the correct knowledge . you missed a lot of genres like progressive, hardstyle and trap .. just to name a few . and you got your info wrong with who’s producing what ……………….

  • J∆SON WILTΞY

    HARDSTYLE?! TRAP?! GLITCH HOP?! GRIME?!

  • JRED

    WHERE IS DEADMAU5 in all of this

  • Deadly_Nightshade

    Electronic music is the most diversive branch of music there is. There’s literally countless of genres and sub-genres; how can one map them all? This article leaves out a lot of important genres though – big ones such as Ambient, Psybient (aka Psychill), Downtempo, Noise, etc… I can list even more if you want…

  • ZacharyEnnen

    I totally agree with you. Even the song examples are wrong.

  • normadil

    Hardwell is no Trance, c’mon…. and hardstyle is one of the more popular genres, that should not have been forgotten

  • Logan

    Hello everyone I need some advice on booking top of the line DJs for my event in Mexico can anyone guide me towards 5 extraordinary Dj the draw a large following?????? Please email me at loganfenton@hotmail.com Many thanks

  • Dulki

    I stoped reading this article after the “Electro” genre, because you obviously have no clue what you’re writing about. What you call Electro is in fact Electro-House! Electro is that 80s Hip-Hop stuff with vocoder voices and drum machine loops.

  • Dölfi

    Brostep isn’t Dubstep at all. It took some influences from it, but is more related to Electro-House. Can’t compare a Dubstep producer like Mala to a Brostep noise producer like Skrillex…

  • Dölfi

    There’s still one genre in the middle: Filthstep. It’s a bit harsher than the sub-bassy Dubstep, but still not as noisy as Brostep.

  • Splatter hatter

    What no hardstyle… Sad

  • http://www.mythuat24h.com/ Xuan Anh

    Trap
    Moombahcore
    Drumstep

  • TheRhino

    Skipped hardcore and hardstyle!

  • Azeem

    The music at the bottom aren’t working for mobile. Other than that THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I finally understand and discovered different electronic genres!

  • Azeem

    The point isn’t to name all of the genres. Simply the most prominent for newcomers like me.

  • Sasha

    What the fuck? Who writes these????? Hardwell and Tiesto arent even exactly Trance artists yo. This shit’s hella misleading. Put more research on your work.

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  • http://beatexplorers.com/ Valency

    I’m working a guide that’s a bit more up to date and flexible than this. A lot of the comments complaining about missing genres and errors should hopefully find them on this resource: http://thedancemusicguide.com

  • boss

    cut football

  • Person

    Melbourne Bounce, Trap, Big Room, Indie Dance, Deep House, Progressive House and Hardstyle are the main ones you need to put in. Most others are sub sub general, like Gorestep, Moombahcore, Midtempo, Subkick, Jungle Terror, Rawstyle, Fidget House, Breakbeat ect.