Have you heard a song you loved but had a hard time identifying what category it falls under? Well, me too. The genre of Electronic Dance Music has evolved into a complex realm of various combinations of rhythms and beats that somehow seamlessly blend together to form pure magic. The number of sub-genres is endless, and it can be tough trying to figure out if your favorite house artist is classified as tropical, electro, dutch, progressive, or one of the other ten bajillion sub-genres! To help you become a master at EDM, I have created a simple breakdown of some of the most popular genres and their subsequent sub-genres.
One of the leading genres of the EDM world, House music has made its way from the stage to college parties, long car rides, and even our showers (no shame). House music ranges from songs that we belt at the top of our lungs, to tunes that have us grooving all the way into the A.M. You will almost always find a House stage at every festival, but some spots that best feature House are Nocturnal Wonderland, Paradiso, and any Las Vegas nightclub.
Meme by @rahh.rahh
Artists: Disclosure, Sam Feldt, ZHU, Kaskade, Rüfüs Du Sol
Although popular, this sub-genre is often one of the most misunderstood. Deep house songs follow a 4/4 beat structure, made up of heavy bass and unique chord progressions. The majority of these songs rely strongly on the presence of bass for those smooth wub sounds that we like to hear in clubs and lounges.
Artists: Kygo, Clean Bandit, Matoma, Klingande
These playful tunes truly sound tropical with their beachy sounds and light drum features. Creators will often utilize the sounds of pan flutes and saxophones to create a sense of calming and relaxation in their music. With tropical house, think poolside chillin’ or laid back beach party. These are upbeat songs that will make you feel as warm as the summer sun you are likely listening to this under.
Artists: Avicii, Oona Dahl, Hardwell, Eric Prydz, Alesso
If you hear progressive house, the only thing you will want to do is dance. This funky genre is simultaneously melodic and hard, driving crowds to get up and groove. These songs often feature extensive build up sections followed by a simplistic breakdown. Progressive house is very experimental compared to other variations of House.
Artists: Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris, R3hab, Botnek, Tiesto
Electro house is the most intense sub-genre of all House music. You’ll know if you are listening to electro house if you notice distorted bass lines with a heavy use of synths, as well as pounding beats and strong buildups. One thing you will NOT hear is a lot of percussion- electro house relies primarily on bass to carry the song.
For all my wubheads, Dub has the power to send us into an aggressively euphoric state of happiness. With a focus on bass, some of the EDM world’s most legendary drops belong to this genre. Next time you are at a concert but you’re not sure whether or not you are listening to Dub, just look around for anyone headbanging the life out of themselves - that is how you know.
Meme by @may_lena_gallrein
Artist: Skrillex, Flux Pavilion, Borgore
Anything dubstep is typically high in BPM and packed with syncopated rhythmic percussion patterns. This form of bass distortion is best enjoyed when listened to at high volumes. Dubstep is also known for having epic drops that are guaranteed to make it onto every raver's Snapchat story.
Artists: RL Grime, Baauer, Flosstradamus
Trap originally drew mainly on rap and hip hop, but over time it has evolved to revolve more around electronic sounds (thank you rave gods). You will hear a lot of snappy snares, loud kicks, and trihats behind the focus of the song's heavy bass. No matter what club or party you are at, you are bound to hear at least one trap song… or twenty.
Artists: Bassnectar, Bleep Bloop, B.R.E.E.D, The Glitch Mob
Unlike most styles, tempo does not play a huge role in glitch-hop, in fact it is usually ignored. DJ's focus on uniquely manipulating sounds and beats to incorporate glitchy tones into their songs. Clicks, bleeps, and sweeps are dominant sounds we hear being combined with traditional Dub elements.
Oh techno, our beloved friend. This experimental genre is one of the hidden gems of EDM, but once you find it, you can never go back. Techno instantly takes control of our bodies and makes it IMPOSSIBLE to not be dancing. Staccato sounds and computerized tones give underground clubs and techno stages the industrial feel that we all know and love.
Artists: Fisher, Shiba San, Camelphat
This dynamic cross breed combines the styles of Techno and House to create a distinct structure. Elements such as synthetic melodies and hi-hats are present from Techno, while the tempo and rhythm of House tend to dominate. Tech house is big in the underground community, and it often times pushes people to dance in ways that they never knew they could.
Artists: Aphex Twin, Hardfloor, Acid Junkies
Distorted layers of sounds and synths are what bring Acid Techno to life. Producers have mastered the manipulation of controls that generate this unique sound. This sub-genre is quite ambiguous and hard for some people to understand… including me.
Surfacing from the United Kingdom, Trance has flowed it’s way to America and hypnotized us all. Packed with captivating rhythms and sonic elements, Trance has transfixed it’s listeners on this spellbinding genre. One of my favorite Trance festivals is Dreamstate, Insomniac’s leading Trance destination.
Meme by @edmfriends
Artists: Markus Schulz, James Holden
Progressives are smooth running tracks that are constantly flowing from start to finish. The multitude of buildups incorporate futuristic and fast sounds that are balanced with instrumental breakdowns to create a less aggressive tone.
Artists: Infected Mushroom, Astrix, Skazi
Often lengthy, psytrance’s claim to fame is its hypnotic beat. Psytrance may not be for everyone though… it is music created for the body, mind, and soul. The psychedelic gods demand that listeners embrace the energy of the cosmos while radiating the twisted, trancey sounds. It is difficult to only appreciate this music sitting down.
Drum and Bass
This well-known branch emerged from jungle scenes and has become one of the dominant classifications of EDM. Pretty self-explanatory by the name, drum and bass are the two central components that come into play when creating DnB music. These beat focused songs are the type that are worth blowing out your sub-woofers for.
Meme by @junglistsurprise
Artists: Ed Rush, Noisia, Optical
Also known as techstep, this style is a funky take on DnB. Neurofunk music features an industrial overtone to the drops, accompanied by a continuously building backbeat. Artists that have mastered this subgenre are extremely brilliant when it comes to blending synthesized percussion sounds with insane basslines.
Artists: San Holo, Troyboi, GTA
These songs can range from aggressive joyful. Future bass is a hybrid of lots of genres, including dutch house, dubstep, and trap. These powerful songs are created with pulsating synths and trap-like beats. Very synthy elements help them to fully transform into future bass.
And there you have it, your official quick guide to EDM! Now you are ready to take on your next rave and not only identify any song or artists but impress your friends with your new skills, too.