Chances are, not everyone within our EDM community will be familiar with literally all of the sub-genres of EDM. EDM, as we know, is an umbrella term (if you don't already know this, what are you doing here? but no, we're just joking). Under that umbrella are dozens among dozens of genres; like planets within our solar system or different galaxies. Understanding genres of EDM is important. Why? Think of an actual umbrella. Apart from its aesthetic design, what use is that umbrella if there's no one under it? And who does it protect - it's literally an inanimate object that's waiting to be picked up to use. Understanding EDM is the same: there's no use in knowing the category if you don't know the components that make up it. That probably wasn't the best analogy to use...but we hope you catch our drift.
For the sake of simplicity and for your understanding, let's just narrow it down to the top 10 most popular genres. Disclaimer: this is in no way the definitive way of defining each genre, but merely an interpretation of what we feel it is, based on our experience and knowledge. Also, hand-picked songs as examples of the different genres are styles from the past decade.
Gorgon city, the duo depicted above, is one of many House artists. You know those videos you see on Facebook of people doing shuffle dancing to a song? That song is probably House. Rising as an aftermath of disco music in the early '80s and originating from Chicago, House is now almost three-decades old and one of the most mainstream or ubiquitous genres of EDM. Traditionally, this genre's music is typically characterized by rhythmic, steady and regular beats, stylistic but relatively simple chord progressions, repetition and at around 110-130 BPM (beats per minute). Let's look back at our previously mentioned artist Gorgon City. This song by Gorgon City should be what House should sound like. Shuffle dance worthy isn't it? Another popular House song is Secondcity's "I Wanna Feel" or Route 94's "My Love" featuring singer/songwriter Jess Glynne. As you can see from the Youtube view count, the genre isn't underground. If anything, it's pretty mainstream in the EDM industry. And you're probably thinking...shuffle dancing seems pretty cool too. If you want to dance to it on your own, check out this guide so you can dance in your own bedroom or in the showers. At this point, you should vaguely be able to grasp a few commonalities or conventions between those songs that characterizes house. Deep House, another genre of EDM, seems to be often confused with House. For the sake of simplicity, let's just assume that they're quite similar, albeit being a tad less heavy.
2. PROGRESSIVE HOUSE
This genre typically has a progressive nature to their songs (well, no sh*t right?). Starting off with just repetitive drum beats, a progressive house song typically "progresses" into a simple melody or chord on piano, followed by a captivating melodic line that runs through the song, a "buildup", which is when everything starts to speed up prior to the drop, the drop, the "meat" of the song and then the outro. Most DJs who are globally recognized produce progressive house, because not only is it a fan-favorite, but also logistically easier to produce and arrange. You've probably heard of popular acts like Calvin Harris, Tiesto, Hardwell and Martin Garrix, who was featured in the previous section of our blog, all of which are often associated with Progressive House. Assuming you haven't been living under a rock this past half a decade, you should be familiar with Calvin Harris' "Summer" or Avicii's "Wake Me Up" You know, the song which got a total of 829 and 996 million views respectively on Youtube? The top paid DJs nowadays probably play Progressive House, so you shouldn't have missed it. Many say that progressive house is technically or by definition a sub-genre of House, but considering the growing popularity of it, it's fair to classify it as its own genre.
3. ELECTRO HOUSE
Definitely not everyone's style of music. Electro-house is occasionally quite technical and experimental. Unless the song was intended to be a popular hit (sounding somewhat radio-fiendly), songs of this genre often experiment with samplers and sequencers; more so than most of the other genres. Electro-house is typified by its heavy bass and buzzing basslines, such as those created with more distortion, and a tempo of a typical 130 BPM. Martin Garrix's old originals and singles were typically in the style of Electro-house, as mentioned in the previous blogs. Just in case you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can check it out here. "Animals", anyone? (again, reference to previous blog). Let's go for a less mainstream example this time: Rogue - Atlantic. You can probably hear some heavy ass bass here, and more evidently the samplers blended in. Some artists like to throw in some vocals too to add more juice and emphasis to the song. Our boy ZEDD, as depicted in the photo above us, is often associated with Electro-house, although not all his songs are (what kind of modern EDM artist only focuses on one genre nowadays?). His song "Addicted To a Memory" featuring singer Bahari can probably be called Electro-house. Other popular Electro-house artists are Borgeous, Showtek, Hardwell, W&W...the recurring baes of grand EDM festivals.
Pretty catchy stuff I must say. Do you recall MARSHMELLO from our previous blog for Road to Ultra HK? You know, the guy with quite literally a marshmellow on his head? Well, the music that guy makes is trap music, but kawaii trap with some cute pitched-up vocals thrown in. Trap, as we know it, is characterized by an irregular pattern of beats. It has a pretty aggressive and gritty touch to it in nature in terms of sound and lyrical content. Some modern Trap artists like to throw in some rap or hip-hop style vocals to compliment the aggressiveness or enhance the overall vibe of the song. We personally enjoy heavier trap songs. Here's one that you might like. Disclaimer: it has no vocals so if that's not your style, don't bother clicking. If you're like some of us, who occasionally likes to get straight to the point, skip past all the foreplay and fast forward to the drop at around the 1:48. You'll probably be able to differentiate it from other songs by its use of heavier synths, irregular beat patterns and aggressive tone. Here's another one but with vocals, a remix of the infamous song "Whip/Nae Nae" (NOW WATCH ME WHIP, NOW WATCH ME NAENAE, know it now?). Oh, just in case you don't know (you probably don't), the guy above is RL grime, a trap artist. Here's a tune by him and his buddy Baauer.
5. FUTURE BASS
A less common genre in the EDM world, but one of our favorite genres of them all. Check out an article here, which provides visible hard data that suggests Future Bass as one of the least favored genres in the US. You'll probably also see Trap as the most popular, with folks like RL GRIME popularizing - both mentioned above (coincidence? I think not). As for the picture of above, the guy is more than just a pretty face. Now, he might seem like a pretty normal guy at first glance; someone who you've probably walked past in the streets of LA or the likes, but his talents lie beneath his skin and bones. This guy has the honor of taking the stage name FLUME, arguably one of the pioneers of future bass. Future bass often covers a variety of sounds using a synthesizer, but its choices in style, vibe, and instrumentation is practically limitless. Each of Flume's tunes have different styles in drops and patterns. Check out one of his older remixes here. Future bass, in our opinion, is often harder to define sometimes because of the variation in style that it can cover. Here's a less popular remix by future bass artist Gill Chang. Pretty glitchy stuff. Another one from the same artist, because I just found it and quite like it. And one of our personal favorites ( last one I promise :( ). As the caption for the video suggests: "It's time to get rowdy :)"
WUB WUB WUB WUBs...is the stereotypical sound of dubstep. And we'll admit, half of the time, they aren't wrong (joking of course). Throughout the course of EDM history, though, Dubstep has been slowly expanding in style, implementing more styles and elements into their genre. When I hear dubstep, I think of Skrillex's tunes. Dubstep was popularized a bit more than half a decade ago, especially in the States. This post-dubstep style was often referred to as "brostep", which follows a similar style of heavy basslines, noticeable sub-bass, glitches, blips and BPM of around 140. Apparently, there are this many sub-genres of EDM...(u wot m8?) Who would've known that even a genre can be so convoluted? Fun fact: lots of people (especially those of the younger generation: millenials) who listen to traditional genres such as Rock, Country, or Pop often describe the sound as analogous to two transformers having sex. Does it really sound that bad? If so, Skrillex, my man, you got to up your Dubstep game. ;-)
Another artists who primarily makes dubstep is Excision, a Canadian producer/DJ hailing from Kelowna, Canada. His music is quite the WUB WUBs, I must say. Check out this song he did with the duo PEGBOARD NERDS. And my god, dat album cover doe! Or perhaps something heavier for all you dubstep enthusiasts?
We'll be the first to admit, this genre is pretty weird (our opinion of course). Mixing influences from Hardcore and Hard Techno (both genres of EDM), hardstyle consists of deep, hard-sounding kick drums, overly loud and aggressive synthesizers, intense basslines and de-tuned or distorted sounds. The genre has only been around for a decade or two, but has now been featured in smaller festivals. Wouldn't be surprised if it makes it to the grander festivals like Tomorrowland or Coachella, though (some already have). The genre in nature is raw, as it is powerful. Here's example of what it should sound like. And here is a relatively more recent one for your reference by the hardstyle producer Coone, as depicted in the image. As you can tell, the style hasn't change much - probably wants to stick to its roots and maintain its distinctive style. Can't deny though, it has pretty good melodies and pretty damn catchy. You'll probably catch an artist or two who play hardstyle at relatively small festivals, especially in the States. Like Future Bass, the style is quite distinctive, so you'll probably be able to tell it's hardstyle once the bass drops. Bonus song by Zatox. If that doesn't get you jumping off the ground, I don't know what will. Hard drugs are complimentary but not mandatory. ;-)
8. DRUM 'N BASS
Are you still with us? We're almost there! And trust us, it was probably equally as hard to write as it is to read...so we're kind of on the same boat here.
Drum 'N Bass was pretty popular back in the mid to late 2000s. Often characterized by relatively higher BPM of 160-180 (a steady increase since DnB from the early '90s and late '00s at around 130 BPM), DnB uses a variety of different styles and elements, but one common convention is its use of irregular but repetitive beat patterns and heavy bassline. The type of atmosphere or vibe it delivers varies widely depending on the producer's influences and what type of instrumentation he/she decides to utilize. But as a rule of thumb, anything fast, with heavy bass-line and irregularities in beat that catches your attention is usually Drum N 'Bass. One of our favorite DnB tracks is ["When You Return"], a song made by collaborating artists Dabin & Feint, featuring Daniela Andrade - it's very soothing as it is melodic. Remember us mentioning Pendulum in the Road to Ultra HK blog? Well, Pendulum is renowned for DnB. Propane Nightmare was one of their more classic and well-known songs from their 2005 album "In Silico" God, feels like we're from a James Bond movie or something after listening to that chorus melody.
9. BIG ROOM
OK...Big room is technically a sub-genre of Electro-house, but since it was so popular in the late 2000s, we'll just categorize as its own genre. The infamous Big Room has only gotten around to being quite popular half a decade or so ago Some have even said that it died to this day. Popular Big Room artists include Borgeous, DVBBS (two artists making one song), Quintino and Showtek. Those drops are B.I.G alright. Big room began to development in the 2010s, and has gained popularity after introducing itself in EDM-oriented events and festivals like Tomorrowland. Often incorporating drops, minimalist percussion, regular beats and sub-bass layered kicks, big room uses simple melodies and synthesizer-driven breakdowns. This genre is often criticized for many EDM fans within the community, partly because many songs are perceived to sound very similar to each other, and attributing that to the lack of creativity and originality of the producers/DJs who make it. Personally, we don't think it's a BIG deal (HAH, get it?) Some people go to festivals for the vibe and to jump around - who the hell cares what they play amirite?? But, who listens to Big room nowadays? Gawd, that's so 2014.
...AND FOR THE GRAND FINALE.
AND FINALLY...wait what even is this? The name sounds ridiculous already...which gives us an even better reason to explore it further. To be quite honest, I personally don't know much about glitch and its associated artists. But, it should go something like this. Don't know about you, but it sounds pretty good to our ears: melodious, upbeat, steady and dynamic. Glitch has often been described as genre that adheres to the "aesthetics of failure", which is to deliberately use or mimic the glitchy audio that's heard in a computer. Sources of glitch typically include malfunctioning or abused audio recording such as digital/analog distortions, CD skipping, and electric hums. This is probably Glitch Hop, but normally genres are not set in stone and quite debatable. Glitch hop often incorporate funkier hip-hop beats with glitchy effects and techniques, with a typical BPM of around 110. A more traditional example is Tipper - Razor Back or KOAN Sound - Dynasty As you can probably hear, it sounds like a computer failure. Sounds pretty weird at first, but you'll grow into it. As a wise man once said: "Always be musically curious, for a great mind comes with great appreciation for music". Just joking - that was just made up
...If you're still confused about all the aforementioned genres and/or overwhelmed with all the information coming at you, that's alright. We are too. It takes time to accommodate to the different styles. And we'll admit, with the growing and developmental nature of EDM, even enthusiasts like us can't keep up with the styles. This is why you're here to fill in the gaps.
- Check out Monstercat's Youtube channel. They're a channel dedicated to EDM of all types and can navigate what type of genre you'd like to hear, since you can sort their uploads by genres!
- Many EDM artists nowadays don't like the idea of getting tied down to one specific genre, but instead experiment with several genres. This is why there is so much variation within songs of the same artist and between different artists, even though they are often classified under the same genre.
HAPPY EDM SURFING! Sorry for the long post. Here's a potato.