Have you ever listened to a new track and looked at the genre tag and thought “there’s no way that’s a real genre?” Genres, subgenres, and derivative genres are proliferating at an almost alarming rate these days, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming for the beginner who wants to understand what electronic music is all about. If you want to be successful as a DJ, however, it’s important to understand what all these EDM genres mean and where they came from. So to help kick off your journey of discovery, we’ll start this multi-post series by exploring the basics of where the most popular EDM genres come from and what defines them.
Why EDM Genres Matter
Does it really matter if you know the difference between techno and tech house or dubstep and drumstep? If you want to be taken seriously as a DJ, it does. That way, when someone asks you what your favourite trance song is, you won’t play them an Avicii track.
Exploring new genres and subgenres and subgenres can also be a great way to get inspired. If you’re getting bored with your current setlist, just start exploring some new crazy subgenre, and you’re bound to find something that gets you excited.
Finally, understanding EDM subgenres will also make it easier for your music to be found online, and it will make it easier for you to talk about your music as well. By tagging your track with the proper genre and subgenre labels, you’ll make any mixes or tracks you release online easier to find for potential fans. You’ll also have a much easier time explaining what sort of music you play to bookers, other DJs, and anyone else who might want to see you spin, which will make it easier for you to advertise your gigs and get people out to see you play.
American Genres: House, Techno, Trap
Most of today’s major EDM subgenres can be traced back to either America or Europe. House is the dominant American EDM genre heard on the radio these days thanks to artists like Avicii, David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia, deadmau5, and Daft Punk. Techno, while it has become popular recently with European DJs, actually started with DJs in Detroit who were inspired by European artists like Kraftwerk. Trap, on the other hand, is a distinctly American genre which owes its roots to southern hip-hop producers and artists like Lex Luger and T.I.
European Genres: Trance, Dubstep, Drum & Bass
Battling house for top EDM popularity these days is trance music. This style bears some resemblances to house and techno, but involves the distinct technique of slowly building tracks to a cathartic climax before breaking them down through a slow release. Todays kings of trance are European DJs like Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold, and Armin van Buuren. Dubstep, with its wobbly basslines and syncopated rhythms, is an instantly recognizable genre that was born out of the London club scene in the late 1990s. Drum & Bass grew out of the London scene as well, but owes its roots to hardcore ravers rather than clubbers. This style typically involves faster tempos than both trance and dubstep, and is defined by its focus on the drum and bass elements of songs (hence the name).
This list merely scratches the surface of what’s out there in terms of EDM genres. If you want to learn more about the genres and subgenres that make up electronic music, keep an eye on this blog, as we’ll be delving deeper into this topic in the weeks and months to come. You can also check out some of our past articles on how to DJ for specific genres like house and hip-hop. Or better yet, you can sign up for our online DJ school and learn how to play around with these genres yourself. With a little training, you might even be able to come up with the next hot subgenre, like deep-post-acid-reggaeton or something.