A Beginner's Guide To Electronic Music: From Scratching to Dubstep and Everything Between

dubstep.jpg
...among other things.
Electronica is an infant genre compared to most, its creation depending solely on tools and instruments designed in the last half of the 20th century.

And its interpretation is constantly evolving.

Because, even though it remains relatively new type of music, there remain some distinct differences between electronic production of the post-millennial era as compared to the music of the previous century. And it's all thanks to one thing, no doubt: The increased availability and affordability of computer technology.

As the digital revolution took hold over the last few decades, more and more electronic music began making its way into mainstream culture. It's not tough to understand why; people just started picking up the mixers and beat pads and saying, "Hey, I can do this too." As a result, we've reached a point in modern music where teeny-boppers and soccer moms alike jam electronic songs that previously would have been playing in a club.

Still, as technological progression continues, so does the progression of electronic music. The genre is diversifying every day, with new branches of sound and unprecedented infusions of music arising.

In other words: No, not all electronic music is techno.

So, as your prepare for the upcoming Identity Festival's stop through town at the Gexa Energy pavilion on Sunday, August 28 -- and, believe us, we're going to be keeping you plenty prepared for that festival -- we figured it high time to take a closer look at the slight differences in blips, womps and various tempos that help classify various performers into separate, distinct subgenres of electronic music.

Already lost? Don't be. Just hit the jump for our Beginner's Guide to Electronic Music, and we'll carefully navigate you through these robot-infested musical waters.

The Pre-Computer Days
Really, it was the infiltration of turntables that founded the electronic genre -- well before computers were the widespread medium for production. Turntables spawned several different methods of integrating the technology available into live performances, with several DJs even employing VJs (video jockeys) to play along with them. Each branch of pre-computer electornica can be defined by the following characteristics:

Turntablism/Scratch DJing
• Physical turntables and vinyl records necessary for production
• Records used as voice recordings, acting like voiceovers to the music
• The "scratching" technique of moving a record back and forth on a turntable while simultaneously working a crossfader
• Little or no bass, as compared to other genres
• More downtime between noises
• Modern-day artists include DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, Kid Koala

Techno
• The original "dance music" that infests your average "rave"
• Performed as one continuous DJ set as opposed to individual songs; meant to be heard all at once
• Rhythm-based
• Tempo varies between 120 beats per minute and 150 bpm
• Modern artists include Deadmau5, Duck Sauce, anything played in the Top 40 these days

Trance
• Techno hybrid with a more "chilled-out" feel
• Aims to create an ambiance with mid-song breaks that let the melody stand alone
• Classic European form of electronic music; originated in Germany
• Tempo varies between 125 beats per minute and 150 bpm
• Modern-day artists include Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold

Drum n Bass
• Heavily influenced by jazz
• Pulls sound from acoustic instruments and can be played with a live (often super badass) drummer
• Subgenres include Liquid (more instrumental layers and harmonies), Darkcore (a little slower and darker), and Jazzstep (more of a focus on the musicality)
• Tempo varies between 160 beats per minute and 190 bpm (FAST!)
• Modern-day artists include Chase & Status, The New Deal, Photek, Noisia

House
• Uptempo dance music
• Has a contemporary disco feel
• Repetitive electronic rhythms grounded by a kick drum on every beat; short staccato chord loops
• Tempo varies between 118 beats per minute and 135 bpm
• Modern-day artists include Benny Benassi, Fedde La Grand, Swedish House Mafia


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11 comments
Harley KingCrunk Barnes
Harley KingCrunk Barnes

 Please consult me and ANYONE else in the dance music scene before publishing an article about the history or roots or genres of dance music. We could have saved you from publishing misinformed information. You should never really try to classify things by genres anyway because nowadays (and always) everything blends into each other and influences it.

Killtron
Killtron like.author.displayName 1 Like

This article is both bad and wrong. " • Modern artists include Deadmau5, Duck Sauce, anything played in the Top 40 these days" in regards to Techno. Holy shit. Holy shit this is so bad. 

Fan
Fan

Yeah, this is a pretty misinformed article.

Grag
Grag like.author.displayName 1 Like

This article is horrible. Where are the mentions of UK styles such as 2 step or Grime? Ragga?  Did the author even go to the trouble of looking up "jungle" on the internet? Even an absolute beginner could have looked up each one of these genres on the internet and learned accurate information. As far as shameless plugging goes this is A-class work, but even small children have access to Wikipedia. Also... Detroit.

Phylo
Phylo

What?  No Breaks?

MattL1
MattL1

Wow, nice job.  I read two whole pages of this before I realized that I don't care.  

Lance_Lester
Lance_Lester

You forgot that Techno was invented in Detroit.

Joe
Joe

I was going to point out the errors in your article, but I lost count...

Evan
Evan

good enough article, but why do electronica fans have such a hangup about the word "techno"? I can't count the times someone has said "it's not techno, it's <insert here="" name="">!" with all the eloquence of a hissy-fitting 2 year old. </insert>

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