Need the ultimate guide to intro music, with cool intro songs and tips on choosing YouTube and podcast intro music? It’s right here!
ELECTRONIC MUSIC GENRES
- 08 Jul
Electronic music dates back further than you might think when, in the 1920s and 1930s, the first electronic musical instruments were created. Subsequent technological developments and techniques (such as editing recorded, natural and industrial sounds, and changing the tape speed and direction) developed in the 1940s and 1950s across Europe, Africa, Asia and America.
Fast forward to the 1960s and 1970s, when digital computer music began to be developed across the world. As these approaches to electronic music blended with popular genres, such as disco and early hip hop in the 1980s, it led to the emergence of electronic music genres as we know today.
From that moment on, electronic music has evolved and given birth to a seemingly endless number of genres, plus infinite sub-genres and interpretations of genres. Here, we’re going to attempt to breakdown the main genres and their subgenres. However – as with all creative things – there is an element of subjectivity at play here!
So what one person would call deep house; another would call tech house. What one person would dub dubstep (sorry, cheap pun); another would name brostep. Depending on where you are in the world, these all have very different interpretations and definitions. For this article, we’re going to stick to the main ones, as we recognise them here at Audio Network HQ in London. So let’s get into it.
- Bass music
- Bass Music Subgenres
- Disco sub genres
- Drum and Bass
- Drum and Bass sub genres
- Dubstep Subgenres
- EDM Subgenres
- EDM Artists
- Garage Sub Genres
- Sub genres of jungle
- Hardcore sub genres
- House Subgenres
- Techno Subgenres
- Trance Subgenres
Electronic Music Genres
The main types of electronic music genres are well recognised and largely agreed on. However, this particular type of music evolves and develops as quickly as its technology, so an advance warning: this may become incomplete just months after this post is published (we’ll do our best to keep it updated!).
We’ll also be taking a pretty UK/US-centric view in this article, whilst referencing as many notable global viewpoints as possible – but a definitive global view on this topic is another long article in itself. For the purpose of this piece, the main electronic music genres are:
- Bass music
- Drum and Bass
Bass music can be quite hard to define. It is a bit of a catch-all term, used to umbrella a load of sub-genres and interpretations of other genres. For example, bass house, some interpretations of trap and niche interpretations of moombah and garage can sit in this category. But the main ones, in our opinion are below.
Bass Music Subgenres
This list could be exhaustive, but again, we’ve stuck to the main ones. Others should arguably be included (UK bass music, moombahton and more) but these two encapsulate the genre best and are less ambiguous, in our humble opinion.
- Bass House
This is a far more dancefloor-centered version of house. its origins are debateable but one source traces it to the mid-2010s, when dubstep was declining in popularity and the UKG, house and bassline scenes were on the rise. It’s high energy, bass-heavy (obviously) and designed to get the crowd going.
Now, this one could’ve easily sat under dubstep, or even hip hop (if we had included in this article). We’ve gone for bass music though, as, again, it’s a bit of a hybrid genre. It evolved in the early 2010s out of the dubstep scene, blending with more American-influenced trap hip hop from Atlanta.
Evolving from Philadelphia’s 1960s and 1970s R&B scene, as well as other African-American and Latino music scenes at the time, it was major players such as Stevie Wonder, The O’Jays, Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer who pioneered this ground-breaking sound, which dominated the 1970s and 1980s. Seriously influential, it’s continued to evolve and is arguably the reason many other genres on this list exist.
Disco sub genres
Some would argue every other genre in this list is a sub-genre of disco, but we’ll be looking at some of the more direct, modern offshoots of this pioneering and classic genre.
- Electro Disco
- Italo/ Euro Disco
Loads of funk and a futuristic vibe, electro disco is strongly influenced by German luminaries Kraftwerk – and it does exactly what it says on the tin. Most, if not all, instrumentation is replaced with synthesisers and other electronic alternatives such as vocoders.
Not to be confused with disco house or French disco, nu-disco appeared in the mid to late 1990s. DJ Harvey and Gerry Rooney get the lion’s share of the credit, as their label Black Cock Records released unofficial edits and remixed funk, rock and disco tracks. Other notable pioneers are Dave Lee (FKA Joey Negro) and Crazy P.
Italo/ French/ Euro Disco
It’s probably not fair to lump these all together, but the European disco scene is a thriving one with many components and scenes in it, so we’ll approach the continent as a whole. Emerging in the 1970s and consistently adapting, we’d look to the uplifting takes of Mark Ashley, Irene Cara and Laura Branigan to get a feel for this sound.
Drum and Bass
A truly British genre (and a great British export), drum and bass was born as many subcultures collided in the UK underground dance scene – most notably breakbeat and jungle. It stripped elements from the aforementioned genres and has had a thriving scene in the UK – and now globally – for over 25 years. With a seemingly endless number of sub-genres, even the scene itself can’t decide which ones are ‘official’, so we’ve stuck to the ‘main’ ones.
Drum and Bass sub genres
- Tech Drum and Bass
- Jump Up
- Dancefloor Drum and Bass
Tech Drum and Bass
With more of an organic sound and feel, tech drum and bass tends to be deeper, with a raw percussive sound that sticks to the core elements of the genre and delivers more of a rolling rhythm. Some of the bigger names are Break, DLR, Konflict and Bad Company.
One of the more extreme and futuristic takes on the genre, Neurofunk has been heavily influenced by trailblazers across Europe and New Zealand. With a robotic edge and plenty of funk (as the name suggests) this could only be listened to in a club – or maybe a fight club. Head to NOISA, Black Sun Empire, State of Mind and, more recently, AKOV to get a feel for it.
The Liquid sound is centred on more melodic elements and has absorbed many influences, from jazz to an EDM vibe. Look to London Elektricity, Camo & Krooked, Calibre and Netsky for the bigger proponents.
Not for the faint-hearted, the jump up sound is one of the more aggressive-sounding; a UK-centric contingent– and a divisive one. DJ Hazard, Taxman, Annix and Macky Gee are a good representation of the jump up vibe.
This is a relatively new sub-genre of drum and bass, and though all drum and bass could be classed as dancefloor, this definition speaks to the sound that doesn’t quite fit into any of the above. The likes of RAM Records and artists including Dimension, Grafix, Metrik, Wilkinson and Sub Focus are your go-tos here.
Originating in the UK underground dance music scene in the early 2000s, dubstep took the world by storm over the next 15 years or so. Some say it blew up too quickly, leading to what many felt was a bastardisation of its roots. This is another genre that, due to its relative infancy, tends to provoke arguments about how you define a true subgenre…
We’ve tried to stick to what we feel are the main subgenres – you will most likely have different names for each of these – but we’ll explain what we mean by each one. We tended to approach dubstep in a more linear fashion, as a technique to break it down, so let’s delve in.
- Tear Out
This is the original dubstep: garage, dub and reggae-influenced with a major focus on the lower end of the frequencies. This emerged in the very early 2000s and was pioneered by the likes of Hatcha, Coki, DMZ, Skream, Benga and N-Type.
Far more mid-frequencies and with more of a raucous approach, this was one of the first evolutionary steps of the dubstep sound. Up to this point, there wasn’t as much of a focus on getting the dancefloor rocking, but the likes of Caspa, Rusko, Coki, Emalkay and Doctor P changed that.
It’s from this point that the dubstep scene started to really fracture and divide. As the sound was exported to the US and producers interpreted it with more of a rock or metal sentiment, many of the original fans felt it was too much of a departure from its roots.
Others, though, couldn’t get enough of it and it transported the scene to stadiums, festival headline slots and commercial radio. Skrillex, Zomboy, Datsik, Eptic and Flux Pavilion are a good representation of this sound.
This is essentially the modern interpretation of the classic sound that pays homage to those early days. It was this contingent of the scene that opposed the ‘bro’ sound the most. Artists such as J Kenzo, Truth, Kaiju and Kryptic Minds.
Now then, we have a seriously contentious entry on this list. EDM. Standing for Electronic Dance Music. Is it even a genre? Or is it just a catch-all statement abbreviated and overly used to describe specific types of electronic music?
All of those questions and more have been debated for over a decade now. So, we’re going to just let you know how we’re defining this type of electronic music – purely for the sake of this article. When we reference EDM in this sense, we’re looking to that ‘big room’, stadium or Tomorrowland-festival style house music. Think Guetta, Swedish House Mafia and the like.
With the above in mind, it kind of means sub genres here aren’t as relevant, as all EDM is, within this article at least, is that big house sound that dominated the UK and US charts for virtually the whole of the 2010s. With that in mind, we’re going to list a few artists instead, so you get what we’re calling EDM.
- David Guetta
- Martin Garrix
- Calvin Harris
- Steve Aoki
Born at Paradise Garage in 1970s and 1980s New York, garage is often associated with the UK scene, with many Brits unaware of its American roots. Since the 1990s, the UK grew obsessed with the sound and it helped set the foundations for many new subgenres.
Garage sub genres
We wanted to show just how much this genre led to new sounds, so we’ve gone against our criteria for other genres in this article, to illustrate the point.
- UK Garage
- Speed Garage
When you say garage in the UK, this is what most people will think of. The 90s were its heyday. It was a vibe created through the UK underground dance club scene and seemingly nothing could stop it from hitting the mainstream. Artists like M. J. Cole, Artful Dodger, Zed Bias, So Solid Crew, Craig David and Ms Dynamite are major players of this sound.
Speed Garage & 4X4
These are the more high-octane takes on the garage sound. By taking 4-to-the-floor New York garage, speeding it up, and combining it with breakbeats, a far more chaotic sound was born. We know, 4x4 and speed garage aren’t technically the same thing, but their origins and sounds are so linked we’ve put them together. Some would even argue 4x4 is an umbrella term for speed garage and our next subgenre. Check out artists like 187 Lockdown, Todd Edwards, Double 99 and Groove Armada.
For a while this sound was massive in the UK, it then went through a period of becoming almost comical. Now though, the UK bassline scene is thriving. Similar to speed garage in many ways, this takes that 4X4 vibe to new levels of energy. Artists such as DJ Q, Flava D, TS7 and Platnum are a good representations.
This is a seriously contentious subgenre for the garage section. However, if there was no garage, there would certainly be no grime. In fact, most of the pioneering grime vocalists, producers and DJs started out in the garage scene. Grime went on to become a British institution in its own right. If you’re not familiar, listen to the likes of Kano, Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Skepta, Ghetts and D Double E.
Jungle is the UK-export that came before drum and bass. It’s far more percussive in approach, it has very strong Caribbean influences and was born out of the Soundsystem Culture in the early 1990s UK underground scene. It’s widely accepted that, without this, you wouldn’t have drum and bass.
Sub genres of jungle
Emerging out of the breakbeat and hardcore scenes of the late 80s in the UK, it’s actually debateable that jungle itself was a sub-genre of those scenes. It’s also largely debateable if jungle really has sub-genres. However, for the purpose of this article, there’s one we’re highlighting.
Ragga jungle is the far more reggae-influenced sound within the jungle scene. You’ve got some awesome artists that have been flying this flag for years but some of the more recent ones to know about are Chopstick Dubplate, Krinjah and Congo Natty. The difference between this jungle and the ‘original’ jungle is that is has more completely original productions, whereas the original jungle was heavily reliant on samples.
Without question one of the unapologetically intense genres within the universe of electronic music, hardcore is even heavier than its name suggests. There are three sub genres we’re going to look into here, all of which may be a shock to the system if you’ve not heard this particular genre than was a product of many scenes colliding – including techno, metal and rock.
Hardcore sub genres
The three sub genres of hardcore may be hard to differentiate between to the newer listen, but they actually have very unique takes on this in-your-face sound.
- Happy Hardcore
Started in Rotterdam and gaining huge popularity in the Netherlands and north of the UK, gabber first came to fruition in the 1990s. Its never quite broken the mainstream, much to the joy of its most passionate followers, but saw a slight change in perception in the 2010s when tastemaker DJs were flirting with the sound in their sets. Head to artists like Paul Elstak, Out Of Cookies and Renae.
Probably one of the most joyous yet intense genres to have ever existed, Happy Hardcore is quite an acquired taste. Also born in the 1990s, this time across multiple European countries on the continent and also from the UK’s breakbeat scene, Happy Hardcore is often argued as the most popular of the hardcore sounds. Check out Force & Styles, Toytown and Sy & Demo.
Largely regarded as the most successful out of this scene, Hardstyle has held a loyal following across Europe ever since its inception in the 1990s. As you’re probably noticing a theme emerging, this was also born in the Netherlands and has been a mainstay in the region ever since, with some of the biggest festivals dedicated to the sound. Notable artists include The Prophet, Technoboy and Tweekacore.
Debatably the most easily recognised and popular of the genres on this list, house music can be traced back to 1980s at pioneering clubs in Chicago. Since then, the genre has taken on many different forms as different nations and cultures interpreted the sound. Like many others on this list, this genre can seemingly have an endless amount of sub genres depending on where you’re from. So let’s take a look.
As we said, this is a subjective question. We could’ve had a house subgenre list twice this size, however, to keep it more succinct, the below are what we’ve agreed are the main ones. Notable absentees from this include; Balearic, Tropical, Tribal, New Jersey, Latin, Jersey, Italo, French, Dutch and Chicago. We could go on, but let’s get into what we see as the main house genres.
- Acid House
- Ambient House
- Classic House
- Deep House
- Electro House
- Funky House
- Future House
- Progressive House
- Tech House
Starting in the mid-1980s in Chicago, Acid House was quickly adopted in the UK. Connected by what can only be described as a ‘squelching’ sound the Roland TB-303 synthesizer-sequencer helps to create – as well as the accompanying basslines, this type of house completely exploded in the UK into the late 1980s. Listen to DJ Pierre, Phuture and A Guy Called Gerald.
Delivering what it says on the tin, Ambient House is credited to being born by The Orb at the nightclub, Heaven. It first emerged a little after Acid House in the late 1980s. Head to artists including The Orb, The KLF and Bull Drummond.
Essentially the type of house that stays true to the genre’s roots of the clubbing seen in 1980s Chicago, classic house is less of a sub genre and more of a reference point. You want artists like Marshall Jefferson, Todd Terry, Frankie Knuckles and Kerri Chandler.
Making use of a deeper aesthetic, muted basslines and allowing more room for the percussion to breathe, deep house started in the 1980s as fusion between Chicago House, jazz-funk and elements of soul. Listen to Miguel Migs, Kaskade, Lisa Shaw, Saison and Sebb Junior.
A far more commercial sound, the electro house style can be very varied (some would argue many we’ve put in “EDM” are in fact electro house artists). It first emerged late 1990s and it arguably reached a peak in popularity in the 2010s. Head to people such as Daft Punk, Bloody Beetroots, Basement Jaxx and Feed Me.
Blending the worlds of funk, disco and house, with influences from across many decades dating back to the 1970s, funky house is another subgenre that lives up to its name. Record labels such as Defected Records, Ministry of Sound and Hed Kandi will give you a good idea of this sound, including artists such as Dave Lee, Dennis Ferrer, Armand Van Helden and Shapeshifters.
Emerging in the 2010s, Future House blends elements of UK Garage and deep house. It’s a bass-driven, as opposed to melodically or funk driven subgenre and very popular in the UK. Lucky Luke, Nu Aspect, The Him and Tchami will give you a good idea of this scene.
Emerging in the early 1990s, the progressive style is largely credited with being produced from the developing UK scene. Long, drawn out build ups and plenty of melody can be found within this sound. Made particularly popular by the likes of Martin Garrix, Swedish House Mafia and Deadmau5 in the early 2010s. Artists include Tiesto, Hardwell, Deadmau5 and Cid Inc.
Blending the worlds of techno and progressive house, tech house features more rough basslines and hard hitting beats mixed with melodics and groove to create a pretty unique and hugely popular sound. Kicking off in the mid to late 1990s you want to check out the likes of Jamie Jones, Carl Cox, Hot Since 82 and Patrick Topping.
Dating back to 1970s Europe, with some of its main influences including Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and C.J. Bolland, techno has spawned many subgenres since then. From the more experimental, ethereal and melodic to the dancefloor-catered, bass-heavy and industrial cuts, techno is a great genre to explore so let’s get into it.
The spectrum of techno is one of the most diverse in this list, and many producers from the different genres in this list, such as drum and bass, directly reference techno as an influence on their production approaches. Just as a quick caveat, many think you could include genres such as hardcore, trance and tech house in this list below as the genre directly influenced them, however, we’ve tried to keep to the main subgenres – rather than the other genres this one inspired.
- Deep Techno
It is what it says on the tin. It’s stripped back, it’s repetitive and it’s understated. Originating in Detroit in the early 1990s, key artists here include Richie Hawtin, Robert Hood, Ricardo Villalobos and Jeff Mills.
Sometimes known as intelligent techno, ambient techno has bundles of atmosphere and rhythm. This genre is seen as being very close to tech house and if you’re looking for a taster you should check out Aphex Twin, Autechre, Orbital, The Black Dog and Laurel Halo.
Sitting at the heavier and darker end of the techno scale, industrial techno originates from the 1990s and can be the style gets the biggest reaction in the rave. Artists here to go to are Adam X, Orphx, Blawan, Karenn and Ancient Methods.
Intelligent Dance Music dates back to the early 1990s and is less catered to dancefloors and more suited to lounges and home chilling. Many artists that are maybe closer aligned to other sub-genres on this list will also create IDM. However, some key players of this genre include The Future Sound Of London, Luke Vibert, Squarepusher, Ventian Snares and Boards of Canada.
This is essentially the source. Detroit techno is the original, easy-to-recognise techno from the 1980s, pioneered by the “Belleville Three” – Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunserson and Derrick May. Other artists to head to are Carl Craig, Aril Brikha and Fabrice Lig.
This is a wide sub genre in itself, with many crossover elements from IDM, ambient and minimal techno. The main difference here is deep techno is far more dancefloor orientated than the others mentioned above. Listen to Jamie Jones, Aril Brikha, Joris Voorn, Solomun and Maceo Plex.
Originating in the 1990s as an offshoot from German techno and British hardcore scenes, the trance sound is another that emulates the connotations of its name. Long, drawn out build ups, bags of atmosphere and euphoric builds are a common theme in this genre.
There are five key subgenres to the trance sound that we’re going to stick to. Others that you may have expected to see on here would be deep, acid and euro. We’ve deliberately left these out as we see these five as the core ones, with the others having a lot of crossover.
India, and Goa in particular, have one of the most thriving trance scenes in the world. Their beach parties, all day raves and festivals are becoming something of an iconic centre for the genre for many. Fairly similar sounding to minimal techno in many cases, as well as borrowing many elements from psychedelic trance, head to the likes of Astral Projection, Hallucinogen, Infected Mushroom and Hux Flux.
Originating in Western Europe, the hard trance scene emerged in the early 1990s as a breakaway from the breakbeat and hardcore scenes. Having similarities with the industrial techno sound, artists such as Scot Project, Cosmic Gate, Kai Tracid and, arguably most famously, Scooter.
This is quite a hard one to define, but it definitely exists in the minds of the people most engaged with the trance scene. Sometimes it can be called uplifting but, seeing as most trance is progressive in nature, it can sometimes be difficult to categorise. By the early 2000s this sound was everywhere and dominated the dancefloors. Artists include Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, Faithless and Sasha.
Otherwise known as psytrance or psy, psychedelic trance comes in many different forms but all offer up a high-energy, high-tempo and , as the name suggests, a psychedelic atmosphere. Psychedelic preceded the Goa style and is often the type of trance you immediately think of when you hear the term. There is some crossover here but check out Astrix, Infected Mushroom, Shpongle, 1200 Micrograms and Talamasca for a feel for this genre.
Also known as techno-trance, tech trance draws from, as you might have guessed, the techno scene. Pioneered by Oliver Lieb, along with a few other producers in the European scene, the sound is a little more complex, technical and is driven by impactful kick drums. It’s a real party-catered sound which is led by Marco V, Sander van Doorn, Simon Patterson, W&W and Mark Sherry, to name a few.
So these – more or less! – are the mainstays in the UK, US and Europe which simply couldn’t be missed. Think you’d call something here by a different name? We’d love to hear it on socials!
Want to know if you should post your content on YouTube or Vimeo. Join us as we put the world-leading video hosting platforms up against one another.
Don’t know your arias from your overtures? Our guide will demystify the top classical music forms