Electronic dance music, or EDM, is a general term that describes a panoply of musical styles that came about in the mid-1980s. It is seen as a collection of various subgenres of music intended for various dancers. With such a broad range of sounds, it could seem difficult to classify all these as EDM, but they have developed over time, transforming and informing the dance culture.
Generally considered, electronic dance music is popular for many defining features. Typically, it is made up of a deliberate inorganic sound mostly produced by cheap 1980s gear such as the 808 drum machine and the 303 bass synthesizers, both built from samples of past recordings. Singing and live instruments are usually featured, always garnished rather than the main dish.
Most styles of EDM, therefore, lay emphasis on strong rhythm, while ambient music style offers an aural cushion for settling down. Also, recordings of EDM are produced mainly to be aired in dance clubs, in a mix with similar recordings, rather than for home listeners.
At the beginning of the 20th century, composers started redefining the concept of organized sound and instruments, thereby redefining music, with futurism, modernism, and postmodernism introducing a new era in music. the first electronic music producer and synthesist was arguably Delia Derbyshire. Many people recognize her Doctor Who’ and An electronic storm’ albums. Most of her production and sound for TV and radio programs can still be found in the sound archives of the BBC, but due to copyright issues, she was never given due credit for her work.
The 70s and the rise of Disco gave rise to the first wave of club dance music. Disco, also called the Euro-dance, saw a mixture of Soul Funk and smooth jazz, fussed with electronic aspects. There was then popularity and high demand for DJs in clubs, which led to the introduction of the use of electronic sounds and regular percussive beats that had repetitive rhythms popular in music today. Artists such as Donna Summer and Kraftwerk introduced house and electro, making use of some drum machines and bass synthesizers.
The start of EDM was from the disco genre, greatly popular in the late 1970s. This music style had the aim of moving crowds on the dance floor by making use of electronic instruments and drum machines to make rhythms that are synthesized.
Going into the 80s and 90s, industrial, house, techno and freestyle, subgenres started being popular. Early rave and acid house scene began trending in the UK and Germany, and with that came underground and warehouse parties that were dedicated to the growth of EDM culture. Clubs in the UK were forced to close by 2 am, this made club-goers seek for refuge after club hours in warehouse parties that lasted all night. Approximately 10,000 people in 1989 would attend commercial underground parties that were eventually known as Raves.
EDM got limited exposure in America during that period, as it was marketed as ‘electronica.’ EDM artists from the UK such as The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and The Prodigy got linked with the ‘American electronica revolution.’ The music got into the ears of popular music listeners in 1988 by Madonna’s Ray of Light.
In the mid-2000s, dance music became a part of the famous culture. There was assistance from social media such as SoundCloud and Youtube in fueling the interest of people in Dubstep and electro house, making Skrillex popular with his harsher style of production known as ‘bro step.’
Live events heavily made EDM popular. Event promoters realized that hiring DJs could get them bigger profits than getting traditional musicians. EDM celebrations such as Defqon and Electric Daisy Carnival advanced, laying emphasis on visual experiences like lighting and video effects. Lots of acts such as Swedish House Mafia and Avicii held concert tours at venues much bigger than nightclubs. In 2011, a ‘new rave generation’ was announced and it was sled by David Guetta, Skrillex, and Deadmau5. Billboard introduced a new EDM chart in 2013, keeping track of the best electronic dance song according to radio airplay, online streaming, and sales.
In recent times, EDM conferences get fully packed with popular and influential artists. The music is mostly characterized by original sound mixes and remixes, produced by popular DJs. Today, electronic dance music and its subgenres are used by most pop and hip-hop artists, including Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Drake, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, and many more.
The different genres within EDM
Since the start of music, people have listened to a variety of EDM, due to hustle, traditions, pitch loudness, musical instrument, and other parameters. Most music types have a period for them to get popular and then go eminent. Some different types of EDM are:
This is a style of EDM that began in Detroit, US, in the late 1980s where DJs enjoyed the sounds of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Kraftwerk, and Giorgio Moroder, but desired to mix some soul into such sounds. The techno scene in Detroit advanced steadily with the likes of Derrick May and Juan Atkins nurturing the foundation, and after the sound got to Europe, it exploded, giving rise to various scenes globally, with everybody preferring the style. The word ‘techno’ was first used in 1988, referring to a kind of genre. Since that time, most styles of techno have come to be. However, this style of music is often viewed as the basis on which some other subgenres came to existence. Techno has been around the longest.
It originated from Germany and India in the 1990s and is among the most popular styles of electronic dance music. Trance is characterized by its tempo, ranging from 110-150BPM, and is famous for its repetitive buildup and break down of large melodies. Even though this genre is independent, it can be draw influence from other subgenres. Trance is a state of hypnosis with high consciousness, for this reason it is depicted in this genre by mixing various layers and overshadows the buildup and release of sounds.
This subgenre started in the 1990s in the south of the US. It is mostly characterized by lyrics and sounds that mix double hits hat or triple time division. Initially, the word ‘trap’ referred to as a place for dealing drugs. But recently, this music has been mixed with EDM by various artists. In an EDM sense, trap is the heavy sound that music producers have been working on since 2012. Producers of EDM began making use of the buildups and breakdowns in various dance music genres to this kind of production to make this subgenre.
This was created by club DJs and music producers in Chicago in the 1980s. Previously, house was characterized by the rhythms produced by machines. Although it showed various characteristics that were the same with disco, it was more electronic and minimalistic. This music genre became well liked in Chicago clubs in 1984. It spread quickly to other cities such as New York, Baltimore, and Detroit Newark. It got liked in Europe and other places such as South American and Australia in the late 1980s.
This genre of EDM began in the late 1980s in South London, and not directly from a love of dub music, contrary to popular belief. It began as a darker and more experimental 2 step sound that ran across London at that time. Playing at 140BPM, early dubstep was not as aggressive as it is today. Although it was originated over a decade ago, the sound only got popular in 2005.
• Drum & Bass
This genre of electronic dance music originated from race and jungle scenes in the early 1990s in the UK. Its styles were characterized by fast breakbeats. Typically, the beat is between 160-180BPM with strong bass and basslines. The popularity of drum & bass ran parallel to the style of dance other UK beats had. It is influenced by other subgenres such as rock, dubstep, and techno.
Originating from house music, garage heavily depended on more time-shifting in its beats and more emphasis on voice samples. Even though Todd Edwards is credited as been the creator of this sound, it wasn’t until the sound got to the UK that it got popular there.
Sometimes referred to as chill-out, this is an umbrella and subgenre term characterized by mellow style and mid-tempo beats. It began at dance clubs in the mid-1990s where relaxing music could be played for the dance floor to chill and relax after fast tempo music.
Just like drum & bass, grime is a genre originating from various sounds. Parts of it can be traced to garage, hip-hop, DNB, and dancehall. It is characterized by a 140BPM that is packed with beats that are half time at a point. This is one of the EDM genres being an underground phenomenon.
Today, hardstyle is typical for its sound of about 150 beats per minute that are heavy on various kicks thrown in nice catchy melodies. This sound is widely loved in Europe, since it has roots in old hardcore and gabber styles of music.
What makes a song EDM?
Electronic dance music deals with the character and quality of music that is synthetic. Also, the manipulation and make of this music style is by electronic and not by the performance of acoustic instruments. Rather than meaning just a single genre, EDM encompasses various styles such as drum n bass, trap, dubstep, hardstyle and house. This genre has been popular in nightclubs sing its inception; however recently the demand has taken the music industry by storm.