Top 10 Genres of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) & their History

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Technology! A boon and a bane, but for those who wanted to lurk beyond the usual into the territory of unknown it was a gateway they’d been waiting for all their lives. Electronics not only changes the way we heard music but it also paved the way to produce music in an unthinkable way. So here is familiarizing you with Electronic Music and all you ever wanted to know about EDM and their genres read ahead because “Electronic music is synonym to attaining the auditive redemption through technology”

10) Chiptune


Chiptune or the Chip music is exactly what the name reads, the 8-bit music or the sound of your favorite game boy. From the era of vintage computers and gaming consoles this genre of electronic music weaved the groundwork for most of the modern contemporary genres of Electronic Dance Music.  It consists of basic wave forms including square, sawtooth and triangle and basic percussions to go with it.

The earliest known chip music was made in 1951 and the first commercial album in 1978 (imagine listening trance on gramophone). However this music was revived through gaming consoles in the 70s by two of the most popular games; Space Invaders and Gun Fight. The most clear appearance of Chip music in 21st century can be heard in Kei$ha’s tik-tok and Eminem’s Hellbound. And this point however it is necessary to strike a difference between Chiptune and Chipmusic lest we want to offend the followers of this particular genre. Chip tune is the component of Chipmusic, it is basically the sound formats synthesized by a computer chip or video game consoles. Yet still the chip-tunes are made using the likes of first computers that hit the market in 70’s. The chip-tunes are then used to make what we call the Chipmusic and depending on the wavelengths used the sub categories of Chipmusic are;

  • Amigacore
  • Bitpop
  • Blippblopp or Blip-blop
  • Chipbreak or Chipcore
  • Chiptune
  • Chip Metal or Bleep Metal
  • Chipnoise
  • Chipstyle
  • Bitpop
  • Fakebit
  • Gameboy music
  • Lo-fi or Low-Fi music
  • Low-bit
  • Microchip
  • Micromusic
  • Nerdcore or Chip-hop
  • Nintendocore
  • Retro-music
  • Skweee

9) Disco


Many of us know Discos as the 1970s clubs but chances are that only a few know about its French origin, the term is derived from discothèque or ‘library of phonograph records’. Disco was a counter-culture to the widely prevalent Rock culture. So you were either in the mainstream of preaching the popular Rock bands or chose to be an unconventional Disco fan (which would also mean that chances of you being a musically rebellious 70’s female are considerably high).  All through the 60s and 70s stars like Jimi Hendrix, The Supremes, Jerry Butler and Eddie Kendrick added their own distinctive elements to this sub-genre of EDM. The Salsoul and the West-End record practically ruled the Disco scene.

But Disco shot to its glory through 1974 to 1979 with the songs, Kung-Fu Fighting, the sound of Philadelphia, Rock your baby and the Jackson 5’s Dancing Machine. In the late 1970s however Disco started onto its road to oblivion, as the slogans like ‘Disco Sucks’ and ‘Death to Disco’ accused this genre of  adulterating the pure punk rock genre. Standing up against a tough rival Disco witnessed the sad say of 12 July, 1979 (which was officially deemed as the day Disco died). But as everything great is always resurrected Disco made its dashing comeback in the 1990’s. In 2013, artists like Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Daft-Punk incorporated Disco style in their songs, three of which made it to Top 40 on the music Billboard. There are six main types of Disco styled music;

  • Cosmic disco
  • Disco polo
  • Euro disco
  • Italo disco
  • Nu-disco
  • Space disco

8) Ambient


The commonest errs that listener commit is to mistake ambient music as a form of background music. Unlike background music where lyrics take up the front Ambient music aims at acoustic and atmospheric mannerism’s enhancement.  The backdrop music doesn’t give the listener a chance to lose themselves in the music as the listener focuses on retaining the lyrics but on the contrary ambient music is known for its milieu brightening qualities. It stimulates the listener’s auditory modality and hence is preferred medium for therapeutic models.

The genre came up in late 1970’s in the United Kingdom, when music apparatus like synthesizer and electric guitar were available commercially in the musical equipment’s market. Brian Eno is hailed as the pioneer of this genre of Electronic Dance Music. Two famous artists that popularized this particular genre were The Orb, which is an English Electronic music group founded by Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty in 1988 and The Aphex Twin also known as Richard David James in 1991. The Aphex Twin was also lauded by The Guardian as the most influential figure in the contemporary electronic music. Ambient Music has five main genres which are very different from each other;

Ambient Dub: basically a fusion of dub style made famous especially by the like of King Tubby and other Artist of Jamaican origin. This sub-category is identified by its deep bass lines and evolving harmonic sounds. Contemporary artists include the orb, Loop Guru, Woop and the Dreadzone

Ambient Industrial:This is a mash up of Ambient and Acid house and the main feature are four-on-the-floor beat; which is a very common rhythm pattern for all the electronic dance music genres especially Disco and Ambient Industrial, synth pads and industrial vocal samples. Illiibient is a close brethren of Ambient Industrial.

Dark Ambient: It is the oldest sub-genre of Ambient popularized by Brian Eno. Alike the name it comprises of missed beat guitar distortions, eerie vocal samples and spooky sound samples.

Drone Music: It is a minimalist music style based on drone or tone-clusters. La Monte Young is labeled as one of its early originators.

Illbient: This one originated in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New york. Made up of two words (ill and ambient); this was labeled as an iconoclastic music by the famous artist DJ Olive. Isolationism: Spun on the foundation of repetition, dissonance and microtonality, Isolationist music aims at creating a desolate mood for the listener.

7) Downtempo

1961 5 (September 14)) Down Beat magazine cover

Downtempo or Downbeat is another genre of Electronic Dance Music which is quite similar to Ambient Music. So it’s just Ambient basically with a nice beat and groove. The drum pattern and the tempo oft mark two from each other. Unlike the therapeutic essence of ambient Downbeat is a chill out music form which is sensual with a romantic feel to it thus it is a preferred mood steer for dance parties and cafes. Downtempo music first emerged in Ibiza when the all night parties and frolics would continue till the break of dawn. By the time many party goers would lazed about or prefer a slow romantic music. So the DJs would comply with the demands and the mood and slow down the tempo or the vibe.

In 1980s this traveled to Bristol and they turned in in what came to be known as trip hop which was mash up f hip-hop, ambient, drum and bass with a comparatively slower tempo. The Austrian duo Kruder and Dorfmeister are held responsible for the popularization of this particular style with their remixes in the late 1990s leading to the resurrection of Downtempo music. While the main artists are; Lemon Jelly, Smoke city, Fllume, Funki Porcini, Zero 7 and The xx, the genre has six main categories

Acid Jazz: a mash up of jazz, funk and hip-hop with the notable loop beats. Originating from United Kingdom throughout the period of 80’s and 90’s through musicians like Roy Ayers, Asha Puthli and Donaly Byrd.

Chill out Music: is remarkable distinguished from its mellow style and mid-tempo beats. Labeled as lounge music and mood-setter it certainly belongs to your chill out music playlist.

Ethnic Electronica: is one of the best fusion style music genres. It encompasses the world music and fuses it with the electronic music. Ethno Techno artist include Deep Forest, Praise, Zingaia and the artists of Asian underground movement.

New Age Music: though it the name sounds like the New wave music but that is something completely un-relatable. It is the closest downtempo can get to therapeutic ambient genres and thus ambient and new age is interchangeably used for stress management.

Nu Jazz: When the jazz and electronic gets together we get Nu jazz or Jazztronica also known as Phusion. Basically Nu jazz is to jazz what punk was to rock.

Trip Hop: Trip hop is extremely experimental. It blurs the line between ambient, hip hop, soul, funk and jazz. Björk and Dido Armstrong are two most famous artists that use Trip hop in their music.

6) Industrial


Industrial music is intrinsically transgressive and provocative. It is the sweet child of Rock and Electronica. It was the clamor that change required and thus the harshest and the noisiest blend of the two most aggressive music styles was created. The writers claimed to encompass everything that was synonym to controversy be it the serial killers, occults or fascism. Writers and Philosophers like William Burroughs and Nietzsche were preached by the followers of this genre. Frank Zappa, John Cage and Jimi Hendrix and deemed to be the most influential figures for Industrial music.

The contemporary artists which draw from industrial music are Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. Although, it was the German Band Kraftwerk (formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider), that really popularized Industrial. They incorporated it in their Electronica styled music. Industrial was originally created using audio samples from mechanical and electronic machinery; hence the term industrial was coined. The main sub genres of Industrial are

  • Aggrotech
  • Cybergrind
  • Electro-Industrial
  • Dark electro
  • Electronic body music
  • Futurepop
  • Industrial metal
  • Industrial rock
  • Neue Deutsche Härte
  • Japanoise
  • Power electronics
  • Death industrial
  • Power noise
  • Witch house/Drag

5) Electrorock


Electrorock is also known as synthrock or digital rock. Electronic rock is basically a less aggressive form of Industrial based on the fusion or rock and electronica. The Electrorock emerged in late 1960s when more high-end electronic musical instruments hit the market notable the theremin and mellotron. However it drastically changed with the first commercial Moog synthesizer in 1964 commissioned by the Alwin Nikolais Dance theatre of New York thus ushering the Electrorock into contemporary Electronic Dance Music scene. Unlike other genres Electrorock is classified through the years.  

1960s were Psychedelic rock with those small guitar stomp boxes, distorted and overdrive guitar effects and of course the Mellotron, which was used by Mike Pinder and The Beatles (remember the Strawberry Fields Forever in 1967?)

1970s was the decade of Progressive Rock and Krautrock. Kraftwerk especially has such an influence on the Electronic scene that he even popularized Industrial theme in it. Some of the traditional rock artists remained skeptical of the idea of fusing electronic with rock. Nevertheless it was inevitable.

1980s was about New Wave Music and Synthpop with its ties to original wave of punk rock. New Wave Music was declared a genre of its own with aspects such and electronic and experimental also the mod subculture, Disco and pop music of 60s. The development of digital audio catered to the needs of Synthpop musicians. Devo, John Foxx, Gary Numan and Ultravox were one of the early artists to have incorporated the Synthpop style.

1990s brought Big beat and Industrial Rock (see point5) to the scene. Big beats fused old-school party breaks in there style thus giving it a vintage pop touch. Fat Boy slim, The prodigy and The chemical Brothers are a few noted British act in this genre. The famous band Nine Inch Nails and industrial musicians like Foetus and Coil made their mark in Industrial Rock

21st century with the heightened technological advancement and in the onset of high-end technology it became possible to create better quality music and thus the Indietonica, Dance-Punk and Electronicore became popular. Lani Puna, Justice, Ratata and the Postal service are some renowned contemporary artists of this genre.

4) Dub


If you think dub is overrated then you’d find me retreat into sullen silence as I let a Spinnaker do the talking. Dub found inspiration in Reggae music as a result it took more than 2 decades to gain an identity of its own as an individual genre. Pioneered by King Tubby, Scratch and Errol Thompson Dub have come a long way influencing other genres especially Rock (before you get offended I should probably add Punk and Post-Punk to it), disco, hip hop, techno and ambient. Bass, drums, guitar and organ were four pillars dub stood on until the technology kicked in and then the U.K garage sub-genre Dubstep took over while the original Jamaican Dub did a beating retreat.

Dubstep developed in the late 90s inheriting a united legacy of Dub, reggae, drum and bass jungle. The earlier tracks were on the opposite of what we know today as dubstep. It wasn’t until 2003 with the musical endeavors of John Peel that the contemporary was introduced to the world. With a tempo of 138 to 142 BPM dubstep rhythms incorporates tuplets and are often syncopated. The main Dubstep genres are (note that it’s Dubstep genre and not Dub music genre. Dub music genre includes Afro-Dub, Dubstep and Dubtronica or tech dub)

Brostep:  Need I yell out “Skrillex” to you. It’s true they consider him the Justin Beiber of Dubstep. But he surely is the lead guy of Brostep. The genre itself is disputed as the purist ‘dubstep’ do not consider brostep a qualitative genre of Dubstep. I’d say tune into Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites and decide for yourself. I am not going to loom large and try to influence you.

Post-dubstep: maintain some aspects of original dubstep music. Fantastic Fox, James Blake and Mount Kimbie can qualify post-dubstep artist with we are new here.

Trap and Wonky are two other sub genres of Dubstep.

3) Techno


Techno came from Detroit Michigan. Yes the very same Detroit which recently filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in the history of United States of America. The Belleville Three experimented with electronic music during their stint at Belleville high. Juan, Kevin and Derrick were thus the first influence on what came to be labeled as the foundation of techno, The Detroit Techno. Kraftwerk especially have had a key role in popularizing techno. It is a dystopian genre which found a foothold in the grim milieu of recession sacked Detroit in the late 80s. Alvin Toffler, the famous writer and futurist, first used the word techno rebels in his write ‘The Third Wave’ which Juan Atkins cites to have influenced him in christening this genre. The main sub genres are;

Acid techno: Roland is to Techno what Romeo is to Juliet. TR-909 and TR808 for mean percussions and TB 303 for heart pounding bass. Acid Techno found camaraderie with the Chicago Acid House. The popular artists are Plastikman, Mike Ink, Jon the Dentist and Spiral Tribe.

Detroit techno: the first and thus, the Traditional form of techno, brainchild of the Belleville Three.  Blake Baxter, Stacey Pullen, Drexciya, Octave One and Moodyman are some of the polar Detroit techno artist.

Ghettotech: is remarkable raw with techno, hip-hop and glitch style. The lyrics are pornographic and the BPM is actually faster to be qualified as Dance music.

Minimal techno: is the minimalist sub-genre of Techno, which makes it comparatively a stripped down beauty of pure Techno. BPitch, Cocoon Recordings and Kompakt are some renowned minimal techno recording labels.

Nortec: is the Mexican style techno, which uses traditional Mexican music, the likes of Norteño and Sinaloaense.

Schranz: is the European addition to the Techno styles. It was experiment with in 1994 by Chirs Liebing and The Advent.

Symphonic techno: if you like Ambient with a distinct drum and bass style before fading into techno with a tinge of progressive rock. Try Symphonic Tech or Symphonic acid. AQi Fzono, Jesper Kyd and Hybrid had just the same thought as you

Techno brega: Brazil!! Techno brega also called the cheesy techno is the northern Brazilian note.

2) Trance


Call me biased for putting this on third spot and I’ll just share my toke with you and l give you 99 reasons as to why it is here, the exception can have the last one.  Developed in Germany (Danke Deutschland) in the 1990s, it is the most encompassing genre of all, it may include elements of other distinctive styles of Electronic Dance Music mainly Techno, House, Pop, Classical and even Film music. Trance is synonym with ‘High’ and ‘Euphoria’. It gives an emotional rush to its listeners and uplifts their mood. The distinct characteristics of Trance Music are the breaks between the orchestrations in these subtle silences the listener can linger for a while as the fading in rhythms overwhelms him again. They can last anywhere from a few second upto a few minutes. Another feature is the female vocals in the ambits of Soprano and mezzo soprano (half soprano) which Erik Hawkins, who is an industry pro, describes as “ethereal female leads floating amongst the synth” in his book The Complete Guide to Remixing. The major genres of Trance Music are

Acid trance: The acid sound is basically the Roland TB-303, which can totally be said to have defined this genre of Electronic Dance Music. This showcases in Belgium at the Antwerp Rave 24. The most notable artists are Art of Trance, Nostrum, Hardfloor and Union Jack.

Dark trance: it is basically a mix of Psychdelic. Goa and Techno at an unbelievable tempo of 150 BMP it can easily go up to 190.

Dream trance:  It is known to have been an influential factor in house music. Originated in Italy the instruments used are Synth, Sequencer, Piano, Keyboard and Sampler. Artist that have used Dream Trance are Hans Zimmer, Imperio, Zhi-Vago, Robert Miles and Nylon Moon. Infected Mushroom’s emergent music was influenced by Dream trance as well.

Electrance: House and Trance go hand in hand to drive the listeners in a parallel world. It’s a combination of electro house and modern trance

Goa trance: Goa trance well originated in Goa in the 80s because it was the hippie capital of India. It is the closest music has gotten close to recreation drugs. The core group which came up with this music was influenced by EBM-groups and development it along with their other pursuits which included Yoga and experimenting with bodily transcendence, the music was originally intended to help one attain and assist shamanic rituals.

Hard trance: originated in Western Europe (BeNe German Descendant) is identified by hard kicks, resonant basses and reverberation.

Ibiza Trance: It is also known as Balearic Trance due to the Balearic beats. If there was world rave capital Ibiza would totally be it and the headquarters will surely be on Balearic Island. It is a cross between Italo House and Deep house influenced by slow R&B beats.

Psychedelic trance: They call it Psy (nope not that Horse Riding gentleman) it is derived from the greek word psyche or mind (soul). It is the most hypnotic and trippiest trance genre which includes Dark psytrance, full on, Progressive psytrance, Psybreaks and Suomisaundi. Lend a bit of your soul to the mystery of Yeti by Raja Ram, Radio by X-Dream and last but a personal favorite by Astral Projection.

1) House


I do not really believe that one article and one point suffice the aspects of house music. Let just say that no other Electronic Dance Music can compare the list of sub, fusion and regional genres of House Music. It came from the city of Chicago in early 1980s and spread to Detroit, San Fran, Miami and London. Thus it ended up influencing and often weaving the foundation of all other Dance Music genres. The signature repetitive 4/4 beats the hi-hat cymbals and synthesized basslines. Madonna, Kanye West and C+C music factory is known to have incorporated House music genre in their work distinctively. Samplers, Sequencer, Drum machine and turn tables are some basic House instruments.

There are more than 20 main sub genres of House Music;

Chicago House: It was the first ever house production in the mid-1980s. After the official death day of Disco (see point 9), the DJs experimenting with house music kept Disco alive by incorporating it in their music. The 80s and 90s were the decades of experimenting when people didn’t feel the need of following the music that they were being served by the popular recording labels. In a subtle way House Music marked the democratization of Music when people took to creating their own music by fusing the genres they liked (it is a disputed hypotheses though) in their own house. The non-commercial success the house music genres garnered were like a Launchpad for independent DJs to experiment with their own distinct style.

Detroit Techno: The 80s were pretty harsh on Detroit and when listeners didn’t have money to splurge on recording labels they welcome the free style music with attentive ears. The Belleville three (see point 3) picked up the genre and the line between Detroit techno and house was beautifully merged.

Euro House: Also known as euro-NRG originated in Europe in the late 80s. It has distinctive elements of Trance and Techno  

Electrolash and Electro house: Synth core or tech pop (electrolash) is a fusion of electro and new wave Synthpop (see point 5). The most famous electrolash songs are Silver screen shower scene, Emerge, set it off, Sunglasses at night and Rippin Kittin. Electro House is the big brother of Electrolash it includes pop, tech house and Synthpop. The famous contemporary artists are Deadmau5, Porter Robinson and Wolfgang Gartner.


  Phew! Before I end, you purist can direct all your angry mails at me though do no understate the fact that only humans are prone to mistakes. And if you find this list useful and use it somewhere kindly cite the site (and me…maybe)  because it took me a memorable week to compile it.


5 Responses

  1. Michael Deitrick

    December 22, 2013 1:57 am

    This has got to be the most misinformed list I’ve ever read. “EDM” stands for Electronic Dance Music but is NEVER used that way. This is a term created by teenie-bopper idiots to encompass music genres that ALREADY are covered under TECHNO (a term started in 1988, by the way). People are afraid to say “techno” or will argue that what they like technically isn’t techno for whatever reason. Guess what? If it’s not techno of SOME SORT, then it’s NOT EDM.

    • august snyder

      January 6, 2016 1:40 pm

      techno is it own genre its not a blanket term for all electronic u idiot. edm is the correct term for all electronica. just cause techno is one of the oldest doesn’t mean all edm deprived from it.

  2. Den Moortreck

    June 2, 2014 1:40 am

    Dimple Negi, all your work is barely comprehensible – it’s littered with poor English and simple factual inaccuracies. You must do better than this!

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