As the name would suggest, electronic dance music is centred around dancing and producing music that is heavily rhythmic and can be played in clubs or at social events. The genre links back to elements that were present in 70’s pop and disco music however, it wasn’t until the 80s with the advent of machines such as the Roland TR-808, that DJ’s pioneered forms of EDM.


House music has firm roots in disco music and emerged from the Chicago club culture of the late 70s. Following the decline of the once immensely popular disco music style, DJs had to play and mix records via the underground club scene. Two notable artists were Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy who were operating in Chicago and were innovating a new sound. Unlike other dance music DJ’s who were playing conventional playlists, these artists were leading a wave of DJs creating unconventional mixes of early disco and other styles, whilst using synths, drum machines and tape players to create new tracks. By the mid-80s house was starting to emerge as a genre and Jesse Saunders’ On and On (1984) can be seen as one of the first definitive house records. From the mid-80s more DJs began exploring this sound and various Chicago DJs were producing their own tracks. House became more popular and reached a wider audience, leading to derivative genres such as deep house, electro house and acid house. House music is characterised by a uniform four-on-the-floor beat as well as off-beat hi-hats and a snare backbeat. The music is typically around 120 bpm and a big part of the sound is the use of iconic drum machines such as the Roland TR-808 and synthetiser melodies. 

Notable artists:

Frankie Knuckles

Ron Hardy

Jesse Saunders

Larry Heard

Marshall Jefferson

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Techno developed in the late 1980s and 1990s and is heavily influenced by German electro-pop acts such as Kraftwerk who had a large impact on the genre. Despite this European influence however, it was in the American cities of New York, Chicago and Detroit where techno came to fruition as a significant genre. German bands such as Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, as well as the Italian artist Giorgio Moroder, pioneered the use of synthesisers over repetitive drum and bass parts. In Detroit, DJ Juan Atkins was borrowing from these influences to pioneer the sound of a more futuristic, clean Detroit. By the late 80s, Atkins, along with Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, had formed the Belleville Three. They developed the sound of Detroit techno and in 1985 Atkins released one of the primary definitive techno tracks, No UFO’s. This sound became more popular which caught on especially around Europe in the 80s and 90s. Kevin Saunderson’s Big City and Good Life were highly successful around the world and launched techno out of the underground. The techno sound began to be adopted around the world and this spawned various subgenres. Techno can typically be identified by the use of early synthesisers and drum machines such as the Korg SQD1 and Roland TB-303 which will be used to create a repeating bassline and drum pattern, over which a synth melody or sample may be added. The music is also around 120-150 bpm and in a simple 4/4 time signature.

Notable artists:

Juan Atkins

Derrick May

Kevin Saunderson

Carl Craig

John Collins


German DJs first showed signs of elements that would later be fundamental to trance music as early as the late 80s when they were experimenting with electronic and psychedelic sounds. The influence of Detroit techno in these years was incorporated into the sound, combining the techno foundation with mind-altering sound. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall the city’s underground club scene exploded and trance music became very popular. The record label Masterminded For Success (MFS) released one of the original trance compilations, Tranceformed From Beyond in 1992. Paul Van Dyk and Sven Väth helped massively popularise the genre with Van Dyk’s For An Angel and his remix of Love Stimulation becoming highly successful. Frankfurt also established itself as a hub of trance music, with Jam & Spoon’s remix of The Age of Love reaching the charts. This growing success made trance recognised around Europe, moving it out of the underground and into main dance clubs. Trance is recognisable through its emphasis on the build-up, climax, and breakdown song structure, creating a euphoric sense of tension and release. The music is typically around 125-150 bpm and is in 4/4 time. There is commonly a repeated synth melody over the drum and bass parts which is treated with effects such as reverb or delay. The overall aim is to create a trance-like, mind-altering sound that puts the listener in a state of euphoria.

Notable artists:

DJ Armin van Buuren

Paul Van Dyk


Sven Väth

Drum and Bass

Drum and bass developed out of the UK rave scene in the 1990s. Before drum and bass’ inception, breakbeat hardcore was dominating the scene with its fusion of hip-hop beats and sampling. This led to other genres such as Jamaican-based jungle music however artists began to depart from this by focusing more on creating tracks that combined basslines and breakbeats (a repeated, often syncopated drumbeat) at a high tempo. Whilst still rooted in jungle, artists such as Goldie laid the groundworks for drum and bass with tracks such as Terminator (1992). By the mid 90s the record label Metalheadz were advancing a harder, more ominous sound with their Sunday Sessions. 1995 saw Goldie’s debut album Timeless which achieved widespread success. As drum and bass entered the mainstream, various offshoot genres emerged, and drum and bass extended its impact. Drum and bass is typically at a fast tempo of around 160-180 bpm and relies heavily on syncopated breakbeats. As the name would suggest, as well as emphasising the drumbeat, the bassline is very important in drum and bass and is often created from a sampled Roland TR-808. Sub-bass patters are prevalent and very heavy, with the intention of being felt through a powerful sound system. You might also hear atmospheric synth melodies or melodic vocal lines.

Notable artists:


Andy C

Doc Scott

Shy FX



Dubstep originated in South London at the beginning of the millennia. The club night Forward at Soho’s The Velvet Rooms was very important to the development of dubstep as it hosted music that was less mainstream than what was being played at bigger raves. The Big Apple record shop in Croydon was also very significant. Arthur Smith (known as Artwork) had a studio above the shop and established a record label that would be sold in the shop. The Big Apple became a hub for electronic music enthusiasts; Mala and Coki of Digital Mystikz, EI-B and Zed Bias were all regulars. By 2003, the event Filthy Dub was giving a voice to artists such as Skream, Benga and Loefah who are all notable early dubstep pioneers. The dubstep scene started to gain prominence following a BBC radio 1 show entitled Dubstep Warz (2006) which took the genre out of the underground and gave the music a much wider audience. Burial’s self-titled album that year was also highly successful. By this point, dubstep was now appearing around the world with regular dubstep club nights and features at festivals. Dubstep can be characterised by syncopated rhythms and a snare or clap on the third beat of the bar. The music is typically around 130-140 bpm and you can often recognise the wobble or ‘wub’ bass. You might also hear a bass drop where the music momentarily cuts off or subdues before returning with renewed intensity. 

Notable artists:


Digital Mystikz