To the uninitiated, dance music genres can be very difficult to understand, indeed even intimidating at times. Dance music has progressed so fast in the last 100 years (mostly due to computer technology) and has thus brought thousands upon thousands of exotic musical names (such as Tech House) to the music scene. Although the dance music scene has declined in popularity in the last few years (mostly due to rock music making a big comeback), the number of genres and subgenres just keep on growing. With these articles, I will attempt to present some definitions of dance music genres that will be (at least partially) understandable.
The techno genre houses many of the subgenres of mainstream dance music, including rave and trance. Techno is also a subgenre itself in this category.
Techno music is mainly produced by using computers and computerised sounds. It places a lot of emphasis on melodic composition1 to make a collage of musical ideas with computer generated sounds. It is usually made without vocals2, and the music generally sounds edgy and ’cool’. The subgenre is not really very distinct from its fellow subgenres (especially trance), which makes it quite difficult to describe. If you’ve heard it, though, you’ll know what it is. Techno artists include Chicane (Don’t Give Up) and, in very, very loose terms, Dane Bowers (Out Of Your Mind). Please don’t listen to the latter, as it is mainly an exercise in how not to produce good Techno music.
This is a very futuristic style of techno, mostly due to its wide, panoramic3 sound effects to create a very diverse musical atmosphere. It uses simple drumbeats and complex melodies (whose tones are made to sound like synthesised strings). This makes the music of this genre attain an almost orchestral style. The music almost always has vocals, which are used to emphasise and put words to the emotional sequences4 created by the melodic lines. Trance artists include the famous DJ Sammy (Heaven) and N-Trance (Set You Free).
Drum & Bass
Drum & Bass uses very fast paced drum samples (usually above 160 bpm5) spliced with bass lines at half this speed. They also contain some very weird tunes, vocals and/or effects, to create atmospheric but slightly strange tracks. Due to the nature of Drum & Bass, its artists don’t usually break through into the mainstream6 (which is a shame), but notable artists that have done so (in the face of adversity) include Kosheen (Hungry) and recently, Mr. Reds (Everybody Come On [Can U Feel It], with the Stanton Warriors).
This music is really built on the culture surrounding it, but is usually classed as a musical genre as well. It’s also one of the more difficult genres to create good tracks within; it’s very rare that you get perfect rave tracks, and sometimes they don’t sound very good at all (early Prodigy typifies this). However, the best Rave music can be found on the album Music for the Jilted Generation by The Prodigy. Most Rave music has fast and furious (but very catchy) drumbeats, dark and distorted7 tunes and edgy lyrics.
A mixture between cool Techno and funky House. Simple really. It involves the beat and basslines of House with the spacey sound effects and synths8 of Techno. The classic, yet strangely irritating Flat Beat by Mr Oizo typifies this (the one on the Levi’s advert with the yellow puppet), and current artists Layo & Bushwacka (Love Story) continue developing music in this hybrid genre.
Coming Soon – House music genres