EDM Deciphered: A Breakdown of Electronic Music Genres

Zeds Dead by Ashlee Czapla


‘EDM’ is an umbrella term used for electronic dance music that is quite frankly a bit outdated. Over the past few decades and especially in recent years, this style of music has grown tremendously in popularity and has erupted into a sea sub-genres each with their own unique sounds and fanbases. Sometimes being able to differentiate between these genres (especially verbally) can be a bit of a challenge, so we have put together this cheat sheet on some of today’s top EDM genres for you.

Chill Wave

Chill wave is a whimsical throwback to 1980s electro-hop. This lo-fi genre takes a twist on bedroom pop and gives it a splash of dreamy synthesizers and retro sound effects. Chill wave artists to check out include Neon Indian, Purity Ring, Toro y Moi and XXYYXX.


House music originated in the Chicago warehouse scene after the disco-era. This music features a four-to-the-floor kick drum beat layered with electronic effects, synthesizers and samples. House music is common in the club and bar scene, as well as festivals like Spring Awakening, Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival. Some of today’s top house DJs and producers include Calvin Harris, Kaskade, Green Velvet and Disclosure.


Downtempo can be equated to ambient music with a hypnotic rhythm. Downtempo music is sultry and relaxing, and weaves minimalist vocals over soothing sounds and lullaby-like beats. This genre is perfect for chill and sexy time, so put on some Emancipator, Gramatik or Thievery Corporation the next time you’re trying to set the mood.

Drum and Bass

Unsk. Unsk. Unsk. Drum and bass, commonly abbreviated to d&b or DnB, is a genre of electronic music that formed in the UK rave scene around the mid-1990s. While this genre remained somewhat underground until the mid-2000s, it has grown largely in popularity since. DnB consists of heavy basslines, fast-tempo breakbeats and synthesizers. To get your DnB fix, check out Nero, Noisia and Sub Focus.


Dubstep is another umbrella term which is inaccurately applied to a variety of EDM sub-genres. Dub is actually an experimental form of music with Jamaican roots from the 1960s and 1970s. Dub describes the disassembly of other recordings which are then re-layered and restructured into a repetitive beat. The tell-tale signs of a dubstep track are heavy bass lines and fragmented beats, which are staples in music by Illenium, 12th Planet and Koan Sound.

Illenium by Ashlee Czapla

Illenium by Ashlee Czapla

Future bass

Future bass is another genre that has emerged out of the UK. Future bass is characterized by square waves, synthesizers and samples from all the sounds of life. The Rolling Stone even recently named future bass as the EDM’s sound of 2017. Some up-and-coming future bass artists that are worth a listen are Cashmere Cat, Lido and Louis the Child.  


Funkstep is everything that is good and right with this world. This genre cleverly mixes dubstep, bass and funky house to create a non-stop feel good jive. Most funkstep starts off with bass-like drums and a dubstep vibe, which then bridges into a more complicated house beat. GRiZ is a producer who is currently stealing the show in the funkstep scene. Alongside GRiZ is the equally talented Big Gigantic, Pretty Lights and The Funk Hunters.

Griz by Ashlee Czapla

Griz by Ashlee Czapla

Glitch Hop

Glitch hop is another EDM subgenre that has a steadily growing audience base. Glitch hop features auditory distortions such as scratches, crashes and skips. These distortions are usually composed in a way that complements a 110 BPM rhythm. If you’ve got an itch for glitch, then you should definitely explore the music stylings of The Glitch Mob, Opiuo and Tipper.  


The origins of techno music can be traced back to the 1980s in Detroit, Michigan. Techno music is the love child of Chicago funk, house, electro jazz and sounds of the future. Techno music has its own list of sub-genres too, from trance to acid techno to hardstyle and beyond. You know you’re listening to techno music when there is a repetitive instrumental rhythm in common time (4/4) and is usually between 120 and 150 BPM.

Trying to get your techno on? Then put on some Aphex Twin,  Carl Cox or Claude VonStroke.


This list only begins to scratch the surface of the different types of electronic music that is out there. To stay up to date with all of the genres under the sun, like our Facebook page and follow the Inside Out Presents blog for new releases and show announcements in Austin, Denver and Fayetteville, AR.



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