Electronic dance music, also called just electronic dance music, party music, or just dancing music, is an expansive collection of percussive, electronic sound tracks designed primarily for clubs, raves, and parties. Dubbed the ‘new school’ of electronic music because it was born from a mindset associated with the roots of modern club culture – house, trance, techno, breakcore, and hip hop – electronic dance music continues to evolve and grow into today’s club scene. Despite this, it still retains a fairly large underground following – in contrast to, say, rap and hip hop that have very steep popularity drops. This article aims to discuss electronic dance music from a mainstream perspective – to provide a broad view of the genre and analyze its influence on the club scene today.
Electronic dance music often has a heavy, distorted, dubstep-type vibe. The reason for this is obvious – take a listen to some modern day DJ’s and you’ll hear the same underlying structure and basic elements repeated over again. Although the producer may alter the tempo, tone, and tempo variations, the core elements will remain. Most likely, the producer uses reverb, delay, and distortion on the main loop of the track, as well as adding other subtle effects. A popular form of distortion is the reverse heard in hip hop and breakcore. Other common electronic dance music effects are compression, octave division, compression, limiting, fades, and tremolo.
While electronic dance music was once considered to be rather ‘out there,’ it is now widely accepted and produced by many mainstream dance producers. However, its main focus is typically on drum machines and samplers, as well as having more experimental tendencies. In recent years, dance artists have been drawn to this genre due to the growth of non-mainstream dance styles.
One of the most recognizable characteristic of electronic dance music is the use of samplers, which play back a sequence of audio on a piano or other electronic instrument. In fact, this very feature is what separates electronic dance from other forms of popular music. For example, rock songs generally only use drum samples. Dance samples are common in electronic dance music. Sampling and playing back a sequence of audio is often done with the use of audio manipulation programs. In electronic dance music this can include things such as pitch shifting, playing with time, and other manipulatives that produce completely new sounds.
One of the biggest influences of electronic dance music is drum programming. Originating in the early 1980s, drum programming has grown into one of the largest and most influential trends in electronic dance music. Programmers like tracker, techno, ambient, and even breakcore have all used this method to create unique sounds. While these programs were originally created to provide musical inspiration and build drum sets, they have now become integral parts of electronic dance tracks.
Many modern producers use complex programs in their electronic dance music. Programs such as Massive City, Prodigy, and others have helped to push the limits of electronic dance music. The sounds created by these programs are usually raw and unpolished. They often involve complex sampling techniques and other processing that can create some truly unique sounds.
One of the biggest characteristics of electronic dance tracks is the use of reverb. Reverb is often used to add atmosphere to a track. It can add depth and dimension to a mix, making it sound as though the listener is traveling through space or has inside the track. This is particularly useful for creating ‘funk’. Many modern producers who specialize in creating ‘funk’ tracks will often employ a powerful and aggressive reverb pedal.
One of the newest features introduced to electronic dance music is the ability to mix and match drum beats. Using drum samples from another source, the lead and support vocals can be added to a song. This technique is commonly referred to as ‘synthrap’. The use of this technique is on the rise, as many producers attempt to differentiate their music from traditional dance tracks.