If you are wondering, “what is electro music,” it is a genre that relates to electronic music. It often borrows heavily from house and techno but has unique elements that set it apart. Here is everything you need to know about electro music.
Definition: What Is Electro Music?
Electro is electronic music born of funk, hip-hop, disco, and synth-pop. The sound typically makes heavy use of sine waves, offbeat rhythms, and a relatively fast tempo (usually between 120 and 150 bpm).
While electro differs in terms of drum machine sounds and styles, it shares many other characteristics with techno, especially regarding repetitive rhythms and loops.
Electro is typically faster than house music and often features more aggressive basslines. The definition of electro music also applies in the context of “electrifying” or “grooving” up a song.
Electro Music Characteristics
A distinctive feature of electro music is its clearly defined structure, making it easy to follow and understand. The structure of electro music consists of a series of different elements connected in a way that they form an overall pattern.
The Use of Synthesizers and Drum Machines
Songs that use synthesizers and Roland TR 808 drums fit the definition of electro music. Since these instruments could make any sound imaginable, producers were free to experiment. This artistic freedom led to many innovations in popular music, including sampling, live looping, and scratching, which are all still in use today.
The Use of Distorted Drums
In addition to synthesizers, electro music often features distorted drums played through large speakers. These distorted drums give the genre its characteristic aggressive sound, often described as “industrial strength” by some critics. It makes them sound even louder than they already are.
Vocals by Female Singers
In the beginning, most electro artists were male DJs and singers. However, today, the number of female singers is higher. This trend is because there are more female singers than male DJs and many electro songs feature lyrics about love and relationships – which attract women.
The tapping beat has become an integral part of pop culture worldwide, especially among youth subcultures like hip hop or techno music listeners and dancers. Electro music features tapping beats and is usually fast-paced, although it can sometimes be slower. The beats are usually short but intense.
Rhythmic Handclaps or Clicks
Electro music often includes rhythmic handclaps or clicks. This beat is more common in dance music, but it has been virtually used in every genre of music, from pop to hip hop.
Keyboard basslines give electro music a deep, rich sound. Many electro songs use deep synthesizer bass lines created using synthesizers with multiple oscillators. These oscillators can produce different pitches at different times and give the song a fuller, deeper sound.
Modulation is a type of signal processing popular in electro music. It alters the frequency content of a sound by emphasizing or de-emphasizing particular frequency components. Modulation is not tremolo- the latter modulates amplitude rather than frequency.
Modulation effects such as phasers use a series of all-pass filters to create a complex modulation signal applied to an audio signal in parallel. In contrast, the chorus effect has multiple delay lines modulated by envelope controls.
7 Song Examples of Electro Music
In the past few years, electro music has had a resurgence in popularity. Artists like Skrillex, Deadmau5, and Calvin Harris have incorporated elements of this iconic genre into their unique styles.
Here are the best examples of electro music:
1. Quivering In Time by Eris Drew
The music of Eris Drew fits the electro music definition. She records, mixes, and masters all of her work in her home studio and uses whatever sounds she finds around her to make music.
This song has a distinctly electronic sound with a heavy beat reminiscent of 80s pop-rock songs like “I Melt With You” by Modern English. The song starts with a high-pitched synth that sounds like it could be from a video game. It then quickly transitions into a distorted guitar riff followed by drums and bass.
2. One More Time by Daft Punk
If you want to know what electro music is, consider listening to Daft Punk. They released One More Time as the second single from their debut album Homework on October 14, 1997. The song's title refers to the phrase “re-wind,” featured in its chorus. The song reached number three on the United States dance chart and remained one of their most popular songs.
A remix by Paul Oakenfold was the theme song of the film Tron: Legacy. The track also features in the video game DJ Hero 2, along with other Daft Punk hits.
3. Limitless by Martin Garrix & Mesto
The song Limitless by Martin Garrix & Mesto came out in 2016 as part of Garrix's debut album Seven (the album's title track).
Garrix wrote the song along with his friend Julian Jordan, with additional writing from Kyle Pearce and Mesto.
The song features vocals from Adrien Toma, who performs under the stage name Mesto (which means “biggest”).
4. When I'm Gone by Alesso & Katy Perry
In “When I'm Gone,” Katy Perry sings about losing her love. The song is part of her third studio album, Teenage Dream (2010). Kesha Sebert, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, and Bonnie McKee were the composers.
Dr. Luke and Max Martin handled production for the song that came out on March 22, 2011, as the album's sixth single.
“When I'm Gone” is an electro-pop sound with elements of synth-pop. The lyrics talk about how one party can make things better for another person when they are gone from their lives. It generally received positive reviews from music critics praising Perry's vocals and catchiness.
5. Follow by Martin Garrix & Zedd
The song features a deep house beat with progressive and electro-house elements. It has been a favorite of DJs in clubs worldwide, including Tiesto, who played it at Tomorrowland in Belgium.
The song features an impressive list of features: Vicetone, Halsey, Troye Sivan, and more. The song was written by artists Andrew Watt, Alex James Henry, and Mattias Lindblom (known collectively as Grey).
6. High by The Chainsmokers
“High” is a song by American electronic music band The Chainsmokers, featuring guest vocals from American singer and songwriter Emily Warren. It came out on March 1, 2019, through Disruptor Records and Columbia Records as the lead single from their second studio album, “Sick Boy.”
The song marked the first time The Chainsmokers collaborated with a female vocalist since “Paris.” The latter features vocals from American singer-songwriter Charli XCX.
The Chainsmokers released the official music video for “High” on April 4, 2019, on YouTube. In the video, The Chainsmokers perform in an underground club while dancers perform choreography. It was directed by Zev Deans and produced by Matthew Komo of the Creative Artists Agency (CAA).
7. Behind The Sun by ODESZA
Innocence is the third track from ODESZA's sophomore album “In Return' which came out in September 2014. It is a theme song on shows such as Californication, Shameless, and How To Get Away With Murder.
In January 2016, Behind The Sun was the theme song for Marvel's Luke Cage. The song reached #1 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart and #1 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Digital Songs sales chart.
5 Top Electro Musicians
The electro-music scene is among the most interesting and diverse in all electronic music. From the early days of house, techno, and industrial to newer genres like dubstep and drum n' bass, electro has always been a force to be reckoned with.
Here are five top electro musicians you should know about:
1. Daft Punk
Daft Punk, a French electro music duo, was formed in 1993, led by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. The duo was from 1996 to 2008 under management by Pedro Winter (Busy P), the head of Ed Banger Records. He also acted as the duo's musical mentor and occasionally produced tracks for them.
The band's debut album, Homework, was released by Virgin Records in 1997 to highly positive reviews. The 2001 follow-up Discovery was even more successful, driven by the release of the hit singles “One More Time,” “Digital Love,” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.”
In March 2005, Daft Punk released their third album, Human After All, to mixed reviews. However, the singles “Robot Rock” and “Technologic” succeeded in the United Kingdom.
2. The Prodigy
The Prodigy is an English electronic music group from Braintree, Essex. The band comprises vocalist and songwriter Keith Flint and instrumentalists Liam Howlett, Keith Flint (until his death), and Maxim Reality.
The Prodigy first gained fame in the early 1990s as a pioneer of the big beat genre. The big beat involved aggressive rave synths, heavy drums, and breakbeats. Their 2001 singles “Smack My B Up” and “Firestarter” reached number one on the Billboard dance chart. The band's success continued with their 2000 album, The Fat of the Land, which reached number one in sixteen countries, including the UK, US, Canada, and Australia.
Radiohead is one of the most innovative and influential bands in history. They're known for their experimental approach to music and have been at the forefront of popularizing genres like alternative rock and electronic music.
The band formed in 1985, but their first major hit didn't come until their third album, OK Computer, was released in 1997. The album was a big success and took the band to new heights of popularity.
After OK Computer, Radiohead released Kid A and Amnesiac in 2000. They peaked at number one on Billboard's Top 200 chart, with Kid A earning a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
Kraftwerk is a German electronic music band formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970 in Düsseldorf. The band's leads were Hütter and Schneider until Schneider's departure in 2008. The musical style of Kraftwerk is an experimental approach to music and lyrics and the complete absence of vocals in their work.
Zedd, born Anton Zaslavski, is an electro house artist and producer from Germany. His 2012 album Clarity, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, helped him garner international fame. He has won a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording for “Clarity” and a Billboard Music Award for Top Dance/Electronic Artist.
Zedd's latest album, True Colors, came out in May 2018 and featured artists like Logic, Hailee Steinfeld, and Alessia Cara. He also recently collaborated with Elley Duhé on her song “Happy Now,” which came out in June 2018.
A Brief History of Electro Music
Experts have described electro as an ultra-modern danceable electronic pop and an alternative to traditional rock music. Like everything great, this sound has a rich history and humble beginnings.
In the 1970s, electronic dance music started to make songs using synthesizers, drum machines, sequencers, and samplers. At the time, disco was at its height, and a new form of music began to emerge.
The first recording using an electronic drum machine was by Lipps Inc. in 1979, with their song “Funkytown.” This song also featured a synthesized bassline. Other popular producers of the time included Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard, and Chip E.
The 80s saw electronic music techno rise, and ambient music became more popular. Artists like Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode used synthesizers and drum machines to create new sounds that would shape the future of music.
Afrika Bambaataa's electro-funk group Soulsonic Force perfected this approach. Their sound reflected their place in history as the children of the civil rights movement.
Following Kraftwerk's popular song “Trans Europe Express,” the new style was christened “techno music” in Chicago in 1986. In 1987, Detroit Techno began incorporating Chicago House elements. Following a series of parties called “The Warehouse” held at the former Chicago Warehouse Club (now The Shelter), this music was dubbed “House Music.”
The 90s and 2000s
By the late 90s, many DJs were combining their skills with their knowledge of computers to create new styles of electronic dance music, such as trance and big beat music.
These styles borrowed from techno but had much slower tempos, making them ideal for dancers on the floor instead of at-home listeners.
In the early 2000s, electro became a globally recognizable sound bigger than other forms of electronic dance music. The style featured deep basslines, catchy melodies, and bright synthesizers. Some of the most popular artists during this period included Daft Punk, Justice, and Felix Cartal.
What Is Electro Music? Final Thoughts
Electro music is an electronic music genre developed in the early 1980s. Today there are so many new talented DJs and producers coming out every day that it's hard to keep track of them all. The talent pool is growing every day, and there's no telling what kind of music we'll hear next!