The Differences Between Real Music and Electronic Dance Music

Categories: Dance

Is Electronic Music Real Music?

Some people call it techno. Others call it electro. Many of its listeners call it electronic dance music, or EDM. Regardless of what they may refer to it as, there are many individuals out there who claim that “electronic music isn’t real music.” Although I do respect everyone’s opinion, I think it’s just plain wrong to call electronic music “fake” whether you listen to it or not. Simply because dance music artists are talented too.

EDM possesses every factor that makes music what it is. Sure, it differentiates from the other categories of music people listen to, but so do rock, pop, country, and everything else. That’s why we classify them separately in the first place. There are lot of different reasons people have for considering music “good” or “real,” but out of every critic I’ve heard give their complaints, EDM has always fallen into their classification of real music, even though they don’t realize it.

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So what exactly is “music” in the first place? Well, the Webster’s Dictionary defines music as “the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.” In English, it’s basically the ordering and placement of sounds in such a fashion that they make a pattern. So technically, the basis of this essay’s entire argument at its most basic level is the simple fact that even though the sounds and beats heard in EDM are primarily artificial, they are still ordered in a melodic, unified fashion, making songs.

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Just because all the sounds in EDM aren’t produced by tangible instruments, doesn’t make them or the songs they are used to produce any less real, because every EDM song has a harmony, melody, chords, and bassline just like all other forms of music.

Technically speaking, there’s actually more steps to creating the sounds you hear in EDM versus a headbanging rock song or stereotypical pop song that repeats the same four chords for three and a half minutes. Consider that when Eddie Van Halen shreds his “Frankenstein” Stratocaster during the Eruption solo, all the sounds he strums out in that short minute already exist, they merely require the right strings to be strummed at the right note and tempo. When Skrillex produced the hardcore dubstep drop in his 2012 Grammy winning song, “First of the Year,” the industrial, Transformer like sounds that are heard didn’t even exist at first. He had to go into the production software he has downloaded on his computer hard drive and craft the different sounds and instruments themselves before he can even begin playing different notes from them. Inversely, he could also play the notes on a basic Midi Board and go back to add effects once the notes exist.

When rock bands record their songs, the band members each take turns playing their individual portions, and then mix the instrument and vocal sections together afterwards. Then they’re done. EDM musicians have to sit in front of their computer for hours just crafting sounds before they have the instruments they need to make a song. Plus, in most music, each instrument is played by a different person, whose contribution to the music are the chords from the specific instrument they handle. Because most EDM songs are produced by one person, the artists are solely responsible for every instrument used in the music. The synthesizers, the snare drums, the guitars, the horns. All of it.

What about the finished songs and the artists themselves? Do EDM and its ambassadors receive the kind of audience and recognition as say: Drake, Beyonce, or other popular artists? Well, for the latter part of 2015 and the majority of 2016, the most streamed song in Spotify’s entire library was the popular EDM single, Lean On, by the “Mad Decent” dance label’s Major Lazer and DJ Snake. In fact, until recently being surpassed by pop duo The Chainsmokers, it was the most streamed song of all time. Additionally, Major Lazer, DJ Snake, and others have all held the number one position on the iTunes charts at some point. Lean On was a number one hit. Frenchman DJ Snake had a second number one hit when he released Let Me Love You with his first album, “Encore.”

Although many out there don’t realize it, EDM has a huge following. I imagine there must be quite a few fans out there if Major Lazer can surpass 1 billion views on YouTube. Speaking of fans, EDM is the only genre of music whose fan base has been on the rise in the last five years, instead of a decline.

In a interview with Katie Couric, EDM pioneer and OWSLA record label owner Skrillex stated that “When something is different and unfamiliar, people are quick to bash it” when asked about the people who claim his music isn’t real or is “just a computer making noise.”

Another common and overly judgemental stereotype associated that people negatively associate with EDM in order to dismiss it is that “all the fans and artists are on drugs” Okay, first let’s shoot this down with the obvious. Every genre of music has been the host to a few drug addicted musicians. However, that’s always a select few, and never represents everyone in the spectrum. In his interview, Skrillex provided his own personal dismissal of this claim, stating that “I play over 300 shows a year worldwide. On top of that there’s flights and travel to get to them all, along with soundchecks and rehearsals. And of course I find time to make new music. You just can’t be on drugs and do what I do. It’s not possible.”

EDM doesn’t just earn the same achievements and accolades as other genres of music either. Being an EDM musician presents many of the same challenges as well. Many EDM artists, just like a lot of your favorite pop stars and rock musicians, came from small, average beginnings.

Skrillex is one of the biggest names in EDM and music in general. He started out as Sonny Moore, a bullied “emo” public school student who ended up running away from home to become the lead singer of From First To Last after discovering that he was adopted. The Los Angeles native traveled with the band for over five years until breaking up, upon which he started to produce his own solo material, which was more electronic in nature versus the music he played with his band.

Moore ended up pioneering a new genre of EDM called “Dubstep” which is in 4/4 time signature like most music, but is played at an average of 180 beats per minute and is very reliant on half rests in the beats. He would debut his new creation under the artist name “Skrillex,” which he has claimed is an old childhood nickname.

More recently, 19 year old musical prodigy Julian Scanlan (known as his stage name, Slushii) has taken the EDM world by storm. He was a high school student who was berated by friends, family, and classmates because they believed he would never become a professional musician. Unfortunately for them, Superstar mystery EDM producer Marshmello heard some of Slushii’s sounds and was immediately hooked. Two years and two collaborations later, Slushii has released countless singles and is signed to Skrillex’s OWSLA music label. Just like the horse poop scooper Blake Shelton and the hobo with a guitar known as Ace Frehley of Kiss, EDM has it’s fair share of rags to riches stories.

A lot of generalized music genres are divided and classified into sub-genres because certain groups and artists create or focus on certain styles instead of encompassing a broad spectrum. Some rock music fans are hardcore fans of metal bands like Disturbed or Metallica. Others may be more into punk bands like Green Day or Cheap Trick. EDM has little sub cliques like this too. Though I personally like it all, some people may care for “boots and pants beat” based house music like the works of deadmau5, Jauz, or Ghastly. Others may be more into hit hat and rattle heavy trap style music like the productions of Dillon Francis or DJ Snake. It all depends on the listener. There’s just simply a lot of sub-styles of EDM music that have given rise since people like Daft Punk and Joel Zimmerman began to really put the music style into the spotlight.

I’m having a hard time thinking of more comparisons, so I’ll just say that whatever I hear people try to list as reasons they think some music is real and some isn’t, just makes it all more similar than they may think. All music is produced under the same compositional formula. It’s just that there’s differences in the sound design depending on the genre. Plus, just because you personally may not like something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a following or achievements behind it. I cannot stand country music, but it’s artists have won plenty of awards and has a huge fan base. You don’t have to like all music. Most people don’t. But don’t dismiss sounds you don’t like by telling yourself that it’s really easy to make and isn’t real. Music is never easy to make, and if a song has a harmony, melody, bassline, and chords of any kind, then it’s real.

Updated: Feb 17, 2024
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The Differences Between Real Music and Electronic Dance Music. (2024, Feb 17). Retrieved from

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