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What is Techno?

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  • What is Techno?

    I've been having a lot of conversations with folks who have been using the term "Techno" to describe electronic music in broad strokes. This is simply erroneous. A lot of them actually musicians. And a lot of them (musicians or not) have trouble explaining what kind of electronic music they like. I ask "Do you like deep house, breaks, glitch hop? What do you like?" Most struggle to articulate what they're hearing when they hear something they like. 

    I don't ever rag on people when they're confused about the difference between House and Techno, because they are quite similar to the untrained ear. And many people give vague and inaccurate descriptions as to why they're different. "right or wrong" just about everyone says something different. It took me a good while to even be able to describe the difference and articulate why a certain track falls in to techno or house. 

    If anyone is up for it, I have a couple of videos/links here for people to listen. Can you tell why they are techno or house? My description for the differences is in the spoilers tab. 

    House retains more groove and phrase structure from it's roots. - Funk, disco, soul etc. Techno does not rely on these structures. It will have more meter aligned phrases and feels like more of a smattering of elements over general chord progression type rhythms and phrases. Often, chord progressions used in Techno will all be aligned on the count.  As deep house is even closer to its roots with more prominent and traditional bass lines, minimal techno goes past techno to achieve a feel all of its own. 

    As DJ sets go, these tracks aren't really meant to be listened to from the start by themselves. Feel free to skip ahead. 

    Minimal Techno





  • #2

    As someone involved in various, somewhat nonstandard forms of electronica in the 90s, I saw the amazing proliferation of subgenre descriptions in realtime -- and it was as amusing as it was amazing.

    There really ARE established criteria for a number of classic subgenres that most clued-in folks mostly agree on -- and why shouldn't they? A term like Detroit Techno has been around for 3 decades, give or take. Few people would probably argue about that one. Hard-glitch retrostep, on the other hand, might give some pause. 


    Me, I started losing interest when the growth of subgenre descriptions far outpaced the rather meager innovation and stylistic evolution.  wink.gif 

    Attached Files

    music and social stuff | The Forgotify Files | A Year of Songs | mutant pop on facebook | roots acoustic on facebook

    The chorus seems a little weak... I think it needs more lasers.


    • BlueGreene
      BlueGreene commented
      Editing a comment

      Boy... I can't really agree that evolution hasn't been happening in electronic music (as to say it's evolving slower than all other music). Sure there are a silly number of sub-genres in play these days. Yes, house is still house. But house from the 90s is night and day different. Shoot, house from 2005 is way different. The whole realm of breaks has probably had even more evolution than that of house and techno. The production tools used for electronic music have been evolving more so than the tools for say, singer songwriters. It's still an open G chord on an acoustic guitar decades (if not more) later [One could always take the point of view, and find ways to support their point of view that nothing has evolved.]. And with electronic music, it's more about the waveform than the chord structure. We're finding sounds never before heard in these styles simply because new tools are available. 


      Anyway, this was all besides the point. The terms Detroit Techno and Chicago House have been around a long time. But that doesn't mean people (who are interested in them or not) can articulate the difference, even though most people agree that there is a difference. And my whole inspiration for this thread are the many people who use the term "Techno" in place of "electronic music". Many folks that like to go dance to these styles still use those basic terms incorrectly. 

  • #3

    My own opinion:  People feel it necessary to name things.  Just because it has a name does not indicate they understand it.  Gravity is a great example.  By giving it a name, it allows them to separate out what is not separable.  It's just music. 



    • elsongs
      elsongs commented
      Editing a comment

  • #4

    How someone uses genre names is related to how invested they are in the music. People who don't care much about electronic music can lump it all into one (erroneous) label because they just can't be bothered to care. I get that.


    I can wax poetic about the micro sub genres of psychedelic trance, because that's where my passion is, but the further away from that I get in conversation the less I care about genre names. I'll get to the sub-genre level of metal because I like it, but I'm not so invested in it I know all the micro-sub-genres. Same even with other kinds of electronic music; if they're not included in the umbrella of my favorite styles, I can't be bothered to go beyond a cursory knowledge of the subject.


    I try to adapt my language to who I'm talking to. If I mention a super-specific sub genre and get a glazed look, I'll take a step back and use a more general genre name, and if necessary I'll go all the way out to "techno" as a catch-all term, even if I'm cringing inside, in order to get my point across.

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