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What Is Hardstyle?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 23, 2024
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Hardstyle is a type of electronic dance music that relies on various other similar genres for its inspiration, and is characterized by a rapid tempo and specific kinds of instrumental sounds. Other genres that are similar to hardstyle include hard techno or hard house music, as well as rather esoteric musical genres like a rave/house style called gabber. All of these have many elements in common, including a rapid dance beat and a variety of synthesized sounds.

One of the characteristics of hardstyle music is its tempo. Experts note that since the time of its origin, the usual tempo for this type of music sped up from about 140 beats per minute to around 150 beats per minute. A range of staccato or sharp drum sounds are often part of this beat in order to make the frenetic percussion sound even more extreme; some experts also refer to a rhythm called tuplet, where alternating sounds are paired into complex groups for a layered and often chaotic result.

As a specific kind of dance or rave music, hardstyle music is also characterized by the use of distorted sounds. Some of these sounds include a kind of falling intonation, or untuned falling tone, that give some of this music its particular effect. Many of these kinds of musical compositions also feature shouting voices.

Many types of music related to hardstyle were originally created in Europe, specifically in the Netherlands. In several Western European nations, these kinds of music have a wide audience. The music is also reportedly popular in areas of South America and Africa, as well as in some other countries around the world. There is debate over the relative popularity of hardstyle and similar types of music in the Netherlands, England, and Germany, where music fans have analyzed trends in the adoption of these kinds of dance music styles. Although venues in the Netherlands are commonly known to hold “hardstyle music” events promoting the development of this genre, some contend that this type of music is an “English” style, less prominent in Dutch and German musical communities.

Hardstyle is commonly performed in the context of a dance club, either live or recorded, often with a DJ setting up and coordinating tracks. Fans of this kind of music have come up with several different kinds of dance routines that complement its rhythm and style. These dances, such as a “shuffle” technique, are part of the larger context for this new type of music that is generating its own presence in modern clubs and other musical arenas.

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