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What is Techno Music?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 23, 2024
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Techno music is a type of electronic and dance music. It emphasizes rhythm and utilizes advancements in music technology and production. It is a mainly instrumental genre, usually reliant on DJ mixes. Techno was developed in and around Detroit, Michigan in the 1980s, and utilizes a myriad of synthesizers, drum machines, multi-tracking, and hardware sequencers. Its main tenets include the use of electronic instruments and the uniformity of a common drum beat.

This style of music uses loop-sequencing and turntables. It also takes advantage of growing technologies with studio effects and futuristic and electronic sounds. Though often strongly mixing melodies and heavy bass lines, techno music relies on pulsing rhythms and follows the typical framework of most Western music. The techno artist, called a producer, uses his studio as a band or orchestra, mixing the sounds he creates into different rhythms as a band would meld instruments into a non-electronic song.

Techno songs rely on heavy syncopation, and utilize the hard drum beats of hip-hop music. Techno beats have a distinct sound to them, and it is this distinction that produces a distinct techno dance. Multiple drum machines can be used to lay tracks over different tracks to create multi-layered beats. Most songs are in 4/4 time and feature time marked with bass drums on the quarter note and hi-hats every second eighth note.

This genre was created in the early 1980s as a form of dance and party music. One of the most notable influences on early techno music was a group known as “The Belleville Three” — Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, and Juan Atkins — in the suburbs of Detroit. It reflected a post-disco style in its early stages, but soon evolved into a culture than thrived on an anti-capitalist, futuristic angst. It took on many high tech themes, looks, and sounds, including glow sticks and edgy outfits. Techno music relies on an active audience and a highly energetic style of dancing, and has gotten a reputation, whether unfairly or not, for being a harbinger of ecstasy and amphetamines, and encouraging raves and all-night parties. Many techno clubs, though, including Detroit’s nationally known, short-lived Music Institute, are famous for not serving alcohol.

Despite this reputation, its commercial success has grown continually since 1980, and has maintained its position as the house music in many clubs around the United States, and remain among their most popular dance songs. Techno music now features many of its own radio stations, and an annual Electronic Music Festival in Detroit. Among the most important artists active in techno music through the 1990s and 2000s were Moby, Jeff Mills, Carl Cox, and Mike Banks. The genre also features many sub-genres, including trance, house music, and Detroit techno.

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Discussion Comments
By anon953972 — On May 29, 2014

Techno is the bomb diggity, if you know what I'm saying.

By anon358325 — On Dec 10, 2013

Sorry anon176990, but techno is awesome!

By anon345292 — On Aug 17, 2013

At first I was put off by the repetitiveness of techno. Then I discovered that techno songs evolve and it's the repetition that drives it. Some people can get into it while others will never get it/enjoy it. Different strokes for different folks.

By anon328533 — On Apr 04, 2013

@anon176990: There are always some people who don't want to progress with the times. Let's just leave them behind in the 50s-70s while we forge ahead into a bright electro future.

By anon319795 — On Feb 14, 2013

If you think techno is bad, you probably haven't heard the same type of music I'm thinking of. Otherwise, you probably would like it. Go listen to some of the songs on OC remix and see if it doesn't change your mind.

By anon261878 — On Apr 17, 2012

I'm cool with all genres of music. It just really depends on the person and their background, I'd say. Anyway, techno is my favorite because it just feels better to dance to, and the buzz I get from just listening to the beat makes me happy.

Music is my drug and I need nothing else to have a good time -- well, maybe a good drink. Party on ravers, party on. (I can understand having to sleep with it blasting. That does get annoying when you're really tired.)

By anon242554 — On Jan 24, 2012

Techno has subgenres, for example, acid techno and gabber hardcore. The original form of techno is from Detroit and is a hybrid of Chicago house elements and electro funk elements. There are probably some high energy and funk elements.

By anon235733 — On Dec 19, 2011

This definition of "techno" is totally wrong. "Techno" is a small sub-genre of Electronic Dance Music, not the other way around. Within EDM, there are MANY of these sub-genres, including House, Dubstep, Techno, Drum & Bass, Trance, etc. Each of those sub-genres also has divisions in itself. Calling all electronic music "techno" is just as ignorant as calling all four-door sedans "Camry."

As for the people who think it's too repetitive, you're right that there is some repetitiveness to it, but good EDM is made in such a way that there's always some part of the sound that is changing, even if it's a subtle change. Many people are not musically inclined enough to hear these changes, which is why EDM fans tend to come from more music-focused backgrounds. The bottom line is, if you don't like it, don't listen to it. There's plenty of music in the world to go around.

By anon196609 — On Jul 14, 2011

I don't have anything against techno musically, but god, is that pounding bass annoying as hell when you're living in an apartment.

By anon176990 — On May 17, 2011

I'm sorry, but techno, to me, is a waste of time. If you want to listen to real music, get into some of the music from the 50's to the 70's, where music was at its peak. The music of our time is ridiculous with a few exceptions.

I must admit that our time has produced a lot of musical talent but techno is no exception to this. 'Real' music consists of un-synthesized notes and non-computerized melodies etc. How can techno be classified as music when it completely lacks in everything that makes music good?

Take the 50's for example. Look at what the 50's produced, where everything played was pure talent, an instrument was played without synthesized effects. This is music, people! Anyone can produce their own techno song but not everyone has musical talent.

I know people won't agree with me but seriously, if you sincerely have a passion for music, I strongly recommend you to listen to music from the 50's, 60's and 70's. It doesn't get any better than that.

By bucca — On Mar 16, 2011

Hey EarlyForest - I also love trance music. I am in my early 60's- wish I could have grown up with Techno.

By anon142163 — On Jan 12, 2011

Naturesgurl3: I'm sorry, but it's not annoying. Or repetitive. What I find annoying is that rap crap. That is talking about nothing but drugs, chicks and sex. And that all sounds the same. The beats and everything. But techno people can alter the sounds to make it not sound all the same. Have a nice day, ravers!

By googlefanz — On Sep 12, 2010

I only really got into listening to techno music in 2008, but now I'm embarrassingly hooked on it -- I even read the techno music charts online!

Of course, I'm always looking for new techno music, so if you guys have any good songs, then let me know!

By EarlyForest — On Sep 12, 2010

I love techno music! I think that techno trance dance music is the best -- you can just lose yourself in the beat and really get that primal feeling.

As far as I'm concerned, the top music is techno music.

By naturesgurl3 — On Sep 12, 2010

I may become terribly unpopular in this thread for saying this, but I really don't like techno music, whether it's the trance techno music, or electro techno music or whatever other kinds of techno there are.

I just find it repetitive and annoying. There are so many better songs to dance to than some robot-themed, over-synthesized repetition of beats!

I don't now how techno music djs stand it -- I think I'd start getting aural seizures if I had to listen to that stuff all the time.

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