Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music: Version 1

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music categorizes and rates over 100 genres of electronic music, providing short descriptions and audio samples.


This is Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music. It is my attempt to explain this relatively new and confusing musical genre to the curious layperson. In order to make this as painless as possible, I’ve divided this guide into two parts. The first part is a brief history of electronic music, and the second part is a more detailed look at the different sub-genres.

What is electronic music?

at its broadest, electronic music includes any music made using electronic devices. But it’s more than that: it’s music where the electronic element is fundamental to the sound, rather than incidental.

In practical terms, that means a lot of different things. It can mean using computers to generate sounds which would be impossible to create any other way, or using electronics to process and manipulate acoustic (i.e. non-electronic) sounds, or any combination of the two.

A brief history of electronic music

Electronic music is music that uses electronic musical instruments or digital processors such as synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers. It was first created in the early 1900s. The first electronic music was made using telephones, radios and turntables. In the 1930s, new electronic instruments were invented, such as the Theremin and Ondes Martenot. These were used in classical music. In the 1940s, electronic music started to be used in popular music, with songs such as Glenn Miller’s “A String of Pearls”. In the 1950s, composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez started to use electronic music in their compositions. In the 1960s, rock bands such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys started to use electronic instruments in their music. In the 1970s, electronic dance music was created. This included genres such as disco, funk and reggae. In the 1980s, electronic music became more popular with the advent of new technologies such as MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and synthesisers. In the 1990s and 2000s (decade), electronic dance music became more popular with genres such as techno, house and trance being created.

The Basics

The building blocks of electronic music

Electronic music is music made with electronic musical instruments, or by using electronic processes such as looping and layering. It can be created with a wide range of instruments, including keyboards, samplers, drum machines, and synthesizers.

The first electronic instruments were developed in the early 20th century, and since then they have been used in a wide range of genres, including pop, rock, jazz, and classical music. Electronic music has been around for almost as long as recorded sound itself, and its history is rich and varied.

In its simplest form, electronic music consists of a single tone or sound that is generated by an electronic instrument. This tone can be modified by adding effects such as reverb or delay, or by playing it through a keyboard or sequencer. More complex electronic music is made by combining multiple tones and sounds into layers, or by adding rhythm to create a beat.


In order to create electronic music, you will need some kind of device that can generate soundwaves. These devices are called synthesizers, and there are many different types available on the market today. Synthesizers can be categorized by their sound-generating mechanism, which can be either digital or analog.

Digital synthesizers use computer chips to generate sounds, while analog synthesizers use oscillators (electronic circuits that produce a repeating waveform) and filters (circuits that modify the waveform) to create their sounds. Each type of synthesizer has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it is important to choose the right one for your needs.

Some other things to consider when choosing a synthesizer include the number of voices (the number of different sounds that can be generated simultaneously), the polyphony (the number of notes that can be played at the same time), and the MIDI compatibility (which allows you to connect the synthesizer to other MIDI devices).


A sampler is a device that allows you to record and playback digital audio. The first commercially available sampler was the Mellotron, which was used extensively by the Beatles. Samplers usually have a keyboard so you can play back the recorded audio at different pitches, just like a piano. A lot of electronic music is made by recording short snippets of sounds (called samples) and then playing them back at different speeds, or layering them on top of each other.

Drum machines

Drum machines are electronic devices that are designed to imitate the sound of drums and other percussion instruments. They are often used in studios to create drum tracks for recorded music, or live on stage to provide rhythmic accompaniment for other instruments or singers.

Drum machines can be programmed to play a wide variety of rhythms and patterns, and many models allow the user to create their own custom patterns. Some drum machines also have the ability to generate other sounds such as cymbals, basslines or melodies, which can be played along with the drum patterns.

There are a wide range of drum machines available on the market, from simple toy-like devices to professional-grade units that cost several thousand dollars.


MIDI is a standard that defines how computer music hardware and software should communicate. It was invented in the early 80s to overcome the limitaions of analog synthesis, and has since become an industry standard. MIDI uses digital messages to represent musical notes and other parameters such as pitch, velocity, timing, aftertouch, and controller data. These messages are sent over a MIDI cable (or wireless MIDI) from one device to another. The most common type of device in a studio setup is a MIDI controller, which can be used to play virtual instruments or control other devices.

Advanced Topics

Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music is primarily focused on danceable electronic music and its history, so it will not go into much detail about more experimental or avant-garde styles of electronic music. This section will however briefly touch on some of these more advanced topics.


Sequencers are devices that generate and play back musical sequences. They can be very simple, with just a few knobs to control the tempo and sound of the sequence, or they can be very complex, with multiple tracks, different sound banks, and a variety of other features. Many sequencers also have the ability to record and play back audio, making them a powerful tool for creating music.

Effects processors

An effects processor is any device that is used to modify the sound of an audio signal. The most common type of effects processor is the pedals used by guitarists and bassists, but there are also stand-alone units that can be used with any type of instrument or even with microphones. There are many different types of effects processors, each with its own unique capabilities and sound.

Common types of effects processors include:

-Distortion pedals: These pedals add distortion to the sound, making it louder and more aggressive. Common distortion pedal types include overdrive, fuzz, and boost pedals.
-Chorus pedals: These pedals create a “chorus” effect by splitting the signal into two parts and slightly detuning one part. This creates a thicker, richer sound.
-Reverb pedals: These pedals add reverberation (echo) to the sound, making it seem like it is being played in a larger space. Reverb types include spring, plate, and hall reverb.
-Delay pedals: These pedals create a delay effect by repeating the signal at a specific interval. This can be used to create an echo effect or to thicken up the sound. delays include digital delay and analog delay.


There are two types of mixers: passive and active. Passive mixers use resistors to combine signals, while active mixers use operational amplifiers (op-amps) to combine signals. Active mixers are more expensive than passive mixers, but offer superior performance.

Passive Mixers
Passive mixers are the simplest and most common type of mixer. They are typically used in applications where low noise and high power handling are not required, such as mixing audio signals.

Active Mixers
Active mixers are more complex than passive mixers and provide superior performance in terms of noise, power handling, and linearity. Active mixers are typically used in applications where low noise and high linearity are required, such as mixing RF signals.


Turntables, more properly called phonograph turntables or record players, are devices used to play vinyl records. The word turntable is derived from their original use in early radio broadcasting, when large discs were rotated on a turntable to provide the background music while a broadcaster talked. Today, turntables are used primarily for playing music, and they come in a wide range of prices and styles to suit any budget or musical taste.

If you’re new to the world of turntables, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out which one is right for you. There are three main things to consider when choosing a turntable: budget, features, and style.

Budget: Turntables range in price from around $100 to over $1000. It’s important to decide how much you’re willing to spend before you start shopping, because it will narrow down your choices considerably.

Features: The features offered by different turntables can vary widely. Some of the things you might want to look for include automatic record changers, built-in speakers, USB connectivity, and pitch control.

Style: Turntables come in two basic styles: direct drive and belt drive. Direct drive turntables are more expensive, but they offer better performance. Belt drive turntables are less expensive and easier to find, but they don’t perform as well as direct drive models.


In conclusion, electronic music is a huge and diverse genre with a lot to offer. It can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, and it can be a great way to make new friends and connect with people. There are a variety of sub-genres to choose from, so there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for a way to get into electronic music, I highly recommend checking out Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music.

Where to go from here

Now that you’re armed with knowledge of the different types of electronic music, you can start exploring the vast and varied world of electronic music. This guide has only scratched the surface of what’s out there, so don’t be afraid to venture out and explore on your own.

There are a few key things to remember as you start your journey:

-Most electronic music is made with computers, so you’ll need some kind of music production software to get started.
-The best way to learn is by doing, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things.
-There are no rules in electronic music, so feel free to break them all!

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