Where Did Techno Music Come From?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Techno music has come a long way since its inception in the late 80s. Here’s a look at where it came from and how it’s evolved over the years.

Origins of Techno

The first techno music can be traced back to the city of Detroit in the 1980s. A group of young DJs and producers started to experiment with electronic music, and the result was a new genre of music called techno. Techno music was characterized by its use of synthesizers and drum machines, and it soon became popular in clubs around the world.

Detroit Techno

Techno music is a genre that emerged in the late 1980s, and is largely defined by its use of electronic instruments and repetitive, loop-based music. The sound of techno is often characterized by a machine-like, workmanlike quality, with steady rhythms and hypnotic grooves.

The origins of techno are often traced back to the city of Detroit, Michigan in the United States. In the early 1980s, a group of DJs and producers who came to be known as the Belleville Three (Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson) began experimenting with synthesizers and drum machines to create futuristic-sounding tracks that would eventually come to be called “techno.” These artists were heavily influenced by European electronic dance music, particularly the style known as “kosmische musik” or “cosmic disco,” which was popularized by German groups like Kraftwerk.

The Belleville Three’s early techno tracks were initially met with skepticism by the mainstream music industry, but they soon caught on with underground club audiences. In 1988, Atkins released his track “Metroplex,” which many consider to be the first true techno record. From there, the genre began to spread around the world, with artists like Aphex Twin and Plaid in the UK, Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills in Canada, and Daft Punk in France helping to popularize techno in the 1990s and beyond.

Chicago House

Techno music is often thought to have originated in Detroit in the 1980s, but the genre actually has its roots in Chicago. House music, which is the foundation of techno, started in the city’s club scene in the early 1980s. Chicago’s house music was a blend of African-American and Latino music, with elements of soul, disco, and electronic dance music. This unique sound quickly spread from Chicago to other major US cities, and eventually to Europe and Japan.

Key Figures in Techno

Techno music came about in the late 1980s in Detroit, Michigan. At the time, there were several key figures in the techno music scene, including Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson.

Juan Atkins

Juan Atkins is considered the originator of techno music. He was born in Detroit in 1962 and his musical journey began when he received a copy of “The Robots” by Kraftwerk as a birthday present from his aunt. This song inspired Atkins to start making his own music. In 1981, he founded Cybotron with Rick Davis. Cybotron’s song “Clear” is often considered the first techno track. Juan Atkins has released several solo albums and has also worked under the names Model 500 and Infiniti.

Derrick May

Derrick May, born in 1963, is one of the three original Belleville Three--a group of African American high school students who, in the early 1980s, developed and popularized Detroit techno. In 1985, he released his first single, “Nude Photo.” The following year he co-founded Transmat Records, a label that helped to release some of techno’s most iconic tracks, including Juan Atkins’ “No UFO’s” and Model 500’s “No More Rain.” In the late 1980s and early 1990s, May toured Europe extensively, helping to spread the gospel of techno around the world. He continues to perform and produce to this day.

Jeff Mills

Mills is considered one of the founding fathers of techno. He was a member of the group Underground Resistance, which was one of the first Detroit techno groups. He has also had a successful solo career, and has been a major influence on other techno artists.

The Evolution of Techno

Techno music has come a long way since its early beginnings in the 1980s. Today, it is one of the most popular genres of electronic dance music. But where did it come from? Let’s take a look at the evolution of techno music.

Techno in the 1990s

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the development of techno music in Detroit, Michigan. A group of young, black music producers and DJs, including Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson, began experimenting with electronic music production. They drew inspiration from a range of genres, including European electronic dance music, American funk and soul, and Japanese synth-pop. This new style of music soon gained popularity in the clubs of Detroit and other major cities in the United States.

In the mid-1990s, techno music started to become more mainstream. American record labels such as Warp and Jeff Mills’ Axis began to release techno records, and international DJs such as Laurent Garnier and Carl Craig started to play the music at clubs and festivals around the world. Techno reached a wider audience through the success of movies like The Matrix (1999), which featured a soundtrack that included tracks by popular techno artists like Moby and Prodigy.

Today, techno is one of the most popular genres of electronic dance music, enjoyed by fans all over the world.

Techno in the 2000s

In the early 2000’s, techno music started to take on a more minimalistic approach. This shift was largely due to the influence of European artists like Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano, who were inspired by the work of Detroit techno pioneers like Jeff Mills and Juan Atkins. This new breed of techno producers crafted hypnotic, stripped-down tracks that were designed for dancing, not thinking. As a result, this period is often referred to as the “second wave” of techno.

While minimal techno was (and still is) hugely popular in Europe, it took a little longer to catch on in the United States. In 2004, a New York Times article even declared that “minimalism is dead” — but they couldn’t have been more wrong. In the years that followed, minimal techno found a second life in America thanks to promoters like Richie Hawtin and Sasha Carassi, who helped to popularize the sound with North American audiences.

Techno Today

Techno is a form of electronic dance music that emerged in the 1980s. It is characterized by a repetitive four on the floor beat and often has a fast tempo. Techno is largely produced for use in nightclubs, but it has also been used in film soundtracks and video games. The first use of the word techno in reference to music was in 1988, when a group of Detroit DJs released an album called Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit.

Today, techno is produced all over the world and there are many subgenres, including acid techno, Detroit techno, minimal techno, and tech-house.

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