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What is Techno?

Techno is a form of electronic dance music that started in Detroit, USA in the late 1980’s and has since spread worldwide, with its core roots now cemented in Berlin, Germany and the UK. Whilst there are many sub-genres and various forms categorised similarly, techno in it’s purest form often sits between 123 to 127 beats per minute with a 4/4 time structure.

Tracks often have very few lyrics, and rely heavily on a strong kick/bass drum on the down beat with snare or claps on second or fourth with hi-hats, cymbals and rides on the 8th, 16th or 32nd notes to keep a faster feel to the song, as these get incorporated with various synths for the melody.

Techno has quite a repetitive structure to the song form, which will often have a 30 second intro comprised of just the kick, bass and snare as more instruments are gradually introduced in 16, 32 or 64 beat patterns. This repetivity acts as if almost repeatedly hitting the pleasure parts of the listeners brain, and due to the basic timing structure makes it quite easy to dance to and therefore is the popular form of music in many night clubs and dance festivals.

After the 30 second intro the melody starts to be introduced and we will then have a verse structure that may repeat 2-3 times throughout the track as this will lead into what is often called the ‘build-up’ which leads to ‘the drop’-similar to a pre-chorus intro chorus structure if comparing to popular or rock music.

The build-up can be created in various ways, the most common through new instruments gradually being introduced at slightly faster intervals than the previous. When coupled with gradual increases of volume automation on each instrument track and then a sustained holding of these beats for a again a 16, 32 or 64 beat count, this creates a type of tension within the listener, which is only released at the drop - which can be either a sudden increase or decrease in instruments and tonality on that next series of bars. This is when the beat kicks back in, releasing that tension generated from the songs progression. Most often we do continue still following the same basic rhythm as we’ve experienced from the start of the song. This build-up into drop usually occurs two-three times throughout the track, before closing with an approximate 30 second outro.

The outro is like a nice book-ending to the song with a simple beat form similar to the intro. Returning us from an emotional roller-coaster of a journey that returns us home comfortably to the solid state we were in at the beginning of the track, after the peaks and troughs of tension and euphoria experienced through the build-ups and drops.

Having a similar intro and outro structure also helps DJs when mixing one song in to another when playing live, which was the most common form of experiencing techno prior to the soundcloud/spotify/youtube live streaming internet era. As such, techno is produced with the intention to be listened to in the context of the DJ playing a continuous live set and is still experienced in this form on the streaming mediums as well as in clubs and festivals.

Techno’s home is now seen as Berlin, Germany, with the “Mecca of Techno”, the nightclub Berghain, located between the suburbs of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. The Berghain is an old industrial power plant vacated during the German Cold War and recognised as the hardest club in the world to get into, due to its strict door policy.

Techno’s most noteable artists of the modern era are Italian Sam Paganini, Frenchman Julian Jeweil, German Boris Brejcha, Brazilian Victor Ruiz and Englishmen Carl Cox, highlighting the now worldwide nature of the genre. In my opinion "Rave' by Sam Paganini epitmizes techno, highlighting each of the above descriptions of the song structure. Released on the Drumncode label on September 15, 2014, "Rave" hums along in A-sharp minor at 125bpm and is the greatest techno track ever produced. You can decide for yourself here.

You can also enjoy a playlist of what I feel are the seven best techno tracks I've experienced via


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