The Gear Guide for Every EDM Musician

Apr 30

Welcome to the HTMEM Blog.

Defining the energetic beats of electronic dance music, EDM musicians craft immersive soundscapes using specific tools. Here, we unpack the essential gear that these artists, particularly an EDM musician, depend on, offering insights into their creative worlds.

Key Takeaways

  • EDM has evolved from its disco roots in the 1970s to a diverse and globally recognized genre by the 21st century, with artists like Tiësto, Daft Punk, and David Guetta (to name a few) propelling its popularity.

  • Essential gear for EDM production includes Digital Audio Workstations for audio editing and mastering, synthesizers for sound creation, drum machines for rhythmic sequences, and MIDI controllers for enhanced musical control.

  • The future of EDM is intertwined with advanced technology like artificial intelligence, which will streamline music composition and potentially redefine EDM production and sound design.

The Rise of EDM

Illustration of a DJ performing at a music festival

The beginnings of EDM can be traced back to the disco movement of the 1970s, when iconic hits like Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love' introduced the world to a new sonic landscape (big up to the Italian Producer Giorgio Moroder from this rare gem). The genre evolved during the 1980s, with synthpop making extensive use of drum machines and synthesizers. This era saw the rise of electronic pianos that added a new dimension to the genre.

By the time the 1990s rolled around, EDM had splintered into diverse sub-genres like:

  • Techno

  • House

  • Hardstyle

  • Dub

  • Trance

  • Drum and bass

This diversity cemented the genre’s place in European mainstream music culture. Meanwhile, in the United States, Detroit techno emerged as a significant milestone, with artists like Derrick May leading the charge and influencing the EDM scene.

As the 21st century dawned, EDM gained global recognition, propelled by artists like (already said that?) Tiësto, Daft Punk, and David Guetta who elevated the genre to unprecedented heights. The early 2000s also saw the rise of dubstep in the United States, with artists like Skrillex contributing to the genre’s expansion. Today, EDM’s influence is widespread, its techniques permeating other musical genres, including pop and hip-hop, and continually shaping the music industry.

Essential Equipment for EDM Production

Creative illustration of electronic music production equipment

The dawn of digital technologies triggered a revolution in dance music production. Suddenly, advanced sound manipulation was within reach even from home studios, completely redefining how musicians crafted EDM. The industry saw the introduction of software tools, including sound-manipulating plugins and virtual synthesizers, that expanded the creative capabilities of producers.

These tools facilitated high-quality music production, including classical music, allowing musicians to produce content that resonates with audiences worldwide and explore various key range possibilities.

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) serve as the bedrock of audio production. These virtual studios allow for:

  • Recording

  • Editing

  • Mixing

  • Mastering audio

All central to EDM creation, they facilitate the recording and playback of multiple audio and MIDI tracks, capturing a wide range of instrumental and vocal performances. This function has opened up a plethora of possibilities for EDM musicians using electronic keyboards, digital pianos, electric pianos, and acoustic pianos, allowing them to access all the notes they need for their compositions on a piano keyboard.

DAWs equip EDM producers with indispensable tools such as:

Advanced features such as automation have added a new dimension to EDM tracks, enabling dynamic changes in volume, panning, and other parameters over time.

Support for various audio file formats in DAWs has made collaboration between artists seamless and efficient. Organizational features within DAWs, such as browsing, categorization, and tagging, have improved the efficiency of accessing and auditioning sounds during production.

As vital as these features are, choosing the right DAW for EDM production hinges on understanding individual creative needs, ensuring compatibility with one’s operating system, and aligning with the artist’s budget. Additionally, selecting a digital piano with the appropriate key range and connectivity options is crucial to complement the capabilities of DAWs in EDM production.

Synthesizers and Drum Machines

Owing to their versatility in sound creation, synthesizers have carved out an integral role in EDM. Offering various waveforms, oscillators, and filters, synthesizers have allowed musicians to shape the sound to their preference. Modern synthesizers now include software integration, enabling advanced sound design with features like patch saving and complex modulation.

Conversely, drum machines lay down the rhythmic foundation of EDM, thanks to their programmable beats and tempo controls. They have enabled musicians to create complex percussion sequences that define the genre’s rhythm. Modern drum machines now come with real-time manipulation features, enabling live performance variations such as pitch bending and reverse playback, for example.

Considering how many octaves a digital piano or keyboard has is crucial for EDM production, as a standard modern upright, grand, or digital piano typically features seven and a quarter octaves, consisting of seven full octaves and three extra treble notes. This range ensures a wide array of creative possibilities, allowing producers to incorporate extensive musical expressions into their tracks.

The combination of the harmonic capabilities of synthesizers with the rhythmic precision of drum machines has been fundamental in producing the electronic sounds that define EDM. This fusion has contributed to the versatility of electronic keyboards, digital pianos, and even acoustic piano in creating unique EDM tracks, often incorporating piano music elements.

MIDI Controllers and Other Gear

MIDI controllers have established themselves as a key component of contemporary EDM production. They are primarily used for making electronic music, contributing to the core of EDM production. Some features of MIDI controllers that have enhanced their versatility include:

  • Velocity-sensitive keys

  • Pads

  • Knobs

  • Sliders

These features give EDM musicians more control over their creations.

To complement their MIDI controllers, EDM musicians often use additional gear like high-quality headphones, studio monitors, and portable keyboard with 88 keys and extra keys. These tools provide a complete production and performance setup, enabling musicians to effectively produce and deliver dynamic performances.

Through the strategic use of MIDI controllers, headphones, and studio monitors, EDM artists can orchestrate captivating live performances teeming with dynamic interest. These tools have enhanced the functionality of electronic keyboards, digital pianos with weighted keys, and portable keyboards, making them indispensable in the world of EDM. One might wonder, how many keys do these instruments typically have?

Crafting Your Unique Sound

One can carve out a unique sound in EDM by concentrating on designing a standout lead sound during a drop, thereby seizing the audience’s attention. Layering different elements such as basslines and leads, while carefully managing EQ settings to prevent frequency overlap, contributes to a rich and distinct sound. This technique gives EDM musicians the ability to create tracks that stand out in a crowd.

Vocal chops have become a popular tool in EDM, capturing the listener’s attention due to the intrinsic human recognition of the human voice by the human ear. This technique enhances the uniqueness and emotional connection of a drop, making the track more memorable.

Adding unexpected musical elements or breaks in the music can add a level of surprise and maintain interest, making the EDM track more memorable. This technique allows musicians to break the mold and create unique sounds that resonate with listeners.

And we all know a memorable tune worth remembering, don't we?

Marketing and Branding for the Modern EDM Artist

Establishing a robust online presence serves as a pivotal marketing strategy for EDM artists. Platforms like genre-specific blogs, YouTube, and streaming playlists offer platforms for artists to reach their target audience. Creating distinctive content helps artists stand out on these platforms and attract potential fans. This strategy allows them to effectively market their unique sound.

Email newsletters continue to serve as a precious communication conduit for EDM artists to connect with their most fervent fans. They provide a platform for artists to share updates, new releases, and other relevant content with their audience.

The rise of streaming services has transformed the distribution of music, allowing for direct sharing of content between artists and listeners. Social media advertising offers an affordable and accessible way for EDM artists to promote their music to targeted audiences.

Even though you need to set and establish a budget, these strategies have made it easier for artists to reach their target market and increase their fan base.

Performance Techniques for EDM Musicians

Artistic depiction of an EDM musician engaging with a live audience

For a DJ, the capacity to perceive and respond to the audience’s energy is paramount to their performance success. Visibly enjoying the music along with acknowledging the audience is key to avoiding a disengaged performance. Interacting with the audience is essential to the live EDM experience. DJs can energize a less responsive crowd by leading by example and creating an energetic atmosphere.

Dynamic performance techniques such as:

  • using DAWs tailored for live performance control loops, effects, and samples in real-time

  • enhancing the audience’s listening experience

  • creative use of reverb swells

In these ways, you add depth to the performance, making it more engaging for the audience and providing extra notes for a richer experience.

Performance gigs present EDM artists with both a source of income and a powerful marketing platform to expand their audience reach. These opportunities allow artists to demonstrate their ability to play electronic keyboards, digital pianos, and even a grand piano, showcasing their skills to a wider audience.

Navigating the Business of EDM

For EDM musicians, effective financial management is of utmost importance. Here are some tips to help manage your finances:

  1. Create a budget to avoid impulsive spending on non-essential items and ensure that your financial resources are used wisely.

  2. Stay true to yourself and be consistent with saving money.

  3. Be aware of industry temptations and make smart financial decisions.

By following these tips, you can effectively manage your finances as an EDM musician.

EDM musicians may partner with record labels for music production, distribution, and promotion. However, this partnership often involves sharing a percentage of their income with the label. A contract with a record label can impact an EDM artist’s control over their brand, including decisions about music releases and image portrayal.

Artists should weigh the pros and cons of signing with a record label, considering their personal values and the potential loss of independence. Alternatives to traditional record labels exist, such as ‘record label as a service’ companies, which offer services for a fee rather than taking rights to the artist’s brand.

Avoiding overbooking and being selective with gigs can prevent physical and emotional exhaustion, prioritizing well-being over financial gain. Having a supportive management and personal network that prioritizes the artist’s health is vital for a sustainable career. Networking with other artists and industry professionals is crucial for building relationships that can enhance an EDM artist’s career.

Health and Lifestyle Tips for EDM Musicians

It’s vital for EDM musicians to prioritize sufficient sleep. Some strategies they use include:

  • Using aids like melatonin or CBD oil to minimize jet lag

  • Engaging in meditation and relaxation practices

  • Regular exercise such as sport climbing, running, or yoga to reduce stress, anxiety, and the symptoms of various mental health conditions

These routines are vital for the demanding lifestyle of EDM musicians.

Implementing diets like keto or veganism can improve cognitive function and general health. These diets offer a first line of defense for EDM artists against the taxing nature of their professional lifestyle.

Take care of your physical and mental well-being and always be ready to create and perform your best music.

The Future of EDM: Trends and Predictions

With the breakthrough of artificial intelligence, the future of EDM appears promising. AI is enhancing EDM composition by automating the generation of lyrics and choruses, allowing musicians to concentrate more on elements like melody, harmony, and the intricate aspects of production. This advancement will allow EDM musicians to spend more time on creating unique sounds, pushing the boundaries of the genre (and we all know, that technology and music are deeply intertwined).

The integration of AI in EDM production is just the beginning. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more advancements that will redefine the way EDM is created. The future is exciting, and we can’t wait to see where it takes us in the world of EDM.

I'm expecting to see a Cyborg DJ playing... maybe somewhere... maybe someday.


The pulsating world of EDM has come a long way since its inception in the disco era (Ciao Giorgio 😁).

Its evolution has been marked by the advent of digital technologies, the use of electronic keyboards and digital synths, and the creative genius of artists who have pushed the boundaries of the genre. The journey into the world of EDM is an exciting one, filled with opportunities for creativity, innovation, and success. And still under development.

The future of EDM holds great promise with the integration of artificial intelligence in music composition. As we look ahead, we’re excited to see how these advancements will shape the genre. Through innovation, creativity, and passion, the EDM industry will continue to evolve, creating a vibrant and dynamic soundscape for music lovers worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good brand of 88 keys electric piano?

Yamaha, Casio, Roland, Korg are all reputable brands of electric keyboards to consider for your purchase. You can explore these options to find one that suits your requirements.

What EDM means?

EDM stands for Electronic Dance Music, encompassing a variety of electronic music genres often played in nightclubs and known for their strong, danceable beats.

What is the significance of digital pianos and electronic keyboards in EDM?

Electronic keyboards and digital pianos have revolutionized EDM by providing a versatile platform for creating unique sounds, used in conjunction with DAWs, synthesizers, drum machines, and MIDI controllers to define the genre. The importance of digital keyboards in EDM cannot be overstated, as they offer musicians the ability to explore variations in key lengths and produce sounds tailored for different musical pieces, enhancing the overall production quality. Their role in the genre is pivotal, alongside other instruments, for crafting the distinctive soundscapes that define EDM music.

How can EDM artists create a unique sound?

To create a unique sound, EDM artists should focus on crafting standout lead sounds, layering elements like basslines and leads, using vocal chops, and incorporating unexpected musical elements or breaks in the music. This approach can help in creating a distinct and memorable sound.

How important is marketing for EDM artists?

Marketing is crucial for EDM artists as it helps in building an online presence, creating distinctive content, and using social media advertising to increase their fan base. Effective marketing can help artists reach their target audience.

About the Author

Max Porcelli

Steinberg Certified Trainer, DJ, and Producer with 29 years of experience. He owns 989 Records, an Electronic Music Label based in Italy. Every Saturday he hosts an exciting Radio Show called 989 Records Radio Show on air on Patchouli Deep Radio, London. 
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