Hardstyle is an electronic dance genre and a member of the hard dance music family. Hardstyle mixes influences from hard trance, hard techno, hard house, and hardcore. Hardstyle typically consists of a deep, hard-sounding kick drum, intense faded or reversed basslines accompanying the beat, a synth playing a melody, and detuned and distorted sounds.
Originally classified as a sub-genre of Hard trance, many early hardstyle tracks share characteristics with hard trance. While at one point the two genres were practically indistinguishable from each other, hardstyle has grown into it's own, unique genre noticeably different from the genre it spawned from.
Hardstyle was born out of the Netherlands and Belgium during the 90s. Originally labeled Hard trance, Hardstyle became its own genre after years of experimentation as well as influence from Hardcore and Hard house producers. Because it is the result of an evolution and mixture of other genres, the first Hardstyle track cannot be defined. The Hardstyle from this period of initial divergence from Hard trance is known as early hardstyle.
As it progressed into its own genre, Hardstyle developed its unique traits such as reverse bass. The progression from hard trance to hardstyle was facilitated by Hardcore producers such as DJ Zany, Lady Dana, DJ Isaac, DJ Pavo, DJ Luna, and The Prophet, alongside external influences like Hard house. These influences are also partly responsible for the standard hardstyle BPM's increase from the 135-150 BPM range to 150-160 BPM.
Around 2005, hardstyle was defined as a genre of its own as opposed to a fusion genre and began incorporating more euphoric and uplifting melodies. With some hardcore producers such as The Prophet utilizing reverse bass and screeches in the hardcore gabber scene, contemporary hardstyle and hardcore are similar to the point of being practically indistinguishable outside of a difference in BPM. The standard hardstyle BPM is 150, though some tracks exceeded 160 BPM. This is still within the hardstyle BPM range, but would be considered hardcore if it had a darker or more cynical tone.
In addition to its influence on hardcore, hardstyle also facilitated development of the happier jumpstyle. Opinions of the exact nature of Hardstyle's influence on jumpstyle are mixed: Some believe it was created as direct opposition to hardstyle, some see it as a genre that developed directly from hardstyle, and still others think of it as a Hardstyle sub-genre. Regardless, both are members of the hard dance family.
Hardstyle progressed into two different styles, or sub-genres: rawstyle, inspired by early hardstyle and euphoric hardstyle, and nustyle or nu-hardstyle, the melodic counterpart. This split is believed to have happened in 2008.
More recently, producers started experimenting and fusing hardstyle with other genres. For example dubstyle, the controversial fusion of dubstep and hardstyle.
Hardstyle is split into different styles depending on a track's characteristics, such as mood and tempo. Events like Euphoria and the Qapital focus on a single hardstyle sub-genre.
- Early hardstyle (1999-2005), also known as oldschool hardstyle. Known for its usage of mostly screeches and reverse bass. Maintains most of it's Hard trance origins.
Notable artists (2008-2009): Bass Modulatorz, Beat Providerz, Dark Oscillatorz, Showtek, JTS, Headhunterz
- Nustyle - heavily influenced by trance melodies and vocals. Often utilizes harsh or dark themes, distinguishing it from Euphoric hardstyle. Has pronounced reverse bass and hardcore-influenced gated kicks.
Notable artists (2009-2012): Headhunterz, Josh & Wesz, DJ Francesco Zeta, Wildstylez, The Pitcher, Zatox, Wasted penguinz
- Euphoric hardstyle - a sub-genre of Nustyle. Often considered to be the most beautiful hardstyle sub-genre because of its minor melodies -- the base of the melody is usually a "sad" chord. Since around 2011, euphoric hardstyle has been one of the most popular subgenres of hardstyle and is commonly produced. Has the heaviest trance influence of all hardstyle subgenres, though primarily influenced by progressive uplifting trance. Sometimes thought of as Nustyle turned "cheesy".
- Rawstyle - influenced by hardcore and early hardstyle. Emphasizes the usage of raw sounds and kicks. Often combines a hardcore-influenced sound with heavy, distorted kicks and sharp, intense screeches. Commonly utilizes "dark" melodies as well as hip hop vocals and samples.
A fusion genre is a mix of two or more genres, typically combining the main traits of each component genre.
- Dubstyle - a fusion of hardstyle and dubstep, featuring dubstep's groove and tempo alongside hardstyle's kick.
- Tekstyle - a fusion of hardstyle and tek music with jumpstyle influences.
- Hard bounce - a fusion of hardstyle and hard dance music with Melbourne Bounce influences. New sounds and influences include the Melbourne Bounce Leads; Percussion including clap or snares, shakers, cowbell, hihats, and white noise-like swipes; along with off-beat bass pluck. The off-beat bass pluck is similar to that of the reverse bass except it doesn't roll or fade in, instead starting on the Quaver note after the kick.
- Big room hardstyle (2012-present) - an experimental fusion of big room house and nu hardstyle. Tracks are typically big room in structure and tempo. However, this is not set in stone since the fusion is still evolving and both big room and hardstyle artists continue to experiment and blur the line between the two genres.
- Hardcore - a faster (often 180 bpm) and harder genre than hardstyle and one of hardstyle's biggest influences. Nowadays it is often considered to be Hardstyles' 'evil twin'.
- Hard trance - hardstyle's direct predecessor. The earliest hardstyle tracks spawned from hard trance. Hardstyle was known as a sub-genre of hard trance until about 2005, when it became a genre of its own. Hardstyle has lost a lot of the traits of hard trance over time, but still retains some of its influence.
- Jumpstyle - a faster genre than hardstyle that matches the mood of its tracks to its corresponding dance, also called Jumpstyle.
- Hard house
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