Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments and circuitry-based music technology. An electronic musician being a musician who composes and/or performs such music. In general, a distinction can be made between sound produced using electromechanical means, such as violins and drums, and that produced using electronic technology. Electromechanical instruments include mechanical elements, such as strings, hammers, and so on, and electric elements, such as magnetic pickups, power amplifiers and loudspeakers. Examples of electromechanical sound producing devices include the telharmonium, Hammond organ, and the electric guitar, which are typically made loud enough for performers and audiences to hear with an instrument amplifier and speaker cabinet. Purely electronic instruments do not have vibrating strings, hammers, or other sound-producing mechanisms. Electronic instrument sounds can be achieved using devices such as the theremin, sound synthesizer, and computer.
The first electronic devices for performing music were developed at the end of the 19th century, and shortly afterward Italian Futurists explored sounds that had previously not been considered musical. During the 1920s and 1930s, electronic instruments were introduced and the first compositions for electronic instruments were composed. By the 1940s, magnetic audio tape allowed musicians to tape sounds and then modify them by changing the tape speed or direction, leading to the development of electroacoustic tape music in the 1940s, in Egypt and France. Musique concrète, created in Paris in 1948, was based on editing together recorded fragments of natural and industrial sounds. Music produced solely from electronic generators was first produced in Germany in 1953. Electronic music was also created in Japan and the United States beginning in the 1950s. An important new development was the advent of computers for the purpose of composing music. Algorithmic composition was first demonstrated in Australia in 1951.
In the 1960s, live electronics were pioneered in America and Europe, Japanese electronic musical instruments began having an impact on the music industry, and Jamaican dub music emerged as a form of popular electronic music. In the early 1970s, the monophonic Minimoog synthesizer and Japanese drum machines helped popularize synthesized electronic music.
In the 1970s, electronic music began having a significant influence on popular music, with the adoption of polyphonic synthesizers, electronic drums, drum machines, and turntables, through the emergence of genres such as disco, krautrock, new wave, synthpop, hip hop and EDM. In the 1980s, electronic music became more dominant in popular music, with a greater reliance on synthesizers, and the adoption of programmable drum machines such as the Roland TR-808 and bass synthesizers such as the TB-303. In the early 1980s, digital technologies for synthesizers including digital synthesizers such as the Yamaha DX7 were popularized, and a group of musicians and music merchants developed the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI).
Electronically produced music became prevalent in the popular domain by the 1990s, because of the advent of affordable music technology. Contemporary electronic music includes many varieties and ranges from experimental art music to popular forms such as electronic dance music. Today, pop electronic music is most recognizable in its 4/4 form and vastly more connected with the mainstream culture as opposed to its preceding forms which were specialized to niche markets.