Tech Savy: Inside the World of Techno Music

An Introduction to Techno Music

Techno music was started in Detroit, Michigan in the mid-late 1980s. Techno music uses high technology sounds (computerized) and produces sounds that are associated with the music of many dance and nightclubs. It has also been called underground dance music. Techno music mixes many different genres such as gospel, blues, and alternative rock, and deconstructs, molds, and intersects them to create entirely new sounds. 

Techno music is interesting because it is the first genre of music that was built and created on computers. There is irony in the relationship between techno music being created and the invention of computers. Before computers were invented, there used to be many industrial jobs for black people working for companies and factories. However, when the computer was invented, many jobs were no longer needed because there were now computers who could manual work much easier and faster. Consequently, this left many black people out of work. It is ironic how the computer initially was a disadvantage to the advance and success of some black Americans. However, other black Americans were able to use computers to create something totally new and genius, which was techno music. 

Elements, Styles, and Influences of Techno Music

There are many different styles that contribute to techno music, such as break beats, jungle, and 4 on floor. Break beats are perhaps the most well known element of techno music since it involves using different breaks from old records, and one can either speed up the sounds, slow down the sounds, or loop them. 

The themes that techno styled music deals with is futurism (science fiction, technology) and Afrofuturism. Both of these themes have influence from George Clinton and P-Funk, which emphasized that black people could be represented in fantasy and science fiction and be allowed to have creative freedom and imagination.

The Innovators of Techno Sound

The three men that are credited with starting and creating techno music are Derrick May, Juan Atkins, and Kevin Saunderson. Derrick was called “The Innovator”, Juan was called “The Initiator”, and Kevin was called the “The Elevator”. These nicknames describe that roles and influences that each of these men had on techno music and its evolution. They are really the ones that started electronic music. All three of these men hailed from Detroit, Michigan and would eventually call themselves the Belleville Three.

During the first years of techno music, while many people liked the sound of it and danced to it, it was still a very new form of music and was not yet mainstream popular music in the U.S. However, many people in the United Kingdom had heard and listened to techno music and wanted to hear more of it. A man named Neil Rushton invited the Belleville Three to perform in London. This would be the group’s first record deal. This gave each of the three members fame, respect, and the selling of millions of albums. 


The Music Institute

The Music Institute was the first techno music club created. It is located in Detroit, Michigan and is one of the many reasons for why Detroit is also known as Techno City. The biggest sources of influence and contributors to the creation of The Music Institute were the Belleville Three and Alton Miller. Many of the techno artists that have performed at The Music Institute have been mentored and influenced by the Belleville Three. 

The Legacy of Techno Music

Techno music continues to be a very popular form of music among people of all races, ages, and cultures. Techno music is very common at many nightclubs, dance clubs, and music festivals around the world. Perhaps the most influential subgenre that was born out of techno music is electronic dance music (EDM). Many artists today across all genres (such as pop, hip hop, rap) use sound effects and electronic music in the background of their songs. Techno music opened up a whole new sound of music and way of creating music. Many hip hop and rap artists use technology to loop their songs, to make music samples, and make their songs available for downloading online or for making digital recordings on iTunes or Spotify. 

Personally, I have used the technology of techno music in my computer science class to do projects that involve creating remixes of songs and making loops of different samples of a song. 

The Importance of Techno on African-Americans

Techno music is one of the most modern forms of music. It is also one of the most popular forms of music. However, what is interesting is it is computerized music and was created by black people. I think it is disheartening that there is not a lot of representation in the technology field and computer science of people of color. However, it is black people that are using computers and technology to create amazing new forms of music that are popular and highly consumed by people in America and across the globe. 

I believe that techno music has showcased how talented African-Americans are and has just adds to the long list f music genres that contributes to music culture and popular culture, but is not often credited enough to black people or the specific people who created the genre.

I think it is important that people know their history. I learned a lot about this topic because I did not even know that techno music was created by black people. However, it doesn’t surprise me because black people used technology to create hip, rap, and the boombox. 


“Techno.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Apr. 2019,

*Video Notes from Detroit Techno Music Documentary that was watched in class

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