Breakbeat, a dynamic and influential genre within the realm of electronic music, has left an indelible mark on the music landscape since its inception. Defined by its distinctive rhythmic patterns and innovative sampling techniques, breakbeat has evolved into various subgenres, each offering its own unique sonic experience. In this exploration, we delve into the world of breakbeat, unraveling its origins and delving into five distinct types of breakbeat, each contributing to the genre’s rich tapestry of sounds and rhythms. From classic funk-infused beats to experimental and abstract compositions, breakbeat continues to captivate audiences worldwide with its infectious energy and creative spirit. Join us on this journey as we uncover the essence of breakbeat and discover the diverse array of styles it encompasses.

What is Breakbeat?

Breakbeat is a style of electronic music recognized for its drum sounds taken from hip-hop, funk, R&B, jazz, and various dance music styles. It emerged during the 1970s when hip-hop DJs started using samples from classic funk tracks such as The Winstons’ “Amen, Brother” and James Brown’s “Funky Drummer.” They often played these samples on two turntables, switching back and forth to repeat the drum patterns.

Since its inception, breakbeat music has become a part of many electronic music genres, including deep house, electro, big beat, drum and bass, breakbeat hardcore, UK garage, breakstep, dubstep, 2-step garage, 4-beat, jungle, trip hop, and electronic dance music (EDM).

What is Breakbeat?
What is Breakbeat?

What is a Breakbeat in EDM?

Originally, “breakbeat” referred to a specific section of a song highlighted by a drum break. However, its meaning has evolved over time, especially with the emergence of EDM.

In today’s EDM scene, breakbeat has become its own genre, characterized by a unique beat pattern featuring kick drums and snare drums. Typically set at around 140 beats per minute (bpm), breakbeat in EDM offers a distinct sound that sets it apart from other genres like house and techno.

Interestingly, the surge in breakbeat’s popularity during the 1990s played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of electronic dance music. As DJs and producers experimented with breakbeats, it paved the way for the diverse and vibrant EDM scene we know today.

History of Breakbeat

The story of breakbeat stretches back to the vibrant music scene of the 1970s and continues its journey into modern times.

  • 1970s: The roots of breakbeat can be traced back to the streets of New York City in the 1970s, where pioneering hip-hop DJs like DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash revolutionized the music landscape. Their innovative technique involved playing breakbeat samples on two turntables simultaneously, enabling them to loop and extend drum patterns by manipulating vinyl records. This laid the foundation for the genre’s distinct rhythmic style.
  • 1980s: As the 1980s unfolded, breakbeat found its way beyond the boundaries of hip-hop. Artists from various music backgrounds began incorporating breakbeats into other dance music genres, sparking the emergence of fresh sounds like electro-funk, acid breaks, and Miami bass. This period marked a significant expansion of breakbeat’s influence across diverse musical landscapes.
  • 1990s: The 1990s witnessed a proliferation of breakbeat subgenres, each contributing to the genre’s rich tapestry. From the gritty beats of Florida breaks to the high-energy sounds of breakbeat hardcore, and the mind-bending rhythms of psychedelic breakbeat (psybreaks) and progressive breaks (prog breaks), breakbeat music diversified into countless sonic expressions. Among these, big beat emerged as a commercial powerhouse, blending elements of house, trance, jungle, and hip-hop to captivate audiences worldwide. Acts like the Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, and Fatboy Slim spearheaded this movement, solidifying breakbeat’s status in the electronic music landscape.
  • 2000s and beyond: In the new millennium, breakbeat’s legacy endures across a spectrum of electronic and rave genres. Its infectious rhythms can be heard in everything from the deep grooves of house music to the pulsating beats of EDM and the frenetic energy of Florida breaks. As electronic music continues to evolve, breakbeat remains a cornerstone, uniting diverse styles and audiences under its rhythmic umbrella.
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In summary, breakbeat’s journey from its humble beginnings in the Bronx to its lobal presence today is a testament to its enduring appeal and influence in the world of music.

History of Breakbeat
History of Breakbeat

3 Characteristics of Breakbeat

Classic funk samples

Breakbeat artists often incorporate samples from iconic funk tracks into their music. Some of the most commonly sampled songs include James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” Lyn Collins’s “Think (About It),” and The Shadows’ “Apache.” Among these, The Winstons’ “Amen, Brother” holds a special place as one of the most frequently sampled tracks in breakbeat music history. Its distinctive drum pattern, known as “the Amen break,” has become synonymous with the genre, showcasing the enduring influence of funk in breakbeat compositions.

Danceable rhythms

Breakbeat tunes are designed to get you moving on the dance floor. They commonly follow a 4/4 time signature, meaning there are four beats in each measure, making it easy to groove along. The tempo typically falls between 110 to 150 beats per minute (bpm), although slower tracks around 100 bpm are not uncommon. Within this rhythmic framework, breakbeat music maintains a steady pulse, with repetitive drum patterns and basslines that provide a solid foundation for dancing. However, what sets breakbeat apart is the incorporation of sampled breaks, which punctuate the rhythmic flow, adding dynamic twists and turns to keep listeners engaged and energized.

3 Characteristics
3 Characteristics of Breakbeat

Audio effects and filter sweeps

Breakbeat artists often keep their musical compositions straightforward, sticking to single chords or basic chord progressions. However, they inject creativity into their tracks by employing various audio effects. One popular technique is the filter sweep, where high-pass filters gradually remove low frequencies, creating a buildup of tension before transitioning into a new section of the song. Additionally, breakbeat DJs utilize a range of other effects such as reverb, delay, reverse playback, and time-stretching to add texture and depth to their music. These effects contribute to the dynamic and evolving nature of breakbeat compositions, enhancing the overall listening experience for fans of the genre.

Different types of Breakbeat

Downtempo Breaks

As the name implies, downtempo breaks are characterized by their slow-paced rhythm, featuring laid-back and soothing compositions.

These breakbeats are commonly found in songs that blend elements of jazz, incorporating techniques like scratching and other musical embellishments.

Orlando/Florida/Tampa Breaks

Orlando/Florida/Tampa Breaks, originally gaining popularity in Florida, particularly in cities like Tampa and Orlando, mark the early roots of breakbeat EDM as we know it today.

This unique sound blends elements of hip hop and electro, incorporating samples from jazz and funk music into the mix.

West Coast Breaks

West Coast Breaks, sometimes referred to as spiritual techno, is a laid-back genre that gained popularity during the 1990s rave scene in Los Angeles.

This downtempo style incorporates elements of acid jazz, dubstep, and drum and bass, creating a mellow and relaxed form of breakbeat music.

Electro Beats

Electro beats draw heavily from funk music, infusing it with their own distinctive flair.

What makes this genre stand out even more is the utilization of a particular drum machine known as the Roland TR-808.

The sound of electro beats is unmistakably EDM, characterized by energetic beat breaks that intensify the overall energy of the music.

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Different types
Different types of Breakbeat

Nu Skool Breaks

Nu Skool Breaks, emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s, presents a fresh and distinctive sound within the EDM scene.

This genre is characterized by its abstract nature, blending elements from various other EDM genres to create a unique sonic experience.


In conclusion, breakbeat stands as a testament to the boundless creativity and innovation within the realm of electronic music. From its humble beginnings as a rhythmic technique pioneered by hip-hop DJs to its evolution into a diverse array of subgenres, breakbeat has continuously pushed the boundaries of musical expression. Whether it’s the classic funk samples of traditional breakbeat, the experimental sounds of nu skool breaks, or the infectious energy of electro beats, each variation offers a unique glimpse into the versatility and dynamism of the genre. As breakbeat continues to evolve and adapt to new musical trends, one thing remains certain: its enduring legacy as a driving force in shaping the ever-changing landscape of contemporary music.

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