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The essence of ambient music is unlike many other forms of electronic music. Its sound is more calmed down and slower in pace than its respective genres. Like the term suggests, it's most commonly used for the sake of an atmosphere. However, depending on the listener, it can also be enjoyed while paying direct attention to it, and the form different musicians will create it with.
Since ambient can vary so much, even more so than other electronic genres, it's hard to put a precise sound on it. But in general, ambient will have its focus on soft strings that blend well with other background sounds. Some forms of ambient can be heard as a single instrument, while being composed of many.
There's rarely much rhythm or percussion in ambient, as the genre is more geared to a relaxed atmosphere, rather than something to dance to. With that said, it can also be pointed out that it usually has a lack of strict structure, not following a lot of rules that genres typically do. This is one reason why ambient can be very experimental, like electronica.
Another important aspect of this music is the incorporation of field recordings. These are recordings that take place outside of a studio, to capture the natural sounds of the world. The artists or producers will go outside to an environment they want to capture and start recording. This is one of ambient's special characteristics, and shouldn't be overlooked. Thanks go to Bouvetøya (@bouvetoyamusic), a Twitter follower for pointing this out.
Ambient music is known for being born in the United Kingdom, developing in the early 1970s. But even way back in the early 20th century, ambient's unique style could be found. It was this time period that's suggested to have given ambient its roots.
Ambient never saw very much popularity. It saw some success the 1970s, when it was developed, and a little more so and in late 1980s. By the 1990s, people dedicated to ambient would emerge and form clubs of others with the same interest.
In the way of mainstream popularity and general success as a genre, ambient hasn't changed much. But the future of this music is unknown, and with its sound and style appearing in many forms of media, it could very well have a revival.
Average Beats Per Minute: No General BPM
Where It Originated: United Kingdom
Stylistically Similar To: New Age, Electronica, Industrial
Year Developed: Early 1970s
Below is an incomplete list of the many sub-genres that make up ambient (in alphabetical order). You are on the "General Ambient" page right now, clicking it will return you here.
General Ambient - Back to the overview of ambient.
Dark Ambient - Dark sinister sounds, You'll feel scared just listening to it.
Drone Music - Long sustained notes make the core of what this music is.
Illbient - Get a note from your doctor, this requires a prescription.
Ambient House - A fusion of ambient and house music. What more could you ask for?
You are at ambient music.
Why do you love this genre?