Glitch Music: The Complete Beginner's Guide

Glitch Music: The Complete Beginner's Guide Glitch Music: The Complete Beginner's Guide

Glitch music is one of those odd subgenres that means vastly different things to different people. However, if there’s one thing most music connoisseurs can agree on, it’s that glitch is a kind of experimental music rooted in technology.

In many ways, it’s an expression or representation of the future. With its many innovators over the past few decades, glitch music has grown into something nearly inexplicable, blending musical and non-musical elements to create deliberate chaos and a unique experience that’s difficult to pin down. 

However, in this guide, I want to take you through the halls of glitch music history and try to suss out what has made this genre such a longstanding staple in electronic music.

What is Glitch Music?

Of course, a lot has changed since the early stages of glitch music, when using modified audio hardware or malfunctioning tech was all the rage. While plenty of artists still work that way, others have shifted their approach, using production software for all their glitch needs.

Through its evolution, we’ve received subgenres like glitch-hop, which blends all the best elements of glitch with a fusion of electronic dance music and hip-hop. 

Consequently, the definition of glitch music is much broader than it ever was.

A Short History of Glitch Music

We can trace the origins of glitch back to the 1980s, particularly in Germany and Japan.

In Germany, the glitch movement found expression through the efforts of artists associated with the Raster-Noton label, such as Alva Noto and Byetone. 

These musicians were influential in shaping the glitch sound, often incorporating computer errors, circuit manipulations, and unconventional audio artifacts into their electronic compositions.

In Japan, artists like Yasunao Tone and Ryoji Ikeda spearheaded the glitch aesthetic. Yasunao Tone, one of my favorite old-school glitch music purveyors, was a founding member of the Fluxus movement. He began exploring unconventional sound sources by utilizing damaged CDs and intentionally manipulating audio playback devices.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that glitch-hop came about, combining elements of hip-hop, such as breakbeats, and IDM, such as synthesizers and glitchy FX.

Prefuse 73 played a pivotal role in the glitch-hop scene. His "Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives" album, which came out in 2001, showcased a style not many had heard before. Of course, glitch-hop would continue evolving, becoming an umbrella term for artists throughout the broader electronic music landscape.

Glitch Music's Unique Sound

The foundation of glitch lies in the intentional use of glitch sounds. I like to think of these as auditory errors.

Glitch producers source them from numerous places, including software, circuit-bent synths, or malfunctioning hardware. Think skips, hardware noise, or system crashes that are deliberately incorporated into a composition and intertwined with traditional percussion elements.

Some glitch music uses pre-recorded samples that the producer will manipulate so that they are nearly indistinguishable. The first thing that comes to mind is Bon Iver’s “22, A Million,” album, where Justin Vernon experimented with all sorts of glitched-out samples and effects, tying it in with organic instrumentation.

How to Make Glitch Music


Many modern glitch producers still embrace old-school techniques, such as bending circuits or recording busted hardware.

While contemporary music production has evolved, and many genres now thrive on minimal laptop setups, there’s still no replacement for the tactile nature of hardware.

Being able to interact directly with your equipment is the best way to get that “human” touch we all long for in music.

If you decide to use hardware, you’ll need an audio interface . There are endless options out there, though if I had to give you one of my best recommendations, it’d be the UAD Apollo. The drivers on this thing sound great and you can get one that caters to your needs, whether you’re recording with a single microphone or multi-tracking a full band.

I also recommend getting a MIDI keyboard or sampler, so you can browse through your library of samples and sounds and play out patterns without having to draw MIDI notes into your DAW. Again, the idea here is “humanizing” your production.

Lastly, I recommend getting a solid pair of headphones or studio monitors to make sure your tracks are up to par with the professional glitch music you like.


Unless you’re recording to tape, you likely rely on your DAW like most glitch music producers. 

Think of a DAW as a virtual studio with non-linear editing capabilities. You get free reign to experiment with and manipulate samples, whether you get them from existing recordings or self-created glitch sounds. 

Most DAWs offer powerful stock editing tools for slicing, rearranging, and processing samples, which is key for glitch music. Of course, some DAWs provide better tools than others, such as Ableton Live and Reason, which is probably why so many glitch music producers gravitate towards them.

Ableton Live has long been a favorite of mine, especially with its unique Session View, which makes triggering loops, samples, and effects in an improvisational way much easier than any other DAW.

Sample Packs

Sound and sample selection, as with any other genre of music, is key in glitch music.

If you don’t want to make your own samples and sounds, you can look for sample packs specifically filled with glitch sounds and artifacts, such as CD skips, vinyl crackles, hardware malfunctions, and electronic glitches.

Beyond FX, I also recommend getting your hands on some percussive sample packs as well, such as those that have glitched-out drum hits or rhythmic stutters. These elements are great for stacking on existing drums.

As a final sample selection tidbit, I’d like to point out that granular synthesis is, in many ways, at the heart of glitch music production. While you can find plenty of granular synth samples out there, I’ll point out some VST options in the following sections that you can use instead.


While there are a million ways to approach glitchy electronic music, I often find that granular synthesis is a good jumping-off point. Here are a few VST options I recommend checking out to get started:

  • Granulator II: This Max for Live device (shout out to Ableton) is one of my favorite tools for manipulating audio in real time. With features like grain position, pitch, length, and density control, it’s one of the most versatile pieces of software for creating glitchy textures.
  • Quanta 2: Audio Damage’s Quanta 2 is a granular synth VST with an ultra-flexible modulation system and sleek interface, making it easy to inject unpredictability into your sound design.
  • Portal: Output has climbed the VST developer ranks over the past few years, crafting some of the most groundbreaking and inspiring software synths and effects around today. Portal, its granular effects plugin, goes above and beyond, offering a range of granular processing modes and tons of presets to optimize your workflow.


I often find that having a sound palette in place before I start producing helps me optimize the creative process. 

Not only is it a great way to focus your creative efforts, but it also helps things stay consistent and cohesive. 

Since glitch music is all about experimentation, there aren’t really any right or wrong answers when it comes to instrument choice. However, I figured I’d make a small list of elements I often hear from my favorite glitch artists as a guide for your production process. 

  • Glitch Samples: Core to glitch music, glitch samples are key. Find some sample packs with malfunctioning audio devices, CD skips, vinyl crackles, hardware noise, and system glitches. If you’re feeling wild, record your own! 
  • VST Synths: Digital synthesizers offer plenty of flexibility, and when you start to dig deep into synthesis, you can figure out ways to experiment with different parameters like waveform, modulation, and filters to create glitchy and unpredictable synth sounds.
  • Circuit-Bending: A circuit-bent instrument is any creatively rewired or modified electronic device that produces a unique sound. Unless you can make your own, I recommend looking on sites like Etsy or Reverb to purchase one you can experiment with.
  • Field Recordings: I’m a huge fan of adding organic, real-world sounds to any kind of music, though with glitch music, it often feels like a must. As for what to record, the world is your oyster. Check out our soundscapes guide to learn more.
  • Drum Machines: Drum machines are great for creating glitchy and intricate percussive patterns. The key here is to experiment with unconventional drum sounds and glitched-out percussion hits to make your track sound more complex. 
  • Samplers: With a sampler, you can manipulate your current samples, vocal snippets, or just about any other audio element you could think of. I recommend checking out the Teenage Engineering OP-1. It’s one of my favorite little portable pieces of gear for real-time sampling and processing.

While I’m a huge proponent of experimentation, I think it’s a good idea to practice by attempting to replicate glitch music from some of your favorite artists. Building technical skills and techniques with active listening will eventually help you branch out and find your unique voice.

My Top 5 Glitch Artists


Oval is an electronic group formed in 1991 by German musician Markus Popp.

The group is probably one of the biggest pioneering forces in the glitch music genre.

Markus Popp has always maintained a uniquely conceptual artistic vision, intentionally exploring how digital imperfections can influence the broader landscape of electronic music. 

The group’s critical acclaim stems from influential albums like "94diskont" and "O," which are both great examples of evolving musical styles, such as ambient, experimental, and minimalist.

Venetian Snares

Venetian Snares is the moniker of Canadian electronic musician Aaron Funk, who became well-loved in the glitch community for his fearless experimentation.

Funk has always had a unique ability to manipulate and layer complex rhythms and breakbeats, all while using unconventional time signatures. His "Rossz Csillag Alatt Született" album is particularly noteworthy, as it blends all the best glitch aesthetics with orchestral samples and other classical music elements.

Tim Hecker

Tim Hecker is a sound design guru who became a heavy-hitter in the glitch music scene with his distinctive ambient approach.

He has a unique ability to create immersive compositions, some good examples of which can be heard in albums like "Harmony in Ultraviolet" and "Ravedeath, 1972."

Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus, the alias of Steven Ellison, became a key figure in the Los Angeles beat scene, taking glitch music and infusing it with jazz hip-hop sensibilities. "Cosmogramma" and "You're Dead!" are some of the greatest albums of the 2000s thus far.

In "Cosmogramma," you can hear Ellison sampling and glitching live jazz musicians he collaborated with to get a warmer, more organic sound. I'd go as far as saying he's one of the most significant glitch hop artists around today.

Glitch Mob

Another cultivator of glitch-hop music is the Glitch Mob. While Flying Lotus might be best known for his instrumental hip hop beats, the Glitch Mob is best known for standing out among the ground of dubstep artists with their EDM-based glitch aesthetic.

Navigating the Glitchscape

What was once an obscure genre flying under the radar of the greater pop, rock, and hip-hop scenes is now exploding into the mainstream. Glitch music has become more accessible, not only to listeners but also to music creators. 

In reality, all you need is a laptop to start making it, so the barrier to entry is relatively non-existent. With the information above, you’re well-equipped to get started making your own glitch art. I wish you luck on your expedition into the great unknown!

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