Hardstyle is an electronic dance genre mixing influences from techno and hardcore. Early hardstyle typically consisted of an overdriven and hard-sounding kick drum with a lot of sustain, with intense faded or reversed basslines accompanying the beat. Hardstyle also utilises harsh and distorted synths, detuned and distorted sounds accompanying the main instruments along with a lot of modern hardstyle songs that also incorporate poetry and story telling within the music.
The natural evolution of music has seen hardstyle mellow out over time. What was once a very dark, assertive and powerful genre began to incorporate trance-like synths and uplifting melodies. Modern kicks are also now layered, with multiple layers of higher frequency distorted kicks, combining with a lower frequency tremble to create a thicker and fuller kick drum. During the mid-late 2000s, pitching kicks became popular in hardstyle as well, and all this has led to hardstyle becoming more accessible and popularity increased. Many hardcore artists produce hardstyle tracks as well, and many newer Hardstyle tracks are written in compound time (for example, older Headhunterz and Noisecontrollers work).
Hardstyle has also been an influence on other styles of electronic dance music as well, most notably big room house, that shares similarities with hardstyle, like structures, rhythms and later pitched kicks. Artists who are linked with hardstyle have found significant success within house. These artists include Martin Garrix, Showtek, Headhunterz, D-Block & S-te-Fan and Maarten Vorwerk.
Around the late 1990s into the early 2000s, hard trance was being experimented and influenced hardcore and hard house producers, with small changes and tweaks being made such as introduction of the reverse bass and an increased amount of screeches. The exact origin of hardstyle cannot be specifically defined, as it did not simply appear out of nowhere, but the result of an evolution and mixture of other genres turned hard trance to a more pronouced hardstyle, which is now known as early hardstyle. As it progressed, it gathered characteristics from other genres such as hardcore and hard house and developed the unique reverse bass and was played in the 135-150 BPM range. In a sense, hardcore producers such as DJ Zany, Lady Dana, DJ Isaac, DJ Pavo, DJ Luna and The Prophet, and external influences like hard house was mainstream at the time, and turned hard trance into early hardstyle. This also explains the reason why later on, the BPM of hardstyle increased slightly (from 135-150 to 150-160). Some hardcore producers such as The Prophet brought the reverse bass and screeches back to the hardcore gabber scene making hardstyle and hardcore nowadays similar or even indistinguishable in some cases, only differing in BPM.
Hardstyle was influenced by gabber. Hardstyle has its origins in the Netherlands where artists like DJ Zany, Lady Dana, DJ Isaac, DJ Pavo, DJ Luna and The Prophet, who produced hardcore, started experimenting while playing their hardcore records. The first hardstyle events, like Qlubtempo, took place at the beginning of the 21st century. The first few years of hardstyle were characterized by a tempo of around 140-150 BPM, a compressed kick drum sound, a short vocal sample, a screech and the use of a "reverse bass", which can be heard on the offbeat after each kick.
After several successful editions of Qlubtempo and Qlimax, Q-dance registered the word hardstyle as their brand on the 4th of July 2002.
Around 2002, more hardstyle labels emerged. Fusion (with artist as DJ Zany and Donkey Rollers) and Scantraxx (founded by Dov Elkabas) are two of the Dutch labels that started to bring out hardstyle tracks around that time.
In early 2010, a new variation in hardstyle, named dubstyle was introduced. Dubstyle is the name given to the genre fusion of hardstyle and dubstep. Dubstyle tends to have reversed wobble basslines and take the kick styling of hardstyle tracks, while combining them with the rhythm, groove, and dubstep tempo and effects a fusion of elements of hardstyle with a dubstep rhythm, usually a 2-step or a breakstep rhythm. Because of the sporadic beat in dubstyle, the bass is often more dragged out and/or it doesn't follow a strict offbeat pattern that regular hardstyle incorporates, which in turn results in dubstyle basslines bearing similarities to dubstep basslines.
From roughly 2010 onwards, the move towards a more melodic emphasis from early hardstyle evolved into the subgenre "euphoric hardstyle", characterized by highly emotional melodies and heavy pitch-shifting of kicks. Notable euphoric hardstyle producers include Coone, Atmozfears, Sephyx, Devin Wild, D-Block & S-te-Fan (DBSTF), Da Tweekaz, Code Black, Headhunterz, Avi8 and Wasted Penguinz.
Since around 2011, more terms to identify developments of hardstyle were introduced. Raw hardstyle, is a type of hardstyle influenced from Dutch hardcore or older hardstyle resulting in darker melodies, screeches and deeper-sounding kick drums. Notable raw hardstyle artists are for example: Ran-D and Warface[unreliable source?]
In 2012, American trap group Flosstradamus sampled several well known hardstyle tracks in their Total Recall EP, which sparked significant controversy. Hardstyle group Showtek (brothers Sjoerd and Wouter Janssen) accused Flosstradamus of using their music without permission.