What the hell is house music?

Aaron again – I’m back researching genres. Today I thought I’d look into House music. One thing to note is that all genres that are considered “electronic”, and also hip-hop for the most part, come out of limitation. What I mean is, electronic genres generally developed as responses to NOT having the resources (financial, equipment or human) to present live music on stage with “real” instruments. While the inventors of synthesizers were making weirdo music because they were interested in what new sounds and methods could create, in the trenches, people were making music any way they could, and synthesizers and sampling (including cutting and beat matching with vinyl records) were ways a person could creatively create music without a band at their disposal. Pause loop tapes are another example of this kind of ingenuity.

A pause loop tape is simply a beat made by dubbing a section from a cassette another another cassette, then pausing the new cassette just at the right spot, then rewinding the other cassette to play back the section, thus extending a section, for example if a popular song has just drums for a few bars. This is the same concept as vinyl cutting, only pause loop beats can’t really be done in real time. But for the generation JUST after the first generation of DJs, this was what made sense (I happen to be in that generation – and I made TONS of pause-loop hip-hop.)

So – because the methods, the reason for the methods, and the group of people are generally the same, *I* consider EVERY electronic genre hip-hop. Many would disagree though, because hip-hop is really a culture, not a kind of music. But, since the culture really is connected, it’s really all the same stuff. However, hip-hop and EDM grew from the same place and separated…one did not grow from the other.

What made me think of this is that one of the first things Wikipedia had to say about House is that it was similar to disco. Ah ha! The first hip-hop also grew from disco and funk (in fact the first hip-hop bands were actually bands – eg: Sugar Hill Gang). And really, each of those genres grew into basically the synthesized equivalent of its predecessor. (That could be why in my solo act, I keep going more toward live instrumentation).

So – house music.

Quoting Wikipedia again:

House music is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in Chicago in the early 1980s. It was initially popularized in Chicago, circa 1984. House music quickly spread to other American cities like Detroit, New York City, and Newark – all of which developed their own regional scenes. In the mid-to-late 1980s, house music became popular in Europe as well as major cities in South America, and Australia.[17]

If you remember in my techno post, I quoted Wikipedia as saying “In Detroit techno resulted from the melding of African American music including Chicago house, funk, electro, and electric jazz with electronic music by artists such as…”…and I also mentioned it came about in the mid to late 80’s.

That’s interesting, because I would have thought of house as a subset of techno. Turns out no. Although I also long thought of “techno” as a catchall term.

Ok – so what does it sound like?

Wikipedia claims this song:

“On And On”, by Jesse Saunders is “often cited as the first Chicago house record”. First thing I notice is that bass sound. That sound, which is often the “synth bass 1” or “synth bass 2″ sound in synthesizer setups (in general MIDI it’s patch 40, Synth Bass 2), sounds very characteristic of house to me. We use a version of it in The Instant:

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://www.nquit.com/sounds/ThirdOption/TheFourHardEdgesOfWar/samples/08TheInstantSample.mp3”] (you’ll have to get about a minute in to hear it)

Here it is again in the classic hit, Pump Up The Volume, by Marrs:

The other thing you hear a lot of in house is the use of the TR-909 or TR-808 snare drum sample. That’s that cheesy 8 bit snare sound you hear in Pump Up The Volume. Third Option doesn’t tend to use that sound.

The other common thing in house is it’s super repetitive, a little bit minimal compared to disco or techno, and a lot of times, again, is instrumental. The time signature, again, is always 4/4, and the tempos are typically between 120-140 (or so), like techno. In other words it’s music for dancing. Specifically for being in a club and dancing and going into a trance (although trance music is something else πŸ˜‰ ).

So, like techno and almost all EDM (unless it’s downtempo or chill), house is usually heavy on bass, has the kick drum hitting on every beat (ooon tss oon tss oon tss oon tss) and any creativity in rhythm is generally left to the hats or clavs – high small sounds. Notice though, that a GOOD club mix is actually not too bass heavy in the way it’s mixed – that’s because a club will have massive woofers – you don’t want to overdo it. But you do want it to thump. So electronic dance music, house included, doesn’t generally consist of, say an acoustic guitar and a singer without drums πŸ™‚

I would say that’s the first and most basic qualifier for hip-hop music, too. DRUMS are the most important element (aside from the rapper…clearly rappers are gods and should be respected as such – and rapper/singers…well…. πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ ).

Ok now that I’m done talking smack… let me know what genre we should explore next – or if you haven’t done it, grab the latest Third Option free download at thirdoptionmusic.com/free-music and see if you can figure out what the hell Third Option is πŸ™‚

Until the next time!

— Aaron from Third Option

I had to go back and include this: Chris Lake/Chris Lorenzo, “The Calling” this is where house is now. SO different. I’d call this deep house which is a sub-genre…although some might argue there. πŸ™‚

Scroll to Top