What’s in a name? House music goes by a lot of different names these days – deep house, acid house, tech house, moombahton, Melbourne bounce, the list goes on… What exactly is the difference between all of these styles, and who actually cares? If you’re a beginner DJ, understanding all of these house music subgenres might seem like a waste of time, but if you want to know how to DJ house music like a pro, it’s important to know as much as you can about the music you’re playing. The more you understand these subgenres, the more you’ll be able to take on gigs feeling like an expert rather than a newbie. Plus, if you’re a house fan, exploring all of these subgenres could help you discover some really cool new music. With that in mind, let’s dive in to some of the most popular house music subgenres.
Classic (Chicago) House
Chicago house is where it all began. In the 1970s and 80s, in the aftermath of the disco era, a number of Chicago-based producers started developing a new type of electronic dance music characterized by a repetitive four-on-the-floor kick drum beat. This eventually gave rise to the type of house music we hear on the radio today created by producers like Basement Jaxx, Carl Cox, Pete Tong, and Duke Dumont.
Deep house grew out of the 1980s Chicago house movement when producers started mixing funk, soul, and jazz elements with the classic house style. The name deep house refers to the fact that most deep house music is heavily reliant on big, deep bass sounds, and also has a darker tone to it than most other house music. Some contemporary practitioners of deep house include Lee Burridge, Solomun, Lee Foss, HNNY, and St. Germain.
Acid house is another of the house music subgenres to grow out of the 1980s Chicago house scene. Acid house is defined by squelching basslines (originally produced using Roland TB-303 synthesizer/sequencers), and fairly minimal song structures. Although acid house is not one of the big house music subgenres today, there are still producers and DJs such as DJ ARG, Boyz Noise, Paul Mac, and Acid Driver who are continuing the acid house tradition.
While house music began as a distinctly American genre, the emergence of progressive house in the UK scene in the early 1990s turned house music into an international music style. Progressive house grew out of the 1990s UK rave and club scene and saw producers incorporating elements of trance music into the traditional house style. Today, some of the world’s biggest DJs like Deadmau5, Avicii, Zedd, and Tiesto, are part of the progressive house movement.
Tech house, as you might have already guessed, is a fusion of techno and house music. The tech house scene came out of the mid and late 1990s UK club scene, making this another example of how house music has grown to global status. Some notable tech house DJs working today include Pleasurekraft, UMEK, Craig Williams, Catz N Dogz, and Claude VonStoke.
Electro house came on the scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s when producers like Basement Jaxx and Mr. Oizo started combining house music with techno and electro pop influences. This subgenre typically uses faster tempos (around 130bpm), and is defined by heavy, distorted basslines that sometimes take the place of drum sounds. Later in the 2000s and 2010s, electro house gave rise to a number of other house music subgenres like big room, Dutch house, moombahton, and Melbourne bounce. Some of the worlds biggest DJs and producers like Steve Aoki, Skrillex, and Knife Party have been described as electro house artists.
Tropical house is a more recent emergence, coming on the scene in the 2010s through festivals like Tomorrowland. While tropical house is often categorized as a subgenre of deep house, tropical house can be seen as existing on the opposite end of the spectrum from deep house thanks to its bright and cheery sound. Tropical house artists build on the typical Chicago house sound by adding – you guessed it – lots of tropical and sunny sounds. While it originally began as more of a niche genre, tropical house broke through to the mainstream in 2015 with massive singles from Kygo and Felix Jaehn. Some other notable tropical house artists include Thomas Jack, Henry Krinkle, and Sam Feldt.
Once again, this list only scratches the surface of what’s out there for house music subgenres. Not included in this list are further genres, subgenres, and sub-subgenres like ghetto house, UK garage, night bass, microhouse, future house, fidget house, complextro, and others. In fact, probably in the time it took you to read this article, another genre of house music has been invented. That’s why it’s important to keep listening to new music and exploring new genres and subgenres in order to keep on top of what’s happening in the music world. If you want more info on EDM styles, we’ll continue to delve into this topic in the weeks and months to come on the blog. Or better yet, you can get to know these musical styles by taking DJ lessons and learning to play them yourself. For only $19.95 per month, you can become a member of Spin Academy, where you’ll get access to our video lessons which cover everything from basic skills like gain staging to advanced tricks like scratching and using effects.