Deep House History

Deep house is a subgenre of house music[1] that originated in the 1980s, initially fusing elements of Chicago house with 1980s jazz-funk[2] and touches of soul music.[3] Deep house tracks generally have a tempo of between 120 and 130 BPM (beats per minute), contrasting with the slower hip hop (100 beats per minute) and faster electronic-techno rave music (150 to 180 beats per minute).[4][5]

This style of house music can often have an acoustic feeling.[6] The online music store Beatport is credited with driving the popularity of deep house,[7] but also mislabeling a number of artists in the process[8] and giving rise to the future house genre.

Deep house is known for complex melody, use of unrelated chromatic chords underlying most sequences, and a soul, ambient, or lounge vibe to the vocals (if any). In the early compositions (1988–89), influences of jazz music were most frequently brought out by using more complex chords than simple triads (7ths, 9ths, 13ths, suspensions, alterations) which are held for many bars and give compositions a slightly dissonant feel. The use of vocals became more common in deep house than in many other forms of house music. Sonic qualities include soulful vocals (if vocals are included), slow and concentrated dissonant melodies, and a smooth, stylish, and chic demeanor. The use of women’s vocals is more common than male’s in deep house tracks. Deep house music rarely reaches a climax, but lingers on as a comfortable, relaxing sound.

Deep house was largely pioneered by Chicago producers such as Marshall Jefferson (On the House) and Larry Heard (Mr. Fingers)[2] and with tracks such as “Mystery of Love” (1985) and “Can You Feel It?” (1986);[9] the latter had a similar impact on deep house as Derrick May’s “Strings Of Life” (1987) did on Detroit techno.[10] The jazzy sound became more common due to the favored use of electric pianos such as the Rhodes and Wurlitzer, and the Hammond organ. Author Richie Unterberger has stated that Heard’s deep house sound moved house music away from its posthuman tendencies back towards the lush, soulful sound of early disco music (particularly that of old Philadelphia International and Salsoul records).[11]


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