Dance-genres explained

Dance-genres explained

Do you know what Future House is? Or where the word 'Moombahton' comes from? In other words: can you keep up in a chat about the origins of your genre? Here are the must-knows to organise your tracks by, and to sound like you've been in the biz for years!

Listed in this article:
1. HOUSE
2. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: JACKIN’ HOUSE
3. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: LATIN HOUSE
4. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: SOULFUL HOUSE
5. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: EDM
6. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: TECH-HOUSE
7. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: DEEPHOUSE
8. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: FUTURE HOUSE
9. TECHNO
10. TRANCE
11. DISCO
12. NU-DISCO
13. R&B
14. MOOMBAHTON
15. DRUM ‘n’ BASS

1. HOUSE

Description:
‘House’ is a generic term for anything with a 4-to-the-floor beat and a BPM between 120 and 130. Many genres described here, can be seen as a subgenre or spin-off from House. Also, nowadays, ‘house’ is often used as a collective nuon for anything from Soulful to commercial Deep- or Techhouse that doesn’t fit the specific subgenre’s characteristics.
Origin:
‘House’ has it’s origins in Chicago, where now-called ‘innovators’ Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles started (beat)mixing Disco records with European ‘electronic beats’ like Kraftwerk’s ‘Computer Love’. House has it groove directly from (the uptempo) Disco music (which was hip between 1975 and 1980). When being blent with these elecronic sounds in the hippest clubs of Chicago (and soon after, New York) this appeared very catchy and soon conquered clubs in Europe. Today’s House is still very similar to what it was in the early 80’s of the last century.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Larry Levan, Todd Terry, Moloko, Frankie Knuckles, Masters at Work, Daft Punk
Typical track:
Guitarra G - G-Club Presents Banda Sonorra


2. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: JACKIN’ HOUSE

Description:
Slightly funkier and more underground than what we call ‘House’. Mostly filled with snippets of ‘70’s and ‘80’s tracks and very danceable. Non-commercial, but very easy-on-the-ear and suitable for building up a house party untill halfway the night.
Origin:
Soon after the rise of House in the 80’s, House producers started creating a funkier sound by incorporating elements from famous New Jack Swing-producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and other then-hip black acts like Guy and Bobby Brown.
Named after a groovy dance move from the ‘70’s, ‘The Jack’, this genre evolved into a steady underground genre for seriously grooving House DJ’s.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
DJ Sneak, DJ Mes, Kid Creme, Sonny Fodera
Typical track:
Fix My Sink - DJ Sneak


3. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: LATIN HOUSE

Description:
Any House-track containing obvious musical or rhythmical elements from Latin-Amercian music like Cuban, Salsa, Merenge and others can be called Latin House. Most typical difference with ‘regular house’ is the double snare drum after the 1st and 3rd beat, instead of a straight-forward snare on the 2nd and 4th beat.
Origin:
Already in the second half of the 1980’s, House’s founding fathers like Todd Terry started including Latin elements in their tracks, partially because of the prominent presence of Latino’s in the hip clubs where house was being played. Latin House became a prominent genre in the 2000’s with huge Latin-House hits as ‘Cada Vez’ by Grant Nelson and the ‘Africanism’ project by Bob Sinclar before becoming slightly more underground in the 2010’s.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Armand van Helden, Grant Nelson, Bob Sinclair, DJ Gregory
Typical track:
Tourment D’Amour - DJ Gregory


4. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: SOULFUL HOUSE

Description:
Smooth and very danceable, sometimes atmospheric variation of House. Although this is considered slightly underground, this is the most accessible and easy-on-the-ear form of House music. We highly encourage to look for good tracks in this genre as they form a great starting point for any club night to set a vibe.
Origin:
Soulful House is as close to the original ‘Disco’ vibe as House gets. It’s producers and DJ’s are usually very much ‘black music’ minded people who have their musical roots in R&B, Funk and Soul. Soulful House always existed alongside the ‘harder’ genres since House’s big break in the 90’s. Many of the big 2000’s house hits (when club-hits became radio-hits) can be filed under Soulful House.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Masters at Work, David Penn, Jamie Lewis, Todd Terry
Typical track:
To Be In Love - Masters At Work


5. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: EDM (Electronic Dance Music)

Description:
Although EDM is technically a collective word for various music genres, in the last 10 years ‘EDM’ became a specific reference to the highly commercial, energy stuffed ‘stop-and-drop’ festival-anthems that turned second-generation A-lister DJ’s Afrojack, David Guetta, Hardwell and Marin Garrix into superstars.
Origin:
David Guetta, with a pioneering bunch of young Dutch DJ’s by his side, took the stadium-suited elements from Trance to a lower BPM and included climax-effects from Hardstyle to create a high impact, symplistic form of House music. It became highly succesful and bangers like Martin Garrix’ ‘Animals’, Avicci’s ‘Levels’ and Swedish House Mafia’s ‘One’ were both festival-closers as well as huge Top-40 hits.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Afrojack, David Guetta, Hardwell, Swedish House Mafia, Marin Garrix
Typical track:
One - Swedish House Mafia


6. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: TECH-HOUSE

Description:
Tech-House is a mix of House and Techno. The melodic, commercially sounding verse-and-chorus of Soulful/Deephouse genres is replaced by short, electronic samples and loops and placed in a more Techno-like beat and structure. Funkier than Techno, but less radio-frienly than regular House.
Origin:
Tech-House became very popular halfway the 2010’s as a happy medium between more commercial Soulful House and the quickly growing Techno scene. As an underground variation of House, less complex than Soulful/Deephouse and relatively easy to make by semi-professionals and amateurs with decent music software, Tech-House exploded around 2015 in Western-Europe.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Derrick Carter, Sven Vath, Franky Rizardo, Mark Knight
Typical track:
Set My Body - DCMB & D-Mice


7. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: DEEPHOUSE

Description:
Atmospheric, non-commercial and ‘deeper’, less ‘happy vibe’ variation of Soulful House. More club-suited, serious and underground. Driven by a dominant bassline and often topped with whispering female vocals or short vocal samples.
Origin:
Deephouse’s first commercial peak came in the late 90’s as a blend of chill-out and lounge over a soft House-beat. Perfectly suited for sunsets and bedrooms, Deephouse in it’s early form was the first House-variation that was not necessarily made to dance.
Around 2013, Deephouse became the common name for a much more in-your-face sound, made big by Oliver Heldens with tracks like ‘Koala’ and ‘Gecko’. Only a few years later, Tech-House pushed Deephouse out of the clubs and back into obscurity, which brought the genre back in the hands of bedroom-beat veterans like Blue Six and Miguel Migs.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Larry Heard, Kaskade, Miguel Migs, Blue Six
Typical track:
Surrender - Miguel Migs


8. HOUSE SUB-GENRE: FUTURE HOUSE

Description:
Future House is a combination of EDM and the festival-friendly version of Deephouse as described above. Funky and explosive, but not as euphoric and commercial as EDM.
Origin:
During the worldwide peak of EDM, a lot of it’s producers (inspired by Oliver Heldens’ hits ‘Koala’ and ‘Gecko’) shifted back from the jump-up-and-down beats of EDM to more hip-shaking grooves. They found a middle between EDM and Jackin’ House around the end of the 2010’s.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Tchami, Oliver Heldens, Don Diablo
Typical track:
Me, Msyelf & I (Mesto Remix) - G Easy & Bebe Rexha


9. TECHNO

Description:
A dark, monotone and totally non-commercial offspring of House, with such a different vibe and audience that it can impossibly be listed as a House-genre. Although, Techno still leans more on the original instruments (Roland’s TR-909 amongst others) with wich House was first created, than any other genre. It is mostly instrumental and highly repetitive but also, more than any other genre, a platform for many DJ/Producers to perform ‘live-sets’ with both DJ and Producer gear in use in the DJ-booth.
Origin:
Techno has been a steady underground genre since it’s spin-off from the more commercial variations of House. With it’s prime producers and clubs located in Berlin, the new (and old) capitol of a unified Germany also became the ‘capitol of Techno’ around the early 90’s. It drew, and still draws, both the pioneering audience and makers to clubs like Berghain and Tresor. Although musically still non-commercial, Techno became one of the bigest club-genres worldwide during the late 2010’s.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Derrick May, Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Chris Liebing
Typical track:
The Bells - Jef Mills


10. TRANCE

Description:
With speeds mostly between 130 and 140 BPM, Trance is much quicker than House. It’s eurphoric, highly energetic, easy-to-dance-to and has huge build-ups and climaxes.
With a lenght of 10 minutes being no exception, the typical Trance-anthem can be dreamy, hypnotising ánd adrenaline-stuffed at the same time.
Origin:
Trance arose in the early-to-mid 1990’s in England, Holland and Germany as an offspring of the early House. Trance is especially important for being the prime musical vehicle to bring electronic dance music to stadiums and big crowds. In 2004, Trance DJ/Producer and pioneer Tiësto was the first DJ ever to play a stadium.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, Sven Vath.
Typical track:
Traffic - Tiësto


11. DISCO

Description:
With it’s heydays in the mid-to-late 1970’s, Disco is the oldest genre with clear musical ties to nowaday’s house music. Without Disco, there would have been no House music, or Techno. And not even a popular dance-culture. Disco is happy, groovy, ultra-dancable and usually stuffed with vocals and catchy choruslines.
Disco has many tempo’s, ranging from approx. 90 to 135 BPM. Disco ‘killed’ the more authentic Soul and Funk when it arose in the US, but got out of fashion as quickly as it came, about five years later. With it’s biggest hits still being the backbone to many wedding party-DJ sets, Disco was extremely effective in delivering countless timeless hits within a very short period of time.
Origin:
Disco, which is actually Funk, but quicker and with a steady 4-to-the-floor beat, became huge by the movies ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Grease’ and their immensly popular soundtracks. Bands like The Beegees and Chic made irresistebly catchy hits and inspired a whole generation of musicians to ‘go disco’. With so much resemblance to nowaday’s dance music, Disco is still very well suited to play in clubs.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
The Jackson 5, Gloria Gaynor, Chic, The Beegees
Typical track:
Stayin’ Alive - The Beegees

12. NU-DISCO

Description:
Like the name says, this is Disco, but production-wise updated to current standards. This usually means a modern-day beat pasted under (samples of) old Disco tracks. DJ’s who play Nu-Disco are suckers for the vintage, soulful atmosphere of the Disco era and mix originals with remakes, remixes and current throwback-tracks into a blend where it’s almost impossible to hear which track is new and which one is over 30 years old.
Origin:
Already soon after Disco had ‘died’, it’s ‘remains’ were picked up in Europe, at first in Italy, where the ‘Italo Disco’ wave delievered some big hits. In the 1990’s especially in France, Daft Punk and a whole lot of smaller acts (Modjo, Bob Sinclar) pushed the pop-charts ánd the clubs to ‘Disco’ again.
The big hit ‘Get Lucky’ (2013) by Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers, one of the original masters of Disco, proved that Disco in it’s original form still gets huge crowds going.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Dimitri From Paris, Joey Negro, Daft Punk, Modjo, Room 5
Typical track:
Make Luv - Room 5


13. R&B

Description:
Slow and smooth, danceable only for those who ‘got soul’, and the ultimate tool to seduce and be seduced on the dancefloor. The sound of R&B changes from era to era, just as it’s popularity, and depends highly on which producers are prominent in ‘the game’. But is has been, and remains, the only genre to compete with House as the most played genre in clubs worldwide.
Origin:
Before the 1990’s, R&B was the household name for the mix of danceable Jazz and Southern-American Blues as made famous by artists like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. When Producers like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Teddy Riley and Babyface created modern R&B in the ‘90’s, with acts like Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men and Toni Braxton, it became a club-genre and very popular with DJ’s.
In the ‘00’s and ‘10’s, producers like Timbaland and Pharrell Williams created so many huge R&B hits that no allround-DJ would dare to go spinning without their records in the bag ever since.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Guy, R Kelly, Pharrell Williams
Typical track:
What’s Up - Donnell Jones


14. MOOMBAHTON

Description:
Moombahton is a young genre but is in many aspects similar to the much older Reggaeton and Dancehall. Moombathon is the most ‘in-your-face’ and ‘agressive’ blend of Carribean/Latino grooves, Western ‘Top-40’-sounds and EDM.
Origin:
The name ‘Moombathon’ arose in 2009 when an American DJ/Producer slowed down Dutch DJ Chuckie’s track ‘Moombah’ on a Latin-American party, to fit his otherwise Reggaeton and Bachata-filled set. A few years earlier though, huge crossover hits like Lorna’s ‘Papi Chulo’ (2002), ‘Gasolina’ by Diddy Y Yankee (2004) and Shakira’s ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ 2005) already formed the ‘first wave’ of Carribean-meets-R&B hits that proved the potential of this formula. Mixed with EDM and Trap-sounds, Moombahton followed this direction in a more electronic and less vocal-stuffed way.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Dave Nada, Dillon Francis, Porter Robinson
Typical track:
Esta Noche - Munchi


15. DRUM ‘n’ BASS

Description:
Steady groovin’ around 174 BPM, Drum and Bass is quick for some, and slow for others. Depending on how you feel it’s recognisable and corresponding rhythm pattern, ‘Drum and Bass’ can be danced to by shaking some hips, but also jumped and raved to if you feel like it. Although the genre is considered a ‘niche’ by many, it has huge communities of devotees in every corner of the world. Especially popular in skater, surfer and backpacker-subcultures, D’n’B is always just as alternative as nearby.
Origin:
In the 1990’s D’n’B emerged in London from a blend of underground movements like Jungle, Hardcore and Hip-Hop. The ‘Amen Break’, a drum-solo from a 1960’s record, became the blueprint for what became the typical D’n’B-rhythm. As the genre evolved, elements from Jamaican and Brazilian music became very apparent.
Acts like Goldie and The Prodigy gave D’n’B a short-lived commercial peak in the ‘90’s before it became the steady undercurrent dance genre which it has been for the last two decades.
Founding fathers & hitmakers:
Goldie, LTJ Bukem, DJ Marky
Typical track:
LK - DJ Marky ft. Stamina MC

Ofcourse there are many more genres to play as a DJ. Small ‘niches’ like 2-Step or Frenchcore and other variations on ‘bigger’ genres. But also big movements like Hip-Hop and Hardstyle. We chose the genres that are most present in the clubs and festivals worldwide at the time of writing, and in the past decade.
Also, these are the genres that most of our students play or would like to play.

Written by Olivier Meijs
© 2017 DJ School Amsterdam - All rights reserved
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