Disco Gives Birth To House Music

Disco music gets a bad rap. People decry the genre as a plastic, soulless, producer-driven music fad that deserves scorn for being empty and unfulfilling. Many music fans were happy to see disco die in 1980, but the truth is that disco never passed on. It spawned a new generation of dance music that branched out and evolved into the global phenomenon known as house music. So how exactly did disco give birth to house music? Here’s the story.

So a gay guy and a black dude walk into a warehouse….just kidding! Well, actually that’s not too far off. Here’s the short version.

  • Larry Levan started spinning disco records together at those crazy Paradise Garage parties in New York.
  • Soon after Disco Demolition Night (when white kids killed disco at a White Sox game), Chicago started developing a new, electronic, drum-machine happy sound.
  • Frankie Kunckles brought his gay-friendly crate of thumping disco tracks to Chicago and the kids got into it. Stuff like “Let No Man Put Asunder” from First Choice rocked the Warehouse in 1983.
  • Soulful, bangin’ disco tracks collided with what-the-hell-sounding beats from Jesse Saunders, Farley Jackmaster Funk and a bunch of other DJs, remixers and record producer types in Chicago.
  • All the kids wanted to buy the records that were playing at the Warehouse in Chicago, and after some abbreviating — the house music label was born.
  • In Detroit, Juan Atkins (/Cybotron), Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson originated a techno touch alongside the Chicago house music sound.

If you want to learn more, there’s a video on it — Pump Up the Volume. This documentary outlines the history of house music’s muddied origins. From swinging disco tracks to squelching, experimental knob-turning, to the base kick of techno’s first producers, this three-part video has it all.

Pump Up The Volume – History of House Music – Part 1

Part 1 starts with Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage and goes through the early house music scene in Chicago.

In Part 2, you can learn about how Brits got hold of the stuff and used their Northern Soul infrastructure and connections in Ibiza to club the music out to the Euro masses. Detroit’s take on house also gets attention.

Part 3 takes you through some of the more recent house music scenes, you know — all that splinter faction definition label stuff. Anything Goldie says is hilarious, and Armand Van Helden seems like a pretty chill dude.

Sure, these Google vids don’t offer the best presentation. And yeah, some of the music you’ll hear is a bit wack, but this documentary from 2001 is a bridge that connects the house music of today to the disco classics of yesteryear. Understanding the details of this evolution will give you a greater appreciation for the ever-evolving history of dance music.

Mixing House Music and Distinguishing the Breaks in the Music

When it comes to mixing house music it takes some experience of knowing how house music is created. This simply comes with listening to it over and over again. Most house music we listen to uses a 4/4 measure. That means for every measure there are four bars and for every bar there are four beats.

For example most house music starts on the one or the first kick drum sound. From there you would count 1, 2, 3, 4 in sync with the kick drum and then you would repeat the count again starting on 1. You do this one time and you just completed a bar. You do this four times and you just completed a measure. This is a good frame of reference in order to start.

5 quick and easy steps to begin mixing house music

1. Start mixing by using duplicate records. In other words get two of the same songs and try mixing. It is much easier to start with two of the same records rather than two different records.
2. When mixing two different records use the same or close to the same BPMs.
3. Use your favorite songs to mix when starting out.
4. Slow the tempo down if the song is too fast.
5. Mark the record with a piece of tape to indicate the beginning of the beat.

Think of house music as Hiphop music just a little faster. By slowing the house music down with your pitch adjustment on your turntable it will make mixing the music a little easier.

Why?

Because when the music is slower you brain has a chance to process the music easier which allows you to mix songs easier. Your ear will adapt to the slower tempo enabling you to match beats. If you were to try to mix house music for the first time at it is normal speed you could easily get frustrated because things could be going to fast for you.

Matching beats is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome when mixing any genre of music not just house music. A beat is equivalent to one kick of a kick drum. Being able to match beats doesn’t start with house music it starts with a simple drum track. Just about any Hip Hop track that is about 90 BPM’s with a simple 4 beat pattern will do.

Practice mixing with a pair of the same record trying to match beats. Always try to catch the beat on the “1” or the first drum kick at the beginning of the verse not the intro. On your right hand turntable cue the record at the beginning of the verse starting with the kick drum. You cue the record by placing your finger on the record at the point where you want the beat to come in. On your left hand turntable play the same record from the beginning.

The platter should still be spinning under the record. Why? Because when you release the record you want it to match beats with the song from the other turntable in time. If you press too hard on the record while cueing it, the song will drag and the song will not play in sync. One record will play behind the other and you’ll get a weird echo effect or something worse.

When the song from the left hand turntable reaches the beginning of the verse (on the “1” or first kick drum) that is when you release the record from its cue point giving it a slight push so it does not drag. Continue to practice this method with your favorite records and you’ll be mixing any type of music you can get your hands on not just house music.

What Is House Music?

The house music is basically an electronic dance type of music which initially originated in Chicago back in early 1980s. It is during the same decade that the music got popularized among the African-American, the Latino American and the gay communities. The music gradually gained popularity lead by the infamous House Music Tour. The popularity spread through the United States before spreading to the world.

The origin of the word ‘House Music’ might trace the roots from a nightclub in Chicago by the name ‘The Warehouse’. The club existed between 1977 and 1983. This was a dancing spot for the gay black and the Latino men who frequented the place for disco dances. The name is believed to have been derived from a sign written ‘we play house music’.

The infamous House Music Tour is the one that introduced the music to Europe. England received the new kind of music as one of the best music and contributed in its spread. England played a huge role in the spread and development of the music through out the entire European continent. This was still in the 1990s and the spread got to the peak in the mid 90s. In present day, the music has been infused in various music mainstreams such as good techno songs, pop and dance across the globe. The music is unique in a way and its popularity has been attributed to the elements from other music.

The House music has been influenced greatly by other kind of music. The visible elements include those of funk and soul infused varieties of disco. In general, the house music basically mimics the disco percussion. This has is evident especially when considering the continued use of the bass drum on the bears. The music also includes the electronic drums, synthesizer baseline, funk, pop and the electronic effects that make the music appear more like the top techno songs. It is by far the best kind of music for the people who love soul and funk music. It has the elements prominent in it and they are augmented by the techno aspect.

Basically, the house music is an up-tempo music designed for dancing though a little off when compared to the modern dance. It lies at mid-tempo which is basically between 118 and 135 beats per minute. Generally, the prominent element is the kick drum which tends to appear on all the beats. The beats have been known to be generated by either a sampler or a drum machine. Extended dropouts and kick fills augment the kick drum.

The house music has had great impacts in various fronts ranging from social to political fields. The music has been used many times to convey political messages to the people who are considered as outcasts in the society. This was basically done to point at the people who did not fit in the American mainstream society. This was celebrated by most of the black males and hence was associated with the black Americans. All in all, the house music is designated for dance and the main goal for its creation was to fit the nightlife.