House Music – A Brief History of Early House Records

In the Beginning

The origins of house music can be traced back to the early 1980’s in Chicago, Illinois. House rhythms were originally rooted in disco, but the music was influenced by a wide range of styles including blues, jazz, soul, R&B, and funk.

Framing the “House”

The coining of the phrase “house music” is a hotly debated topic among musicians and DJ’s. Some say it originated from a club called “The Warehouse” where longtime resident Producer/DJ Frankie Knuckles played his unique brand of dance music until 1982 when the venue closed. Knuckles himself said he first heard the term while passing by a bar on the south side of Chicago that displayed a sign in its window reading “We play house music”. DJ Leonard “Remix” Rroy claims the sign was a reference to the type of soulful music one would play at home.

Another opinion is that the term referenced the creation of music in the homes of pioneering DJ’s and dance producers. These early creations would be recorded using synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers. Others claim that “house” references the correlation of certain tracks with their respective DJ’s, as in the house DJ’s played their own house records.

The Pioneers of House

The Chicago club scene of the early 80’s was fueled by DJ’s spinning various forms of music including disco, hip hop, funk, pop, and R&B. The advent of relatively inexpensive electronic instruments led to many DJ’s producing their own blend of existing songs by mixing in drum machines and effects.

Considered by many to be the first original house music record, “On & On” by Jesse Saunders was released in 1984. The album’s success stimulated a wave of recordings from the early DJ’s trying their hand at producing house music. The music soon branched off into subgenres of house such as deep house and acid house.

With the support of club DJ’s such as Lil Louis, Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, and radio stations like WBMX, house music quickly gained popularity in Chicago. At the same time, house began to spread to neighboring DJ’s and producers of Detroit, Michigan. Artists like Marshall Jefferson helped push house outside of Chicago with his widely popular track “Move Your Body”. From the mid to late 80’s artists like Larry Heard, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Farley Keith, and Steve Hurley, continued to popularize the genre.

Today, house music is stronger than ever and can be heard in some form throughout clubs across the globe. The genre has continued to branch off into subgenres including progressive house, electro house, techno house, breakbeat, and the list goes on. House is not just a form of music, but is a religion supported by devoted practitioners the world over.

How Can I Mix Club House Music?

You can really take any number of approaches to mixing music. It depends on your style and the DJ equipment you are using.

Remember you can’t use just any DJ equipment. You need professional grade DJ equipment. When you are mixing music like club and house having the right gear can make your mixes sound incredible.

Here are some steps to take when mixing club and house music.

You might have read these steps in another article but they are worth repeating here because you really need to master some basic things or else your mixes might sound sloppy.

Get the right gear.

When it comes to getting the right gear for mixing club and house music you need a good mixer.

Don’t get a two channel mixer. That is really for the turntablists DJ’s.

What you need is at least a three channel mixers with effects, loop feature, beats per minute (BPM) counter and three band equalizer.

I suggest you get, at a minimum, in the way of mixers is the Pioneer DJM-600.

It is a four channel mixer with an auto BPM, onboard effects, adjustable fader curve and sampler. A four channel mixer has four faders on it like the Pioneer DJM 800

It has four up/down faders and one master fader the moves left and right. The master fader mixers two of your four channels at any one time but not all four.

Onboard effects means the mixer comes with effects built right in. This means you do not have to buy a separate effects unit when you want to add effects to your mixes.

When you have an adjustable fader curve on your mixer this mean that you have the ability to adjust how hard or soft your fader cuts the music out. For example, if you want a smooth clean mix between songs then you most like want to adjust the fader to a softer or smooth curve.

If you ware scratching then you’ll want to have a hard curve or have the fader set to cut the music off quickly. This makes your scratch and cuts sound sharper.

A sampler gives you the ability to sample the music you are playing and loop it. Sometimes this is done to extend the life of the song when the crowd is really into it and it also frees up your deck to you can cue the next song.

Pioneer’s mixers have simply become untouchable with the clean sounding mixes that come from their DJ mixers.

Deep House Music Production Tips (Part 1)

Are you looking to create the right feel and vibe for your next deep house track? This article will look at all the different components and discuss how to get them sounding like they should.

The drum patterns in this style of music generally don’t move away from the standard 4/4 pattern but just leaving them quantised and straight will lead to a very unnatural feeling track. To remedy this you will need to create some swing. This could be done by adding a simple 16th note quantisation from your sequencer. A more natural feel can be obtained if you disable the quantise on your pattern and manually add a little swing yourself. This can be easily done by either bringing the first snare of the bar slightly before or after the beat and leaving the second as it is or leaving the first and moving the second around very slightly. Spend a little experimenting with this to get the feel that you like. It is likely that as the track develops you will want to make readjustments.

Try to use a midi keyboard to record your riffs, bass lines and progressions whenever possible. Again this will give a more natural feel to the track. Feeling the rhythm in your fingers as you play is a great way to add life to the track and add groove and timings that you may have missed if just programming with a mouse. By recording a number of takes this way you will also likely come up with some slight variations which will be great for keep the track interesting as it develops. Of course you will want to go into your editor after and tighten it up. You may want to quantise your performance which is fine but again once you have done that turn the quantise off and manually move a few notes to come just before or after the beat to keep everything sounding “tight” and natural.

A particularly common sound in deep house music is the electric piano. There are some extremely good plug ins that are able to emulate this such as Native Instruments B4 but your DAW should have a good example in its preset library. Another option is to search the internet for a free ware vst. There are a number of extremely good examples around that are available for you to download gratis.

Next you will want to treat the sound. Use an auto filter and set the LFO rate to around 1.5Hz to add some movement than add a little delay and reverb, you will then need to mess around with the setting to get it to sit right in your mix.

When creating your chords, consider using 7th’s, 9th’s, 11th’s, and 13th’s rather than just standard triads as these will give you much more of that deep house flavour and don’t be afraid to layer up your sounds to give them a little more texture and body. If you can use a stereo imaging plug in then increase the width of the electric piano while keeping the other patch centred, this will help to increase the size of your production.

In part 2 we will look at some further production techniques in the creation of your track.