4 Ingredients For Producing Great Soulful House Music

House music has always been about the crowd and for the crowd. House music producers, since the very first embryonic sounds spilled out of the Warehouse club in Chicago, have done their best to build a solid, organic connection with dancers and listeners. As times and trends have changed, so have the tunes, but one genre of house that has remained fairly prominent is soulful house. This style combines elements from vocal, funky and disco house, but also adds some distinguishing characteristics of its own. Like funky house, soulful house music has ties to the early masters of R&B, but instead of following the funkier sounds that emerged in the 1970’s, soulful house went in a more emotional direction. Let’s examine some of the ingredients that can help define a soulful house track.

1. A powerful, resonant vocal. In soulful house music, the vocal is often the key building block around which the rest of the track is arranged. A singer’s performance in this genre is often more textured and subtle than in vocal house, where power usually rules the day. This calls for production that can reveal the texture of a singer’s voice, highlighting the many payers of a performance. The goal is to capture the same aesthetic as is found in down-tempo, popular soul music and combine it with a house groove.

2. Mellower disco samples. While disco house as a genre is usually open to a wide variety of different disco sounds, soulful house usually restricts itself to mellower grooves, preferring to let the vocal take center stage and have the bassline and strings act as supporting players rather than in-your-face leads. Muted guitars and electric pianos are much more common than blaring horns and big drums.

3. Deeper lyrics. Soulful house music tends to take a more in-depth look at the stories that are told through its lyrics. These tales are usually quite emotional or personal, giving listeners the feeling that they are hearing the singer’s deepest confessions. Some soulful house, particularly if it samples from or is modeled after the 1960’s might even contain a social message beyond the more common peace and unity feel of standard house. Soulful house often leaves listeners feeling as though they have replenished their inner being.

4. A chill vibe. Out of all the house genres, soulful house might come closest to resembling pop music, thanks to its combination of non-aggressive sounds and more complete lyrical content. An overriding ‘chill’ feeling permeates most examples of this genre of house, which has lead to its great popularity in lounges and other relaxed bar environments.

House Music: The Trend

Historically, we can notice the continuous and notorious increase in popularity of what before was considered to be simply a music created by computers. What was once popular just in Europe has now found its niche in America. In the past few years, what was once dominated by rock, reggae, blues, R&B and soul has opened its doors to what is now considered one of the most popular music styles.

A few years ago, a friend of mine told me, “In the next eight years we will present a House music revolution. Few rock bands will emerge and reach popularity. Other bands like Coldplay, Foo Fighters, The Killers, Nickelback, etc will retain and perhaps increase their popularity because of what they accomplished before the momentum achieved by House music.”

As a young teenager, fan of rock, and knowing little about this electronic trend, I thought that my friend was probably trying to fool me. Today, as I look at the many electronic music festivals all around the globe I try to guess how he knew that this was going to happen. Nowadays, the contagious energy transmitted by the combined melody of several instruments is now being replaced by the sound produced by a computer connected with a mixer turntable full of different buttons. Where people once cued for live shows like The Rolling Stones today, cue the same venues to experience a different kind of spectacle… a spectacle where strobes, flashes and clouds of colored lasers are predominant.

David Guetta, one of the most influential figures of House music and considered by many as one of the pioneers of the genre, spent many years of his life trying to find a way to establish a link between Europe and America. In his documentary “Nothing but the Beat” released in 2011, Guetta reveals many details about the problems he faced before achieving major success throughout the last decade. His passion for music and his dream of mainstream popularity was his motivation to look for new ways to bridge his new style to the masses.

Besides their creativity and their good listening skills, what else did DJs need in order to make what they love popular? What did they need to find out or incorporate in order to satisfy and reach the majority of audiences? Which audiences should be the ones addressed?

Many DJs tried to find that bridge for over years of work. Recognized artists such as Tiësto, Armin van Buuren and Fatboy Slim were one of the first to find success in American lands, but mostly in places where the underground electronic music was predominant. With a more progressive, aggressive and psychedelic style of electronic beats and fluctuations, they portrayed a “one of a kind” image.

However, the new millennium would finally reveal the missing piece for House’s success. And that key aspect was the combination of different music styles with House music. In the beginning, that idea sounded silly to the ears of music specialists. Critics about how likely would electronic music and hip/hop or R&B work together were often heard. Thus, only one success could silence the critics and that’s what ended up happening.

David Guetta was one of the first, if not the first, artist that decided to combine artists of different music backgrounds with his own beats. Gospel artists, R&B, Rap, and hip/hop were all considered by him as a possibility of finding a good mix. The perfect beat and sequence and the optimal vocals could make a song popular, and that was what he sought. Songs like “Love is Gone” and “The World is Mine” were major successes among different audiences. The demand on the radio and MTV was enormous and you could notice that was the beginning. Music was to be reborn.

The collaboration with gospel singer Chris Willis in 2002 showed many artists that House is a music style that can function under any conditions. Since then, David Guetta has collaborated with many artists ranging from rappers (Snoop Dog & Ludacris); hip hop starts (Usher, Taio Cruz & Akon); R&B (Sia and Kelly Rowland) among others.

Swedish trio composed of Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso are also considered by many as very influential in the process of the achievement of House music’s success. Alone, each of them released popular hits in the years following David Guetta’s first international success. However, in 2005 the three best friends decided to put their knowledge together and form one of the legends of the genre called Swedish House Mafia. Their influence did not come only with the success from major songs in collaboration with recognized artists, but also came from the support provided to emerging DJs such as Alesso and Avicii who nowadays reached major success among all audiences because of the guidance provided in their early careers.

2013 was an important year in House music. With the incorporation of many more festivals around the globe, and songs reaching top positions in billboards it is clearly noticeable that what I thought was just a dream in my friend’s head is now true. DJs are now selling out concerts in enormous venues such as Madison Square Garden (NY), Le Stade de France (Paris) and Wembley Stadium (London). Famous bands like Coldplay are now getting more popularity because of outrageous remixes made of their most famous songs.

As I find myself writing this article, I put myself back in the time where I would only listen to rock in my iPod. First David Guetta’s songs were just being released and the rhythm was new and very interesting. Tiësto songs were played in clubs among the majority of hip/hop songs and people would go crazy. After 8 years, house music is predominantly what I listen to. I have a turntable and “djing” is one my hobbies. I have been to many electronic music festivals, and seen many famous artists of the genre. Therefore, I ask myself: How many people like me had the same thought about the emerging trend of house music? How many of them see themselves enjoying and listening to this music in a daily basis? There will be many different answers to those questions. However, we can certainly agree that in modern times, House music is on the cutting edge of mainstream music.

House Music Production – Producing House Music Tips

This house music production article is written for the same reason you are reading it, and that is to take my skills to another level and get even better at what I do best, producing house music. With this guide I want to help you learn how to get your producing skills sound really bona fide. It may sound very simple in theory but it can be a pain to make a dope house track, and as always, in order to understand it you need to listen to it.

The favorite kick drum for house music production is the Roland TR-909. The main reason would be that, it has got a great low end power. The pattern for the kick is mostly a 4/4 beat, but you don’t have to leave them straight because they will sound robotic. Propellerhead Reason 4 has got a new feature called the Re-Groove to steer clear of that.

You can even do this manually by shifting individual notes (in your software midi editor) and changing the level of certain notes. Another way is to apply a 16th note swing quantization. If you are producing your tracks digitally, you must make sure that you give them a human feel and soul to you track, make it sound as if it was performed by a live band.

House music uses a lot of synthetic sounds such as the Omnisphere by Spectrasonics, Jupiter-8V by Arturia, Massive by Native Instruments, Sylenth1 and many more. The Arturia MiniMoog is my favorite VST instrument for bass sounds.

The Hi-Hats patterns are mostly on the eighth-note and open hats on the offbeat pattern. For percussion, most producers use loops, but you are more than welcome to program your own. Playing the riffs and chords with a midi controller is better than programming them using a mouse. You can double your chords with another instrument to have enough body, if needed.

If you have a vocal feel free to play around with it, chop it or even create great effects from it. Try not to make the track repetitive, your song needs to have dynamics (loud and soft parts). Always keep in mind that house music is all about making people dance. You can also use automation to keep the song moving, automate the vst instrument knobs (especially the filter) to create a sweep sound.

This can also work well with effects such as delay and reverb to make the chorus part sound bigger than the verse. The snare and claps must be punchy with a short reverb (preferably room reverb) and mostly on an offbeat pattern.