What Is Deep House…Exactly?

What is Deep House, exactly, you wonder?

Come with us as we dive into its rich and immersive world…

…where soulful vocals, hypnotic beats, and funky chords meld seamlessly with beautifully deep electronic grooves.

Born in the 1980s, Deep House isn’t just a style of music; it’s an emotion, an atmosphere, a feeling.

Have I overdone that intro a little? I don’t think so, because I love Deep House!

What is Deep House? Let’s find out…

what is deep house music in black text on green and yellow diagonally split background

What is Deep House Music?

Deep House is a subgenre of House music that originated in the 1980s, primarily in Chicago.

TL;DR Summary: 

Deep House is a subgenre of EDM, originating in the 1980s, characterised by its slightly mellower tempo, soulful vocals, funkier chords, and atmospheric soundscapes. It draws influences from Jazz, Funk, and Soul, creating a more introspective vibe compared to other House music forms. Over time, Deep House has evolved and blended with other genres, maintaining its core emphasis on depth, emotion, and atmosphere.

Deep House combines elements of Chicago House with Jazz-Funk, Soul music, and sometimes even touches of Ambient or Chill-out music.

Over time, it has evolved to incorporate influences from many other genres.

Personally, it’s my favourite of all the EDM genres, both to listen to, go clubbing to, and to DJ.

Too slow for the club scene? No, definitely not…

…although you can be forgiven for thinking that it would be, as most articles on the internet describing Deep House tend to massively overdo how “laid-back|” and “mellow” it is.

Sure, it has a more sumptuous sound and feel than other genres of EDM, but it is not Ambient or Chill-Out music.

Deep House still has drive and direction, just like it’s House big bruv!

For old-time’s sake, here’s a shot from inside my all-time best Deep/Tech House nightclub…

‘The End’ Nightclub in London

The DJ line-up at The End was always a perfect combination of Deep House to warm-up and warm-down, with Tech House for the midnight to 3 A.M. slots.

Unfortunately, The End club is closed now, which is sad as it was absolutely awesome. Top DJs, top crowd, top venue.

I’ll wipe the tears away now and carry on with this deep dive into Deep House.

Difference Between House Music and Deep House

House music and Deep House are both subgenres of EDM, but they have some distinct characteristics.

Here’s a brief comparison to help distinguish between the two:

  1. Origins:
    • House Music: Originated in Chicago in the early 1980s. It evolved from Disco, Funk, and Soul, and was characterized by its repetitive 4/4 beats, synthesized basslines, and the use of drum machines.
    • Deep House: A subgenre that emerged from the early House scene. It incorporated elements of Jazz and Soul music to create a more relaxed and groovy sound.
  2. Tempo:
    • House Music: Typically ranges from 120 to 130 BPM (beats per minute).
    • Deep House: Generally has a slower BPM, ranging from 110 to 125 BPM.
  3. Mood and Atmosphere:
    • House Music: Can be energetic and upfront, often designed for dance floors with a driving rhythm.
    • Deep House: More laid-back and introspective. The sound is often described as “deep” due to its atmospheric vibe.
  4. Instrumentation:
    • House Music: Relies on drum machines, synthesized basslines, and electronic sounds. While it can have vocal elements, they are often secondary to the rhythm and melody.
    • Deep House: Features more organic and jazzy elements. Instruments like the piano, saxophone, and deeper, melodic basslines are common. Vocal samples or full vocal tracks, often soulful, are a signature element.
  5. Bassline:
    • House Music: Basslines can be more aggressive and punchy.
    • Deep House: Basslines are lush, flowing, and melodic.
  6. Structure:
    • House Music: Often follows a more traditional verse-chorus structure, especially in vocal house tracks.
    • Deep House: Tends to be more progressive with longer introductions, breakdowns, and a less pronounced verse-chorus structure.

While these distinctions provide a general overview, it’s essential to recognize the vast diversity within each genre.

Over the years, various subgenres and fusion genres have emerged, blurring the lines between categories.

Characteristics of Deep House Music

Here are some characteristics of Deep House:

#1. Tempo

Deep House typically has a slower BPM (beats per minute) compared to other forms of house music.

The BPM can range from 110 to 125, but I would say it is quite rare to find 110 BPM tracks; most Deep House is produced at 125 BPM.

#2. Bassline

One of the hallmarks of Deep House is its prominent, luscious and melodic basslines.

These basslines often give the tracks a smooth, flowing feel.

#3. Instrumentation

While still electronic at its core, Deep House incorporates more organic and soulful sounds.

Instruments like pianos, saxophones, and synthesizers are often used to create rich melodies and harmonies.

#4. Vocals

Vocal samples or full vocal tracks are common in Deep House.

These vocals are often soulful and can be original or sampled from older R&B or soul tracks.

#5. Mood

Deep House is often described as having a “deep” mood.

It’s more introspective and laid-back compared to the energetic and upfront nature of mainstream house or EDM.

#6. Production

The production in Deep House often includes atmospheric sounds, creating a spacious and immersive listening experience.

Reverbs and delays are used to enhance this feeling.

#7. Evolution

Over the years, Deep House has merged with other genres…

…leading to sub-subgenres like Tropical House, which combines Deep House’s characteristics with elements of tropical music.

Why is it Called Deep House?

The term “Deep House” is somewhat abstract, but it generally refers to the music’s mood, textures, and overall feel rather than a specific origin or tangible characteristic.

Here are some interpretations of why the genre is called “Deep House”:

  • Emotion and Atmosphere: “Deep” often alludes to the introspective and emotive quality of the music. Deep house tracks often have a soulful, melancholic, or contemplative mood, invoking deeper emotions compared to some other forms of House music.
  • Complexity and Layering: The term “deep” can also describe the rich layers and intricate production commonly found in this genre. Tracks often possess a spacious sound with subtle complexities, echoing the vastness or depth of an ocean or space.
  • Influence and Roots: Deep House borrows heavily from Soul and Funk. These genres are known for their emotional depth and complexity. By integrating these influences, Deep House inherently possesses a deeper musical and emotional resonance.
  • Contrast to Other Subgenres: As House music evolved, many subgenres emerged. Some were more commercial, upbeat, or aggressive. By contrast, Deep House retained a more subdued and refined quality, distinguishing itself from the “surface” level appeal of more mainstream electronic sounds.

It’s worth noting that terms in music, especially in electronic music, can be very fluid.

The name “Deep House” encapsulates the essence and feel of the music more than providing a strict definition.

Over time, as with many genres, the boundaries and characteristics of Deep House have evolved, but the core emphasis on depth, emotion, and atmosphere remains.

The History of Deep House

Deep House has its roots in the 1980s.

Its ongoing evolution is intertwined with the broader history of House music.

Let’s delve into a brief history:

Chicago Beginnings

In the early 1980s, DJs in Chicago began experimenting with new styles, blending disco classics with new drum machine rhythms.

This experimentation led to the creation of what we now know as House music.

The term “House” comes from the legendary club “The Warehouse“…

Former location of ‘The Warehouse’ – Image: Groupon

…where DJ Frankie Knuckles, often referred to as the “Godfather of House”, was one of the resident DJ’s.

Birth of Deep House

As House music evolved, some producers began to incorporate more complex melodies, funkier chords, and soulful vocals…

…creating a more introspective and mellow sound compared to the more upbeat and rawer house tracks.

This led to the early distinction of “Deep House.”

1990s Expansion

In the 1990s, Deep House began to gain more traction outside of the US, especially in the UK and other parts of Europe.

During this time, the genre maintained its underground status but built an extremely loyal following.

21st Century Revival and Fusion

The 2000s and 2010s saw a revival and reinvention of Deep House.

With the rise of digital music production and distribution, the genre fused with other styles, leading to the birth of sub-subgenres like Tropical House.

Artists like Kygo and Robin Schulz brought this sound to the mainstream, albeit in a more commercialized form than its underground roots.

Deep House Artists

Deep House has seen many talented artists over the years who have significantly influenced the genre.

While the term “best known” can be subjective and may vary based on region and personal preference…

here are seven of the most influential and widely recognised Deep House artists:

#1. Larry Heard (a.k.a. Mr. Fingers)

Often cited as one of the pioneers of Deep House.

Larry Heard with Fingers Inc.

Larry Heard has produced numerous classics, including “Can You Feel It,” that helped shape the genre.

#2. Inland Knights

A collaboration between DJs and producers Andy Riley and Laurence Ritchie from Nottingham, UK.

They emerged in the late 1990s and made a significant impact on the Deep House scene.

Over the years, they’ve released a ton of tracks on various labels, including on their own ‘Drop Music’ label. 

#3. Kerri Chandler

With roots in New Jersey’s house scene, Chandler has been a prominent figure in Deep House for decades…

…known for his soulful and jazzy sound.

#4. Silver City

A collaboration between Argentine producers Fernando Pulichino and Julian Sanza.

Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, they have been producing tracks that blend elements of Deep House, Nu-disco, and Funk.

Their music is known for its melodic qualities, smooth basslines, and often a touch of cosmic or spacey vibes…

…making it suitable for both dancefloors and more laid-back listening sessions. 

#5. Ron Trent

Hailing from Chicago, Ron Trent’s productions are known for their intricate melodies and deep, immersive atmospheres.

#6. Osunlade

Founder of the Yoruba Records label, Osunlade infuses his tracks with spirituality and African rhythms, creating a unique and soulful sound.

#7. Maya Jane Coles

A more contemporary figure in the deep house world, this British-Japanese artist has garnered international acclaim for her productions and DJ sets.

#8. Dixon

A German DJ and producer, Dixon has been a significant force in the modern deep house scene, known for his extended sets and deep, melodic track selections.

These artists represent just a slice of the Deep House world.

There are many more influential figures, both past and present, who have contributed to the genre.

5 Deep House Classics & Examples

#1. ‘Ain’t No Ceiling’ – Fresh & Low

#2. ‘Spilt Over’ – Inland Knights / To-Ka Project

#3. ‘Elastic’ – Silver City

#4. ‘The Sun Can’t Compare’ – Larry Heard Presents Mr White

#5. ‘Atmosphere’ – Kerri Chandler

I think it’s pretty fair to say that…

…if you didn’t enjoy any of that lot, Deep House is probably not your thing!

Is Deep House Still Popular?

Deep House remains a popular and influential subgenre within electronic music.

Musical tastes and trends are ever-evolving but Deep House has demonstrated resilience and adaptability over the years.

It’s likely that the genre will continue to find audiences and evolve in various forms, even if its mainstream popularity fluctuates.

What is Deep House – Wrapping it Up!

That’s it, were done.

Thhere is no wrap-up!

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