Deep house is an electronic dance music (EDM) genre with a rich history, and its songs (tracks) have unique combined characteristics. What is the deep house genre?
Deep house is a subgenre of house music. Deep house songs usually have a spacious use of percussion/muted or deep bassline/soft-sounding pads/soulful vocals. These songs usually also have advanced chord structures/ambiance/jazzy sound/soulful and lush sound of early disco music/underground sound.
This post gives an overview of the deep house genre.
The Origins of Deep House
Deep house music comes from Chicago, Illinois, United States. The musical origins of deep house music are house, Chicago house, soul, jazz-funk, New York garage (source: Deep house).
This website has a blog post about the first deep house song ever, for which I performed much research. According to that blog post, the first deep house song is “Mystery of Love” by Mr. Fingers, released in 1985.
Deep House Song Characteristics
Each deep house track has some characteristics. However, a characteristic is not a requirement, so in this case, a song does not need to have all the deep house characteristics to be a deep house song.
Common Tempos of Deep House
This website has a blog post about the common tempos of EDM genres, for which I did much research. According to that blog post, deep house songs usually have a tempo within the 110—125 BPM range.
Time Signature and Rhythm Pattern of Deep House
Deep house songs have a 4/4 time signature (source: Deep House Music Guide: 4 Characteristics of Deep House).
Deep house songs have a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern (source: Deep House Music Guide: 4 Characteristics of Deep House).
The Rhythm Emphasis of Deep House
The rhythm emphasis in a house song is on every beat with a bass drum hit and emphasizing the second and the fourth beat even more. The extra emphasis usually happens with a snare or clap hit on top of the bass drum. Also, house songs emphasize the off-beat with a hi-hat usually (source: House music, How do you explain the difference between house music and techno?, House vs Techno vs Trance Music – What are the Differences?).
Deep house is a subgenre of the house genre (source: Deep house). Therefore, deep house songs could have the same rhythm emphasis as house songs.
These pages show that deep house can have a similar rhythm emphasis as the mentioned one of house songs:
- The EDMProd page “The Ultimate Guide to Drum Programming.”
- The Attack Magazine page “Soulful Deep House.”
- The Attack Magazine page “Dusted Deep House.”
- The Attack Magazine page “Deep House – Stripped Workout.”
- The ModeAudio page “Deep House: 5 Production Essentials.”
Deep house songs can also have different rhythm emphasis as the mentioned one in house songs, such as one without extra emphasis on the second and the fourth beat (source: Rolling Deep House).
Typical Deep House Sounds
Typical sounds of deep house songs are a spacious use of percussion/muted bassline or deep bassline/soft-sounding pads/soulful vocals. These songs usually also have advanced chord structures/ambiance/jazzy sound/soulful and lush sound of early disco music/underground sound (source: Deep house).
- The percussion elements are from a Roland TR-909 drum machine.
- A muted bassline sounds almost as muted. We can make such a bassline sound with a sine waveform or with a different waveform and filter it to the point of almost being a sine waveform.
- The soulful vocals focus on subjects that are positive/uplifting or more melancholic, like blues.
- The jazzy deep house sound comes from gentle organic synthesizer production and instrument sounds.
Here follows an extra explanation in my words of some of the mentioned deep house song sounds:
- The more hits of a particular percussion in a certain amount of time, the more energetic it can feel. Compared to many other genres, deep house songs tend to go for a less energetic feel, which it does with fewer hits of a particular percussion, which is the spacious use of percussion.
- A muted bassline could also be when the bass sound comes from elements such as percussion instead of a dedicated bassline.
- Advanced chord structures are chord structures that are more advanced than those with only three-note chords by which every chord is (usually) one or two bars long.
Deep house chords can have four notes with a 7th note, and they can even have five notes with a 9th note. In deep house chord progressions, we can use chords with different note lengths and rests between chords to make these progressions more interesting. A common length for such a progression is probably 4 bars (source: Deep House Chords, How to create deep house minor ninth chords, 6 Deep House Chord Progression Tips For Beginners).
There are many deep house songs with sampled chords. A sampled chord is an audio file of a chord sound that we can play with one note using a sampler. When the sampler plays different notes, the sampled chord plays different notes, which happens with pitch-shifting.
The further away the sampler plays the sampled chord from its original pitch (the pitch at which we sampled it), the more obvious the pitch-shifted sound can become. Also, playing a sampled chord at a pitch different from its original pitch can result in playing notes outside the scale (source: Sampled Chords, 6 Deep House Chord Progression Tips For Beginners).
The Length of Phrases in Deep House Songs
The most common lengths of phrases for deep house songs are 8 bars and 16 bars (source: 10 Deep House Songs Analyzed by Structure, Deep House: 5 Production Essentials). However, I think that the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars, but it is less common. The deep house genre is a subgenre of the house genre, and 4 bar phrases can be part of a house song (source: House music, How To Make House Music: The Complete Guide).
The Structure of Deep House Songs
EDMProd analyzed the songs in the Beatport top 100. According to the analysis, in October 2015, EDMProd shared the most found song structures.
EDMProd described each of these song structures with a sequence of letters. Each of these letters is a section type of a song structure. The section types of these letters are:
- A: verse, breakdown, build-up, or alternative section
- B: chorus or drop
- C: bridge, main breakdown, or musically different section
According to the analysis, the most common deep house song structure is ABCB (source: What I Learned from Analyzing the Top 100 Tracks on Beatport).
I believe (from experience) that the meaning of the mentioned section-type letters for the song structures can be simpler. The simpler meaning of the section type letters could be:
- A: breakdown
- B: drop
- C: main breakdown (the longest breakdown)
To give the structures more detail, I think the breakdowns in these song structures usually end with a build-up. I also believe that the mentioned song structures by EDMProd are the most common ones, not only of the analyzed songs.
As also explained by EDMProd, there can be two versions of a house song, the ‘original mix’ and the ‘radio-friendly’ one. The radio-friendly one can be the same structure as the already mentioned structure of the Beatport top 100 in October 2015. The original mix version can be the same as the radio-friendly one, but with an added intro before and an added outro after the radio-friendly structure (source: How To Make House Music: The Complete Guide).
As far as I know, people sometimes name the original mix version as the ‘extended mix’ version. The difference between the extended mix version and the not extended mix version can be more different than the extra intro and outro.
An example with a deep house song is “Lauren” by Oden & Fatzo, which does have an extended mix and a not extended mix, and you can listen to both versions below in this post. This song is part of the deep house genre (source: Lauren (I Can’t Stay Forever) Extended).
The Song Lengths of Deep House
As already mentioned, the song length can depend on the version of that song, such as that the ‘original mix’ or ‘extended mix’ is (probably always) longer than the ‘radio edit’ one.
EDMProd analyzed the Beatport top 100 in October 2015 and found the average song length of multiple genres (source: What I Learned from Analyzing the Top 100 Tracks on Beatport).
The average deep house song length is 6:25 minutes, according to the analysis by EDMProd. Some people believe that the length of a deep house song is usually between 7 and 10 minutes (source: Top 10 Best Deep House Songs, What characterizes deep house music?). I think that the average deep house song length is about 6:25 minutes.
The History of Deep House
As already mentioned, the first deep house song is “Mystery of Love” by Mr. Fingers, released in 1985.
Producers from Chicago pioneered deep house music for a large amount. Two of these Chicago producers were Marshall Jefferson and Larry Heard (Mr. Fingers).
The track “Can You Feel It?” by Mr. Fingers, released in 1986, was also part of the deep house music pioneering. This track had an impact on deep house music similar to that “Strings Of Life” by Derrick May, released in 1987, had on Detroit techno.
Around 1987, the jazzy sound in deep house music became more common due to the preferred use of more organic and gentler production and instrument sounds. However, the production and instrument sounds were still synthesizer based.
Author Richie Unterberger noted that Larry Heard’s deep house sound changed the posthuman tendencies of house music back towards the lush, soulful sound of early disco music. This disco music is like the old Philadelphia International Records and Salsoul Records music.
The track “Can You Feel It?” became a blueprint for deep house songs. For this song, Larry Heard used a Roland Juno-60 synthesizer for the deep bassline and a Roland TR-909 drum machine for the percussion (source: Deep house).
Some Well-Known Deep House Artists and Labels
There are multiple DJ lists, such as the “The DJ List Ranking,” and I believe these lists are not always 100% correct, but they can still be useful.
The “Deep House Artists” page of Last.fm and the “Top Deep House Artists of 2020” page of Traxsource have a deep house DJ list. We can see the DJs Saison, Fred Everything, and Miguel Migs in these lists.
I believe that the mentioned DJs are deep-house DJs.
Some deep house labels include AFTR:HRS, Alleviated Records, Anjunadeep, Glasgow Underground, Naked Music, Om Records, Peacefrog Records, Soma, Source, and Spinnin’ Deep. Alleviated Records is a label of Larry Heard (source: Deep house).
Deep House Song Examples
This section has some house and deep house song examples.
The extended mix of the deep house song “Lauren” by Oden & Fatzo
Here is the official video version of the deep house song “Lauren” by Oden & Fatzo. This version has a few moments with a few seconds of video sounds.
Deep House Compared to Other EDM Genres
Some might say that the deep house genre sounds similar to other EDM genres. This blog has some posts that compare the deep house genre to other EDM genres, for which I did a lot of research (in my opinion). Here is a list of such posts that compare:
Hopefully, you have learned something about the deep house EDM genre.
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