House vs. Tech House: The Differences Between the Two Genres

Electronic Techno Music Styles Word Cloud Bubble

House and tech house are two electronic dance music (EDM) genres that may sound similar to some people. However, there are differences between the two genres.

House and tech house songs have a sound emphasis difference. Usually, house songs emphasize the bassline/drums/synthesizer riff/vocal. Tech house songs usually have the sound emphasis of the genres techno and house.

This post will explain many (probably not all) similarities and differences between house songs and tech house songs. The information in this post comes from online references, and I filtered that information with my knowledge.

The Differences Between House and Tech House

The EDM genres house and tech house have similarities and differences, and the table below shows some of these.

This post explains the information in the table below in more detail in the sections under this table.

housetech house
place of originChicago, Illinois, United StatesUnited States (mainly Detroit, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois) and Spain (mainly Ibiza)
musical originsBoogie, Disco, Electro, Hi-NRG, Jazz, Latin soulhouse, techno, minimal techno, and deep house
first songJesse Saunders – On and Onunknown
year the first song released1984unknown
some well-known artistsBob Sinclar, Frankie Knuckles, Sebastian IngrossoSolomun, Claude VonStroke, and Green Velvet
common temposrange: 115—130 BPMaround 125 BPM
time signature, rhythm pattern4/4, four-on-the-floor4/4, four-on-the-floor
rhythm emphasisUsually, house songs emphasize every beat with a bass drum hit and emphasize 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.Tech house songs emphasize every beat with a bass drum hit and emphasize 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 hit. Also, tech house songs emphasize the off-beat with a hi-hat.
sound emphasisUsually on a bassline / drums / synthesizer riff / vocal.Usually is a combination of the sound emphasis of the genres techno and house. Usually, tech house songs have a techno kick and bassline, from minimal or deep techno music. Also, tech house songs usually have jazzy, soulful house elements and minimal dub elements.
length of phrasesThe most common length of phrases is 8 bars. However, the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars or 16 bars but are less common.The most common length of phrases is 8 bars. However, the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars or 16 bars but are less common.
structureA common house song structure has the following parts in this order: intro, breakdown, drop, breakdown, drop, outro.A common tech house song structure has the following parts in this order: intro, drop, breakdown, drop, the main breakdown, drop, outro.
average song length5 minutes6:54 minutes

The Origins of House and Tech House

House music comes from Chicago, Illinois, United States. The musical origins of house music are Boogie, Disco, Electro, Hi-NRG, Jazz, and Latin soul (source: House music).

Tech house comes from the United States (mainly Detroit, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois) and Spain (mainly Ibiza) The musical origins of tech-house are house, techno, minimal techno, and deep house (source: Tech house).

This website has a blog post about the first house song ever, for which I performed much research. According to that blog post, the first house song is “On and On” by Jesse Saunders, released in 1984.

I could not find what the first tech-house song ever is. Tech house started as an approach to DJing before it became a genre, the genre is somewhere between techno and house, and not all played tracks at tech-house parties are tech-house tracks (source: The Tech House Story, Beatport’s Definitive History of Tech House). Therefore, it can make sense that I could not find the first tech-house song.

Some Well-Known House and Tech House Artists

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.

On the “The DJ List Ranking” page of The DJ List, we can see house DJs such as Bob Sinclar and Sebastian Ingrosso. The “The best house music DJs of all time” page of Time Out can show us another great house DJ, Frankie Knuckles, my personal favorite.

The page “The DJ List Ranking” by The DJ List and the page “The Best Tech House Artists Of 2020” by Ranker both have a tech-house DJ list. We can see the DJs Solomun, Claude VonStroke, and Green Velvet in these lists.

I believe that the mentioned DJs are house and tech house DJs.

House and Tech House Song Characteristics

The subsections below explain the similarities and differences between house song and tech-house song characteristics.

Common Tempos of House and Tech 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, house songs usually have a tempo within the 115—130 BPM range, and tech house songs usually have a tempo around 125 BPM.

Time Signatures of House and Tech House

House has a 4/4 time signature (source: House music).

Tech house songs have a 4/4 time signature (source: How to Talk to Your Kids About Tech House).

Rhythm Patterns of House and Tech House

House has a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern (source: House music, Books, Is it house? Or is it trance? A beginner’s guide to electronic music genres).

Tech house is a subgenre of the house genre. House has a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern (source: Tech house, House music). Therefore, I believe that tech house songs also have a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern, and I have only heard four-on-the-floor tech house songs.

The Rhythm Emphasis of House and Tech House

The rhythm emphasis of house and tech-house is the same.

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?).

In tech house songs, the rhythm emphasis 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 hit. Also, tech house songs emphasize the off-beat with a hi-hat (source: The Ultimate Guide to Drum Programming, Dirty Tech House, Twisted Tech House, Organic Tech-House, Chugging Tech-House, Naughty Tech-House, Deep Tech House).

The Sound Emphasis of House and Tech House

The sound emphasis of house songs is usually on a bassline/drums/synthesizer riff/vocal (source: House music, House vs Techno vs Trance Music – What are the Differences?, Is it house? Or is it trance? A beginner’s guide to electronic music genres, Books).

The sound emphasis of tech house songs is usually a combination of the sound emphasis of the genres techno and house. Usually, tech house songs have a techno kick and bassline, from minimal or deep techno music. Also, tech house songs usually have jazzy, soulful house elements and minimal dub elements.

Tech house has some overlap with progressive house, which can also have soulful, deep, and dub elements, and have elements from techno songs, especially after the year 2000, as progressive house songs became deeper and sometimes more minimal. For example, tech-house songs can have grooves and harmonies of progressive house songs. Tech house songs typically have less energy than progressive house songs.

Tech house can have a clean and minimal style, which it originally had, like the techno from Detroit and the UK.

Tech house songs have similar elements as house songs. However, the house ‘sound’ elements, such as booming kicks and deep house jazz sounds, are replaced with techno elements. These techno sounds could be shorter, darker, deeper, and usually distorted kicks, noisier snares, smaller, quicker hi-hats, more synthetic or acid-sounding melodies from the Roland TB-303, including raw electronic noises from distorted square wave and sawtooth oscillators.

Some producers, such as David Chambers, add soulful elements, such as vocals, and add equally as many raw electronic sounds (source: Tech house).

The Length of Phrases in House and Tech House Songs

The most common length of phrases for house songs is 8 bars. However, the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars or 16 bars but are less common (source: House music, How To Make House Music: The Complete Guide, House vs Techno vs Trance Music – What are the Differences?).

A tech-house song’s common length of phrases is 4, 8, and 16 bars (source: PLP 081: How to Make a Tech House Track). However, I believe the most common phrase length is 8 bars since 8 bar phrases are common in house songs, and tech house is a subgenre of house (source: House music).

The Structure of House and Tech 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 house song structure is ABAB, which EDMProd only found once more than the house structure ABCB. Also, the analysis shows us that the most common tech house song structure is BABCB (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 house song is “Morenita” by HUGEL (ft. Cumbiafrica), 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 house genre (source: Morenita feat. Cumbiafrica Extended Mix).

An example with a tech-house song is “Disconnected” by Tita Lau and James Hype, which also has 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 tech-house genre (source: Disconnected Extended Mix).

The Song Lengths of House and Tech 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 house song length is 5:09 minutes, according to the analysis by EDMProd. Someone on Quora mentioned that House songs usually are 4 or 5 minutes long (source: What is the difference between techno and house music?). Combining the two sources with my experience, I think the average House song length is 5 minutes.

The average tech house song length is 6:54 minutes, according to the analysis by EDMProd.

House and Tech House Song Examples

This section has some house and tech house song examples.

The extended mix of the house song “HUGEL (ft. Cumbiafrica) – Morenita.”

Here is the official video version of the house song “HUGEL (ft. Cumbiafrica) – Morenita.” This version has a few moments with a few seconds of video sounds.

The extended mix of the tech-house song “Disconnected” by James Hype & Tita Lau

The not extended mix of the tech-house song “Disconnected” by James Hype & Tita Lau

Closing Words

Hopefully, you have learned something from the explained similarities and differences between the two EDM genres, house and tech-house.

If you like this post, look at some other posts on this website since you might also like them.

You can share this post when you know someone who likes to learn more about the similarities and differences between the two EDM genres, house and tech-house.

By Markus Kreukniet

Markus Kreukniet is an electronic dance music (EDM) producer and founder of Passion for EDM. He wants to share his EDM knowledge with the rest of the world. Read more about Markus Kreukniet.

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