Deep House Explained
Deep house is a sub-genre of a larger “house” electronic music movement. Deep house first appeared in the early 1980’s out of the Chicago house music scene with jazz and soul influences making their way into dance-inspired songs.
Using complicated melodies and chromatic chord progressions under vocal or synthesizer melodies, deep house emphasizes soul and ambient music “vibes.” Deep house is widely considered to be rooted in jazz, with many song chord progressions emphasizing 7th, 9th, and suspended chords, which add “colors” to the songs not found in a traditional pop structure – these chords add a dissonance not found in other house music tracks. In the genre’s beginnings, vocals were typically omitted, but recent additions have seen smooth vocals featured on tracks, hearkening back to the genre’s lounge and soul beginnings.
The vocals are usually subdued, sexual, and calm. Unlike dub-step and other electronic music genres, deep-house doesn’t often culminate at a musical climax, but instead maintains a consistent tempo and mood for the entirety of the song. Additionally, deep house typically hovers around 120-123 BPM, whereas EDM tracks are faster paced at 133 BPM. This small shift in tempo makes the tracks feel less like dance tracks and more laid back.
Deep House History
Larry Heard and Marshall Jefferson are often considered the pioneers of the deep house genre, both hailing from Chicago. Their tracks, “Mystery of Love” and “Can You Feel It?” were among the first to incorporate jazzy Chicago musical stylings into house music and are the first representations of deep house in the country. Heard continued to release deep house music under the moniker “Fingers, Inc.” with his partners Ron Wilson and Robert Owens.
Because of the use of electric pianos like Hammond organs and the Fender Rhodes, deep house continued to develop jazz influences. In contrast to the “electronic” and “technological” rigidity of house music prevalent in the 1980’s, Heard and Jefferson tried to use more human sounding elements in their music.
Through the genre’s rich musical history, many newer deep house records have seen a shift in characterization of sounds. Newer deep house tracks are more melodic, faster paced, and adhere more to the trends of electronic dance music permeating popular culture.
Modern deep house has seen a shift in descriptors because of the nature of the music industry. Bloggers, journalists, and record store owners have pushed newer releases as “deep house,” or ‘inspired by deep house,” when in reality these newer tracks are only loosely based on the chromatic and dissonant jazz stylings of original Chicago house and deep house tracks. This shift in description has mostly been seen as a marketing move by many producers and fans who are upset by the change in naming convention.
New genre classifications have allowed for deep house to incorporate themes from electronic dance music into a new genre called “future house.” Future house incorporates heavier downbeats and faster tempos, while still retaining the original jazz and soul influences that made deep house popular.