What Is House Music?

Derived From Disco but a Bit Darker and More Minimal

DJ Frankie Knuckles mixing house music live in 2007
DJ Frankie Knuckles in 2007.

Claire Greenway/Getty Images

House is a genre of electronic dance music and has been the current standard of “club music” since the late eighties. Derived from disco, it typically features a 4/4 beat structure accented on the off-beats by a hi-hat in what has been onomatopoetically labeled as “uhn tiss uhn tiss.” The mood, compared to disco, is typically a bit darker and minimalist as house music uses many other sounds including synths, funk, and soul. It is also the easiest dance music genre to combine with other genres to produce a new sound, like disco house, electro house, and tribal house.

Origins in Chicago at The Warehouse

House began in Chicago in the late 70s but didn’t find true life until the 80s. DJs and remixers delved into infusing disco with new sounds. These tracks were played heavily at The Warehouse, a popular Chicago nightclub during that time, by DJ Frankie Knuckles, thus becoming “warehouse music,” or simply 'house music.' When it comes to the “sound” of house music, many of the elements still used today can be heard in DJ Jesse Saunders’ “On and On.”


Popular house musicians include Frankie Knuckles, Jesse Saunders, Technotronic, and Robin S.


Sub-genres of house include gospel house, disco house, acid house, progressive house, vocal house, electro house, and tribal house.

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