The Deep House EDM Genre

The first deep house music track ever, Mystery Of Love, and a saxophone.

Many people talk and write about deep house music, but they don’t always communicate about the same thing. A reason for such miscommunication is that some have misunderstandings about the deep house genre. This post gives an overview of the deep house genre, by which hopefully people can understand the genre better.

What is deep house music? Deep house is a subgenre of house music, and house music is a genre of electronic dance music (EDM). Moreover, deep house tracks (songs) have a tempo from 110 to 125 beats per minute (bpm), and is a blend of the music genres:

  • Chicago house
  • garage house (originally known as “garage music” and as “New York house”)
  • house music
  • jazz
  • jazz-funk (a subgenre of jazz)
  • soul music

This post starts with the characteristics and history of the deep house genre, and both consists of the fundamental information about the genre. After that, we can see the following two sections as the use of deep house understanding. Plus after that, we can see in a tree where the deep house genre sits in between other genres.


Each deep house track has some characteristics. However, a characteristic is not a requirement, so we can have a deep house track without having all the deep house characteristics. For example, we can have a deep house track without having vocals.

Deep house tracks tend to have a tempo from 110 to 125 bpm. However, it is possible to find tracks out of this tempo range.

There are some more characteristics which you can find in the following subsections.


Vocals are more common in deep house tracks than in many other house music genres. The characteristics (not requirements) of such vocals are: soulful, slow, smooth, and stylish. Also, it is common that such vocals have a pleasantly concentrated dissonant melody and that they have a chic attitude/behavior.

Soulful vocals are pretty typical in deep house music. Most of the time, the lyrics of such vocals focus on being positive/uplifting, or the lyrics are more as forlorn modern blues lyrics.

We can find male and female vocals in deep house tracks. However, the female ones are more common.

Influential Music Genres and Chords

The early deep house tracks from 1986 to 1989 have many influences (also called stylistic origins) from other genres, which are:

  • Chicago house
  • garage house (originally known as “garage music” and as “New York house”)
  • house music
  • jazz
  • jazz-funk (a subgenre of jazz)
  • soul music

Moreover, the jazz-funk influences are from the 1980s jazz-funk.

A saxophone which is next to his case.

The jazz influences were frequently made with complex chords and not so much with triads. Such complex chords are 7ths, 9ths, 13ths, suspensions, and alterations.

It is typical deep house to use the complex chords in chord progressions, and they are most of the time four or more bars long. Such progressions give a composition and a track a slightly dissonant feel.

The use of samples from jazz and soul music is also pretty common in deep house tracks.

Other Deep House Characteristics

There are many other deep house characteristics, which are:

  • Spacious use of percussions. Such spacious use means that producers probably have used a reverb effect on the percussions and that they did not use too many percussions. So, the use of a drum machine is often simpler than in other house music genres.
  • It has muted bass lines. A track has a muted bass lines when it has not a separate bass line, so the bass in the track comes from other elements.
  • Soft pads. You can see such pads as soft keyboard/synthesizer sounds playing a sustained tone, like a chord. Furthermore, people use pads often for background harmony and atmosphere.
  • Ambient mixes. The sound of such a mix has hearable elements of its surroundings in it.
  • Rarely reaching a climax, and stays more on a comfortable, hypnotic, and relaxing sound. So, there is no massive difference in the breaks and drops in most deep house tracks.
  • The track structure is more minimalistic than in other house music genres.
  • It has characteristics from gospel music, like in the vocals.
  • It has an acoustic feeling, which is the feeling that acoustic (also called unplugged or unwired) music can give. Most of the time when music is labeled acoustic, then there is an assumption made that the music is purer than non-acoustic music. Pure means is this case not cluttered by technology and overproduction.

Characteristics of DJ Mixes

A disc jockey (DJ) can determine a lot when he or she plays deep house tracks in a DJ mix. For example, a DJ can make the structure of the track sound less simplistic.

As an example, the structure of a track can be made less simplistic by making the bass drum/kick for one or a few beats unhearable. Furthermore, a DJ can do that by using a high-pass filter.


Producers from Chicago pioneered for a large amount deep house music. Two of these Chicago producers were Marshall Jefferson and Larry Heard.

Marshall Jefferson was part of the group On The House, and Larry Heard is also known as Mr. Fingers. The two tracks “Mystery of Love” (1985) and “Can You Feel It?” (1986) produced by Larry Heard where part of the pioneering of deep house music.

Mr. Fingers ‎– Mystery Of Love

The origins of deep house music come from the track “Mystery of Love,” which is also the first deep house track ever. Furthermore, the track “Can You Feel It?” had an impact on deep house music which is similar to that Derrick May’s “Strings Of Life” (1987) had on Detroit techno.

The jazzy sound in deep house music became more common due to the favored use of gentler and more organic production and instrument sounds. However, the production and instrument sounds were still synthesizer based.

Author Richie Unterberger noticed Larry Heard’s deep house sound. He stated that Larry’s deep house sound moved house music away from its posthuman tendencies.

Larry’s sound moved house music back towards the lush, soulful sound of early disco music. Disco music as like that from the old Philadelphia International Records and Salsoul Records.

Labeling Deep House

Many people mislabel tracks from house music or subgenres from house music as deep house. Such mislabeling is not an exception; it is pretty common.

The mislabeling happens not only for tracks but also for producers and DJs. For example, deep house producers that haven’t produced a single deep house track. Additionally, as a second example, deep house DJs who play full deep house mixes without any deep house track in it.

The other way around is also possible. Thinking that someone mislabels a deep house track or artist, but it is then not mislabeling. Also, such wrong thinking is also pretty common.

Tropical house is a subgenre from the deep house genre. Some people say/write “that music is not deep house music, it is tropical house music.” Such statements are not correct, all tropical house music is also deep house music, but not all deep house music is also tropical house music.

There are probably many reasons for misconceptions in labeling deep house tracks. However, possibly the most common reason is that many use the term deep house to group types of house music that is driven by a bassline.

A popular example of labeling/mislabeling happened on the online music store Beatport. There was many future house music labeled as deep house music because Beatport had not the future house genre.

Many people were complaining about the mislabeling. However, it is not mislabeling; the labeling is just not specific enough.

Later Beatport added also the future house genre. Though, I don’t know if someone transferred tracks from the label deep house to future house.

Artists, Record Labels, Albums, and Early Hits

There are many artists (producers and DJs) in the deep house scene. In my opinion, there are too many artists to sum them up here, but Wikipedia has a great deep house musicians list.

Also, there are many deep house record labels. Here follow a few examples of such labels: Alleviated Records, AFTR:HRS, Glasgow Underground Recordings, Naked Music, Anjunadeep, and Spinnin’ Deep. Maybe something fun to know, Alleviated Records is the label of Larry Heard.

Deep house music appeared on at least two albums from artists who are not known for his/hers deep house music, but many know them from other music genres. These albums are:

  • Jesus Loves You – The Martyr Mantras (1990)
  • The Style Council – Modernism: A New Decade (1989)

Listening to some early deep house hits can help to understand the genre more. A few of such hits are:

  • Ralphi Rosario – You used to hold me
  • Raze – Break 4 love
  • Frankie Knuckles Presents Satoshi Tomiie ‎– Tears (all tracks)
  • Mr. Fingers – Mystery Of Love
  • Mr. Fingers – Can You Feel It?

Deep House in the EDM Genre Tree

EDM has many genres, and one of those genres is house music. Also, house music has many genres, and deep house is one of those. So the deep house genre a subgenre of house music.

Deep house genre tree

The deep house genre has two subgenres which are future house and tropical house. Furthermore, we can see these two genres as specialized deep house genres. So, when we talk about the deep house genre, then we talk about one or three genres.

Closing Words

Deep house tracks have a tempo from 110 to 125 bpm, they have some characteristics, and we can understand them better by knowing some history. Moreover, in the EDM genres, deep house is a specific house genre, and the future house and the tropical house genres are both a specific deep house genre. Furthermore, there is some probably fun to know artists, record labels, albums, and early hits about deep house music.

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

Hopefully, you have learned something about deep house music. Also, when you know someone who likes to know more about deep house music, then feel free to share this post. Additionally, do you have something to share about deep house music?

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.


  1. Shouldn’t Lo-fi house \ Outsider house also be under deep house as subgenre?

    And disco is also worth mentioning as a very frequent influence for underground deep house scenes.

    Also, I believe that deep house had long had to split into a dozen other subgenres. Too many dissimilar music is grouped under the one genre, most of the deep house scenes have clear characteristics quite a long, but do not have their name.

    1. passedby, first of all, I love your comment.

      My honest answer is that I don’t know that at the moment, but it does make sense to me. Therefore, I will do some research about the things you mentioned, and then I will probably update this post. The problem is my available time, but the update will happen hopefully within a few months.

      Thank you for your helpful comment, and you probably also have helped some other readers.

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