The Progressive House Genre

DJ playing disco house progressive electro music at the concert

In the late 1990s, the Progressive House genre emerged as a new, unique take on traditional house music and related electronic dance music (EDM) styles. Over the years, artists and DJs have immersed themselves in Progressive House music, both sticking to the original qualities and straying from the path a bit. So, what is Progressive House music?

Progressive House is an EDM genre and has two forms, the original true form, and the not original true form. The original form has a sound that grows in layers and builds towards a crescendo, and the not original form can already be full-on sounding from the first beat.

By continuing reading, you might learn more about the Progressive House genre. With all the EDM genres in the music world today, it can be difficult to recognize Progressive House. The genre has made a name for itself for its uniqueness. While it is a specific music style, some artists have made tweaks to interfere with the origins of Progressive House.

What Is Progressive House Music?

Progressive House music was developed in Europe in the late 1990s as a branch of traditional House music. Progressive House is an EDM genre. However, the genre has similar qualities as other EDM styles.

Progressive House music can have several defining features:

  • Constant kick drums
  • Rather long songs
  • Synthetic sounds
  • Minimal vocals
  • Light but catchy percussion

Progressive House has similarities with the characteristics of other EDM genres. As this post will explain later, Progressive House’s themes are a large part of what makes it unique.

The constant, repetitive kick drum rhythm in Progressive House provides the song with a steady flow to build further. By remaining present most of the time throughout a big part of the song, the kick drum keeps a rhythm that allows different rhythms and harmonies to mesh well together.

Most Progressive House songs are relatively long compared to other EDM styles. Typically, the buildup can last up to four minutes, followed by a breakdown and climax, making the song longer, possibly by another few minutes.

How Progressive House Is Similar to Other EDM Genres

One major similarity that Progressive House shares with other EDM subgenres is the use of synthetic sounds. While much of the percussion might be authentic, Progressive House songs can have different noises and other synthetic sounds that add to the almost ethereal effect of the music.

Another similarity of EDM subgenres seen in Progressive House is the possible absence of vocals. Many EDM songs contain little to no lyrics, allowing the listener to stay more focused on what is happening with the instrumentals and synthetic sounds themselves.

Lastly, Progressive House usually contains a percussion sequence that lacks flare but remains effective through its catchiness. Such a percussion sequence paired with the constant kick drum creates a beautiful setting that can work together with other song elements.

Progressive House Themes

As stated above, Progressive House’s themes are a large part of what makes it unique. Progressive House contains themes by which the producer of the song could have meant to accomplish certain goals. Below are some common Progressive House themes that you are likely to recognize when listening to Progressive House songs.


The tone of Progressive House provides emotion-evoking harmony. With different synthetic sounds paired with percussion and the constant kick drum, Progressive House songs can create a rhythm that flows and – hence the name – progresses through the song. Different sounds harmoniously create a feeling that might leave the listener yearning for more during the buildup.

Most people would expect an extended buildup such as the ones found in Progressive House songs to end in an intense climax. While Progressive House does tend to have a climax before the end of the song, it is not similar to other EDM styles that might end in extreme electronic, techno, high-intensity sounds. Instead, Progressive House focuses on bringing the buildup to a solid climax without catching the listener off guard with unexpected twists and turns.

Progressive House songs can also have a lot of reverb that adds a sort of echo to the sounds. This reverb could be essential for the emotion-evoking characteristics of Progressive House. It can create an ethereal environment, forming an intimacy between the music and the listener. Progressive House does not require lyrics to convey a message because instruments can also do that.


Another way the Progressive House draws on the emotion theme is by including song parts that make the listener feel like they are on a journey. For example, the buildup leading to the climax leaves the listener eager to get to the end while being satisfied with a mellow finish.

A listener might have begun feeling the song’s rhythm, only to slip up when one sound overcomes another, possibly throwing them off track yet encouraging them to stay fixed on the emotion-evoking sound. Progressive House’s ability to create this conflict but remain a motivator is an exceptional music strategy.

DJ playing disco house progressive electro music at the concert. DJ has his hands on equipment

Is Progressive House EDM?

Progressive House is a subgenre of EDM and has a unique sound. EDM songs can use synthetic sounds, beat drops, and similar things.

EDM probably has the most musically diverse music genres. Many experienced EDM listeners can probably divide some EDM songs under the EDM genres they know. Such dividing of music also happens outside EDM, just like people can tell differences in old school vs. modern rap, blues vs. jazz, country vs. bluegrass, and more.

There are some stereotypical labels of EDM that include:

  • Some people who are not familiar with electronic dance music tend to wrongly group all subgenres into the same category, which they call techno. Techno is also an EDM genre, which is different from Progressive House.
  • Some people call EDM listeners headbangers. I like headbangers, but I don’t see all EDM listeners as headbangers.

Many EDM songs might have similar routes, but their styles can be completely different. EDM songs can also take influences from outside the EDM songs.

Understanding Progressive House as an EDM Genre

When someone refers to EDM as techno or electronica, they are wrong. Techno and electronica are two EDM genres with unique characteristics, just like Progressive House. It is not always inherently bad when people name things like this; they may not be as well versed in the realm of EDM as other listeners.

Similarly, raves can have several DJs that play EDM, but they probably don’t play music of all EDM genres since there are too many of such genres to make that possible. Also, some EDM fans are headbangers, but not all EDM producers made their songs for “headbanging.”

Progressive House certainly has its roots and influences from other EDM genres. Producers do not necessarily produce all Progressive House songs to get an adrenaline rush out of someone. As said before, Progressive House can focus on the emotion it can bring out of someone and the journey it can take that person on.

What Makes a Progressive House Song?

This post already mentioned some Progressive House characteristics, but what makes the genre different from other EDM genres? Well, it mostly falls back on the intentions behind Progressive House. Many subgenres of EDM can invoke intense emotions, especially through the use of:

  • Beat drops
  • Heavy bass
  • Unique synthetic sounds

Progressive House is – in a way – a more formal style of EDM. Many Progressive House music does not only focus on making people dance. Yet, it can still be good music for dancing.

The music can also accomplish the feat of evoking emotion successfully. A purpose of Progressive House can be to encourage the listener to take on a certain mood, whether it be evoking:

  • Nostalgia
  • Happiness
  • Or anything else

Progressive House can be many things, including:

  • Uplifting or melancholic
  • Fast-paced or a bit slower
  • Catchy for dancing or relaxing

Progressive House can cause different feelings than other EDM genres. Progressive House can be a great EDM genre for staying in the moment and focusing on the emotions you feel while listening to it.

Wrongly Categorized Progressive House Music

For better or for worse, it is not uncommon for music styles to change dramatically. While there are still true forms of Progressive House music, there are also different forms. Some people call these different forms Progressive House, but it is not true Progressive House.

Of course, it is not entirely bad for music genres and styles to change, but now some named Progressive House songs are too different from the original true sound. It was probably better to give these different sounding songs a different named genre than Progressive House.

The original progressive house songs can sound like they grow in layers and slowly build toward a crescendo. The not-original-sounding progressive house songs are sometimes already full-on from the first hearable kick and can be around 5 minutes long.

It is still possible to find true Progressive House DJs and producers. Depending on where you look, you might have to search some more. For example, Miss Monique has many true Progressive House/Melodic Techno DJ mix sets on YouTube.

Difference Between Deep House and Progressive House

As Progressive House music and Deep House music both originate from House music, it is understandable that you might not hear/understand the difference.

In most cases, Progressive House is faster than Deep House. Progressive House will likely be more fast-paced and maintain its pace better than Deep House. However, this does not take away from the emotion that Progressive House can evoke.

Both Progressive House and Deep House songs are great for dancing. However, one may prefer the generally faster pace Progressive House or the slower pace Deep House.

Both genres can have similar beats or melodies, but that is also opinion-based.

Top Progressive House DJs

Since music is an art form that is so often open to different interpretations, it is probably impossible to pick the absolute, single best Progressive House DJ out there. However, several big-name DJs/producers have made their mark as the top Progressive House DJs today (which is also opinion based in a way), some (not all) of those are:

  • Calvin Harris
  • David Guetta
  • Deadmau5
  • Eric Prydz
  • Martin Garrix
  • Nervo
  • R3hab

These producers have produced some exceptional Progressive House Music, and it could be well worth your time to check them out. However, keep in mind that as time goes on, music styles tend to change a bit, while this can be detrimental to a genre or style. The DJs above did produce both the true original sounding Progressive House Music and the not true original sounding Progressive House Music.

The music matters and these DJs/producers understand that. It is also worth noting that there are many other Progressive House DJs/producers, by which some might be harder to find, but it can be worth finding them. There will probably come many more Progressive House DJs/producers in the future.


Progressive House Music is a unique subgenre of EDM. All EDM subgenres have their special characteristics, which is also true for Progressive 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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