Final Aim and Objectives

The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the development of house music as a style from its roots in soul and disco to its emergence as a mainstream style in 2015.The following questions has been asked: What are the sounds, musical components and musical structures that define the classic and modern house style? To address this, the project will analyse a range of style-defining house tracks and use the results to record and produce four house tracks, two in a classic 1980s house style, and two in a modern style.

The objectives for this dissertation are:

  • Develop an understanding of house from the 1980s.
  • Research the development of the genre so it can compare the past and the   future to see what musical structures and production methods that define the classic and contemporary house style.
  • Analyse found information critically, comparing and contrasting found evidence to put together methods for creating house tracks both classic and modern.
  • Use research of the house music genre and production techniques to create four house tracks. Two in the classic style and two in the modern day style.
  • Evaluate and analyse the finding of the research and creation of tracks then it will display the authors evaluation in the dissemination
  • Disseminate the results in a presentation to an audience including academics.

Final Methodology

Methodological Approach

Using a blend of data gathering will help gather an understanding of the house music genre in terms of musical structure and production methods. Professionals will be questioned looking for their ideas and opinions.


The qualitative section of research will be used to test for “attitude, perceptions, motivations and behaviors”(Kent, 2007). Qualitative data uses language to interpret “concepts based on peoples experiences” (Bonnie S, 2012)


Using a quantitative method will provide data sets that can be subject to statistical analysis (Mosdell, 2009). This data is used to explain the phenomenon that the research is about. (Caputi, 2001)

Sampling method

Informants were selected by using a purposive sampling method (Creswell, (2007, p.125). They were selected as they were seen to have an understanding of the research problem. (Kent, 2007). The informants for this dissertation were all well informed about the rise of house music and the growth of the genre, as they were all current DJ’s and promoters in the Scottish electronic music scene. To gather greater amounts of data for analysis, a mix of gender and age was used. (McCracken, 1988).


To gather data for this dissertation, a questionnaire was chosen, as this would allow the data to be both qualitative and quantitative. This will allow for a blend of qualitative data and quantitative which will be able validate the research and provide richer data to draw conclusions from. (Winstanley, (2010).

Questionnaire Structure

The questionnaire will start off with opening questions, which relax the informant and build trust (McCracken, 1988).

The questionnaires structure will consist of different styles of questions. These include hard facts and figures question that are precise questions which have a straight answer. General opinion style questions will be used to allow the informant to write until they feel they have given enough information. Expert opinion questions will be asked to explore the informant’s views on certain subject areas (Winstanley, 2010).

Ethical considerations

Before completing the questionnaire the informants were told that their personal information would not be published in the dissertation. The informants were told that they were allowed to not answer any questions they didn’t feel comfortable answering.

Data Analysis


To analyse the data created from the open ended question at the end of the questionnaire. The qualitative data was gathered in full and then was reduced so that the most significant aspects of data could be grouped into themes (Winstanley, 2010).


For the analysis of the quantitative data received from the questionnaire, the data will firstly be paced into a table and bar charts will be created to show answers in a clear format. The analysis of the length of tracks and tempos of tracks will be an average of time or bpm. The analysis of the key of all tracks will be a modal value and will be displayed in a bar chart format (Winstanley, 2010).


Winstanley, C (2010). Writing a Dissertation For Dummies. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

McCracken, G., (1988). The Long Interview. 1st ed. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

Balnaves, M and Caputi, (2001). Introduction to quantitative research. London: SAGE Publications Ltd

Mosdell, N. (2009). Methodology. In Key concepts in public relations. London, United Kingdom: Sage UK.

Kent, R.(2007) Marketing Strategy: Approaches, Methods and Applications in Europe Thomson Learning, London


Studio Set-up

The main reason for setting up a good studio with soundproofing and acoustic treatment for mixing music is so that you can get isolation from the outside world and control of the reflections and reverb time. (Owsinsk, 2012)

Every room needs some form of acoustic treatment as plasterboard walls, glass windows and wooden doors allow bass energy to pass through. Solid brick or concrete walls reflect most of the bass energy back into the room. Large bass traps are not an option in most home studios so a more pragmatic way to tame bass problems is to choose smaller monitors with a less extended bass response. Adding absorbent heavy furniture, such as a sofa across the back of the room, will also help to control the reflections of the sound. A carpeted floor will help to combat a room with sounds like a reverb chamber. But it will also absorb all low and high-end frequencies. So carpeting the full room has a counterproductive effect on the room sound. The author says to use as little acoustic treatment as possible and to remember that heavy material objects work great at absorbing unwanted reflection so making sure in the studio there is have a mixture of heavy curtains, carpeted floor, material furniture and acoustic treatment wall pads. (White, 2002)

Setting up Monitors

When setting up a studio to make and mix music the two most significant things for producing high quality is the producer’s ear and a good set of studio monitors. The monitors need to be set up properly so the producer can personally achieve professional quality audio that can be played on all sorts of systems (Hicks, 2009)

The perfect way to set up the monitors is to place the monitors in a position that will create the three points of a equilateral triangle. With the monitors tweeters positioned to be at the height of the listeners ear and directed towards them (Hicks, 2009). (See image 2)


(Image 2 Set up for monitoring audio)(Hicks, 2009)

When placing monitors near a solid surface like a wall. Low-end frequencies can reflect the bass sounds and can cancel out other frequencies creating frequency troughs. A way to over come this is to randomize the frequencies by not placing the monitor equal distance from the back to the side wall

(Image 3) (White, 2002)


(Image 3, Sound radiating from the rear of a speaker and reflecting)

Essential Equipment

Jones (1992) states that, setting up a studio may seem like a costly and stressful experience. When setting up a studio in 1970’s the following would be needed (Jones, 1992):

-Four-track mixer

-A cassette cartridge

-Recorder monitors,


-Racks for off outboard analogue equipment

Today the basics for a studio can be condensed down to a laptop. The laptop computer is now powerful enough to be able to record multi track recording sessions and run powerful effects along with virtual instruments. Previously this process could have only been achieved by using high end desktop computers or analogue equipment.

What is needed for a studio to create electronic music:

-Laptop/ Desktop

-Digital audio workstation (Live, Pro tools, Logic etc)


-Studio monitors or good headphones

Extras can consist of:

-Microphones (If you wish to record vocals)

-Midi controllers (If you prefer a more tactile feel when making music)

(Corfield, 2014)

Classic Instruments

The classic instruments that helped enable and still to this day are used to make house make are the Roland 808 drum machine, Roland’s 909 drum machine and Roland’s 303 bass line.

Roland tr-808

Thomas (2014) comments saying that the 808 had a limited selection of drum sounds and percussion sound, but the sounds this machine put out are said to be legendary. The hi hats are crisp and sound great but the most famous sound off this machine is the 808 kick drum which is barely musical at all as it just a low end thud but even today is still used in music production as it still regarded as one of the best kick drum sounds of all time. The sound of the 808 has become a staple sound in not just house music but most electronic music production (Thomas, 2014).

Roland tr-909

The Roland 909 is just is just as important as the 808. The 909 were used widely in the creation of house music and techno music. The 4/4-kick drum off house and techno music was suited but the 909’s kick drum as it has a hard thump that can cut through the mix perfectly. The hi hat sounds on this machine are crisp and are the defining hi hat sound that featured on much house and techno giving the track what is now seen as a standard house beat and sound (Dawsons, 2014).

The main draw for the 909 was the ability to have the kick with so much power and cut through the mix. So in the club it was able to push the speakers and allowing it to rattle the bodies and the walls which give the house tracks the “rhythmic propulsion and momentum that could keep a crowd in dancing all night” (Dawsons, 2014).

Roland tb-303

The sound of the 303 is legendary as it was first used in a house track, which then developed into the growth of the genre acid house that created the rave culture in the UK. This unit could be held responsible for the rise of electronic music in the UK (Dawsons, 2014).

The 303 is famous for its “burbling, squelching” acid house bass line sound.

Controlling individual notes created this sound and boosting their levels, the producer can also increase and decrease the envelope settings to get the squelchy bass sound. (Dawsons, 2014).

The producers at the time had no idea what they were creating but knew the squelching and resonant sound was unlike any other instrument or genre (Hamil, 2014). Without these instruments the house sound would not be the same and may not have even existed. These instruments are just as important in the establishment and growth of the genre as the DJ’s playing out the records.


Paul White. (2002). MONITOR PLACEMENT. Available: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/mar02/articles/monitors.asp. Last accessed 12th Feb 2015.

Mason Hicks. (2009 ). Studio Monitor Placement — Finding the “Sweet Spot”. Available: http://www.uaudio.com/blog/studio-monitor-placement/. Last accessed 12th Feb 2015.

OWSINSKI, B. and MOODY, D., 2012. The Studio Builder’s Handbook. Bass Player, 23(12), pp. 62-63.

Chris Corfield. (2014). Home Recording Studio Setup. Available: http://www.dawsons.co.uk/blog/guide-home-recording-studio-setup. Last accessed 12th Feb 2015.

Jones, S 1992. Rock formation: music, technology, and mass communication. London. Sage.

Dawsons. (2014). Synth icons. Available: http://www.dawsons.co.uk/blog/synth-icons-roland-tb-303. Last accessed 25/11/2014.

Jasper Hamil. (2014). The world’s most famous electronic instrument is back. Available: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasperhamill/2014/03/25/one-synth-to-rule-them-all-roland-takes-on-clones-with-reissue-of-legendary-tb-303/. Last accessed 16/11/2014.

Dawsons. (2014). The Evolution Of Beats – Roland TR-909. Available: http://www.dawsons.co.uk/blog/evolution-beats-part-2-roland-tr-909. Last accessed 16/11/2014.

Ben Beaumont-Thomas. (2014). The Roland TR-808: the drum machine that revolutionised music. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/mar/06/roland-tr-808-drum-machine-revolutionised-music. Last accessed 16/11/2014

The First House Record

The first track in 1983  that is claimed to be the first house track ever was Z Factor’s ‘Fantasy’ with hints of “Kraftwerk’s heavily synthesized string sounds, a Euro beat bass line and a simple, insistent drum machine pattern”. The record was weird but was “obscure outside the close-knit urban Chicago scene”

Link to the track;


The second track in question was Jesse Saunders “On and On” had elements that have became the back bone of house from the 1980’s all the way to the modern day. The Roland tb 303 with the bass line riff being sampled from a disco record by Player One “Space Invaders” the tracks drums and percussion sections were created on the famous Roland tr 808 . In using these instruments Jesse Saunders created the sound that everyone in the genre sees as the roots of house music (Terry (2010)

Link to the track;



Church,T. (2010). “Black History Month: Jesse Saunders and house music”. BeatPortal. Retrieved 2014-11-3.

The Djs/ Prodcuers

Classic Djs

Frankie Knuckles

Frankie Knuckles is probably the most well known dj and producer from the Chicago house scene, he is known as the Godfather of house music as it was his dj sets in the warehouse that the genre of music called house came from.  Frankie Knuckles revolutionized dance music and up to his death in 2013 Frankie Knuckles filled clubs and venues all over the world as people flocked to his unique take on music and the art of djing.

Frankie Knuckles was the first ever Grammy winner fro remixer of the year.

His track the whistle song also was famous throughout the club scene but was taken to the mainstream by the Lipton Ice Tea Commercial in the mid 90’s

Resident Advisor. (2014).

‘Your love’ Frankie Knuckles one of the most well know house tracks.


The whistle song used in the Lipton ice tea video


Jesse Saunders

 Jesse Saunders to some was the creator of the first ever house record in doing this he created the template for every house record. Jesse Saunders done this by taking musical structures and production methods form old school funk, disco, rnb, pop and hip hop. He took the styles and selected the parts he likes then created his tracks not knowing he was redefining dance music and creating a musical template. Williams. (2013).

On and On Jesse Saunders


Marshall Jefferson

 Marshall Jefferson was the creator of genre of piano house. In 1986 he used piano in a house track for the first time ever. No record company would sign the track and told him it wasn’t house. Now the track  “Move Your Body” is known as the house music anthem and through the 90’s and right up to the modern day you will rarely hear a house track that doesn’t feature a piano stab or chord loop.

Marshall Jefferson produced the first ever acid house record using the Roland tb303.

He added to the structure of house music that Jesse Saunders created which created the sub genre deep house but his template and production methods can still be used to create house, deep house, garage and techno.

thedjlist.com. (2013).

“Move Your Body” Marshall Jefferson


 Mr Fingers (Larry Heard)

Mr Fingers  has a smooth production style with soulful vocals , deep base lines and long instrumental passages. He was also a creator of the sub genre deep house .His track “Can you feel it “ is one of the first well know deep house records  and his track Mystery of Love” is a classic and it also managed to, rise to #10 on the Billboard Dance charts. Resident Advisor. (2014

Mr Finger “Can you feel it”


The Djs of today


 Disclosure are a producer and duo which have managed to take the house template and turn it into mainstream dance music . Taking roots from the deep house and classic house genres. Using deep bass lines and the Roland 808 and Roland 909 drum sounds. There album Settle was nominated for a Grammy award for best dance album in 2013 Grammy. (2013. The duo production styles features mostly he classic house template with garage and dubstep influences Resident Advisor. (2013).

Disclosure ‘When a fire starts to burn’



Huxley as a producer and dj has been going fro his teens but went through a faze of djing garage until he found his place in the house music scene. His sound  is a deeper, house-based sound. He has molded his distinctive mark on house music Using the classic house template and classic instruments but still managing to keep the tracks fresh in the crowed house genre

Resident Advisor. (2013).

Huxley “Box Clever”


Duke Dumunt

Duke Dumunt is a Dj producer who uses early 90s house techniques such as low-end, funky stabs and silky vocals and techno production methods and manages to bring them up to date so they can get nominated for a Grammy and a number 2 in the uk chart  Resident Adviser. (2014). 

Duke Dumunt “I got u”


 Waze and Odyssey 

Waze and Odyssey have managed to sample a classic rnb track “Bump and Grind” by R Kelly and managed to mix this with the classic house template , using the 90s deep house bass sound and the minimalistic vocal style from the classic house era and created  themselves Uk number one in 2014. Resident Adviser. (2014)

Waze and Odyssey “Bump and Grind” 


The Roots of House Music

The roots of House music grew from the disco era in the 1970s and as the disco scene grew it became “commercially bastardized”. After this disco was then targeted by rock DJ Steve Vahl. Steve Vahl created the Disco Sucks campaign that was to encourage people to bring their disco records to a bonfire to burn them all. Disco was seen as dead by the mainstream and record labels dropped the dance labels. But the underground scene kept going and the DJ Francis Grosso put on a night in a converted church called “Sanctuary”. Francis Grosso was the first DJ to mix early disco records together to keep a continuous rhythm for the crowd to dance to. This mixing technique has became the fundamental DJ mixing technique for electronic DJing (Rick,2009)

In the mid 1970s, Chicago was still America’s second largest city. After the financial collapse of a number of independent soul labels a few years earlier, its recording industry had disappeared, but Chicago’s club scene was heavily segregated. Promoter Robert Williams parties that brought together straight and gay youths of all races breaking the originally segregated club scene. Frankie Knuckles was quoted for saying ‘My fondest memory is the mixed crowd. Racially, ethnically, sexually. That was the best thing” (Arnold, 2012).

As the electronic music scene began to grow the DJ Frankie Knuckles started to play new wave electronic records along with his usual soul and disco records

“I view house as disco revenge”

Frankie Knuckles (1990)

Frankie had a close friend called Erasmo Rivera who was in school doing a sound engineer course. One of his classes was on editing so Frankie Knuckles got him to edit all his records to play in the warehouse. The promoter Robert Williams says the edits “Drove the crowd wild” and the club goers would be like “I have that album at home, and it doesn’t sound like that. What the hell is going on?” (Arnold, 2012).

In the beginning the term house music was not referred to as a musical genre, but the atmosphere and attitude felt in the club and the warehouse. House music in the early 1980’s was a rebellious taste but it was music from a cool club, it was underground, as you would have never heard house music on the radio in the early days. In an interview Frankie Knuckles has been quoted saying between 1977 and 1981 “the parties were very very intense, They were always intense- but the feeling that was going on in them were very pure. The energy the feeling you got back from the room, from the people was very very spiritual.”(Brewster, 2000)

The term “house music” was a shortened slang version of the nightclub the warehouse where Frankie Knuckles was the resident from 1977 to 1983 until the warehouse shut down (Rick, 2009).


Brewster B & Broughton, F. 2000 “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life”: The History of the Disc Jockey, Grove Press.

Snoman, Rick (2009). The Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques Second Edition. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Press

Arnold,J. (2012). The Warehouse: The place house music got its name.

Musical Structure Of Electronic Music

Snowman says that electronic music’s structure is similar to the conventional system of having a common structure of:








Electronic music uses 16 bar sections, new musical ideas are added each time to keep the track interesting. The basic structure of a dance track consists of: (Please refer to table 1)

Section Bars Information
Intro 1 to 16 Introduces the track and provides the dj with a beat and section to                                                                                                                      be able to mix into the previous track.
  16 to 32 A percussive element is added to build the drum loop, which will be used throughout the track.
First Body 32 to 48 After the intro the main groove is brought into the mix through adding the baseline to give the track its fundamental backbone. 
  48 to 64 A motif is used to bring in new elements of the track.
The Drop 64 to 72 This is the section of the track where the kick drum and the motif play themselves to give the effect of the track dropping then in the middle of the fourth bar the percussive elements of the track are added along with the groove. Creating the impression that the main section of the track has just dropped.
The Second Body 72 to 88 A percussive element like a crash cymbal signifies the start of a new motif for the track.Another new motif is add to the track and is signified with another percussive element.
  88 to 104 Another new motif is add to the track and is signified with another percussive element.
The Drop 104 to 108 A new instrument is added to the track and all other section are dropped off then brought back in to give the indication that the song is building again.
The Reprise 108 to 116 This part of the track is a culmination of all the instruments that have been introduced throughout the track and a new motif is hinted at.
The Main body 116 to 148 This section is where all the instruments and sections are blended together to create the heart of the track, with all elements working together to create the most memorable section of the track
  148 to 180 More percussion is added to keep the groove going in the track.
Outro 180 to 196 Firstly a percussive element starts the outro, a motif is dropped off and then all chords and motifs just leaving the percussion and bass sections.
  196 to 212 Finally the bass is rolled off leaving the drum beat ready for mixing intro the next track

Table 1 (Snoman 2009)

Snoman, R (2009). The Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques — Second Edition. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Press.


After receiving feedback into the start of the second semester i had to make changes to my question and methodology to ensure I could have successful dissertation and project. My question was adapted to ask what the evolution of house music was from the roots in soul in disco to the modern sound of 2015. The methodology for the project was redone as I had selected to attempted do more than one method of data gathering for my project. It was changed to Use a blend of data gathering will help gather an understanding of the house music genre in terms of musical structure and production methods. Professionals will be questioned looking for their ideas and opinions.

After building a base for research and learning search terms I found research the classic instruments that were used in early production was very beneficial for the dissertation and the project. It related to the project as it allowed me to research and create the sounds of the classic machines in Ableton Live 9.

I was struggling to research the structure of house music as I had a rough idea about the structure of house music but I had no academic proof to back up my knowledge. I then found the book “The Dance Music Manual” in the library at Abertay in this book I found a full section on the structure of house music, I used this structure as a reference when analysis other tracks structure and it allowed me to build similar table to display the data.

I found researching both classic DJ’s and modern DJ’s was beneficial for the project as it give me Djs and their music to listen to build an understanding of the sounds relevant in the 1980’s and 2015. I also researched the innovators of house, this gave me the opportunity to ask in my questionnaire who the selected Djs and promoters thought was the most influential in the house music scene.

Overall I think this section went smoothly and it was interesting as I was also learning about a music genre I have grown to enjoy in the past years.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s