With house being so widespread, it’s impossible to ignore, and why would you want to?
The simple yet punchy beats loosen up even the most uptight listeners. Before you know it, you’ve got the whole club bouncing, guaranteeing you’ll rebook the gig.
Having said that, the breadth of house music in our collective musical culture means it can be quite an intimidating genre to dip into. When I started composing my first house beats, I just didn’t know where to start.
Don’t worry though. I want to offer you the help I wish I had when I was cutting my teeth. So, without further to do, here are my top tips for making house music.
Explore House Subgenres and Find One that Speaks to You
House music is EVERYWHERE. You can hear traces of it in the DNA of almost all popular music. This can be overwhelming at first, especially if you haven’t developed a signature style just yet.
At this stage, I recommend just kicking back and listening to some tunes. Check out artists that specialize in different subgenres such as…
- Tech House
- Tropical House
- Progressive House
- Electro House
- Future House
- Deep house
- Bass House
- Disco House
These are just a few you can dip into. Once you’ve found something that resonates with you, study it. Study it HARD! Identify tropes and ask yourself why it makes you feel the way it does.
Get the Gear
I personally prefer a mix of hardware and computer to working on a computer exclusively, but there is one thing you’re going to need no matter what sort of workflow you prefer: a great DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
My favorite DAW is currently Ableton. You’ll probably find that most of your favorite electronic artists prefer it too.
If you want to go the hardware route, you can even pair Ableton with proprietary gear such as the Ableton Push 2 Controller Instrument to bring some tactility to the writing process.
Alternatively, this PreSonus AudioBox 96 Studio 25th Anniversary Edition studio bundle comes with all the rudiments including Ableton Lite software.
You’ll also need some dope studio monitors. I use Yamaha H7s, but if you’re just starting out, I’d recommend the Yamaha HS5.
Reference Project Files
Now you have a DAW locked and loaded, you need to observe how the masters work within it. To do so, you’ll have to source some project files.
You may not be able to find the biggest artist’s PFs for nothing, but there are tons of awesome free project files online.
These files will unlock the secrets of house production and give you a bunch of inspiration for your own compositions.
Being a particularly repetitive genre of music, house lends itself well to looping at the beginning of the writing process.
It can be hard to think outside a loop once you’ve got it going, but you can break the cycle by studying your favorite project files and seeing how the sections meld together.
To get the juices flowing, I’d recommend deciding on whether your loop sounds like a verse or something else. Then it can be easier to set it aside and move onto connective sections.
If you’re unsure how house music is structured, use this basic formula to help you at first:
Intro – 1st Verse – 1st Build – 1st Drop – Break – 2nd Verse – 2nd Build – 2nd Drop – Outro.
Samples can make or break a house track. No matter how well put together and mixed your instrumentals are, a poor quality sample will destroy the vibe.
Fortunately, professional sample packs are readily available online. Download a few, then get creative with your favorite slices of audio.
Get a Pump On
You know that undulant “pumping” quality a lot of house music has? That’s created via a production process known as sidechaining.
Sidechaining is done by triggering a compressor using a separate audio track. For instance, in house music, the kick is the perfect trigger.
Every time it hits, the compression drops the volume on the rest of the music, so the bass drum has an enhanced impact.
Separate Snares, Claps, and Clicks from the Kick
While 4 on the floor is a great way to get people moving, it poses a production dilemma. How do you add the treble rhythm without stealing the kick’s sonic stage?
The answer is to slightly offset your snare sounds from the kick. It won’t sound out of time to the human ear, and it will increase the “loudness” of the track.
Make a Sound Sandwich
At its core, house is quite spare-sounding music, but if you listen carefully, there is often plenty of ear candy to be enjoyed.
Layering sounds onto your bare-bones beats is a great way to add extra dimensions to your music and color it with your own personal style. Try not to muddy the mix too much, though.
Listen Through a Limiter
When you send your fresh track off for professional mixing, the last plugin it will be sieved through is a limiter used to maximize loudness while avoiding clipping.
It’s a standard process, but it is going to change the timbre of your instrumentation, so it’s best to put your track through your own limiter first, so you can work around its effect.
Mono vs Stereo
If you’re new on the club scene, you may not realize that most venues use mono sound systems, so to ensure you get people throwing shapes, you need to make your house tracks sound awesome through a single audio output.
I could waffle on about any single pointer on this list all day as they’re all quite deep topics, so I’d recommend using this article as a checklist. Choose one of the areas of focus, then do some more in-depth research to find out how it’s accomplished, then move on to the next.
If you can wrap your head around all of them, you’ll be writing top-class house music in no time, guaranteed — the clubs won’t know what hit ‘em!