House vs EDM

House vs EDM: Understanding the Intricacies and Evolution of Two Dominant Subgenres of Electronic Music

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Electronic music – whose rhythms, melodies, and harmonies are sculpted by various electronic devices – is as diverse as it is fascinating. The genre boasts an array of sub-genres, each with its distinctive features and sounds that resonate differently with every enthusiast. In this vast universe of synthesized sounds, two prominent sub-genres command substantial attention: House music and Electronic Dance Music (EDM). But how does one differentiate between the soulful tunes of house music and the powerful, pulse-pounding thumps of EDM? We will delve into the depths of these impressive styles of music to unravel the distinction between them.

Unraveling Electronic Music: Life Beyond the Beat

Before diving into house and EDM, it’s essential to explore the overarching genre that birthed them – electronic music. This popular genre, characterized by the extensive use of electronic devices like synthesizers and drum machines ( including the renowned Roland TR-808 drum machine), traces its origins back to experimentation with electronic sounds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Brought to the mainstream by pioneers like Juan Atkins, electronic music has evolved into a cacophony of sub-genres, each with its unique sound and appeal. Key artists in various sub-genres have further pushed the boundaries of the genre, driven by their passion and creativity – names like Armin Van Buuren, David Guetta, and Steve Aoki continue to make waves in the industry today.

Exploring House Music: From the Roots to Frankie Knuckles and Beyond

House music, one of the earliest sub-genres of electronic music, takes pride in its Chicago roots, where DJ and producer Frankie Knuckles pioneered the style at his club. The genre, initially characterized by repetitive, 4/4 beats, created from drum machines and samplers, was influenced by elements of disco, funk, and soul music.

Over the years, house music has branched out into various sub-genres, including progressive house, deep house, acid house, and tech house. Each of these styles, while staying true to the house’s essence, adds its unique elements, further enriching the genre. Pioneers in deep house like Larry Heard added soulful melodies and jazz-like feeling to the groove, while progressive house included the atmospheric sounds and slowly evolving synthesizer phrases.

EDM, or Electronic Dance Music, has its roots in the late 1980s with genres like Detroit Techno and the breakbeat hardcore scene in the UK. Early pioneers, including Dave Nada and Dimitri Vegas, played a vital role in shaping the genre, whose primary attribute is its focus on creating music explicitly designed for dancing, usually in club or festival settings.

As EDM evolved, it encompassed numerous sub-genres including, but not limited to, electro house, dubstep, and trance. With EDM’s evolution came more recognition, with acts like Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta reaching the top of the pop charts around the world.

DJ Playing House and EDM Music with Mixer

House vs EDM: Distinctive Features of Each Genre

While both House and EDM fall under the overarching umbrella of electronic music, they each have distinct features that set them apart. House music often involves a steady 4/4 beat, occasionally sprinkled with soft hi-hat cymbals and synthesized basslines, with much of its emphasis on melody, vocals, and soulful rhythms.

EDM, on the other hand, focuses more on the build-up and drop formula, where suspense is created through a rising, tense sequence, culminating in a full-on energetic climax with heavy beats and tune. Moreover, EDM often features synthesized melodies and punchy, and fast-paced beats, crafted to keep the dance floor moving.

Definition of House Music

House music is a genre of electronic dance music characterized by its steady 4/4 beat and emphasis on repetitive rhythms, soulful vocals, and infectious melodies. It originated in Chicago in the early 1980s, primarily in clubs where DJs like Frankie Knuckles played a significant role in shaping its sound. House music draws influences from disco, funk, and soul, creating an uplifting and danceable atmosphere. Its name is said to derive from the legendary Chicago nightclub, The Warehouse, where this style gained popularity.

Definition of EDM

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is a broad umbrella term encompassing a wide range of electronic music genres designed specifically for dancing in clubs, festivals, and other dance-oriented settings. It emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, embracing various styles such as techno, house, trance, dubstep, and more. EDM places a strong emphasis on high-energy beats, catchy hooks, and melodic structures aimed at creating an electrifying and euphoric experience for listeners and dancers alike.

History of House Music

The history of house music traces back to the vibrant nightlife of Chicago in the early 1980s. Originating from the city’s clubs, DJs began experimenting with drum machines, synthesizers, and samplers to create a new style of dance music. The pioneering work of DJs like Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, and Marshall Jefferson at venues such as The Warehouse and The Music Box laid the foundation for the genre. House music rapidly gained traction and spread globally, branching into various sub-genres like deep house, acid house, and progressive house. Quick tip: If you’re an acid music fan, check out this acid t shirt.

History of EDM

The history of EDM can be traced to the late 1980s and early 1990s, marked by the rise of electronic dance music genres in Europe and the United States. Genres such as techno, trance, and rave music played a pivotal role in shaping the early EDM scene. The UK’s acid house movement and the development of genres like drum and bass and hardcore paved the way for the explosion of EDM. Over time, the term “EDM” became a blanket descriptor for the wide spectrum of dance music genres that evolved and gained massive popularity globally.

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Relationship Between the Two Genres

House music is considered one of the foundational elements of EDM. Many sub-genres of house, including progressive house and deep house, have heavily influenced the diverse landscape of EDM. While house music maintains its specific stylistic elements and cultural roots, it has contributed significantly to the evolution and expansion of the broader EDM genre. Thus, there exists a symbiotic relationship between house music and EDM, with each influencing and drawing inspiration from the other.

Similarities Between House and EDM

Beat Structure

Both house music and EDM typically employ a 4/4 beat structure, providing a steady rhythm that is conducive to dancing. The consistent beat is a fundamental aspect of these genres, creating a pulsating groove that drives the music forward and energizes the audience.


Both genres heavily rely on electronic instrumentation, including synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, and software-based production tools. These tools are used to create the signature sounds, melodies, and rhythmic patterns that define the genres.


House music and various sub-genres of EDM often share similar tempo ranges, typically ranging from 120 to 130 beats per minute (BPM). This tempo range facilitates danceability and contributes to the energetic nature of the music.

Similarities Between House Music and EDM
Beat Structure
Both genres typically utilize a 4/4 beat structure, providing a steady rhythmic foundation conducive to dancing.
Electronic instrumentation such as synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, and digital production tools are prevalent in creating the distinctive sounds and rhythms of both genres.
House music and various EDM sub-genres often share similar tempo ranges, typically between 120 to 130 beats per minute (BPM), fostering a dance-friendly environment.
Dance-oriented Focus
Both genres are explicitly designed for dance environments, emphasizing high-energy elements, infectious rhythms, and melodies aimed at energizing and engaging audiences in club and festival settings.
Roots in Electronic Music
House music and EDM are rooted in the broader spectrum of electronic music, drawing influences from techno, disco, funk, and other electronic genres while evolving distinct identities.

Differences Between House and EDM

Origin and Purpose

House music originated in clubs in Chicago with a focus on soulful, groovy rhythms and an emphasis on providing a musical experience that fosters a sense of community. EDM, on the other hand, emerged later as a commercialized and broader term encompassing multiple genres designed explicitly for large-scale festivals and club environments.

Exploring the intricate nuances between House and EDM music genres provides a comprehensive understanding of electronic music landscapes, complementing insights from my previous article on what is EDM music. In my article questioning the relationship between is house music EDM, I’ve uncovered the distinct elements that delineate the intricate differences between these two prominent electronic music genres.

Popularity and Appeal

House music, while influential, often appeals to a more niche audience appreciative of its deeper, soulful elements. EDM, with its more commercialized and high-energy approach, has garnered immense popularity on a global scale, attracting larger and diverse audiences seeking euphoric and high-octane dance experiences.

Production Techniques

House music production often involves the use of sampled vocals, jazz or funk-influenced chord progressions, and an emphasis on soulful and melodic elements. EDM production techniques often focus on synthesizer-generated melodies, intense build-ups, and dramatic drops, catering to the explosive nature of festival-oriented dance music.

Production with Samples

House Samples and House Sample Packs

House music production often involves the use of samples, which are short snippets or recordings of pre-existing sounds, vocals, or musical elements. House producers frequently utilize house samples to create unique and layered tracks. House samples can encompass various elements, including house drum loops, percussion patterns, vocal chops, instrument riffs, and melodic sequences.

House Sample Packs: These are curated collections of high-quality samples specifically tailored for house music production. These packs typically contain a diverse range of meticulously crafted sounds, loops, and one-shots that capture the essence of house music. They offer producers a convenient resource to spark creativity and enhance their tracks with professionally produced elements.

House sample packs often include:

  1. Drum Loops and Percussion: Various drum patterns, hi-hats, kicks, snares, and percussion loops that form the rhythmic backbone of house tracks.
  2. Vocal Chops and Phrases: Snippets of vocals or phrases that can be manipulated, chopped, and rearranged to add human-like elements and hooks to the music.
  3. Synth and Instrumental Samples: Melodic sequences, chord progressions, basslines, and instrumental loops suitable for creating the harmonic structure and groove of house tracks.
  4. FX Sounds and Atmospheres: Sound effects, risers, atmospheric textures, and transitional elements to add depth and dynamics to the music.

House producers often use these samples as building blocks, layering, editing, and processing them to craft their unique soundscapes. Through skillful manipulation and arrangement, these samples serve as creative tools enabling producers to construct rich, intricate, and vibrant compositions within the realm of house music.

Differences Between House Music and EDM
Origin and Purpose
House music originated in Chicago clubs, focusing on soulful, groove-based rhythms and community-oriented experiences. EDM emerged later, commercialized for large-scale festivals, and aimed at a broader, global audience.
Popularity and Appeal
House music appeals to a niche audience appreciating its deeper, soulful elements, while EDM enjoys massive global popularity, attracting diverse audiences seeking euphoric, high-energy dance experiences.
Production Techniques
House music often incorporates sampled vocals, jazz/funk-influenced chord progressions, and emphasizes melody and soulful elements. EDM production techniques focus on synthesizer-generated melodies, intense build-ups, and dramatic drops for a festival-driven impact.
Cultural and Club Scene Influence
House music is deeply rooted in the cultural movements of Chicago clubs, fostering a sense of community and identity. EDM has a more commercialized and globalized impact, associated with the rise of mega-festivals and less tied to specific club cultures.
Musical Styling and Sub-genres
House music encompasses various sub-genres like deep house, acid house, and progressive house, emphasizing groove, melody, and soul. EDM covers a wide range of genres including electro house, trance, and dubstep, focusing on high-energy beats and catchy hooks for mass appeal.

Impact of House and EDM on the Music Industry

Both house music and EDM have had profound impacts on the music industry. House music, with its deep grooves and soulful acapella vocals, provided a foundation for many subsequent electronic music genres.

EDM, which emerged later, brought electronic music to the masses, with its powerful beats, catchy hooks, and an irresistible pull to the dance floor. The global popularity of festival culture and the rise of superstar DJs further pushed EDM into the popular culture mainstream.

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Conclusion: Choosing Your Electronic Groove: House or EDM?

Ultimately, the contest between House and EDM is not so much about superiority as it is about personal preference. Each genre offers something uniquely appealing, making them both indispensable in the electronic music landscape. Whether it’s the soul-filled rhythms of house you lean towards or the dance floor-thumping beats of EDM that get your heart racing, one thing’s for sure – electronic music, in its many forms, promises you an incredible musical journey.


What distinguishes house music from other electronic genres?

House music is characterized by its steady 4/4 beat, soulful vocals, and repetitive rhythms influenced by disco and funk. Its origins in Chicago clubs like The Warehouse and emphasis on groove and melody set it apart within the electronic music landscape.

How does EDM differ from traditional electronic music?

EDM, a broader term, encompasses various electronic dance genres, focusing on high-energy beats, catchy hooks, and melodic structures. Unlike traditional electronic music, EDM is designed explicitly for mass dance appeal, often associated with festivals and club environments.

What role did pioneers play in the development of house music and EDM?

Pioneers like Frankie Knuckles in house music and figures like Juan Atkins and the UK rave scene in EDM were instrumental. They experimented with sounds, influenced by cultural movements, and established the foundational elements that shaped these genres.

Are there significant regional differences in the popularity of house music and EDM?

Yes, house music emerged from Chicago but gained a global following, while EDM’s roots extend across Europe and the US. House music’s influence is widespread, but EDM has seen immense popularity on a global scale, adapting to and thriving in various regional contexts.

What impact have house music and EDM had on contemporary music culture?

Both genres have significantly impacted contemporary music culture. House music laid groundwork for many electronic genres, while EDM brought electronic music to the masses, influencing pop music, festivals, club culture, and altering the way people experience and consume music today.