The big 3: House, Tech House and Techno

A huge part of understanding the 3 genres i refer to as “the big 3” (house, tech-house and Techno) is understanding what makes them musically separate. its usually very minor things however coming to be able to differentiate between them can open up some avenues to find music which you otherwise perhaps wouldn’t have considered to be intriguing.

We’ll start with the genre which lay the ground work for the other two.
The basic signifier of house music is its drum line. a kick, a clap, a kick, a clap … The kick happens on the first and third beat, the claps and/or snares on the second and fourth, (however the kick is present during all 4 down beats).
Another important aspect of house music are its hi hats. (hi hats being one of the greatest differences between all three genres). the hi hats in House music tend to be on the 3rd beat between each kick drum with two extra hi hat notes placed between the claps.

Usually, classic House music has piano “stabs” and “divas”. The claps are more soulful and less relentless than Techno, but the claps and shakers can be harsh or have a strong presence in the mix (sonically speaking and especially if it is “jacking” House).

House music grew out of the post-disco dance club culture of the mid ’80s. The beat became more mechanical and the bass grooves became deeper, while electronic elements, Latin soul, dub, rap, and jazz were grafted over the music’s insistent, unvarying four-four beat. Frequently, the music was purely instrumental or with female diva vocalists.

The term “House music” is widely cited to have originated as a reference to a Chicago nightclub called The Warehouse which existed from 1977 to 1983. The Warehouse was patronized primarily by black and Latino men, who came to dance to music played by the club’s resident DJ Frankie Knuckles, a.k.a the “godfather of house”.

A good example of a famous House song would be:

whilst not one of the first house tracks, it is a quintessential house song, and embodies most of the elements of the genre.


The initial blueprint for techno was developed during the mid-1980s in Detroit, Michigan, by Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May (the so-called Belleville Three). The music’s producers, especially May and Saunderson, admit to having been fascinated by the Chicago club scene and influenced by house in particular. Atkins also believes that the first acid house producers, seeking to distance house music from disco, emulated the techno sound. Derrick May famously described the sound of techno as something that is “…like Detroit…a complete mistake. It’s like George Clinton and Kraftwerk are stuck in an elevator with only a sequencer to keep them company.

The success of house and acid house paved the way for wider acceptance of the Detroit sound, and vice-versa: techno was initially supported by a handful of house music clubs in Chicago, New York, and Northern England, with Detroit clubs catching up later; but in 1987, it was “Strings of Life” which eased London club-goers into acceptance of house and techno. Although the compilation “The mid-1988 UK release of Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit” put techno into the lexicon of music journalism, the music was, for a time, sometimes characterized as Detroit’s high-tech interpretation of Chicago house rather than a relatively pure genre unto itself. Later, with its second wave of techno artists from Detroit and the Rave scene in the Uk and Europe, there developed a wider array of Techno with clearly developed but often very different sounds and styles.

So again started at same time period of Chicago House 86-87. In fact the people in Detroit and Chicago knew each other and shared some ideas back and forth.

Sonically, Techno is characterised by having a darker sound to house. with an emphasis on huge kick drums and a “larger” more experimental sound. The hi hats in techno are more straight forward with ride cymbals used indicate an increase in intensity.

A good example of techno would be this track by Boryana.



Tech-House mixes elements of minimal techno and soulful deep house. The genre came to prominence in the mid 90s in the UK through a variety of clubs and parties as more of a mixing style rather than a production style later in the decade and in many other European countries. It is often defined differently by different people as it is a hybrid of existing genres and often used as a marketing phrase or as a catch-all to music that does not fit into Techno (it has funkier, house elements), Progressive House (it does not “progress” along as it has an even groove present and avoids the trancey trappings), and Deep House (it has more techno instrumentation).

It’s a UK/European thing, it has connections to Deep House, and it sounds VERY modern and sleek. Often mostly instrumental. But it’s a very minor genre in comparison with the previous two and wasn’t really a big deal overall initially. It’s barely documented overall in how it formed but it had a fair amount of compilations that showed off its similarities in sound.

In recent times tech house has grown massively in popularity. it is also derided by many members of the techno community for being “going nowhere” music. (which is understandable with some of the more basic tracks from the genre.

nevertheless, here’s a classic Tech-House track:


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