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Improvised dance

Dance music styles

House music takes its name from Chicago's Warehouse club where, in the 1980s, DJ Frankie Knuckles manipulated records, lengthening, repeating and emphasising different sections. He also added pre-set percussion patterns to emphasise the solid beats which soon defined house music. House music is characterised by:

  • four-on-the-floor bass drum
  • drum rolls and off-beat hi-hat patterns
  • looped samples
  • synthesizer riffs
  • sometimes has vocals (or vocal samples) and piano chords
  • usually around 120 bpm (beats per minute)

Listen to 'Move your body' by Marshall Jefferson. Notice the four-on-the-floor bass drum and the piano chord riffs.

Acid house:

  • is a sub-genre of house music
  • exploits the electronic squelching sounds that can be produced by the Roland TB-303 sequencer
  • uses samples and spoken words rather than sung lyrics


  • has similar drum patterns to house
  • uses more purely synthetic sounds
  • often has little or no chord movement
  • most interest lies in the timbre (instrumental colour) and rhythm
  • usually around 120-140 bpm
  • few or no vocals
  • closely associated with large-scale parties known as 'raves'

Drum 'n' bass

Drum 'n' bass often:

  • has fast complex drum patterns
  • a heavy sub-bass line
  • uses speeded up hip-hop breaks
  • uses high speed retriggering of the drums
  • usually around 170 bpm


Jungle is sometimes used to refer to drum 'n' bass music generally.

Garage uses house loops combined with deep synthesized bass lines. Tempo: usually around 120 bpm.

Trance is an offshoot of techno but with more emphasis on harmony and with much use of synthesizers. Tempo: usually around 120-150 bpm.

Ambient music is played in 'chill-out' rooms where clubbers go to relax. It is:

  • slow and dreamy
  • floating chordal texture
  • hypnotic percussion

Back to Music for dance index

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