Genre Crash Course | Progressive House

Progressive House is easily distinguishable by it's 4 to the floor beat on the tightest grid known to man kind, all while travelling at a steady 128bpm. Not even the quantum clock could be that accurate, and that's my last joke in this blog. My first experience with House music was at the record label 'Vicious' in Melbourne, where I worked for the two Madison Avenue producers. This wasn't progressive or deep or any other genre, but simple House. As it was my job to listen to released tracks and record their place in the chart, I noticed a common theme... The kick!. This one defining feature could be the thing that brings all house together under one umbrella, but what makes Progressive House so different?. 

To answer this question we have to look at the two sides of Progressive House. On one side you have the huge balladdy extended rhythms with massive climactic drops. On the other hand there is a more gentle side that mixes both Deep and Minimal House elements to create a hybrid. Here's an example of progressive house in action with Rob Swire from 'Pendulum' doing vocals and if you want a deeper look at this track, jump over to my blog that tears this track down in detail. 

The History of Progressive House

The birthplace of Progressive House is said to be in the clubs of the UK, where a lot of the early US House producers would tour, allowing newer forms of the genre to 'progress', hence the name Progressive House. As House music flourished in the 80's, so would it's younger sibling in the early 90's. Progressive House gave commercial appeal, due partly to the rhythmic similarities of chart style pop music. Throughout the 2000's the genre flourished and dominated popular music charts all around the world. Artists such as Deadmau5, Chemical Brothers and Kaskade all having released what could be known as the templates for modern progressive house and what has gone on to create a genre that stands on its own. 

Common Elements of Progressive House

The Beat

Boots n' Kittens said at 128bpm four times, is the easiest way to remember how the beat in a Progressive House track is sequenced, but it is the driving force behind the club based genre. Make no mistake, this is a dance genre. The sounds are designed to be easy to dance to, and use climactic drops and reverse reverbs to produce crowd involvement. In this video below, Swedish House Mafia solo their kick at 2min40sec and reveal two layers that are commonly heard with most house beats. A top kick that contains a clicking sound and a fatter kick that acts as the thump.

Chord Progressions

Chord progressions in this genre tend to be either dramatic or uplifting and have a common theme that almost sounds like a rock ballad progression. The difference of course is midi sequencing is the way to go when making anything electronic these days, so stacking chords is a lot easier and getting more creative with the instruments is encouraged. Most progressions follow a I-IV-V pattern and are more likely to favour instruments like piano and strings. 

The Vocal

Unlike many electronic genres, Progressive House is heavily reliant on the vocal track. Not to say there isn't prog house tracks without vocals, but a nice, clean etherial vocal is common place in most tracks within the genre. Once again I direct your attention to the top of this page, where I have embedded a video of Deadmau5 feat. Rob Swire. His vocals are clear and heavily effected with reverbs and auto-tune. The below video features Nicole Millar who's voice has been heavily treated with time based effects, samples and pitch automation. All elements that have become more popular as DAW's have made it easier to produce studio quality sounds. 

Conclusion

Progressive House is a genre of music that speaks to our very human nature. It is hard and at the same time soft, but undeniably the most popular sub-genre of House music and the most accessible to the commercial audience. This sponge genre seems to soak up new influences like a kleenex on white wine, and each time something new comes along, someone finds a way to incorporate it. It includes influences from dub, deep house and even rock music if you go deep enough. In conclusion, this genre has been one of the most successful genres of the past 50 years and it continues to stay on top. 

 

References

Chords and Melody Writing Session #4 - Progressive House / EDM in D-Minor. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.productionmusiclive.com/blogs/news/chords-and-melody-writing-session-4-progressive-house-edm-in-d-minor

deadmau5 feat. Rob Swire - Ghosts N Stuff. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7ArUgxtlJs

House, P. (2018). Progressive House Genre Spotlight - Global Sound Authority. Retrieved from http://www.globalsoundauthority.com/progressive-house/

Kaskade. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/kaskade

Peking Duk ft. Nicole Millar - "High" (Official Video). (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNtIA2fgHfg

Progressive House Explained. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.lessthan3.com/news/progressive-house-explained

Swedish House Mafia - The making of 'One' In The Studio With Future Music. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLbGrfnRGK4

Tear Down This Track - Deadmau5 | Ghosts 'n' Stuff ft. Rob Swire. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.sonicbakery.com/audio-dev-diary/2018/3/25/tear-down-this-track-deadmau5-ghosts-n-stuff-ft-rob-swire

The Chemical Brothers. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/thechemicalbrothers

Stephen Rumph