September 18, 2017
Article

An Overview on The History of Dance Music – Past to Present

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Got 3 mins for a quick history lesson? While we're not going to attempt to name every influential artist, DJ, or single, nor all of dance music's genres and subgenres, below, we take a quick "dummies guide" look at dance music and its origins.

Funk

In the mid-60s, a new style of music called funk emerged. Where in soul music, the melody and lyrics are central, in funk the rhythmic groove is central. The main stress in a funk rhythm is on the first beat of the bar, called "the one", and a repeated pattern of drumbeats and bass lines that creates a groove. Riffs played by guitars and horn-sections add to the groove, and rhythmic vocals and raps can be added as well. A funk groove can continue for a long time without chord changes, and funk songs in the 60s often lasted for ten minutes or more.

Disco

By the early 70s, nightclubs then known as discos were employing DJs to play dance tracks because it was cheaper than hiring a band. At first they played funk and up-tempo soul tracks, but by the mid-70s they started playing tracks with a new rhythm that was easier to dance to. These songs were soon being played in discos all over the world, and a new music genre called disco music was born. Artists like Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, and the Bee Gees had huge disco hits, as did a band formed by guitarist Nile Rodgers and bass player Bernard Edwards called Chic. With Bernard's funky bass lines and Nile's smooth rhythm-guitar playing, they created a style of disco that's still popular among dance-music fans today.

House

In the early 80s a new style of disco called house developed in the gay clubs of New York and Chicago. Like disco, house songs had catchy melodies with lyrics about going out, having fun or making love. Drum machines and synthesizers were often used for house music instead of drum kits and other instruments, although piano remained central in most early house music.

In the late 80s UK artists soon began making house tracks as well, and M|A|R|R|S had a huge hit in 1987 with Pump up the Volume. European artists also produced big house-music hits like Pump Up The Jam by Belgium's Techtronic and Ride On Time by Italy's Black Box.

Techno

Another new genre of dance music called techno developed in Detroit in the mid-late 80s when club DJs began making electronic dance tracks. They used drum machines to create electronic rhythms and synthesizers with keyboards to add chords and melodies. They also began sampling short sections of music from old records, especially short drum breaks. Techno classics from Detroit include Clear by Cybotron, a track based on Kraftwerk samples and melodies, Derrick May's Strings of Life and Inner City's Ain't Nobody Better and Big Fun which were top-ten hits that took techno to the mainstream in 1990.

Trance

In Europe in the early 90s, trance emerged. In trance, techno rhythms are mixed with layers of dreamy electronic sound; with most tracks building to a climax followed by a breakdown in which the beats stop but the dreamy electronic sounds continue. Good examples of early trance include Jam and Spoon's single Stella, Hallucinogen's album Twisted, and Robert Miles' chart-topping album Dreamland that took trance to the mainstream in 1996. Most early trance music didn't include vocals, but in the early 2000s vocal trance became popular, with the likes of Oceanlab's 2008 album Sirens of the Sea, Armin van Buuren and others.

Dance Pop

Electronic Dance Music (aka EDM) has had a huge influence on pop music over the last 30 years, and pop stars and EDM producers often work together to create dance-pop tracks. EDM artists sometimes invite pop singers and musicians to perform on tracks they've created using the pop-music formula. French EDM "robots" Daft Punk did this in 2013 when they invited Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and R&B singer Pharrell Williams to perform on their disco-revival song Get Lucky, one of the biggest hits of the mid-2010s.