Garage music has long held its place as a popular genre, and it’s not hard to see why. This is a fun, vibrant music style that has taken a number of different forms, and shaped the careers and styles of many famous artists across history.
Below, we take a closer look at the roots of garage music, its origins and beginnings, and the incredible journey that the style has taken to gradually achieve world domination. If you are a garage music fan, or simply curious about how we got here, read on for all you need to know!
What Is Garage Music?
In the simplest terms, garage music refers to a style of dance music that has its origins alongside traditional Chicago house music, and which burst into life in the ‘80s in the US, hitting the shores of the UK in the ‘90s. Here, the genre evolved into UK garage and speed garage, two styles that have since become synonymous with the term 'garage'.
Garage music was born out of the Chicago house scene, where DJs like Frankie Knuckles were mixing up new sounds and rhythms from around the globe, including African drumming, Latin percussion, Indian tablas, Middle Eastern instruments, and even Japanese taiko drums. The result was an exciting fusion of these influences and a sound that became known as Chicago House.
What Are The Main Elements of Garage Music?
Garage music can be identified and recognised thanks to several distinctive elements, and these include:
A Strong Emphasis on Basslines and Beats
The first element to note is the emphasis on basslines and beat. These are the foundation upon which most garage tracks are built, and they're usually played by one of several types of instruments. In addition to being the main rhythmic element, the bassline provides the backbone for the track, giving it structure and direction.
An Upbeat Tempo
The second key element is the tempo. Garage music tends to be fast-paced, with tempos ranging between 140-160 bpm (beats per minute). This makes it perfect for dancing, and it's this aspect that gives the genre its name.
A Driving Rhythm Section
A great driving rhythm section is another key element of garage music. This consists of a kick drum, snare drum, and hi-hat cymbal, and it's this combination of instruments that creates the heartbeat of the song.
A Prominent Use of Synthesizers
The fourth element is the prominence of synth lines. Synthesisers are used extensively throughout garage music, and they provide the majority of the melody and harmony. They're often layered over the other elements, creating a rich and complex soundscape.
A Focus on Vocals
The fifth element is the vocal performance. Vocalists tend to sing in a higher register than normal, and their voices are often distorted through the use of effects such as reverb and echo.
A High Energy Level
Finally, there's the sixth element - the high energy level. Garage music is full of excitement, and it's this quality that makes it so popular among dancers.
How Did Garage Music Evolve Into Speed Garage And UK Garage?
As mentioned above, garage music began in Chicago, and it quickly spread across the United States. However, it wasn't until the early 1990s that the genre started to evolve into what we now recognise as UK garage and speed garage.
This evolution occurred when DJs like DJ EZ and DJ Sneak took the original Chicago house sound and combined it with the more aggressive and harder-edged sounds of Detroit techno. As a result, the genre became known as UK garage.
Particular credit must go to DJ EZ, one of the pioneers of the genre who was responsible for bringing US garage to the UK, and who is perhaps the most famous name associated with the rising popularity of the genre, playing a key role in bringing it to the attention of mainstream audiences.
This development came about when DJs like Roni Size and Judge Jules added a faster tempo to the original Chicago house sound, resulting in a more energetic and upbeat style of music. This led to the creation of a subgenre called "speed garage", and it's this form of the genre that's most closely associated with the term "garage".
If you are looking to relive the garage glory days, why not check out some of the incredible old skool club nights in London, and enjoy a throwback to great music and a night of incredible dancing!