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Created June 12, 2016

The People Who Can Dubstep

Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London, England. It emerged in the late 1990s as a development within a lineage of related styles such as 2-step garage, broken beat, drum and bass, jungle, dub and reggae.1999–2002: origins. The Big Apple Records shop, in Croydon, South London. The early sounds of proto-dubstep originally came out of productions during 1999–2000 by producers such as Oris Jay, El-B, Steve Gurley and Zed Bias.Trap music is a subgenre of hip hop characterized by heavy bass lines, increased tempo, synthesizers, and often aggressive lyrical content. It originated in the Southern United States and has recently gained popularity as it has been incorporated as a subgenre of electronic dance music (EDM).New genres appear on an almost daily basis in electronic music, but few have had the impact of dubstep. From the grimy nightclubs of Croydon to mainstream radio airplay, via high‑profile endorsement from acts as disparate as Snoop Dogg and Radiohead, its meteoric rise is unrivalled. With roots in the predominantly London‑flavoured two‑step and grime scenes, where experimental garage remixes were often made with FL Studio, dubstep has evolved its own production values that have set new precedents for the treatment of low‑end frequencies.

Labels like Tempa and Hyperdub laid the foundations with artists such as Horsepower Productions, Kode9, Skream, Benga and Burial. Not to be outdone, Dub Police and Sub Soldiers exposed us to Caspa and Rusko, two of the scene’s most popular international ambassadors; they play to a weekly global audience of thousands. Throw in Skream’s platinum‑selling remix of La Roux’s ‘In For The Kill’ and you’ve got yourself a new sonic phenomenon.Dubstep’s main characteristics lie in its rhythms, bass and dark sound, with heavy use of spatial atmospherics, low‑end frequencies and swing. Initially based around a garage‑influenced, two‑step kick and snare beat, the genre has evolved over the last few years, with an increasing number of tracks containing a half‑step rhythm. This has become the form of dubstep that most people will be familiar with, and it’s a characteristic that distinguishes it from most other dance music.

Dubstep also has many similarities to drum & bass: both rely on the use of shuffled and syncopated hi‑hat patterns to give the beats movement, and heavy sub‑bass for warmth and depth. The tempo of dubstep is generally around the 140bpm mark, which provides potential for DJs to mix it with breakbeat, whilst an increasing number of drum & bass DJs are using dubstep in their sets too.

Although there are stylistic similarities between dubstep and drum & bass, the latter has suffered from stagnation in the past through the over-use of various techniques, samples and sounds. One of the most exciting elements of dubstep is the freedom to move away from a set song structure and the reliance on breaks and bass drops. Like most forms of electronic dance music, a lot of dubstep is created for the dancefloor and produced to be heard on a loud sound system. Because the music is typically driven by its sub‑bass, it can be hard to feel the full effect of dubstep on an inferior system such as computer speakers or earphones.A key feature of dubstep production is the use of atmospherics and textures to create a full and spacious mix. The use of silence, pads and minor keys builds tension and expresses emotion. Even though dubstep is dominated by bass and beats, they are softened by a dub reggae‑influenced use of echo, reverb and panoramic stereo to add depth and space.

Good examples of these techniques come from drum & bass‑turned‑dubstep duo Kryptic Minds and Mercury Prize nominee Burial, in particular the latter’s use of obscure samples, pitch‑shifting and overlaying effects. Burial’s work is very different to the majority of commercially successful and dancefloor‑friendly dubstep tracks, and bears a lot of similarities to works by Brian Eno or Philip Glass.

In my quest to decide what would fit best in an informative dubstep tutorial, I asked numerous producers, and there was a unanimous verdict: inform people that making dubstep is more than just automating a filter cutoff to make a ‘wobbly’ bass line. Although I will look at how to make the type of wobbly bass line that has become synonymous with the genre, you only have to investigate my recommended listening (see box) to hear the variety and contrast dubstep has to offer.There is no set method to making dubstep. A lot of tracks are built around their dominant low‑frequency elements, namely the sub‑bass and kick drum. If you have chosen a sample or programmed a hook that you think you can be the basis of a dubstep track, by all means work from that first, but as there is an emphasis on the lower end of the sonic spectrum, it is essential that you select a kick and sub‑bass that gel together.

As in many electronic styles, drums are commonly created through overlaid samples. Try to merge contrasting sounds together when making your drum tracks, as the tendency to overlay similar‑sounding samples will have a negative effect on the sound. And don’t be afraid of variety: try using hip‑hop or house kicks alongside more obviously dubstep‑friendly sounds. You could even use a pitched‑down basketball bouncing. If a more organic sound is what you’re after, use live or ethnic drum samples. It’s always best to have an abundance of decent drum samples available, as each individual kick, snare or hat sample can completely change the dynamic of your track, particularly the shuffle and swing aspect.

The use of single or multiple sine waves is a good starting point for making dubstep sub‑bass. There is no harmonic content in a straight sine wave, and the C0‑C1 octave range will produce a fundamental frequency sitting at approximately 30‑60Hz. When picking a kick drum sound, therefore, there is no point in choosing a really bassy 808 kick-drum sample, as it will not work well with such a sub‑bass. Instead, start with a kick drum that hits higher up the frequency spectrum than the sub-bass: that way, the two will not sound muddy in the mix. (You could, of course, use an 808 sample for your sub‑bass itself…)

Aside from selecting elements that match each other, there are several ways of making parts sit well together in the mix. One of the easiest methods is to use EQ to cut away unwanted frequency ranges. It’s always better to take away frequencies than to boost them; if your drum sample is lacking low‑end presence, EQ can add it, but it will sound better if you use one that has that presence in the first place.

Something that has become quite popular in electronic dance music is the use of a side‑chained compressor to ‘duck’ the volume of the sub‑bass when the kick drum hits. This is a great way of making sure the kick cuts through in the mix, but it shouldn’t be seen as the be‑all and end‑all, and there are certain techniques that can help it work better. One such is to duplicate the kick-drum track and use a closed hi‑hat sound instead of a kick-drum sample to trigger the compressor. A hi‑hat hit has a shorter tail than a kick drum, meaning that the resulting ducking will be shorter and not sound laboured. To make sure the hat isn’t part of the mix, give it a dedicated channel and mute it from the master out.Reverberated snare drums play heavily in dubstep’s make‑up — take Skream’s remix of ‘In For The Kill’ as an example. To obtain a typical dubstep snare drum, you need to layer a snare sample, or multiple snare drums, with a clap. A snare drum that punches in at around 200Hz is a good place to start; the clap will take care of the high end. Then, by using a reverb effect on the layered samples, you can add the space and width you need. There are no set parameters for layering snare drums or adding reverb: it’s all about defining the sound you want to create. If you’re interested in making club‑friendly dubstep, each aspect will need to be fine‑tuned and balanced so the mix will sound good on a loud sound system. If you’re hoping to make more expressive or abstract dubstep, the freedom is all yours. You can choose to use anything you want as a drum sample, and innovation is good.

To illustrate dubstep programming, I’ve created some example patterns using a basic drum rack in Ableton Live. As you’ll see, I’m using two kick drums — one low and one high — a snare, a clap, a rimshot, three closed hi‑hats, an open hi‑hat and a ride. These are labelled in the screenshots.

The first example, on the previous page,A basic half‑step rhythm, with ‘lazy’ off‑beat kick drums. The use of varying hi‑hat sounds and velocities adds movement.
A basic half‑step rhythm, with ‘lazy’ off‑beat kick drums. The use of varying hi‑hat sounds and velocities adds movement.
shows a pretty basic half‑step pattern, with ‘lazy’ off‑beat kick‑drum beats that increase the feeling of swing. The use of velocity on each sample is key to making the drums both swing and sound less quantised and robotic — note how the velocity changes on the ‘lazy’ kicks. Meanwhile, rimshots on the off‑beats add shuffle to the beat, while the contrast between open and several closed hi‑hat sounds adds movement and variety.

The second example, above,A slightly more complex, hip‑hop‑influenced pattern, again with ‘lazy’ kicks, rimshots on the offbeats and plenty of variety in the hi‑hats.
A slightly more complex, hip‑hop‑influenced pattern, again with ‘lazy’ kicks, rimshots on the offbeats and plenty of variety in the hi‑hats.
shows another half‑step pattern, which is a bit more complex than the first, with something of a hip‑hop vibe. The introduction of an alternating hi‑hat riff increases the sense of a shuffle feel. Again, note the differing velocities.

A sure‑fire way of adding swing to your beats is to create them in a triplet pattern.


Sam The Giant Avatar
Sam The Giant
almost 4 years ago

Radio check 1 ,2, 1, 2!

3 Avatar
over 7 years ago

Do yall kick out any member thats not dubstep??