Discover How to Make Dubstep Music Like a Pro
The art of creating a good Dubstep track can have its pitfalls. Unlike most electronic music Dubstep is characterised by non standard beats, ie. beats that don’t necessarily have a base kick on all the 1, 2, 3 and 4 parts of the bar.
Instead cutting and bending samples and beats makes up the basis for most Dubstep tracks.
Older Dubstep is characterized by a two-step and snear beat while the Dubstep most would be familiar with uses more a half-step beat.
As a result, learning how to make Dubstep can often require a little bit of extra expertise and imagination.
There is no one way to make Dubstep as the whole genre is build on experimentation and as such, relies on this experimentation to continue to evolve.
In this article I am assuming a basic knowledge of Dubstep song structure.
I am also assuming that you, the reader, is looking to manually create all aspects of your Dubstep track, if you are looking to start with premade loops and samples then click here for a great dubstep creator that will have everything you want, including tutorials.
You can also check out our article on a good dubstep maker that will get you set on your Dubstep adventures.
How to Start
All good producers start with the beat, it’s the backbone of all the best tracks and it makes up the major component of the finished product, the most time and effort is usually put in here.
Some start with a basic beat, usually used in the intro and verse, and then build on this until they get a final beat, they will then create the Drop as a separate beat inspired by the basic beat.
Others start with the Drop to get a better feel for the track and then go back and do the standard intro/verse beat. As an example, an epic Drop might either inspire the producer to make the intro/verse beat heavy and deep to compliment it, or they might choose to make it a real contrasting beat that gives the listener a break from the heaviness, a rise and fall so to speak.
Good rise and fall can offer a great journey for the listener.
To start, make lots of drum loops with the same effects, 1, 2 and 4 bar loops to begin with, adding slight variations.
Use the same samples for all of these beat loops. The aim here is to make a heap of loops that are can be sequenced together or interchanged easily while still keeping the “feel” and “atmosphere” desired for your track.
Tips on Making The Beat.
If you do not have any beat making software then I highly recommend downloading Dubturbo to start making Dubstep music at home.
It is cheap, powerful and perfect for beginners. Check out the official site here: http://www.dubturbo.com
The base kick of the beat is what most people first tune in on, with Dubstep an important Sub-bass level is usually added for extra depth. Choosing a kick and sub-bass that compliment each other is essential and usually what I do first.
The sub-bass are sounds typically below 60hz that are present more for feel than sound itself, but some will argue that anything up to about 120hz constitutes the Sub-bass frequencies. A beginner might use a bass line at lower frequencies as the sub-bass which can be very effective, although a sub-bass might be something as simple as a single note or sine wave in the C1 to C2 octave range. This part of the beat will really help establish the tracks “groove”
Be sure to use contrasting sounds in your overall beat, this helps the listeners ear distinguish each sound better. Overlaying too many similar sounds actually cramps the overall sound and will have a negative effect on both sound quality and enjoyment.
The hi-hats are extremely important; they are responsible for the “swing” found in half-step or two-step and snare beats. Don’t make these a second thought; they can be the difference between a polished beat and a half assed beat.
Dubstep beats get their movement by the use of syncopated or shuffled hi-hats. Throw a hi-hat on the left or right of the beat to add a periodical bit of unpredictability.
A typical Dubstep track is about 140 beat per minute. Deviating too much from this may result in a track that is hard or even impossible to be incorporated into a DJ’s set
Atmosphere, or what is sometimes referred to as the “wall of sound”, is important and is created with layering of soundscapes and textures. Effects like reverb, echo and even empty space can really give your beat a unique atmosphere and class.
Play around until you get the sound you want, this will determine how your listener “absorbs” your track so spend time getting this just how you want it.
It’s a great idea to use a real drum kit to get your samples or even create loops. This is a great way to get a unique sound with the benefit of sounding authentic. This is definitely something worth doing every once in a while.
Don’t be afraid to really let loose on your Drop, if you want to blow your listeners away with an epic Drop then I suggest a ¼ bar of absolute silence before the drop is unleashed.
This can provide that little bit of anticipation that is then satisfied by the monster Drop that follows.
If your beat isn’t sitting just right, a good technique might be to use an EQ to cut off any frequencies that are unwanted or that might bleed into the next bar.
Layering multiple snare of clap samples is a great way to get a snappy and full snare. A snare, along with the hi-hats, bites through the typically bass heavy Dubstep beat.
A personal trick of mine is to layer half a second of white noise with your snare or clap as it gives it a real airiness and helps it cut through the rest of the noise.
Create transition loops and fills that help you transition from one part of the track to the other
This should be enough to get you experimenting and making a solid Dubstep beat.
Gather/Make Samples and Bass lines
It’s a good idea to now create complimenting samples and bass lines that you might want to incorporate into your track.
If you are adventurous you can make these yourself from scratch by sampling noises and adding effects to them or you might find some sample packs that you think would fit with the style you’re producing.
Here is where our track really starts to take shape; we have ventured off to find or create samples to compliment our track. I will often use vocals which I might leave acepella or cut up.
Vocals are commonly used in popular Dubstep but are not necessary if it’s not your style. I particularly look for samples that will help me polish and finish off my track, smoothing out the rough bits and filling out the duller bits.
How to Lay Out Your Track
Now that you have samples and a bunch of beat loops, which should include intro/verse style loops, the Chorus and/or Drop beats and also various sub-bass and fill loops.
Using the song structure to make dubstep principles covered in this article we can start to place the pieces together so that it starts to look like a real track.
Track Lay Out Tips and Tricks!
To lay out your tracks you will need a good affordable sequencer with some grunt that wont cost you an arm and a leg as a beginner. When starting out you should save your money and avoid all the pro tools.
Software packages like Dubturbo are powerful, affordable and great for beginners and intermeditate level producers
You will find that with most Dubstep tracks that the Drop will come 32 bars in, don’t be too afraid of extending that to 48 or 64 bars but be careful to not leave it too late as it will potentially lose the listeners attention if there isn’t much going on until then.
The Drop usually signals the arrival of your track so I find that 32 bars in is a great starting point for the Drop.
It can be very effective to slow things down a bit through parts of your track. Stretching a beat or sample can produce amazing outcomes
Stuttering effects and cut ups are an integral part of Dubstep but that doesn’t mean you go crazy and start cutting up everything.
Deliberate and subtle usage is often much more effective than simply making your track as dirty and sporadic as possible.
Despite the sound, Dubstep isn’t usually too process heavy, so if you find yourself applying 12 plug ins to every channel, then your most likely using the wrong sounds to begin with.
Remember, the more you process sounds, the high the chance of ending up with low quality output.
Be careful with things like eco and reverb, they can often bleed into the next sound. Cutting the tails off the end of a loop can cure that if it’s becoming a problem
Key changes are your friend! A great way to take a track to that next level, particularly after the bridge and into the last chorus or verse is with a key change.
They provide a noticeable lift to the track and illicit and euphoric feeling which can lift a whole nightclub to a new level.
While these are some good guidelines to get you going with putting down a Dubstep track, it’s more important to know that there are no rules. So once you have made a few track don’t be afraid to deviate and go your own way, innovation never came from copying something verbatim.
Have many tracks on the go at once and follow your inspiration. Keep samples and ready made loops ready to go so that you can strike when inspiration hits.
What You Need to Start Making Dubstep Music
Recommended: Beat Maker, Sequencers, Sampler, Loops, Elements and more to get you started check out: http://www.dubturbo.com
Recommended: Dubstep VST, sample creator and massive pre-made Dubstep loops check out: http://www.wobbleboss.com
Learning how to make Dubstep is a journey, don’t let anyone tell you that how you create is wrong, only seek advice on things you know you need to improve on but also don’t be afraid to try things out.
Get yourself out of your comfort zone, it’s where you will do your best work.