How to make dubstep
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Dubstep first appeared in south London about 20 years ago, introducing yet another subgenre to the umbrella that is the electronic music genre megalith. Marked by heavy baselines, syncopated rhythms, and breakdowns, the music is defined by the wobble bass – an extended base note that is manipulated or distorted.
Oris Jay, Digital Mystikz, and Hatcha were early pioneers of dubstep, which can trace its lineage to dub music and garage, grime, and broken beat electronic music offshoots. With a dizzying variety of sounds which can be incorporated into various dubstep songs, performances, and DJ sets, the music is popular in underground clubs and has started making appearances in hip hop, pop, and heavy metal music.
But how does the dubstep sound get made? More importantly, how can you make it? The first step is pretty simple: consume as much dubstep as you can.
Listen, listen, and listen some more
If you’re interested in making dubstep, chances are you’re probably a fan. Think about what drew you to the music in the first place: was it the heavy bass, the rhythms, the samples, the breakdowns or some other aspect of dubstep that spoke to you?
While there are a lot of factors when it comes to creating a dubstep song, focus on single aspects of the music. Because the wobble base is such a predominant piece of the music, concentrate on what you like and what you don’t.
Then think about how you would change a song. Would you use a different sample, alter the tempo, or change other aspects of the overall production. Once you’re confident in your opinions and feel ready to start making your music, it’s time to sit down at the keyboard, the computer keyboard that is.
Get Your Gear
Chances are, you already have a home computer for work, school, or as a place to store pictures or scans of important documents. At the start, you won’t need anything too heavy duty, but it should have a decently fast processor and enough memory to hold your songs, samples, and presets. Many dubstep producers have computers dedicated solely to making music.
You’ll get there at some point, just not right now. Concentrate on picking up other pieces of gear before breaking the bank on a new computer. For the price of a new computer, you should be able to pick up a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), a mic, headphones, and a customized dubstep pack of sample or loops.
DAW – Ableton, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, GarageBand, and Fruity Loops are different pieces of software for making electronic music. Each will have the options you need to get started making dubstep, including instruments, layers window, dials, and more. However, as your skill improves, you may want to investigate and invest in upgrades. Just make sure you master some of these introductory packages first.
Microphone – Having a USB mic on hand will allow you to add original sounds to your dubstep songs. Yes, there are plenty of pre-packaged sounds with the DAW, but adding your own sounds will really make the music yours. With the USB, you’ll be able to record directly into your DAW.
Headphones – Depending on your living situation, headphones are a great way to cancel out ambient sound from inside/outside the house where your home studio is set up. They can also be cheaper than monitors and you won’t annoy your roommates (or parents) with hour after hour of tinkering.
Dubstep Sample Pack – While the DAW of choice comes with many sounds, it wouldn’t hurt to invest in some additional options. Think of these as training wheels while you learn how the software works. With enough work and practice, you’ll be able to take the training wheels off and start producing dubstep from scratch.
Other gear, such as a MIDI keyboard, can be added to your arsenal as you begin to expand your experience. The DAWs have a keyboard built into the software, but an actual keyboard is easier to use. So how do you get that experience?
Almost every piece of software, whether it’s for music, photography, or creating flowcharts, will have tutorials and help menus. Become familiar with the software by first learning what each dial, toggle, and slider does on the screen. Pull in a drum beat, manipulate its sound, then move on to the next feature.
Getting familiar with a few of the basic features will give you a solid foundation to work with. Practice with the software a little more each day and, eventually, you won’t have to consult the manual at all. But that doesn’t mean your learning days are over.
Watch YouTube videos, ask questions on social media, and read blogs specifically written for the dubstep community. As you discover new hacks, methods, and processes, you’ll be able to personalize your music even more. It can take time to find reliable sources but when you do, make sure to consult with them often.
At some point, you’ll need to make a decision about what you’re doing with the dubstep songs you’re creating. Will it be a hobby, playing for your friends and family at house parties? Or do you want to make a run at making some money with your music? If it’s the latter, you’ll need to think about more in-depth learning than those random online searches can give you.
A One-on-One Education
The Recording Connection Ableton Electronic Music Production Program covers many aspects of electronic music production, including dubstep. Even if you already have some knowledge of the Ableton software, this program will help you learn aspects you may have missed or expand upon what you already know.
Through this program, you’ll work in a professional studio, gaining hands-on experience learning from one of our mentors, a working music producer. We’ll give you access and opportunities that just aren’t available through online searches or even 4-year college or universities.
However, this program isn’t for those “part-time” artists. Recording Connection students are the ones who want to create dubstep for a living, become a professional audio engineer, or learn more about the business side of the music business.
Does that sound like you? Apply today.