As we mentioned in our guide to making a garage beat on BandLab, dubstep evolved from UK garage music, taking the sound far from its New York house roots with the introduction of dub reggae and drum ‘n’ bass influences.
2-step garage tracks such as Ramsey & Fen’s “Luv Bug” eschewed the four-four rhythms of house music opting for DnB-inspired ‘broken beats’, and dubstep tracks took these rhythms in a new direction with halftime snare patterns. The combination of fast hats and slow-motion snares can be heard on 00s tracks such as El-B’s “Ghost Rider”, Benga & Coki’s “Night” and Skream’s “Midnight Request Line”.
The heavy, dub-influences basslines prevalent in the genre would move into the mid-range thanks on DnB-inspired tracks like Rusko’s “Cockney Thug” and Caspa’s “The Terminator”, and this rougher take on the dubstep sound would inspire American producers such as Skrillex and Excision to take the genre to strange new places on tracks such as “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” and “X Rated”.
Dubstep currently remains an extremely wide church sonically, with a clear gulf between the likes of the neuro DnB-esque “Sorrow Tech” by Must Die! and the more rootsy garage-inspired “Chemz” by Burial.
In this tutorial, we’ll show you how you can create an upfront dubstep beat in BandLab, a free online digital audio workstation that allows you to share your beats with friends anywhere in the world. BandLab can be accessed on both smartphones and web browsers, making it easy for collaborators to add vocals to your tracks.
Here are six easy steps that show you how to make a dubstep beat that you can use as a foundation for your own track. You can open this project yourself by forking the beats below and use it for the basis of your own productions.
Read more: How to create a garage beat on BandLab
1. Setting the tempo and picking a kit
Dubstep tracks are often bang on 140BPM, so we’ll start by setting the project tempo to that very figure: click on the project tempo and enter a new value of 140. Now we need some drum sounds, so click the + Add Track button, select the Instruments option, the select Drum Pads and Dubstep kit in the Instrument settings.
2. Making a hi-hat pattern
Right-click on the virtual instrument track and select Create Region to create a MIDI clip. Drag the handle at the bottom right hand corner of the clip to set it to two bars in length. Double-click the MIDI clip to edit it, then double-click on the closed hat track to add closed hi-hats on eighth notes.
Drag over these notes to select them, then hold [option] on Mac or [alt] on Windows and drag them an eighth note over.
3. Creating a natural dynamic movement
Now we have closed hats on sixteenth notes, with every other note selected. So, if we turn down the Velocity value, only every other note will be affected. Set the Velocity to 80, giving us a natural-sounding dynamic change in level between the eighth and sixteenth notes.
4. Adding kicks
Add kicks on the first beat of the first bar, halfway between the second and third note of the first bar, and on the fourth beat of the first bar. Duplicate the kicks on the second bar, then delete the final kick.
The kicks are a little loud, so drag over the kicks to select them, and turn their Velocity down to 84.
5. Making a big snare sound
Next add a finger snap on the third beat of each bar. This is just for flavour – we’re going to create a dedicated track for the snare so we can put a big dubstep reverb on it.
Create a new instrument track, again select Drums Pads and Dubstep Kit, and this time just place a snare on the third beat of each bar.
Then, open the Effects panel and add a Reverb > Studio Reverb effect. Set the Mix to 3.3, the Color to 2.5, and the Size to 4.8 for a large reverb sound.
6. Getting groovy with loops
Let’s add a couple of sampled loops to give our beat some more flavour. Click the Samples button and select the Loops tab, then type ‘shaker’ into the text search field and drag Backstreetz Shaker 02 onto a new track. Use the loop handle at the top right-hand corner of the clip to drag it out to two bars in length.
Then, enter ‘rides’ into the search field and drag Joe Ford Rides 02 onto another new track.
You now have a rolling beat that can serve as the foundation for your own dubstep track. Remember, you can open this project by forking any of the beats above and experiment with it yourself. Have fun!
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Read more: How to make a jackin’ house beat on BandLab