Dubstep has evolved beyond its humble roots in small underground clubs in London to the mainstream worldwide. The original dubstep beat is based off a two-step garage beat, again originating in London UK. In this tutorial I’ll cover how to build a basic dubstep beat from scratch.
Kick and Snare
Every dubstep beat at its core consists of kick and a snare driving the beat forward. This usually involves the typical two step pattern of Kick Snare Kick Snare. This feels like a lazy beat and I always picture a robot trundling along to this pattern.
The kick is very important and you will likely want to layer multiple kicks together. The kick should be powerful to punch through heavy bass elements you would add later in the track. Place the kick on the first beat of every bar as a minimum.
With the snare you will want a snap with some tail again layering will help you achieve this. The snare should really pack a punch in dubstep more than any other genre. It carries the beat and really creates the head nodding that dubstep is famous for. Place the snare on the 9th beat of the bar.
Now you have a basic kick, snare pattern, try adding and moving kicks around the snare to create a simple groove.
Hats and Ride
Most dubstep tracks, particularly earlier ones featured a ride cymbal on every beat of the bar, beats 1, 5, 9, and 13. This drives the beat forward and adds a sense of urgency to the track. Most cymbal samples used straight will be too heavy. I recommend using EQ to remove the low end of your cymbal and add a bit of reverb to blend your ride into the background of the beat.
Now you will want to add some hats and other cymbals to fill up the spaces in your beat. The hats will really define the groove of your beat and add some syncopation and variety so ensure you take the time to experiment with different patterns here. For example try adding hats to the first 5 and 11 and 12 to create a quick stop start feel.
Blips and FX
Perhaps the most overlooked elements of our beat are the blips and FX. These are elements that are added strategically to add variety to each bar. They are usually random sounds, noises and vocals. I would definitely recommend you add a building swoosh sound to the end of the 4 bar to round out the loop. Add a crash to the start of each 1st bar in a 4 bar loop. The sky is really the limit here experiment with all sorts of samples to add variety to your beat. Dubstep is known for random noises from very old video games such as Pac man and Mario (Thanks Rusko!).
Well there you have it the basics of a dubstep beat ready for some hard hitting dubstep tracks. Happy producing!