Darkstep Tutorial Day 6: Arranging a Darkstep Drum and Bass Song, Filtering the bass + Choosing notes
Hi, I’m Dave from boyinaband.com and welcome to Day 6 of the 7 day song on Darkstep Drum and Bass. My girlfriend is currently asleep right near my computer, so if during the course of this tutorial you hear a violent punching sound immediately proceeded by a whimpering 22 year old, then I start whispering for the rest of the day, you’ll know why. Yesterday, I taught you how to make some sweet fx, a pitch bend synth and a quick little loop. Today, I’ve finished the arrangement and I’ll discuss it with you, talk about how I’ve set up some sweet filtering on the bleurgh bass, and go through some of the notes I’ve used in different sections.
Okay! Let’s start with the arrangement.
Darkstep can have a few different permitations, but since I was asked to specifically cover different syncopations on this sponsored 7 day song, I made a half-time section as well. I’ll just go over the order now.
I’ve got a…
Short intro – a section with just the weaker kick and ghost snare acting as the main percussion. This one’s just 8 bars long!
Lengthier extended intro – Kick in with the main beat for the intro building to the first kind of half-drop. I’ve used those filtered loops to make things interesting, and over the 24 bars (24+8 from the short intro = 32 for the intro overall) I introduce new elements every 8 bars to keep the listener engaged.
Half time half-drop! The bass and the pads kick in here and the drums change syncopation. This keeps people interested since it’s obviously a whole different feel. This is 16 bars. Then it crashes out into the …
Build to the drop – I’ve filtered the bass to bring everything down in energy, but maintain the tension. 16 bars. There’s a simple kick pattern leading up to the drop, and the main synth gets violently pitch bent up to accompany that other violent pitch bend synth just before…
The Drop! – Bass stops being filtered, beat kicks back in and all the FX are in full force. I’ve gone for a huge drop since I didn’t want to waste this bass. 64 bars long, but for the second 32 bars, I brought in that second bass we made to keep the listener from getting bored! It’s really important to make interesting fiddly bits for people to latch on to, otherwise it’s literally just copy and paste and no matter how cool your production, there’s only so much copy and paste someone can take! After that, we’ve got a…
Break – 16 bars – switching it up this time, the break goes into the…
Second Half time half-drop – 16 bars – Back again with the hip hoppy syncopation, but part way through, the beat changes into the speeding up build into the…
Second Drop – 64 bars – Blammo! Back into the action. Loads more interesting bits including my favourite part of the song in the 32nd bar – Frickin’ cool as hell. I pulled a face like a lemon when I thought to do that. I’ll explain it later in part 3.
Outro – 8 bars – Stripping it down to filtered bass again, then this builds up to the…
Crash – yeah, this is just a crash cymbol, nothing’s gonna make it more interesting than that.
Okay! So that’s the arrangement, you can obviously choose something different, so long as it’s relatively predictable so a DJ can mix it easily, and so long as you have an intro and an outro for them to do so.
Join me in part 2, where I’ll be explaining how to filter the bassline!
Okay, time to add even more to our Bleurgh bass! This will be a nice quick tutorial. Open it up and after the vocoder create an ECF-42. Turn it to band pass mode. Now, we’re going to automate two things on the filter – the bypass setting, so basically whether it’s on or not, and the frequency so we can play around and get some more sounds.
Go to the “Show Programmer” section and select the filter, then route rotary 1 to frequency and button 1 to enabled, changing the min to 2 and max to 1 – this means that when it’s pressed in, it’s on and when it’s depressed (and who wouldn’t be if you were losing your power over this awesome bass) it’s off.
Then just edit the automation just like we did in the filtered beat yesterday in day 5 part 3.
I’ve modulated the frequency to make the breaks and outro more interesting – take a listen.
I’ve also used these bits of automation for the filter on button to change whether it’s filtered or not – simple as that!
Lastly, let’s take a look at some of the notes and syncopations I’ve used in the track in part 3…
Alrighty, let’s go through the…
Half-time bass riff
Break bass riff
My favourite fill.
The half time beat is actually quite similar to the normal beat, with pretty much the same kick pattern and ghost notes, but the major important change is halving the number of snares. I’ve found this is where the listener subconsciously places the tempo most often in DnB at least, so by halving the frequency it leads to a half time syncopation. To emphasize the bass riff, I’ve also cut out the hi hats on the pitch bend drop sections.
Now that bass riff – My thinking here was “What’s the bassiest thing I can get away with?” So I pitch bent the notes when I recorded them in with my midi keyboard. Here’s the riff. Basically just that F’ going down to the E, playing off that tension 3 times, then a quick little riff that goes up to the next in-key semitone at B and Bb. Remember – semitones make for evil tension, so having two semitones gives it masses of the stuff! Another thing to note is that for the first half I’ve got more of a tripped up syncopation, then the second half is a more sharp, stuttery one. This is achieved by using smaller notes and moving the last note here one 1/16 across. It’s crazy how much this changes the feel of the riff, so I wanted to show you that.
The break bass riff is just playing between the F, F# and E, occasionally hitting the octave. Very simple, since the filtering takes focus here.
The pads in the break are quite cool. Going from a pretty third, to a minor second, to just the single note, which I think is quite a cool bit of tension, but releases the tension when it hits that single note. Then it builds it with a long minor second, gently releasing it at the end with a quick single note, so any tail on the effect is in key with the song.
Lastly, that fill. I’ve literally picked random out of key notes and gone down the scale in time to a stuttered syncopation of the beat. Check it out – see, sometimes dropping musicality entirely can be a good thing! I love how it goes straight from that into the second bass, too – it’s like it’s dodging a load of bullets, then jumping high in the air over the people that are firing them, then kicking them in the back of the head and carrying on running. Not sure why people would want to shoot this beat, but hey-ho!
Oh, and another thing, I added some more hs to the “Shhhhhhhhh”, since I thought it needed it.
Okay! That’s it! An arrangement that flows like a British middle-class white kid’s rap flow yo, some filtering that adds more interest to the track than putting mines on an F1 course, and some notes more painful sounding than that description I made at the end of day 5.
Time for you to finish the musical side of the production and then join me tomorrow for day 7 of the 7 day song, where I’ll go through Mixing and Mastering, then play you the final, finished 7 day song! Take it easy guys!