Dirty Dubstep Tutorial Day 6: Adding FX, Arrangement + Choosing the Notes
Hi, I’m Dave from boyinaband.com and welcome to day 6 of my 7 day song on Dirty Dubstep. Yesterday in day 5, I explained how to make some pads for filling out the track – today will involve showing you the FX I’ll be using, including how to make a nice little echoey sawtoothy sound, Arranging the synths we’ve made into a finished song, and finally discussing the notes I’ve chosen and explaining the music theory behind them where appropriate.
So for part 1, let’s discuss those FX. First of all, to learn how to put FX samples into the track check out one of the other 7 day songs – I’ll link to one here, but basically it involves using ReDrum (you can also use kong) to trigger the samples, using “gate” mode where appropriate to stop reverses dead.
Linking the sounds into the mixer allows for some FX to be applied too – such as delay on cymbals, which is a useful one.
Anyway, for this track I’ve used a lot of sweeps and reverses – they’re absolutely everywhere in this style of music. They really help to build up to the drops effectively.
As well as these sweeps and reverses, I’ve got a crash that’s been delayed as I mentioned – a useful thing to have in 90% of electronic music genres, then I’ve topped the track off with this nice boom sample. These samples are all from primeloops’ razor FX sample pack, which I use religiously. Well, I haven’t done any child molestation with it so maybe not that religiously.
Anyway, link to that sample pack in the description.
Well, this isn’t going to be just me telling you to go to another video – I’ll show you a nice little synth sound I made for this track.
Combinator, name it “Squeeky Budgie”, since it will kinda sound like that, then make a malstrom instance. Turn osc A to MaleChoir and osc B to sawtooth. bring the motion on sawtooth up to 3/4 and move the index along a bit, then knock it up an octave. Be careful when knocking things up though, ’cause then the sawtooth got you for 18 years!
I’ll just add in some notes now.
Run them both through into filter b, but turn off all filtering. Now to make this budgie squeek. Turn mod A to curve 2 – the saw wave, then turn on sync, turn rate to full at 1/32, then turn pitch to 25ish. Now it’s starting to sound more warble-y, like a worried bird that has just been told that it will, for some reason, be squeeking in the near future.
Next, turn Mod B on sync mode, leaving the sine wave there, and turn rate to 1/16, motion to 20ish and vol to 30ish. This makes a wobbling in the tone and volume that sounds kind of like a high pitched squeeky tweeting. Kind of how I imagine Sarah Palin would sound if her internet presence was a synth patch.
Next, brin in a DDL-1 delay, feedback to 5/8, steps to 4 and dry/wet just below half, so it’s a nice and prominent delay, and lastly, chuck an initialized RV7000 on there for a quick hall reverb, 1/4 d/w and 0 hf damp so it’s bright, but not too drenched in reverberation.
Now take a listen – pretty cool huh? Incidentally, if you turn the malechoir graintable to “throat” and turn off osc B, it turns it into a horiffically creepy laugh. Because that’s a useful sound to have in your arsenal.
Well, that’s all the synthesis complete for this 7 day song – join me in part 2 where I’ll be discussing the Arrangement of this type of Dubstep!
Well, The first thing to say about dirtier, more powerful dubstep is it tends to follow an almost trance-like format. I’ll explain.
The track is comprised of 3 main sections – a verse, where the track just kind of plods along an builds a little tension, a breakout where the percussion usually drops out, leaving pads and leads to take the fore, then the all important drop, that the breakouts build up towards.
So I’ll show you the different sections – by the way, if you want the song to be a surprise, you might want to listen to it before you do these next few parts. So yeah, there’s the spoiler alert.
Alright, let’s go through it bit by bit.
The intro is 16 bars – Most sections will be 16 bars, so long as you do changes in 4, 8, 16 or 32 bars then the track will feel like it flows reasonably. If you want a weird, offbeat proggy epic, by all means make changes according to the fibbonacci sequence or something similarly obscure, but chances are it won’t hit the clubs or the charts.
Anyway, the drums and the lead filter in to introduce the track for the first 8 bars, with the huge bass taking the majority of attention by filtering in on just one note. In this kind of dubstep, you can get away with a hell of a lot of using just one note for synths, simply by changing the rhythms of the sounds with envelopes.
For an example of that, check out the next 8 bars – I’ve still just used one note, but the bass sounds completely different, since the envelope makes it more rhythmic. I’ll explain more about these in part 3.
After the first 8 bars, I bring in the top loop and the saw pad to make it feel like the filtering built up to something, but not so it felt like the drop – you want to maintain the tension for that until later on!
In the last 4 bars I modulate down into the breakout, crashing out with that boomy fx sample, taking out the percussion save for some kicks, which are all filtered to feel bassier and less prominent – the prominence here is taken up by those pads we made in day 5 for the first 8 bars of the breakout, then the arp we made in day 4 for another 8 bars, as it builds up to the drop.
The build is really important – it’s easily as important as the drop itself, since otherwise there will be no anticipation for what will melt your face off. So I’ve got a bunch of reverse and sweep fx, that proggy house synth is opening up, I bring in more notes in the pads to make it even more tense, hitting a nice high note to climax just before the violence ensues.
Now for the drop! This is where we can get creative. I’ve decided to start by stripping the track of anything pretty, cutting it down to an explosion and crash into the first bass we made, followed immediately by that painful siren, followed by that throaty bass, then the wobble again, all in quick succession. This quick-fire method of chopping between sounds is really effective, since the listener is being bombarded by a bunch of energetic sounds. They have to be really crisp though – sounds with any kind of release can end up overlapping and making a mess, which isn’t always a good thing.
The drop continues with more envelopey goodness for a bit, chopping between the other bass sounds every now and again, but focusing on that main robot brostep bass, brobot bass if you have an unhealthy obsession with mashing words together like me. In fact, I’ll rename it that now.
After the first 8 bars of the drop, I start bringing in the pretty elements to build up again, not quite as intensely as before, cutting out some of the lower elements since they can get really messy with so much going on simultaneously, and not using the proggy synth at all.
Also notice that this is the first time I’ve brought in the sub – this means that in a club environment, the listeners will really feel the difference between the rest of the song and the drop; they’ll know when to start pulling sour lemon faces and spazzing out.
Then we’ve got the next verse, another 16 bars, with the focus on the phasey lead, the saw pad keeping some kind of tension from the drop. 8 bars in, I bring in the arp once again – the synth that will take us all the way to the second, even bigger drop. First though, we need another breakout, this time I do a filtered down drum fill and fx sweep into the breakout.
The second breakout I’ve made bigger than the first, by keeping the arp from the start and building even more elements – the main build after the first 8 bars is where things get really intense, with the huge bass modulating in like it did in the intro – this is a cool throwback, since listeners will recognise it and it triggers even more emotion. I’ve also done a snare roll just by putting a ton of them together really fast, ready for the main drop.
The second drop itself is the same for the first 16 bars, then the last 16, since I’ve gone for 32 bars of drop overall to finish off the song and add some variety, has this really awesome choppy fill that’s a lot more crazy and intense than the rest of the drop. Since it’s kind of unexpected, it sounds like a progression of the track.
I’ve also done a quick cut of everything to focus on the lead arp, ready for the final 8 bars of drop to lead to the outro. That is a cool technique, since it offers a quick reprise from the harshness… but then no, there’s still brobot bass attacking you visciously, there’s no escape yet.
Once again I’ve thrown in the kitchen sink at the end, I tend to do this a lot with songs, since I like the ending to be a big finale, with the phasey lead accompanying the metallic arp and the whole strings section in there to really make it feel like it’s about to explode…
…Then it does, into the outro, which strips down a bit, I’ve got this nice little tripping-over drop and crash which I really like, then just at the end everything filters down, the strings end early so there’s no reverby tails over the final crash and there’s only a single melody line from the arpy lead making any reference to the key – if you have to much of a prominent key then it makes any mixing into other keys a lot more jarring when a DJ comes to integrating your track into a set.
Alright! So that’s the arrangement, time for some discussion of the notes and rhythms in part 3…
I’ll start off talking about that first bass that comes in – Check out these envelopes – The first one doesn’t open up too much, keeping it nice and deep, then we’ve got a similar rhythm the other two times, the major difference is on the fourth time round, with this G note being mangled quite considerably – the sharper tone is caused by jumping to a very open filter, rather than smoothly going up to it, like at the end of the sound, this is more of a ramp than a wobble, resulting in a harsher rhythm, which can be really cool as an alternative to mindlessly wobbling away.
So be sure to be creative with these envelopes – not just with where the wobbles hit, but with how long it takes to get up to them or down from them, since that really changes the dynamic – a slow, lazy bass might have really off-beat and slow envelopes to emphasize the lethargic feel, whereas a brosteppy bass in an electro house-y track would need to be much tighter, so you might get more of these quick stabs going on.
Let’s take a look at the other basses while we’re at it.
The main bass is a really simple riff – G to C to Eb, then G to C to F – this progression implies it’s headed towards G to C to G, which gives this massive, elongated tension as soon as you get a feel for where it’s heading. I’ve split the first note to give way for the siren and other bass, this just keeps things tidy, then I’ve done some pretty complex wobbling.
The first notes are stabs as per the first bass, then I alternate between quick stabs and some longer, deeper wobbles for variety, I’ll zoom right in so you can see the envelope. This alternating envelope style makes the track feel both fast and lethargic, which I think is pretty cool and weird, you’ve got to find some way of making your track stand out, and envelope modulation is one thing a lot of producers tend to be lazy with – simply wobbling at different rates probably won’t get any jaws dropping anymore since it’s been heard a million times before.
The throaty bass is pretty cool – again, just one note, but the last wobble only peaks at the start of the next bar, which gives it this cool w*h*ip into the snare. Yeah, I watch that program you watch! You should probably comment about that now.
The sub bass just follows what the lead bass is doing, wobbles and all, so let’s move swiftly on to the leads – the arp lead is very pretty on its own and doesn’t suit the track, but with the tension from the pads it becomes more emotional and minor. This is important to realise – you might think something is too pretty, but with the right context it can be more intense, dark and powerful than simply pretty.
The notes are just going from the root note E, up and down, then again but going to the second note in the key, the A, then again up and down to the A, then a little fill to the E again as it loops round. By keeping the same higher notes, that makes a crapload of tension.
The other lead, the phasey one is a take on this riff – using altered versions of existing riffs is a great way to make a song catchier, since the listener is being slowly introduced to the idea of a riff, then when it kicks in in earnest, they feel like they’ve been waiting for it and it’s more satisfying, as well as the fact that it’s being drilled into their heads for longer so it should be catchier.
The pad works in a similar way to the main bass- starting on the root note, then working up to the F, hitting the second and third – two really tense and pretty notes in a scale on the way. The chord it hits at the end is also a third, a gorgeous and powerful note combo that you’ll know I’m quite partial to if you’ve watched any other 7 day songs.
In fact, I’m so partial to it that I’ve added another version of the progression, harmonising the whole thing in thirds as it builds up, with a nice octave chord at the end on that A there, and lastly an octave layer of the progression as well just hitting that really high D, since I think it sounds bloody gorgeous.
The strings are exactly the same progression as the pads, since if it aint broke, don’t fix it.
The prog housey lead is one note, just that root G, in this nice little rhythm – those triplet riffs are really popular lately, so I incorporated a triplety section to make it feel a little bit modern, but again, this just adds a nice rhythmic edge to the breakouts which would otherwise have no rhythmic reference point.
The delay fx squeeky budgie synth is simply alternating between the F and the G, starting on the F to cause a little bit of tension, since I’ve only put it in where I’m causing tension.
And I think that pretty much covers the melodies! There are a few little drum fills – the one just before the first drop has this nice little double kick, just drop the snap value to 1/32ndths to do that, as you can see the kick is just building up in speed, then for the second fill I’ve got the kicks speeding up considerably faster to emphasize this is a bigger drop, with that stuttered sounding snare roll as a rhythmic climax.
And there we have it! Some FX more squeeky than a lone unskilled female illegal immigrant’s bed, a track that’s arranged like a middle eastern marriage, and some notes that I picked that I hope you like.
Tune in tomorrow for day 7, where I’ll run over the mixing and mastering process, then play you the final finished 7 day song!