This week’s column is about one of the biggest recent “trends” — dubstep.
Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music first introduced around 2000 in South London by artists such as Rusko, Caspa, Skream and Benga. It is known for tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals. Recently, dubstep exploded all over the U.S. thanks to the American producer and DJ, Skrillex. The reason dubstep is relevant for this space is that it is a technologically driven genre. Its limits are only those presented by available technological resources, and the more the field of electronic music advances, the more the music changes.
The basic tools or instruments most commonly used in dubstep are: a sampler, drum machine, synthesizer, keyboard (Midi) and computer. I know that all of you know what a computer is (because otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this), but as for the rest of the equipment, I will now explain:
- A Synthesizer is a machine (usually a keyboard) capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies.
- A sampler generates sounds using recordings (samples) of sounds that are loaded or recorded into it and played back with an interface (often a keyboard).
- A drum machine is an instrument designed to imitate the sound of drums or other percussion instruments. They are used in a variety of musical genres, not just purely electronic music. They are also a common necessity when session drummers are not available or desired.
- I suppose all of you know what a keyboard is, but you may not know the difference between a standard musical keyboard and a Midi keyboard. First, Midi stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. The difference from between a standard keyboard and a Midi keyboard is that the Midi keyboard integrates with a computer. The Midi keyboard is plugged into a computer via USB or Midi cable and controls a computer’s software. The software on the computer can serve any number of functions, from metronome to sampler to digitally voiced instrument.
- There is a huge amount of music producing software available that can be used for dubstep. Among the more popular programs, Fruity Loops is an entry level unit, and Ableton Live and Massive seem to be more for the advanced user. Some of the more popular producers and DJ’s use these software packages; I know for a fact that Skrillex uses Ableton Live for live shows.
As the software gets more advanced it becomes more expensive. I plan to begin my foray into the artform with Fruity Loops (here is a link to a demo you can try), but after that I plan on getting “the builder” (my dad) to buy me a lot of equipment and software, and who knows, maybe I will one day be referred to as the “dubstep phenomenon of the ‘ass crack’ of Brittany, France.”
The popularity of the dubstep has gone completely through the roof. There are over 40,000 dubstep-related videos on YouTube and nearly 25,000 results for “dubstep remix.” My personal opinion is that it is only going to get bigger because although it is still called a trend, it has been around a while now and if I am perfectly honest, I can’t see its popularity fading quite yet. Well, at least I hope so…
Another reason dubstep may be here to stay is because as the technology gets better, the genre’s limitations continue to dissolve. That is why as a fan of both music and technology, I’ll keep listening and enjoying.
You can read Fif-TECH-teen weekly right here on Tattletech. You can also follow Sean on Twitter @sean_edwards1.