How Do I Start Mixing Dubstep?

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The beauty of dubstep music lies in its unpredictability. Although everyone is waiting for the all important ‘drop’, there is an irregularity to dubstep that differs from other forms of electronic music.

It is undeniable that this genre has been at the forefront of musical evolution over the last ten years, stomping it’s heavy, pulsating foot into an industry that can become obsessed with softer, radio-friendly tones.

To start making dubstep, you need to have the same energy as the music itself, and be determinedly fierce in spite of any initial hiccups. 

How Do I Start Mixing Dubstep

Is Mixing Dubstep Hard?

Dubstep is a multilayered genre and it is therefore not the easiest to produce. However, the essential steps outlined below will give you the skills needed to become the next Skrillex in no time.

Understand Modulation

This may sound like an overly technical and daunting word but modulation is merely the technique used to create complex basslines.

For instance, you can create a basic dubstep wobble by using a Low Frequency Oscillator (or LFO) which can usually be found under your master-reverb settings.

An LFO will introduce extra rhythms and textures into your sound, making it more expansive and dynamic for the listener. 

Learn From Experience

Many people believe that they should become experts overnight and do not do the required research in order to develop their skill-set.

By reading this article, you are already outside of this category as you are taking the time to research your craft before diving in headfirst and potentially growing frustrated.

There are many tutorialists on YouTube who thrive on outlining the process of mixing dubstep step-by-step from design to mixing to arrangement.

There are also plentiful online courses on websites like Academy.fm that will teach you specificities like how to mix in the infamous dubstep growl.

The bottom line is to set aside the time to dive deep into your studies of the craft instead of being haphazard and growing frustrated straight away.

Mixing dubstep is a science and when considering that doctors study for years prior to being able to practice their craft, it is highly recommended that you treat your mixing with the same outlook and patience. 

Ensure That Your Sub Is Tight

As the primary focus of Dubstep music is the bass, it is important to pay attention to the level of reverb and compression and how this affects the frequencies.

Dubstep is an amalgamation of differing sounds and these should generally be set in the mid-frequency range. However, your bass may require more ‘oomph’ in the sub-range frequencies so that it doesn’t fall flat.

To achieve this, you should create a separate track for your sub bass, removing any filters, and sit it underneath your main sound to create a low thump without corrupting the other mid or higher end waves.

Utilize Compression

Now that we’ve covered how to keep your sub bass clean, it is also important to ensure that this process does not override your kick drum/snare. To do this, you can use something called ‘sidechain compression’ on your sub bass channel.

By adding a compressor to the sub bass at specific points when the kick drum is activated, you can ensure that the kick drum is not overridden by the sub.

This will create the necessary space for both elements within your mix and ensure that one sound does not overwhelm the other. 

Multifaceted Layering

This is crucial to ensure that your beats maintain a punchy and hard-hitting sound. The easiest way to achieve this is to use different drum loops and layer them over each other.

However, when layering various drum samples/loops, you should be careful of any off-rhythm or phasing out issues that may occur when one sound overrides the other.

For instance, layering two heavy drum kicks together will actually have the effect of making them sound thinner, which is the opposite of what you need to make an impactful Dubstep sound.

Frequency Modulation

To become an expert of sound design, you need to have a heightened understanding of how to modulate the frequencies of your sound. Frequency modulation is the process of using one particular sound to manipulate the sound of another.

This is how Dubstep growls are created. To achieve this, you would need to use one oscillator as a ‘carrier wave’ whilst using a second oscillator to modulate the ‘carrier’.

This may sound more complex than it is and there are plentiful tutorials on YouTube that explain this process in depth.

Maintain Your Focus

You may have heard your favorite producers talk about ‘feeling through the music’ and this is an essential trait of a professional producer. \

In order to transgress from an amateur to a pro, you should avoid overcomplicating your mixes at first, instead, learn how to enhance each sound to its fullest potential, focusing wholly on one aspect of your mix at a time.

Be Unpredictable

In the music world, particularly within Electronic music, it is no longer acceptable to just copy and paste drops from one place to another within your mix.

Bass music fans are more attuned to a variety of sounds and will notice if your music becomes too repetitive. Therefore, it is important to ‘switch it up’ when it comes to your drops.

However you choose to do this is up to you, it may involve adding a different reverb or moving around the patterns contained within your first drop. Spontaneity is key to exciting the listener.

Instant Impression

Most digital streaming platforms now encourage the artist to start their track with something instantly impressionable, whether that is the main chorus to a Pop song or something jolting and exciting within an EDM mix.

Whilst most artists will want to create for themselves, it is also worth considering that the modern listener’s ears are attuned to this modality. Traditionally, Dubstep has been about ‘waiting for the drop’ and so this can pose a difficulty.

However, kicking off your track with a soul shattering synth or a wholesome growl will ensure that you have drawn your listener’s attention straight away without destroying the ‘build up’ for the drop.

Maximize Distortion

When it comes to Dubstep, distortion will always be one of the most important aspects. This is because of the added brutality, grit and loudness that distortion can add to your mix. Be sure to maximize the distortion at every given opportunity to add a heavier, more dynamic energy. 

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

It can be too easy to take yourself seriously as a musician and this kills the creative process. Whilst tutorials are great, over-reliance can also lead to stagnation.

Learn the basics and then allow yourself to dive deeper into your creativity. If you want to ‘stand out’ as a Dubstep producer then you will need to craft your own, unique sound.

Experimentation is the perfect way to find this sound so push yourself to discover new sonic evolution, utilizing quirky synths and unexpected samples to make your mark. 

Mixing & Mastering

The purpose of mixing and mastering is to ensure that your mix sounds good on any sound system. This process is crucial in the creation of a vibrant, Dubstep sound and you should never rush it, no matter how eager you are to release your music into the world.

If the crowd cannot feel the pulsating vibrations of your sub bass then your track becomes redundant. Focus as much as you can on optimizing all aspects of your mix and play it back through a variety of devices before releasing it into the world. 

Where Do DJs Get Their Music?

Dubstep DJs select their music from a variety of places. The most popular are Beatport.com and Bandcamp.com. Both of these websites allow digital, WAV file downloads.

Bandcamp is the best digital retailer to support the artist as they take a lesser cut of revenue. iTunes is also favorable as it allows for physical downloads.

However, most Dubstep and Electronic DJs will be signed up to Bandcamp as the website has a strong Electronic community and you are able to showcase your work to new audiences more easily than with other platforms by utilizing hashtags and genre searches. 

To conclude, to mix Dubstep you need a patient mindset and a pulsating heart. The energy required to research and learn the technicalities should be coupled with the focus needed to hone in on specificity and find your own, unique sound.

Once you have mastered the basics of layering drum loops and manipulating the frequencies, it will be easier to add multifaceted layers to your work and find that ‘stand out’ sound that emboldens your musicality and career.

Ensure that you do not neglect the mastering process and take regular breaks to ensure that your ears are fresh to hear any discrepancies within the mix. Above all, enjoy the process of research, creativity and development in a genre that offers endless possibilities.