Category: Genres

A quintessentially British genre, drum and bass is the sound of illegal raves, moshpits and really letting yourself go crazy. Beginning in the early 90s and inspired by jungle, Jamaican dub and reggae, breakbeats, big beat and hard house, drum and bass has achieved massive mainstream success in the past several years, especially in the United Kingdom. Popularised by artists such as Goldie, Pendulum, Chase & Status, Netsky, High Contrast and Rudimental, the genres success has now spread all the way from the UK to the USA to Australia.

Notable for its unique syncopated breakbeats, high tempo, extreme compression and the sheer heaviness of its bass sound, drum and bass is seen as far more technical than its house and techno counterparts. Additionally, as the music samples, everything from jazz to ambient, drum, and bass is seen as one of the most generous of all music genres. As a result of this generosity, it has far more subgenres than any other major electronic genre. In this essential guide to drum and bass, we will tell you everything that you need to know, including how it started, what its key influences were, perhaps the most important of all drum and bass albums, and how to start making your own. Read on now to get the full overview!

What Influenced the Drum and Bass Sound?

Drum and bass developed from a wide variety of influences, of which there are too many to list here. There are three essential genres that helped to make drum and bass special. Take a look at what we picked below.

Jungle

First referred to as Jungle Techno,  Jungle was the name given to the new style of electronic music that came out of England in the early 1990s. As dance music became harder across most of  Europe, with the emergence of hardcore and gabber, the British responded with a dub and reggae-inspired genre that chopped up breakbeats and played them between 150 to 200 bpm. A darker musical genre that was popular with black youths in the UK, the complex genre, known for the looseness of its sound and off-beat rhythms, was popularised at the now-shuttered Rage nightclub in London, where old-school DJ Grooverider had a residency.

Breakbeat

Breakbeat is an umbrella term referring to a certain style of musical production. Born from the Turntablism culture in late 70s New York, as popularised by DJ Kool Herc, breakbeat was an essential part in electronic musics development. It took drum breaks in funk music including the highly popular "Amen Break" – isolated them and used them in other tracks. This would inspire genres as diverse as big beat, hip-hop and acid house. More specifically breakbeat hardcore, which used these beats and made them heavier while focusing more on instrumentation, would have a massive influence on the drum and bass sound.

Dub music - one of the earliest forms of electronic music - took reggae productions and used every trick in the toolbox to make them sound bigger and more spaced out - employing techniques such as echo, reverb and delay.

Dub

Drum and bass can trace its roots back to reggae and dub music; both in terms of sound system culture and in terms of musical production. Dub music  one of the earliest forms of electronic music – took reggae productions and used every trick in the toolbox to make them sound bigger and more spaced out – employing techniques such as echo, reverb and delay. By isolating just the drum and bass elements it was an obvious influence on the DnB genre. Additionally, loud wobbly bass-lines are a characteristic element of both dub and drum and bass, especially on low frequencies. Vocals can also be an important element of drum and bass, with ragga vocals often used, sometimes even live with the aid of an MC.

What Is The Drum And Bass Sound?

The most important characteristic part of the drum and bass sound is the rhythm itself. Commonly it can be defined by a very simple syncopated drum pattern where the first bass drum of the break is on the on-beat but the second one is on the off-beat. This gives it a jittery yet addictive feel. Additionally, breaks such as the Amen Break already mentioned, the "Apache Break", "Funky Drummer Break" and "Think (About It) Break" have been commonly used to form the foundation of drum and bass songs. The bass sound famously favors the lower end of the frequency register, helping to create a very powerful sound. Drum and bass favors being played on sound systems that can register very low frequencies, including sub-bass frequencies. The loudness of the sound often leads to drum and bass being dubbed the heavy metalof electronic music.

The tempo is consistent, usually between 150 to 180 bpm. Similar to trance music, drum and bass is all about the drops, which occur after a long and patient build-up. These are all intended to encourage patrons to dance, and in some cases, join a moshpit. In the 90s it was common for drum and bass artists to be accompanied by a hype man or an MC, although that doesnt occur so much anymore. Additionally, live drum and bass has increased in popularity, with groups incorporating live drums (both acoustic and electronic), sample machines, synths, turntables and guitars. As drum and bass has become more popular, a certain type of stadium sound has started to emerge.

Sub-genres Of Drum And Bass?

As the sound of drum and bass is so diverse, it has inspired a wide variety of niches, including Drumstep, Breakcore, Hardstep, Techstep, Neurofunk, Funkstep, Technoid, Liquid Funk, and Sambass. Perhaps more so than any other genre, drum and bass has developed scenes all over the world, including Germany, Holland, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Greece and Australia. But there have been three genres to come out of drum and bass in the United Kingdom that have later equaled its influence. Read on below to see which three crucial genres we picked!

UK Garage

Drum and bass proved that syncopated rhythms could work on the dance-floor. British garage, which came around the same time as jungle, took these jittery beats to a whole new level. This multicultural sound, also indebted to hip-hop and RnB can be heard by artists such as Craig David, Grant Nelson, Artful Dodger, and The Streets.

Dubstep

Dubstep can be seen as a spiritual successor to both drum and bass and garage, as the 2-step beat that emerged from drum and bass would have a massive influence on defining the dubstep sound. Starting as an underground movement born in clubs in Croydon in South London and Bristol, dubstep soon conquered the world, especially once Skrillex got his hands on it.

Grime

Grime developed naturally from both drum and bass and garage, featuring heavy rapping over harsh beats and heavy bass-lines. Popularised by artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Lady Sovereign and Stormzy, grime music has been considered one of the most important musical revolutions in British music in decades.

"Hold Your Colour" | Drum And Bass Hits the Mainstream

Drum and bass may have started in the UK, but the most popular of all drum and bass albums is from Down Under. Pendulums Hold Your Colour sold a massive 225,000 albums in the UK, with key tracks basically unavoidable for anybody (including myself) growing up in the 00s. Undeniably a more commercial sound, tracks such as The Prodigy-influenced "Slam" – and its accompanying music video were huge in Britain at the time. Its a great introduction to what makes drum and bass great, both acknowledging the dub influence on drum and bass with tracks such as "Tarantula" and keeping a great sense of humor on tracks such as "Blood Sugar".

Hold Your Colour helped propel drum and bass into the UK mainstream, leading the way for groups such as Chase and Status and Rudimental. Rudimental’s "Waiting All Night", for example, was one of the most popular of all drum and bass songs, reaching no.1 in the UK singles charts. Pendulum is criticized by real drum and bass heads, including artists such as Goldie, however, for commercializing the genre and taking it away from its roots.

How To Make Drum And Bass | Software, Hardware And Samples

Making drum and bass is relatively easy. As the drumbeat rarely changes, it is easy to find samples. The thing you really have to master is compression. Modern drum and bass is defined by the tightness of its sound, and the way drops have been mastered within an inch of their lives. Bass-lines are equally essential especially low-frequency lines that literally shake the floor. This is why we would recommend mixing not only in headphones but trying out your mixes on the biggest speakers possible. You should also consider whether or not you want to make records that play only electronically or can also be performed live. In this respect, and if you have the ability, perhaps try out beats and melodies on drum kits and synthesizers and with other musicians.  Read the sections below for the best hardware and software you need, as well as the best place to get samples.

Hardware

Crucial to the bass drum sound of drum and bass is the TR-808 kick drum, which can be taken from the classic Roland TR-808 and TR-08 as well. For those squelchy synth sounds, you cant do much worse than the Roland V-Synth. With a Multi Step Modulator and an Elastic Audio Synthesizer, as well as endless effects, its the perfect place to start. For sampling and modulating drum sounds, we would recommend the Emu E64 Sampler. Additionally, the Minimoog Model D and the ARP Odyssey are essential parts of that drum and bass sound.  

Software

Thanks to the sophistication of DAWs, you can create great drum and bass tracks all from the comfort of your own house. To help aid that DIY mission, you will need some plug-ins. Take a look at some of our top recommendations below.

Samples

The classic breakbeats that form the backbone of the drum and bass sound are a great place to start if you are looking to find something to anchor your tracks on. These can be found very easily online and are often isolated by themselves on YouTube. If you are looking for something a little more sophisticated, then we would recommend the sample pack provided by Splice. There are so many ways you can go here: from jazz to reggae, the amount of stylistic influences you can bring into your track is unlimited.

Drum And Bass Artists You Should Listen To | Spotify

Conclusion

We hope that you have enjoyed our guide to drum and bass. Despite appearing simple, it is, in fact, one of the most diverse genres around. Its anyones guess as to where the genre will go next, but considering its huge explosion in popularity a few years back, it could easily rear its head once again. If drum and bass isnt your kind of thing, then why dont you check out our exclusive genre guides to trance and house instead?

Redmond Bacon

Redmond Bacon

Contributor

Redmond Bacon is a film obsessive and amateur music producer who can easily spend all day either at the cinema or making fresh beats. Catch his writing over at redmondbacon.co.uk.

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