A quintessentially British genre, drum
Notable for its unique syncopated breakbeats, high tempo, extreme compression and the sheer heaviness of its bass sound, drum and bass
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.
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 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 music’s 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
“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
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
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 metal” of electronic music.
The tempo is consistent, usually between 150 to 180 bpm. Similar to trance music, 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
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 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 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
Drum and bass may have started in the UK, but the most popular of all drum and bass albums is from Down Under. Pendulum’s 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. It’s 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.
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
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 can’t 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.
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.
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
Best Playlists/24/7 Streams
- ‘The Journey’ (2 Hour Drum & Bass Mix)
- Best Drum & Bass Mix 2018
- “Majesty” ~ Chilled Liquid Drum & Bass Mix
- Oldskool Jungle Drum n Bass Mix 92-97
- Drum & Bass Titans | Best
- DJ Mag: 100 Most Important Drum and Bass Tracks
- Ragga Jungle Mix by Rekon
- Drum and Bass Mix OldSchool 2000-2006 (2 hours of old school DnB)
- Shy FX – Old Skool Jungle full album
- Liquid Drum and Bass Mix #60
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. It’s anyone’s 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 isn’t your kind of thing, then why don’t you check out our exclusive genre guides to trance and house instead?
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.