A dub track is usually a remix of a reggae track, and before we can move onto the mixing techniques used in dub we need to get to grips with the basics of a reggae rhythm. There are a number of fundamental elements that are common to most reggae rhythm tracks.
In reggae there are two fundamental rhythms: Rockers and Steppers. In the Rocker style, or 'one drop', the drums can be programmed as in the screen to the left. In the Stepper, by contrast, the basic drum rhythm is as shown in the second screenshot, below left.
Once you have programmed the drums, you are ready to add a bass line. Reggae bass lines can't be explained quickly. I had plenty of practice standing at the side of the bass player while touring Europe as lead guitarist with various roots artists, but in your case if you need to research further I suggest that while you listen to some dub music you focus on the bass line, try to reproduce it, and play along with a bass keyboard sound or guitar to get a feel for it.
Reggae bass lines can vary from very basic sequences to strangely syncopated patterns. In both cases they go hand in hand with the drums, they develop in laid-back fashion, often with accents that fall away from the main beats, and they sit high in the mix.
Often they also carry a militant feel as the Jamaicans call it, meaning military, or martial. The score overleaf shows three examples of typical reggae bass lines at different tempos. In a reggae arrangement it is always there, and it acts like the piston of a steam engine pushing and pulling against the other instruments. In dub the chop is equally important, but it is not used at all times, as we will see later. The job of the keyboard player isn't just to play the chop.
Often he or she will also perform a shuffled organ pattern, which is sometimes called the 'bubble'. This is usually a double-time element and changes our perception of the rhythm. The screenshot, right, shows a programmed arrangement with a typical chop in red and shuffle in green. Reggae uses many more instruments on top of the basic rhythm tracks, and in dub mixes producers like to add or turn up in the mix other elements, such as lead guitar, flute, brass, melodica and percussion.
Reggae voice patterns are very free. The phrases can move about, alternating accents on and off the beat. The voice and sometimes other lead instruments are set to push against the beat and reaffirm it. It all revolves around the chop, which is like a balustrade on which to lean.
In reggae the voice is essential, but as we will see, in a dub remix it takes a secondary role. It is often muted to reveal the underlying texture and to make room for other parts, including echo effects and sporadic reverb shots.
If you are used to working on a digital recording setup, there are a few problems that can occur when you apply dub mixing techniques.
Here are three of the most important troubleshooting issues:. Instead of playing a musical instrument, the dub master plays the mixing board. In effect, dub turns the mixing process into a live performance happening in real time. With a digital recording setup it is tempting to use automation to record all your moves, to make it possible to go back and tidy up later, but in the purest form dub wants to be mixed in real time and preferably on an analogue board.
Changing pages on a digital desk or switching windows on a PC takes the juice out of the fruit. So let's see what are the creative techniques available to us.
Three typical reggae bass lines. This technique is a classic example of using equipment in ways it wasn't designed to be used! Set up an auxiliary send on your desk, and route it to a delay unit. Set the delay time to about 0. Route the output signal from the delay unit back to the desk on a full stereo channel or a pair of mono channels that has an aux send on it, rather than on dedicated effect return inputs, which do not always have auxiliaries. Play back a sequence or a bit of a recording, turn up the aux send, and you'll hear some delays and echoes developing, just as you would when using delay in any mixing session.
Now here is the trick: gradually turn up the aux send on the return channel s , so that you're sending the returned signal from the delay unit back to its own input. As you turn up the aux send, listen out for an increase in the feedback level. With vocals removed from tracks of dance songs, DJs began talking over the music, a technique that was known as toasting. Dub and toasting were later transplanted to New York City, where they formed the basis for rap music in the eighties.
Dub is characterized as a " version " of an existing song, typically emphasizing the drums and bass for a sound popular in local Sound Systems. The instrumental tracks are typically drenched in sound processing effects, with most of the lead instruments and vocals dropping in and out of the mix. The music sometimes features processed sound effects and other noises , such as animal sounds, babies crying, and producers shouting instructions at the musicians.
These versions are mostly instrumental, sometimes including snippets of the original vocal version. Often these tracks are used for "Toasters" rapping heavily-rhymed and alliterative lyrics. These are called "DeeJay Versions". As opposed to hip hop terminology, in reggae music the person with the microphone is called the " DJ ", while the person choosing the music and operating the turntables is the "Selector" elsewhere called the DJ.
A major reason for producing multiple versions was economic: A record producer could use a recording he owned to produce numerous versions from a single studio session. Version was also an opportunity for a producer or remix engineer to experiment and vent their more creative side. The version was typically the B-side of a single, with the A-side dedicated to making a popular hit, and B-side for experimenting and providing something for DJ's to talk over.
In the s, Britain became a new center for dub production with Mad Professor and Jah Shaka being the most famous, while Scientist became the heavyweight champion of Jamaican dub. Almost all reggae singles still carry an instrumental version on the B-side and these are still used by the sound systems as a blank canvas for live singers and DJs.
In , the Japanese band Mute Beat would create dub music using live instruments such as trumpets rather than studio equipment, and became a precursor to the acid jazz , ambient and trip hop music genres.
It was also the time when dub made its influence known in the work of harder edged, experimental producers such as Mikey Dread with UB40 and The Clash, Adrian Sherwood and the roster of artists on his On-U Sound label. Many bands characterized as post-punk were heavily influenced by dub. In the aforementioned mixes the beat of the record was accentuated, "unnecessary" vocal parts dropped, and other DJ-friendly features making it easy to work with, like picking out key sections to play over other records, heightening the dancefloor effect.
Contemporary instances are also called "dubtronica,", "dub-techno", "steppers" or electronic music influenced by dub music. In , rock band Soundgarden released a dub version of the Ohio Players ' song "Fopp" alongside a more traditional rock cover of the song. DJs appeared towards the end of the s who specialised in playing music by these musicians, such as the UK's Unity Dub.
Since the inception of dub in the late s, its history has been intertwined with that of the punk rock scene in the UK. Many punk rock bands In the U. Blind Idiot God placed dub music alongside their faster and more intense noise rock tracks. Dub was adopted by some punk rock groups of the 90s, with bands such as Rancid and NOFX writing original songs in a dub style. In addition, dub influenced some types of pop , including bands such as No Doubt. No Doubt's second-most recent album, Rock Steady  , features an assortment of popular dub sounds like reverb and echoing.
As noted by the band themselves, No Doubt is heavily influenced by Jamaican musical aesthetics and production techniques, even recording their Rock Steady  album in Kingston, Jamaica , and producing B-sides featuring dub influences on their Everything in Time B-sides album.
Some controversy still exists on whether pop-ska bands like No Doubt can regard themselves as a part of dub lineage. Other bands followed in the footsteps of No Doubt, fusing pop-ska and dub influences, such as Save Ferris and Vincent.
There are also some British punk bands creating dub music. Capdown released their Civil Disobedients album, featuring the track "Dub No. The post-punk band Public Image Ltd , fronted by John Lydon , formerly of Sex Pistols , often use dub and reggae influenced bass lines in their music, especially in their earlier music through various bassists who were members of the group, such as Jah Wobble and Jonas Hellborg.
The British post-punk band Bauhaus were highly influenced by dub music, so far that Bauhaus' bass player, David J mentioned that their signature song, Bela Lugosi's Dead , "was our interpretation of dub".
Shoegaze bands such as Ride with their song "King Bullshit" and the intro to "Time Machine" have explored and experimented with dub. Slowdive also penned "Souvlaki Space Station" and their instrumental "Moussaka Chaos" as a testimony of dub influence, while the Kitchens of Distinction released "Anvil Dub". Steve Hogarth , singer with British rock band Marillion , acknowledged the influence of dub on their album Anoraknophobia. Traditional dub has survived and some of the originators of dub such as Lee "Scratch" Perry and Mad Professor continue to produce new material.
New artists continue to preserve the traditional dub sound, some with slight modifications but with a primary focus on reproducing the original characteristics of the sound in a live environment. More eclectic use of dub techniques are apparent in the work of BudNubac, which mixes Cuban bigband with dub techniques.
Modern dub producer Ryan Moore has received critical acclaim for his Twilight Circus project. Dub music is in conversation with the cultural aesthetic of Afrofuturism. Having emerged from Jamaica , this genre is regarded as the product of diaspora peoples, whose culture reflects the experience of dislocation, alienation and remembrance. Through the creation of space-filling soundscapes, faded echoes, and repetition within musical tracks, Dub artists are able to tap into such Afrofuturist concepts as the nonlinearity of time and the projection of past sounds into an unknown future space.
In a essay,  Luke Ehrlich describes Dub through this particular scope:. With dub, Jamaican music spaced out completely. The bass and drums conjure up a dark, vast space, a musical portrait of outer space, with sounds suspended like glowing planets or the fragments of instruments careening by, leaving trails like comets and meteors. Dub is a kaleidoscopic musical montage which takes sounds originally intended as interlocking parts of another arrangement and using them as raw material, converts them into new and different sounds; then, in its own rhythm and format, it continually reshuffles these new sounds into unusual juxtapositions.
The most straightforward explanation of the Jamaican sound system would be an individual who deals with a mechanical system consisting of musical amplification and diffusion. This would include turntables, speakers, and a PA system. In this system the deejay is the person who speaks over the record. This is not to be confused with the American term DJ, which refers to the one in charge of selecting the tracks at an event with music.
This role is known as the selector in the sound system dub culture, who also plays a vital role in the system, especially in Jamaican dancehalls. The sound system has had a prevalent spot in music production in Jamaica for well over 50 years. The true importance and relationship between the sound system and dub music can be found in the dubbed out versions of sounds that became the source of Dub music. These dubbed out versions of songs consisted of the original track, without the vocals.
Through reggae soundscape and the Jamaican Sound System, dub artists were able to creatively manipulate these dubbed out versions or remixes of songs. These dub remixes were heavily influenced with effects, vocal samples , and were essential to the progression of dub. The remixes, often referred to as versions were the B-sides of a specific record. The dub musician would add in dramatic pauses and breakdowns in the version to make the song have a dub influence and feel.
The artists who were using the sound system to create dub tracks would refer to their creation of remixes of certain records versioning. In the setting of a sound system, versions allow for more vocal improvisation and expressions from the deejay.
These remixes or versions would not have been possible without the Jamaican sound system and its progression over the years.
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