For this blog post, I will be analysing and comparing the technical and creative aspects of two songs, both representing different styles of dubstep. This will help me with my major project as one aspect of it involves producing a dubstep song. And so I will be comparing “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex (2010), a typical modern dubstep (or “brostep”) song against “Midnight Request Line” by Skream (2005), an example of the more classic style dubstep. Here are the links to these tracks below.
“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” – Skrillex
“Midnight Request Line” – Skream
“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” (SMNS) predominantly relies on vicious “growl” basses that are synthesized through using the VSTs FM8 and Massive and are heavily distorted through effects plugins such as iZotope Trash 2 and Ohmicide (Computer Music Specials, 2011). The bass is usually the result of FM or additive synthesis (Musictech.net 2014). The wobbling sound of this bass is the result of an LFO filter modulating the cutoff frequency of a low-pass filter (Derrico, 2014). The aggression of this sound is also a result of the bass being slightly out of tune (Musictech.net, 2014). From what I can hear, the bass’ harshness is a result of boosting the mid-range frequencies of the sound. The harsh timbre of the bass in conjunction with distortion results in a hard hitting sound which is prominent in this genre. Sub basses are used but they are more to compliment the mid-range bass and make it fatter. Also in the song, vocal chops are used, these are recorded by Skrillex himself and are chopped up through Melodyne (Computer Music Specials, 2011)
Drums are typically sampled. The kick drum usually has a boost around the 100Hz for maximum punch and another boost around 5kHz to give it some clarity (Talbott, 2014). Snares have a boost around the 200Hz region (usually the sample already has the boost). and are layered with a clap to give it some high end (Talbott, 2014). As a result, this song and its style are more for an audience who prefer loud and heavy music that they want to feel.
Conversely, “Midnight Request Line” and its genre rely on a dark sub bass as well the atmospherics as well as the syncopated drum beats. The atmospherics in particular add space and tension to the mix (Jenkins, 2010). While SMNS’ lead growl is very harsh, this song has more of a dark, ominous nature. Lots of delay (in particular slap delay) and reverb can be heard on the arps and some percussion, and there are also some random sound effects. The sub bass (also in SMNS) is composed of a simple sine wave. It’s just that the sub bass in this track is the main focus and to avoid dominating the track, is less distorted. The drums are less fat, and are sometimes pitched down to give them an “edgy quality” (Computer Music, 2008). The beat is also more complex and has a bit more of a swing, this is mostly the result of off-beat hi-hats (Computer Music, 2008; Jenkins, 2010). There’s also not much going on so as to avoid confusing the audience i.e. no vocal chops. Hence, while SMSN is more for the “loud” audiences, “Midnight Request Line” is more for the ravers who prefer a less intense but more atmospheric and darker sound.
Both these tracks have similar tempos and both involve complex production techniques. However the choice of instruments and samples as well as the use of processing result in two different moods and styles, both which cater strongly to their intended audience.
Computer Music (2008). 14 dubstep production tips. Retrieved 23 June 2016, from http://www.musicradar.com/tuition/tech/14-dubstep-production-tips-178489
Computer Music Specials (2011). Interview: Skrillex on Ableton Live, plug-ins, production and more. Retrieved 21 June, 2016, from http://musicradar.com/news/tech/interview-skrillex-on-ableton-live-plug-ins-production-and-more-510973
Derrico, M. (2014). Going Hard: Bassweight, Sonic Warfare, & the “Brostep” Aesthetic. Retrieved 21 June, 2016, from https://soundstudiesblog.com/2014/01/23/going-hard-bassweight-sonic-warfare-the-brostep-aesthetic/
Musictech.net (2014). The Ultimate Guide to Producing Dirty Dubstep – Part One. Retrieved 22 June, 2016, from http://www.musictech.net/2014/10/dirty-dubstep-1/
Jenkins, P. (2010). Dubstep Basics: An Introduction to Dubstep Production. Retrieved 22 June, 2016, from http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/dubstep-basics
Talbott, R. (2014). Dubstep Drums: Cubase Tips and Techniques. Retrieved 22 June, 2016, from http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/dubstep-drums