Drum ‘N’ Bass is a dance music subgenres that evolved from the tangled web of the UK’s underground rave scene in the 1980s and ‘90s, with roots in the broader genre of Breakbeat. Drum & Bass combines heavy synthesized bass lines with vocal samples from soul and reggae records to create an bold, energetic, and supremely danceable wall of sound. In this article and accompanying video, artist and producer Protostar will show you how to record a DnB track in Reason 10.
The defining element of Drum & Bass is its signature rhythm: it starts with the kick drum on beat 1, a snare hit on beat 2, a syncopated kick just after beat 3 on the “and,” and a final snare on beat 4. This core one-two-and-four pattern forms the heart of the groove and is almost never deviated from. Finally, it needs to be fast—tempos usually range between 160 and 180 BPM.
Load a drum loop into Dr. Octo Rex (anything with “DnB” in the name should suffice) and use the beatmaking tools in Reason 10 to make it your own. Hit the “Copy Loop to Track” button to create a MIDI track from your loop, or create your own pattern in Drum Sequencer—and use it to trigger dance sounds from Umpf Club Drums, one-shot samples from ReDrum, synthesized and acoustic drums from Kong, or all of the above. Attack and decay controls come in handy for fine-tuning stacked kicks and snares: try using just the attack from one sound, the body of another, and the decay tail of a third. Then sprinkle in a variety of loops, extra hits, and dub-like reverb and delay to keep the rhythm interesting.
The addition of a pounding synth bass serves a melodic role, and is what sets DnB apart from other dance genres. Sine and Triangle waves are great for a nice round bottom, squares and saw waves add edgy harmonics, and the right wavetable or granular patch can really get things sounding nasty. All of this is possible with Europa and Thor’s multiple oscillators, but stacking several synths in a Combinator will create a thick, complex sound. Flip the rack around and experiment with patching various filters and envelopes to the Synchronous Effects Modulator and Pulsar Dual LFO devices to give the bass some movement.
Now it’s time to add some extra flavor with samples. Samples are a staple of DnB (typically vocal phrases lifted from old soul and reggae records), and serve to break up the monotony of a constantly pounding beat. Load samples into Dr. Octo Rex or record your own, then slice them up or stretch the possibilities with the Grain Sample Manipulator. Almost any other sound can be added to the mix to give it character—soft dreamy pads, sampled keyboards, erratic zaps and sweeps, or just plain old noise.
Now that you’ve learned how to make a Drum & Bass track in Reason 10, it’s time to “break” it down for yourself!