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Drum&Bass Music Theory Notes
Attempting to define the genre.
Drum-n-Bass is a growing new genre, spawned from electronica, and influenced by industrial, trance, rave, hip hop and more. It's fast, heavy, intricate, and polyrythmic; intensely danceable and simultaneously massive and subtle. The following are some notes on typical technical elements of compositions in the genre.

Some typical but not required characteristics include:
  • Beats Per Minute in the 142-170 range. Higher speeds are usually described under other names such as speed garage and some two step. Lower speeds move into jungle and modern electro-jazz.
  • Usually no meaningful vocal track though some works may use human voice as a melodic element usually with non-sensical to the point of da-da-ist lyrics, sometimes cultural commentary.
  • Long to VERY melodic phrases, close to classical Beethoven/Bach/Mozart styles where the melody may meander through 64 measures or more with good support from mezzo layers. The melodic instrument may be extremely unconventional, such as scratches or warped time inverted samples, and is in many cases almost completely oblivious to the conventional 12 tone scale.
  • DEEP bass, often very much pushing the low frequency capacity of speakers. Primary bass channel may wander in the 20-30Hz range, and may not adhere to conventional scales. Structure is often comparable to classical basso-obstinato, having a strong and relentless quality, yet unhurried. Harmonic components of bass tracks are usually carefully tuned for a comforting low hum feeling with some crispness but no leading edge. Note changes are typically by glissando.
  • The various instrumental layers of a good drum&bass piece are complex, often programmed downto the waveform level. The layers may include large and small scale interlocking, such as Q/A, or foreshadowing.
  • Some musical catch-phrase may be occassionally repeated, sometimes morphed, sometimes deeply hidden. The element may be an inside joke or reminiscence, originating from other music or pop-culture known to the expected listener.
  • Filtering. Drum&Bass makes particular use of flange/phase/filter effects, sometimes in broad strokes, sometimes as breaks, sometimes on the whole mix, sometimes on parts of the mix, sometimes on individual tracks. Sometimes a melodic line itself is played through timbre rather than tone changes.
  • Finally FULLNESS. Both the individual tracks and the final work are usually thickened through state-of-the art flange and spacial enhancing audio effects.

Some labels defining the genre include:
TOV MUSIC
and RAM RECORDS
and artists such as Diesel Boy,
Roni Size and Goldie.
Earlier pioneers included
Prodigy,
LTJ Bukem,
Fluke,
Lords of Acid,
Lunatic Calm,
Front242,
Orbital,
Empirion
and Crystal Method.

2003.02.10