How to Write Drum and Bass
A basic guide to building a D&B tune. How to build the beats; how to build the bass.
Part 1Beats and Drums
1This is roughly the speed you want for DnB.
2e. Reason, Logic Audio) to 16. This means that each "beat" in the bar (i.e. where you count 1-2-3-4) will be broken into 4 pieces. Write a Bass (Kick) drum on the first and eleventh beat within the bar. If you are playing your tune, you will have a "syncopated" drum beat, i.e. the drums will not fall exactly on the "1-2-3-4-" we discussed earlier, but on the 1 and between the 3-4 beat. On its own this doesn't sound too rhythmic, so, we need something else.
3Add this beat to the fifth and thirteenth beat of the bar. This should give the familiar DnB "Bang---TickBang--Tick---" sound. This is the basic break beat for DnB (at this speed) and Hip Hop at lower speeds.
4For example, one could add hi-hats over the 1-3-5-7 etc(every other 16th beat) of the bar, or you could add a snare around the 7th beat, or a kick around the 14th beat. That's for you to discover- this is one of the areas where the creativity comes in...
5A song with one simple bar loop is going to get dull mighty fast, so you need to vary the drums a bit. However, this doesn't mean just change them bar after bar- this would lose the tune's structure (a vital ingredient in DnB). In order to add change, but keep structure, you must make your changes repeat over a "phrase". In this case a "phrase" is a sequence of 4, 16, or 32 bars. For basic hardstep a la Roni Size/ general club DnB, change the drums every bar for 4 bars, then repeat again. This should be complex enough to stop the song from sounding boring for now, although you will have to think of changing the drums again, later in the song (again in a 4-8-16-32-64-128 etc etc bar phrase--remember, it's how it sounds that matters, not how mathematical it is. These are guidelines, which, on occasion, are made to be broken, after you have mastered them.). If you want a more complex (as was once called "intelligent DnB") beat, you should aim to use a 16 bar progression, or if you are exceptional, 32 (listen to Paradox - a DJ's nightmare, brilliant music, impossible to mix).
6If your sequencer will let you, try editing the 'velocity' of some of the drum notes so they're not all the same loudness. Also, try to "break" the beat at the end of phrases by doing something different in the last bar of the drums - change the pattern somehow - dropping notes, adding notes, changing the note locations.
1The bass can either be arranged over a single bar or can be played over the progression/phrase (i.e. the 4/8/16 bar sequence mentioned above). One typically used bassline consists of two saw waves slightly detuned (several cents or so) from each other to create a wobble. Automate filtering and effects to give the bass a moving, animated sound.
2If you don't, you may confuse the beat of the song (although this can sound extremely good if done well).
3This will give it a bit of variety and give some "flow" to your music. All being well, you will have a functional, if not a little bland, drum and bass tune.
4This will give you a varied tune that should sound a little bit more complete.
5You can do this in a number of ways, you can use vocals and add that over what you already have done; you can use some atmospheric pads to make it sound a little modern and trance like. You can add traffic noises or speaking to give different atmospheres, etc. Really the sky (meaning your imagination) is the limit here. DnB is crazy experimental, so anything goes with sounds. Think bold. Think of your song as a story. What are you trying to get across? The bustle of the city? Angry drivers? Birds migrating south for winter? Whatever, just try to visualise what you are trying to capture in your mind and then add some effects that you think would suit that. You may find that it keeps you more focused on a "theme" for your song and helps with keeping you on track.