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Making DUB With Computers - The Turotial

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In this section you can find things that will assist you in your own computer-based musical productions. There's a lot of original Dubroom material which you can use, but also third party material. There's much more than "just" sampled material, as you can find some little pieces of software, presets and other things as well. Everything in this section is, like all stuff in the Dubroom by the way, legal and -a lot of times- absolutely free of charge. Definitely worth a visit, for novice to veteran.




Making Dub With Computers Main Page

General Midi Drum List BPM - Delay Times List


Some basic guidelines for creating a horn theme are given in the previous chapter. 


Blaminack at Dubroom Net Label

We have a tutorial by Blaminack on how to build your own Kete hand drum and use the original samples (ReFill) (Wav) from the very same in this tutorial. Feel free to download the samples for your own productions.


Some more percussion samples for you to use: samples from Messian Dread playing his hand made conga (flams, rolls, Nyabinghy style, one shots) (ReFill) (Wav). Feel free to download the samples for your own productions.


Even more percussion samples for you to use: all kinds of percussion one shots, used for this tutorial as well (ReFill) (Wav). Feel free to download the samples for your own productions.


Dubroom Percussin 2014 Part 1

Get some ideas with these 16 loops of Percussion Effects  (ReFill) (Wav). Feel free to download the loops for your own productions.


CLICK HERE to download the demo file of the track we've made thus far in this tutorial. 


We've come all the way to our last addition to our very basic Reggae instrumental, where we're adding the final touch. First, we're going to add percussion and that's before we'll take a look and listen to the clavinet and something I have come to call "pucking guitar". 


Roughly, you can divide the percussion in Reggae in two categories: the (hand) drums and, yes, well, let's call them "effects" for lack of a better term. Both categories have their distinct approach of the rhythm, both categories add their own distinct vibe to the rhythm as well. Sometimes, you want to emphasize one category, while at other times you might want to make a combination. All these variations do actually give a totally different sound and feel to the rhythm and this is something one should be aware of, in my humble perception. After all, you really don't play a Nyabinghy rhythm over a love song unless you're ignorant or arrogant and you don't want to be that.

Reggae started in Jamaica, and the music has a lot of Caribbean elements. You'll find a lot of Latin percussion instruments like shakers, the guiro and what have you. Still, you can not approach Reggae Music as a Caribbean music only. This is because of Rastafari, and Rastafari focuses on Africa. Musically, this is clear in the percussion and especially in the hand drums category.

hand drums

The three main hand drums used in Reggae percussion must be the Conga's, Bongo's and the Kete. Especially the Kete drum is important, after all it's part of the drums used in that very particular Rhythm of Rastafari called Nyabinghy, covered earlier in this tutorial

Before anything else: what's really, really important to know about Reggae hand drum percussion is that it is first and foremost about the sound of the drum. Just imagine in yourself a bass and drum line. Just the bass and the drums. Then, you just hear one flam shot on a Kete. It's like the Rastaman enters the music with the sound of Africa. You don't have to be a Rasta to feel this, but Rasta is very much connected with Reggae Music and therefore it's not unwise to consider this rather essential musical piece of knowledge, even on a basic music-technological level.

Another thing that is kind of important is the rhythm that the hand drums play. Why? Well, check this first: Reggae is very much a music where togetherness or unity/Inity is perfectly illustrated in the music itself. Where the three brass players create a sound together, the riddim section does the same. By not doing too much, leaving room for the other instrument, the togetherness becomes a new sound. The hand drums add to the drum (the drum kit/drummer), playing around the rhythm that the drums play. Subtle, but present.

In a way, you can say that the rhythm of a Reggae hand drum percussion instrument presents the sound of the drums more than a specific rhythm. The sound of the hand drums, it's presence if you will, is more important than the rhythm itself. Yes, you can extract a few typical rhythms often used, but these rhythms only emphasize all the principal talk. The function of the hand drum in Reggae is to add the African Connection, the sound of Africa to a music that originated in Jamaica. 

Knowing and applying this knowledge leads to a genuine, authentic hand drum part in your Reggae track. Ignoring it can disable you from reaching the point where you can create your own Reggae hand drum percussion. Unless you know what you do and you want to create a Samba Band experience, ignoring all these principals I just mentioned can lead to just that, your Reggae sounding more like Samba. Bring on the tequila, or the sinsemillia?

Having been through that, let's continue to actually add a hand drum rhythm to the track we're working in. 


There's something else. When I started to write this tutorial, I used the General Midi Format and a SoundBlaster soundcard. I truly do not remember the exact times in which I wrote chapters like this one, but currently (September 2014) things like ports and channels are irrelevant with software titles like Reason and Ableton. That's why I am going to assume, that you know how to add percussion samples to your sequencer. If not, you can still use the conga samples from your standard General Midi Drum roll.

For this chapter in the tutorial, I'm going to use some samples created by online artist Blaminack. He builds his own Kete Drums and sells it to the well known Dub Act Twilight Circus, so you're talking about the real deal. When you want to go along with this tutorial Click HERE to download a zip with the Wave files or HERE for a Reason Refill containing the samples

Create the following pattern in your sequencer (note the sample names and the velocity!) (click to enlarge):

Click to Enlarge


Be sure to check the audio file as well. First you will hear the Kete rhythm, then silence, then the drums and the Kete together. Consider that there's use of 16th notes. Mind the particular filenames as well! Here's the drum and percussion again so you'll know what to build:


Got it? Now simply copy and paste the 2 bars of hand drum percussion rhythm until the end of the tune (click to enlarge).

Click to Enlarge

That's it?

Well, yes and no. 

Many percussion players I've seen in action trying to play along with a Reggae band have a tendency to go wild. To make variations all the time, resulting in a continual drum roll throughout the whole tune. That's not what we want. Remember, the goal is to add a sound, a vibe. When you over-do things, the percussion will no longer show it's "sound-strength", it will take over everything and that's not what you want. 

You can of course make variations, but know what you do. Listen again and again to especially Roots Reggae from the later 1970's. Do not try and get your ideas from Nyabinghy bands like Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus because these do not represent the standard way of Reggae. It's like taking Bob Marley's music as the standard of your average Reggae tune: you will never be able to dig the simplicity that really is the strength of Reggae more than anything else. And no, this is not dissing Ras Michael or Bob Marley: it is respecting the special position both have in the spectrum of Reggae Music. 

Freestyling can be done, too. You just need to know what you're doing. Take the principals I've just shared as some sort of guideline, it won't hurt you. Check out the You Tube Video below for a true freestyle champion: Burning Spear.


Conga solo Burning Spear

percussion effects

Next to the hand drums category, there's that other category which I call "percussion effects". I have no idea what else to call it, but it covers the whole range and spectrum of other percussion instruments. Especially South-American and African percussion instruments are used, but it's definitely not limited to that. Most common are shakers, scrapers, cowbells and woodblocks. Most should even be on your General Midi Drum piano roll.

Again, the message is: do not over-do things. It's even stronger for this category. Consider the following thoughts and tips, before we will actually construct some thing.

Sometimes, you need to dig through complexity in order to discover the simplicity. Sometimes, you need to come up with a rather complicated sounding definition to discover a principal thing. That's exactly what we're going to do right now and it's this: a definition of rhythm.

A rhythm is a repetition of one shots on an instrument during the course of several bars.

So, what am I saying here? I'll give a few examples. Imagine, one hit on a Cowbell between the second and third count on every second bar. Or a Cowbell shot on the first count of the first bar, then on the fifth, ninth, et cetera. Just this is already a rhythm. In fact, this is the kind of very basic interpretation of rhythm that will provide you with authentic Reggae percussion effects.

Basically, what you do is making a loop of eight bars, put one shot of any percussion on any one of the eight points (when you divide the measure into eight) in the second bar, and repeat that one shot in the fourth, sixth and eighth bar. When you do this, you will have factually created a percussion element that is, let's say, fully functional.

Is that all?

Well, no. But it's a start and building further on that start will not lead you to nonsensicalities. 

Now, load a shaker, woodblock and cowbell and make the following rhythm (4 bars), then copy-paste it throughout the entire track (click to enlarge):

Click to Enlarge


As you can hear in the audio example, when the percussion instruments and the drums come together, you will hear much more of a typical Reggae drum than if you would have left the drums like that.

To conclude this part about the Percussion Effect category, I'd like to leave you with some more general tips concerning specific percussion instruments.

  • The tambourine is often used to enhance the Hi Hat pattern. There are even drummers that have a tambourine attached on their Hi Hat stand.

  • Use one shot instruments like the jingle bells and Vibraslap just once or twice, or mix them really soft in the audio mix (oh, wait, we're still in the midi phase).

  • Try putting a woodblock at two places in a bar, and repeat the same thing every two bars. You will have de facto constructed a rhythm.

Remember, percussion is an important element in Reggae Music. Do not over-do it!


Click to Enlarge
click to enlarge (Source: Wikipedia)

I'm going to contradict myself. In a previous paragraph I told you to not take Bob Marley's music as the standard for your average Reggae tune, and now I'm going to propose an instrument that was typical for the sound that Bob Marley created. Remember, he used the Reggae rhythm and added all kinds of western flavors on top of it like sliding guitars and blues organs and what have you. There's a very interesting documentary about it called "Catch a Fire". 

One of the instruments often used in Bob Marley's music is the clavinet (see picture). You could call it an instrumental percussion instrument, the way it is used in Reggae Music. Mind you, I know a lot more about drums and bass then I know about keyboards, chords and scales and the like, so this is all I know and I know that I know very, very little. But, again, let me bow down low and tell you what I know, to use a humble variation on a theme. Let me just tell you how I usually implement the clavinet and let me point out to where you can find and use midi files by Sure Dread, who knows so much more about these things. Studying the midi files is like a course in itself.

I see the clavinet keyboard divided in a left side (for the left hand) and a right side. The left hand plays a percussive, simplified variation of the bass line. The right hand plays two or three tones from the chords of the riddim section. It goes like this (click to enlarge):

Click to Enlarge


The audio fragment opens with drum, bass and percussion. After a while the clavinet (taken from Reason's Factory Sound Bank) drops in for eight bars and then you'll have 4 bars of drum bass and percussion again. When you did not yet know about the clavinet, I am sure you will recognize the sound nevertheless. No, not just in Bob Marley's music. And you know, echo's on a clavinet sound just crucial. More later.


Where the clavinet can be seen as a percussive element for the bass and the chords, the "pucking guitar" as I call it focuses stricktly on the bass. Roughly spoken: the guitarist plays the bass line along with the bass guitar, but with muted tones and with a plectrum. Sometimes, the "pucking" is changed with a hook or a lick, only to go back and accompany the bass. 

It's very hard to make a nice pucking guitar line with midi, but for this tutorial we'll do it. What you'll need is a muted guitar sound, copy the bass line in the piano roll for the guitar, and transpose it to an audible range. Transpose as in octaves, not tones. But you figured that one out. You can then add 16th or extra 8th notes in the line, so that the guitar is playing with the rhythm of the bass line. Like this (click to enlarge):

Click to Enlarge


Here, the audio fragment opens with the bass for 8 bars, followed by the bass and the pucking guitar for 8 bars. As you hear, 16th tones are added on ever 3rd count in every second bar. Seel below for a comparance between the bass line and the guitar line (click to enlarge): 

Click to Enlarge

And of course, like with the clavinet, the eight bars we made is copied and pasted. Yes, you can -and should- make variations here and there but that's something your own creativity will have to lead you. We're just constructing a riddim, not the next Reggae hit.

Congratulations! We've made a full instrumental Reggae track with midi!



This tutorial is in an unfinished stage, but it does contain the basics to get yourself equipped to use just about any DAW or even hardware studio in order to make DUB from Reggae Music in the authentic and original way. When you have a question or comment you'd like to see addressed, feel free to use the Dubroom Contact pages or post your words publicly on our Forum. Click here to read about the latest updates to this tutorial.


Yesus Kristos



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