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According to Beatport’s Top 50

Music and its creation involves a give and take relationship with listeners. Creators are challenged to give listeners something new to stand out without being so distant from the general climate that they confuse the average festival attendee or casual listener. Beatport has become recognized as the proving grounds for electronic artists, so its in a producer’s interest to create music that makes sense on their charts A genre that just a couple years ago was groundbreaking and constantly innovating has now formed a conservative status quo, with easily spotted patterns.  Here’s what I mean….

92% Use A Wobble or Hard “Womp” Bass

When we think of what dubstep is by definition, its difficult to imagine a song that does not use one of the signature tropes of the genre. Dubstep makes no bones about being anything other than a bass driven experience, and producers have no reason to venture away from the womp. Tracks on the Beatport Top 50 that do not use the hard/wobble bass include “Machine Empire” by Kairo Kingdom, “Freeway” by Flux Pavilion, and “Bass Trap” by Tim Ismag and CVPELLV (which probably should have been filed under “Trap”).  40% of the songs included what I named a Sub Bass, which is barely audible and is more felt on the very bottom of the mix. Sometimes, it would be underneath the wobble bass (Skrillex and Alvin Risk’s Neon Mix of “Try It Out”),  or replace it altogether (mentioned above).


88% Use the Build/Drop Structure

We all know “The Drop” is the best part of a dubstep song. In order to get to the drop, the producer will normally take away elements of the track and gradually increase the intensity (most of the time without the bass or drums) and build to a climax. The result tends to be an exciting, chilling experience that gives dubstep fans what they can’t quite find elsewhere.

84% of Tracks Have A BPM between 140-145

For the laypeople out there, BPM is beats per minute aka the tempo (speed/pace) of the song. For the musically inclined, we already know this is a suggested tempo for dubstep production. FL Studio boots up preset at 140 BPM. Not surprising that an overwhelming majority (42 out of the top 50) work in this pace. If we stretched the boundaries to 138, we’d have one more entry…Seven Lions’ remix of Running to The Sea. Choosing a common BPM makes sets the bait for DJ’s to feel more comfortable playing the song, since it won’t disrupt the flow of the rest of their set and can fit in nicely with their other songs.

Significant outliers include “t, Apashe at 170 BPM, and Kai Wachi and Dictator feat. Phil Skby Pro7 clocking in at 165 BPM.



82% Use A Voice as An Effect

Slicing up a vocal and re-purposing it out of context for a dubstep record is an easy way to introduce a much needed human element in a genre that can get redundant, tired and computery without it. It normally gives the producer an easy way to name the song as well. This is not to confused with a “True Vocal” which would be an uninterrupted traditional rapped/sung verse, chorus or bridge. Only 36% of Beatport’s Top 50 included the True Vocal, which tends to be a critical component of any other popular, non EDM music.

68% Identify as A Minor Key

Dubstep tends to skew more toward a minor key. Minor tonalities tend to yield more drama, and dubstep tends to thrive on intensity. It’s no wonder that the majority of our favorite songs on Beatport can be identified as minor. The most popular key choice in the top 50 was G Minor, with 8 of the top 50 songs composed in this key.

Songs In Major include The Koven Remix of Move Into the Light. Not expecting everyone to be a music major, but the major key lends itself well to this vocal ballad, where the darker, more  dramatic minor key works well in tracks like Skrillex and Alvin Risks’s “Try It Out”.

The Most Unique Dubstep Song?

Beatport has been accused of fostering an environment of very similar songs, (especially in the electrohouse arena). To both stand out and move up the ranks on a ladder where audiences  come to hear something very particular can be a daunting task. The track that veers farthest away from the norm is Pro7’s “Dictator” featuring Phil Sik. While its not my cup of tea, I can respect the courage of choosing a much faster tempo and a metal influence in a world of imitators.


….And The Most Stereotypical?

By my definition, the track that epitomizes the state of dubstep best is the 12th Planet and Protohype’s collaboration “Like This.” The track is 140 BPM on the dot, uses the wobble bass, identifies as G Sharp Minor (the most popular key on the countdown), uses a voice as an effect, does not use a true vocal, builds/drops, and does not use an additional sub bass. While this may seem like a criticism, I really like the song. My only point is that the choices made during the song’s production were the safest overall when considering Beatport’s musical climate.


What should we be hearing more of and what are we tired of in dubstep?

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