A look at dubtechno chords and stabs

The creation of chords and stabs remains one of the most frequently asked questions on music production forums. Specificly about those floating-around-your-head chords as heard in nowadays dubstep, dubtechno and related genres. The building blocks are actually quite basic stuff, nevertheless many people think way too complex. Let’s have a look.

This tutorial is made in Ableton Live and using most of its internal resources unless otherwise specified.

Ingredients:

– A basic polyphonic synth (TAL U-NO 62 VSTi)
– Delay (Ableton Ping Pong Delay)
– Reverb (Ableton Reverb)
– Chorus (Ableton Chorus)
– EQ & Compressor (Ableton EQ8 & Compressor)

Getting started

Before tweaking the synth and setting up the effects, a few word about chords and scales. Most music styles have their own mood and character usually derived from scales that the artists use. The most prominent one in dub-related genres is the minor scale (for those not firm with scales, here’s a very handy tool for learning them). While many of you may slap their heads shouting “OBVIOUS!” there are lots of artists that go mad trying to find the right sound by browsing through their synths, ending up in forums asking for hints on producing certain sounds, because they weren’t lucky. It’s due to the fact that very, very often, the biggest sounds are made up from most easiest synth-presets played the right way.

The synth sound

TAL U-NO 62 ui

TAL U-NO-62 just got enough features to get going

So, the sound we’re after is a short and stabby one, usually with fast attacking volume and filter envelope as well as short decay and release. In order to put the filter envelope in charge it’s necessary to take the filter cutoff down and raise the filter envelope amount to its max. The synth i’m using for this is the free TAL Uno-62. As you can hear it doesn’t sound fancy at all, but as soon as you play for example a C-minor chord from the lower octaves, the dubish mood is already in place.

Adding effects

The chorus comes in first to widen the signal and breathe some life into the rather static sound. I’ll be using Live’s internal one without tweaking it much and place the EQ Eight directly behind it. The equalizer is used to shape the sound rather? than using it to fit into the mix. The first band lowers the bass, the second notches the mid frequencies slightly and the third band stresses the highs.

2

Delay – i’m using Live’s Ping Pong Delay for this using 1/6th delay time and leave it alone for the moment. Next up is the reverb which needs some tweaking. We’re looking for a long decayed verb with a broad and lush sound. Live’s internal one is fine again, the one you’re using should have options for filtering the input signal, additional controlover the diffusion damping would be handy as well.

3

The reverb produces the foundation for the soundlayer which carries the delay effect, thus the input filtering should take care about the high frequencies and cut them off. If your reverb of choice doesn’t have have parameters for this you can also put it on a send channel and place a in front of it. That’ll do the job as well.

Last not least insert a compressor to glue the sound and effects together, i’m proceeding with Live’s internal one. Lower the threshold to around 7db below the peak of the incoming signal to give it some beef to work with. Second important setting is the release, since it’s a long decaying sound we’re dealing with it should be rather long in order to prevent thumping. Ratio of 1:3 (or in Live 3.00) is fine. You can alter the attack setting to your liking, got it at ~30ms here to stress the initial sound a bit more. It’s rather subtle at first but as soon as you’re playing around with the effects it’s necessary to have a compressor that keeps the effects in place.

4

Above technique could be used to create for example stuff like this:

but it’s also a solid foundation for any kind of chord and stab found in electronic dance music. As far as the story goes, this is a really basic and easy way to get started.

Here’s an Ableton Live project file with a few variations of above created sound. The free loops & samplepack is available as well.

Like what you found? Support me on Soundcloud!

https://soundcloud.com/ronnypries/mix-ronny-pries-spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child

Cheers
Ronny


COMMENTS

  • Ville

    January 16, 2017

    Reply

    The is no Ableton Live project file. The link is broken :(

  • craig

    August 25, 2016

    Reply

    Hi Ronny,
    just stumbled upon this article…you wouldn’t still have the ableton file for download at all?
    Cheers
    Craig

    • Chens

      September 8, 2016

      Reply

      Hello, how I can download the project file ? thank yoU !

  • Julian

    July 27, 2016

    Reply

    Hello Ronny Im having trouble finding a link to download the TAL Uno-62. would you happen to know where i can find an updated link?

    Thank you,

    JV

  • fitn

    July 9, 2012

    Reply

    another tutorials for make dubtechno chords with ableton
    http://www.ableton.com/blog/2012/03/06/make-dub-techno-chords-operator-and-lives-effects

  • […] Dubtechno chords and stabs how to for all our friends !! Posted on August 27, 2011 by webmaster via ronnypries.de […]

  • beatpoet

    August 4, 2011

    Reply

    great infos! thanks alot!

    cant get enough of those deep chords :D

  • Ronny

    May 30, 2011

    Reply

    Hey PJ, not sure if you’re still reading here but could you point me towards the sound you were talking about? I’d love to help you out, if you’re still interested that is…

  • Chris

    April 17, 2011

    Reply

    Thanks

  • PJ

    February 26, 2011

    Reply

    Only just stumbled across your site. Wish I had found it earlier, as this is an excellent and helpful little tutorial!

    I would echo the other comments and call for more tutorials. It would be great if you could elaborate on this topic or perhaps start on some other musical styles of your choosing, as I think you have good taste in music!

    I’d call for more sample packs too, as the one provided is fantastic.

    One question though; could you cover in more detail how you achieved the sound in the last audio demo (compression techniques etc.)? I really like this kind of sound. However, I do not have ableton just yet, so I don’t know if this is covered in the project file. Did you use some of the other plugins mentioned in your website on that short track? Could you explain how you created the loops as well? Maybe you still have the loops used in the last example? I could only find one similar in the loop pack : – (

    Any help much appreciated!

    Best, PJ.

    P.S. Sorry for such a lengthy response :-) maybe I should have e-mailed this to you..

  • louis fleet

    February 17, 2011

    Reply

    Hi Guys

    I have recently started a blog on electronic music production and came across this page in my research for my most recent post which is all about the stab in electronic music, in fact i directly borrowed some of ronny’s excellent techniques in one of my videos.

    please check out the posting:
    http://fleetmusic.blogspot.com/2011/01/stab-in-electronic-music.html

    and the blog in general

    http://www.fleetmusic.blogspot.com/

    here is some general blurb that explains the core ideas about the blog a bit more:

    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    I just wanted to announce the fact that I have recently set up a new blog that focuses on the production of electronic music, using ableton and its built in synths and effects.

    http://www.fleetmusic.blogspot.com/

    It’s called “Fleet Music”, the strap line is “a blog that takes a critical and instructive look at electronic music production”, what this essentially means is that I will be focusing on current themes within house and techno and investigating the relevant production techniques.

    Synthesis is the main focus of the blog but as I said previously there is a ‘critical’ aspect to the blog, this is not be confused with bitchy, but instead the idea is that all the video postings and other content is focused on a ‘theme’. This approach can be evidenced in my most recent post which is all about the ‘stab’ in electronic music. http://fleetmusic.blogspot.com/2011/01/stab-in-electronic-music.html

    I would really appreciate if you could check it out and even better post up the link and tell other ableton users.

    I have youtube and vimeo channels and also a soundcloud page where I upload files for download.

    cheers

    louis


    http://www.fleetmusic.blogspot.com/
    http://soundcloud.com/louis-fleet
    http://www.youtube.com/user/fleetmusicblog
    http://twitter.com/#!/louisfleetmusic
    http://vimeo.com/fleetmusic/videos

  • Marcello

    November 14, 2010

    Reply

    Great stuff thanks for the tutorials and the presets, it’s great!

  • Ed

    February 22, 2010

    Reply

    Would you be able to save your effects as a rack and upload it? It’d be cool if I could just chuck in your effects and play around with different synths until I got the dubbed out sound I wanted.

    • Ronny

      February 22, 2010

      Reply

      Check these out: http://www.ronnypries.de/sounds/dubstabs.zip

      Included are the one i described here and 3 variations with different of Live’s internal effects.It’s quite basic stuff. You need Tal-Uno-62 for those as well.

    • Ed

      February 24, 2010

      Reply

      Wicked thanks for uploading these. My only problem is that I’m still on 7 so can’t seem to open them in Ableton!

      • Marco

        March 16, 2010

        Hy, Thanks but I can not open the files with Live 8.0.4.

      • Ronny

        March 16, 2010

        Oh, you can’t? Ugly. Can anyone open them?

      • Marco

        March 17, 2010

        Hy Ronny, first of thanks for taking the time to explain production technics!
        I ve tried to open the file but there is an error message saying that “the project has been saved with a newest version of the software and so it is not able to open it”??? Strange… :-(( I ll try later tonight with Abletong 7. I ve another pc with still Version 7.
        Would be great to open the files since I m interested in this kind of sound. However thanks again for your effort and time!

      • Ronny

        March 17, 2010

        I saved them with Live 8.1.1 – does this have some backwards compability issues?

      • Marco

        March 17, 2010

        Ciao Ronny, thanks for replying! Yes probably some compatibility problem. I ll have to upgrade then.. I usually use more Logic. Here my site with some dubbish tracks I produce: http://marcobenatti.bandcamp.com/
        Ciao and thanks

      • Marco

        March 22, 2010

        Hy Ronny. Yes the file can be opened only with version 8.1.1. It is also written in the ableton upgrade guidline that projects saved with 8.1.1 can not be opened in previous version. Ciao ciao and thanks!

      • Ronny

        March 22, 2010

        Shizzle, i didn’t read that before upgrading otherwise i would have saved with an earlier version.?

      • chens

        September 8, 2016

        Hello friend, please can you send me the presets ? or project please ? thank you. decksfx@hotmail.com

  • Westy

    February 18, 2010

    Reply

    thanks mate, this is great

  • koen

    February 9, 2010

    Reply

    Dude, your my f* hero!!!! I already spend months trying to make descent dub sounds for making quality dub techno. I searched the internet for VST plug ins with standard starting dub chords, because i found it realy hard to make myself. Never new what you did explain in the first alinea. I can use many sounds now i noticed in my other vst’s as well wich sound better now also with these effects on it. I can’t play notes, thats my weakness, but i have a good ear for it, so you realy helped me to get a step further on. I realy aprecciate your time for making this blog and hope you will make some more. (maybe how to make a good subbass, or making good subkicks wich also is a big troubleshooter for me, taht would be awesome! ;) hehe
    I will keep looking forward to your blog and new stuff to come. Thanks a lot! Gr Koen

    • Ronny

      February 9, 2010

      Reply

      You’re welcome! Spread the word =)

      Best,
      Ronny


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