and Bass - Life in the Fast Lane
An Overview of Drum and Bass
on any hyperlinks to listen.)
may have already heard Drum and Bass and never even realized it.
Aside from being utilized in numerous commercials and T.V. shows, elements
of Drum and Bass have appeared in songs by such artists as David Bowie,
Outkast, and Linkin Park. Drum and Bass, also known as DNB, drum n bass,
and jungle, is a form of electronic dance music (often called electronica
or mislabeled as simply "techno" music) that employs a break-beat
instead of the 4/4 beat found in house and trance. The beats per minute,
or BPM, are significantly faster ranging between 160-180 BPM. BPM is
a unit of measure for the tempo of a song with 60 BPM equating to one
beat every second. DNB often borrows samples from movies and television
or even other styles of music and blends them together creating an entirely
new perspective. The spectrum of the sound of DNB is immense varying
from atmospheric to soulful to heavy and pounding. It is often compared
to jazz in the sense that the listener can experience an assortment
of diverse sounds all falling under the umbrella of one musical genre.
DNB is usually found pressed onto a 12" piece of vinyl with the
record containing one to four tracks. These records are mixed by DJs
in clubs and can sometimes be accompanied by an M.C. who rhymes over
the tracks much like a hip-hop artist. The DNB faithful often refer
to themselves as junglists, much the same way as Grateful Dead fans
deem themselves Dead Heads, and are very passionate about the music.
DNB is a rapidly progressing style of music with sounds becoming old
and outdated in a relatively short amount of time. Most DNB songs have
a shelf life of a year or less before being considered stale.
to hear a Drum n Bass beat (requires Real Player)
The beginnings of DNB can be traced back to the 1980's Acid House
music scene in the United Kingdom. The earliest form of DNB was an offshoot
of Acid House called Breakbeat Hardcore. As Breakbeat Hardcore developed,
a new sound featuring more bass heavy and up-tempo qualities emerged
and started to develop a separate identity. It was the early 90's when
this new sound began to permeate the London club scene pioneered by
DJs Fabio and Grooverider. As DNB continued to grow and mutate, it continued
to separate into new sub-genres. In 1995, LTJ Bukem established a sound
that while preserving the up-tempo break-beat percussion focused on
atmospheric qualities and warm, deep bass lines. This new form was dubbed
Intelligent DNB. Other styles also sprang up. One approach taking on
an urban quality with a stripped down, harder percussive style was designated
Hardstep. Another with more hip-hop influenced traits was called Jump-Up.
By 1996, Hardstep and Jump-Up dominated the club scene; while, Intelligent
DNB remained more for the at-home listener. Another progression occurred
in 1997 when two more sub-genres surfaced. A funky, double bass line
sound was being championed by Roni Size at the same time as a new darker,
more technical oriented style called Techstep blossomed. Its ominous
or sci-fi related themes and cold, intricate percussion with dark, powerful
bass lines distinguished Techstep from the other forms of DNB. By the
conclusion of the 1990's, the marketable charm of artists such as Roni
Size diminished and Techstep reigned in the club scene. However at the
turn of the century, a revival transpired to bring back the original
DNB sounds and many classic tracks were remixed and re-introduced to
the DNB community. Over the years, the genre of DNB has continued to
undergo numerous transformations thus making it one of the most diverse
styles of music. DNB is played all over the world today but is still
considered to be at its most progressive and cutting edge in the U.K.
where it got its start.
The break-beat is one of the most defining aspects of DNB. This
rhythm broken down to its basic components consists of using a kick
drum sound and a snare with the beats being played on the 1, 3, 6, and
7 half beats, alternating between the kick and the snare. The majority
of the break-beats used in DNB emanate from samples of old funk/soul
songs. Easily the most sampled break-beat in both DNB and hip-hop is
the "Funky Drummer" break. This break originates from the
breakdown played by drummer Clyde Stubblefield in James Brown's song
Funky Drummer. Perhaps the second most used break-beat comes from 60's
funk group the Winston's drummer G.C. Coleman and the song Amen Brother.
This break is called the "Amen" break and utilizes a strong
snare sound combined with loud cymbal crashes. The "Apache"
break comes from The Incredible Bongo Band's 70's hit Apache. This break
is heavy with bongo percussion and is used as a change up during a DNB
song. All these samples taken from classic songs are sped up around
170 BPM to fit in DNB tracks. Combining these classic break samples
has created some DNB break-beats. Dom & Roland fashioned the "Tramen"
or "Firefight" break by molding together the "Amen"
break with a break from James Brown's Tighten Up. While DNB relies heavily
on these classic samples, many producers create their own drum loops
by using a mixture of live drummers and over-laid single shot drum samples.
Click to hear the "Funky Drummer" breakbeat .wav file
While the majority of DNB is produced in home studios and then
mixed live at clubs by DJs, there are several artists who choose to
make their DNB by scratch. The most prestigious live artist in DNB right
now is Chris Polglase, also known as The Jungle Drummer. He is widely
acknowledged as one of the best drummers in the |U.K. and simply the
best in DNB. Polglase started out by teaching himself to drum the hip-hop
and DNB tunes that he grew up on. When playing DNB, Polglase is normally
found drumming up around 180 BPM with his arms almost being a blur.
In May of 2003, Polglase collaborated with producer Tony Coleman, also
known as DJ London Elektricity, on his Billion Dollar Gravy LP record.
Late one night during a recording session, they received a phone call
to play live at BBC's Maida Vale Studios for Fabio and Grooverider and
the London Elektricity live show was born. It was the first 100% live
DNB show. When not playing with London Elektricity, Polglase has fashioned
his own live show w/ DJ L Double called The DJ vs. The Drummer. Polglase
drums along while L Double spins DNB creating a unique live experience.
Along with those two shows, Polglase was invited to tour Europe with
hip-hop star Timbaland in the summer of 2004. The success of London
Elektricity prompted other live DNB acts to emerge. Scassa Monakee is
a British band that plays live DNB. They employ a traditional line-up
with vocals, guitar, synthesizers, and drums. For more info, you can
check out their web page at http://www.smsq.co.uk.
Cosm, from Salt Lake City, is another live DNB group featuring drummer
Daniel Day performing live jungle break-beats which he terms "Organic
Breaks" This term refers to the group's sound of the DNB dance
style combined with Day's acoustic live drums. More information about
Cosm can be found at their website: http://www.cosmbreaks.com.
It is hard to compress an entire musical genre into a few short paragraphs,
but hopefully this article has provided a good overview of Drum and
Bass. If you are interested in learning more about DNB, the best places
to start are your local CD and record shops. Most big record shops have
a section for Electronic Dance Music and DNB. If you are unsure of where
to start, you should check out works by any of these popular DNB artists:
Dara; Deiselboy; Aphrodite; Roni Size; Bad Company; LTJ Bukem; Marcus
Intalex; Fabio and Grooverider; Goldie; Andy C; AK1200; DJ Rap; Dom
& Roland, John B, DJ Craze, or Danny Tha Wildchild. There are many,
many more DNB artists out there but this list should provide a good
jumping off point. Keep in mind that DNB is a form of dance music and
meant to be played at clubs for the most part. That being said, it is
not a style of music that everyone will enjoy. Just approach it with
an open mind and make your own decisions about it. The drum work found
in the songs should be interesting to most drummers out there. So check
out some of the links provided, pick up a Drum and Bass CD, and dive
headfirst in. It will definitely be one of the most interesting explorations
into music you may ever take.
2005, Drum Bum
Broyer is a freelance DJ from Atlanta, GA. Currently living
he specializes in electronic music which incorporates breakbeats, and
drum 'n bass.
Visit his website at www.djrican.com
or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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