How to make Dubstep like Skrillex

Dubstep artist Skrillex in all black and glasses. Producer, DJ, singer, songwriter and musician, Skrillex is the overnight sensation who actually started grinding hard on his music back in 2004, only to make it six years later, in 2010 with the release of “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. In the years sense, Skrillex’s music has cut across many genres within the electronic dance music sphere–dubstep, electro house, trap music, moombahton and post-hardcore. Here’s a technical breakdown of an easy way to emulate Skrillex’s sound.

Skrillex uses Ableton, so that’s where we’ll start. Start by creating your basic dubstep structure using a tempo of 140 BMP (beats per minute) with all tracks using the same minor key.

Use this basic dubstep structure to compose your song (we’ll make it sound like Skrillex in just a bit).

Intro Beat – usually 8 and 16 bars (roughly 15 to 30 seconds)
Intro Breakdown (build up) — usually 16 to 32 bars
Drop One – usually 32 bars
Mid Breakdown – usually 16 to 32 bars
Drop Two – usually 32 bars
Outro Beat – usually 16 bars

The easy way to create your intro is to use beat samples. The intro should be a simple beat track that makes it easy for a DJ to transition into.
Cymatics has some great beat samples to help get you on your way. Start by choosing your kick drum, bass drum, hi-hat and cymbal samples, loop them and then layer them. Using loops is a great alternative and time-saver to programming drums. Add additional drums and cymbals risers to your taste.

Next, add your build-up or breakdown. Again, Cymatics has a lot of good samples to choose from which will make creating your track an easier feat. You’ll want to layer these as well. Keep adding risers and make sure everything is still in the minor key you’ve chosen.

Then, create your drops. Find loops using the Serum synthesizer plugin that fit the mood you want to create. We like to use ARP Dolphino samples. Keep adding more synth layers until you get the sound you like.

Next, add your sub bass. Align it with your kick drum loops.

Then finish everything off with an outro—usually this is similar to the intro and is there to help the DJ transition out of your song and into the next.

Now that you’ve created a basic dubstep song, here’s how to get the Skrillex sound.

First, go back to Serum and find an ARP Dolphino loop that sounds like a cross between an alien and a monster. Add it to your build-up or breakdown.
Another Skrillex technique you’ll want to use is to add crowd sounds to the drop. For the buildup, try adding the sound of someone yelling something random. Stop the build-up for one measure and insert that random sample. But please, make sure the sample you choose fits your song’s theme and overall vibe. Remember, Skrillex uses vocals so you’ll want to do that as well.

Double check to make sure all your tracks are in the same minor key, create your automations and then run everything through Ozone mastering suite using a very wet mix.

Now, you want to come up with an intriguing file name to act as the title of your song. Save the song. You’re now ready to groove with your sounds-like Skrillex track.

Want to learn Ableton and create your own unique dubstep songs? Our mentor-led, one-on-one program, Recording Connection for Ableton Live Electronic Music Production, pairs you with a professional electronic music producer for in-industry instruction. With us you have the opportunity of getting a solid foundational understanding of the craft of making electronic music in Ableton. That way you’ll have what it takes to master the techniques that go into producing dubstep, electro house, trap music, post-hardcore, trip hop or moombahton. Whether you want to sound like Skrillex, Diplo, Zomboy, Knife Party or any other dubstep or EDM artist, with us you can get the knowledge and skills you need to develop your own edgy sound.


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