Getting into Dub & Reggae: Gear, Techniques and Practical Advice from Established Artists

Since the late 60’s Dub has developed way beyond what it grew from, Reggae Music, and to this day is still being pushed forward by numerous exciting new artists. We sat down with some of our favorites to talk gear.

By Aron PeakContributing Author

Article photo - Getting into Dub & Reggae: Gear, Techniques and Practical Advice from Established Artists

This article is part of Musicngear's "Getting into" series: Getting into Psytrance, Getting into Neo Soul/FunkGetting into House MusicGetting into DubstepGetting into SynthwaveGetting into Alternative/Indie Electronic and Getting into Synth-Pop with gear, techniques and practical advice from established artists.
 

Homegrown Sound

Article photo - Getting into Dub & Reggae: Gear, Techniques and Practical Advice from Established Artists

Homegrown Sound was founded in 2011 with a mission to spread good vibes with heavy reggae and dub riddims! With numerous appearances at festivals and parties around Europe, Homegrown Sound is increasingly focusing on its own production, resulting in a series of limited-edition vinyl dubplates and digital releases.

Musicngear: What gear do you use and recommend?

Allen & Heath GL3300 Mixer, Antelope Orion 32 audio interface. Effects are extensive: Benidub Spring-Amp2 + Spring Tank(mod 9ab2c1b) Boss RRV-10 reverb, TC Electronic M350, Vesta Kaza Dig-411, Boss RDD-10, Boss RE-20 Space Echo, Korg SDD1200, Boss PH-3 and a LukieRoots High pass filter. I also use Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII  for recording vocal and sometimes melodica (old Hohner Piano26) I use this all in combination with my midi keyboard, which is an Alesis v49.

In my rack I have Soundcraft Signature 12 mixer, Rigsmith PIF1 (1u preamp with just 1 input and output, hp/lp filter, kill switches, parametric EQ for bass and mid/top section), Boss de-200 and re-20 + inbuilt spring reverb from mixer. With this I can manipulate music better and add FX. The routing in this setup is CDJ+DJM Mixer->PIF1->Soundcraft (where fx section is) ->PA/sound system. I also incorporate Ableton live 10 along with plugin alliance. Some of my favorite plugins are Focusrite SC channel strip, BX Digital V3 EQ Twin tube by SPL. Some of the VST instruments I use are M1 synth by Korg, Analog Lab 4 by Arturia, Strobe, Rubadrum and Percufinga by Westfinga (drums and percussions tuned and recorded for reggae, amazing plugin).

When it comes to mixing dub, almost any mixer can be used, but I would pick something with at least 16 channels and a 4 band EQ with parametric on low mid and mids. 4 aux sends and groups are always useful too. Something similar can be seen on Soundcraft Signature 22MTK which has inbuilt audio interface. You hook up few FX, connect it to your DAW over USB and you are ready to dub.

If you are looking for top grade effects you can find them at Benidub, I use his Spring Amp I mentioned before; it’s the best spring reverb I tried. His delay is also amazing and worth checking.

Take it slow;

you don't need the best gear on your first step

What practical advice do you have for performing a live production?

Rest your ears! Always have a reference. Test your gear, especially FX - some funky stuff can happen!

Any useful tips for new artists, both in terms of generally starting out and also using gear in their sets?

Take it slow; you don't need the best gear on your first step. For mixing dub, you can use almost any mixer and there are really cheap effects for guitars you can use. You can always upgrade your setup (and you will), but be sure to have a proper audio interface, both for sending your stems from DAW to mixer and recording. For performance, always test your gear and don't be shy to ask for a proper soundcheck! Dub is improvisation so you can't really miss, just be creative.

Connect With Homegrown Sound
Facebook / Bandcamp / Soundcloud


Liam Monaghan

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Liam Monaghan is an open format DJ specialising in Reggae, Dancehall, Drum & Bass and Jungle. Producer and presenter of Reggae Roots & Bass Radio Podcast based in the UK.

What gear do you use and recommend?

Current set up is running Ableton 10 Live & an Akai Professional MPK Mini mk3 alongside Technics 1210’s, Pioneer Nexus 200’s and DJM900 Mixer.

Probably what I have to start with, it’s quite simple and straightforward. I'm not music at all and I put off production for years until individuals in my life literally forced me for my own good to crack on. Simple MIDI and a decent DAW is all that’s required – most of which have free 90 day trials or free access upon purchasing some relevant equipment – it can be done cheap!

Network like your life depends on it

What practical advice do you have for performing a live production?

Personally speaking from a DJ point of view, always carry back up USBs... if they corrupt, you're screwed. Always take your USBs out after your set and keep them on a lanyard! Always give someone their USBs back if they’ve left them. Don’t be that person. Always take your records home vinyl users! If you use Rekordbox, ensure everything’s manually analyzed and checked.

Any useful tips for new artists, both in terms of generally starting out and also using gear in their performances?

I came from more a journalist/radio presenting entrance into music but this was down to just not pushing myself to get on with it. People who asked me about DJ equipment last year now have record deals because they've applied themselves. Youtube is your best friend, also London Sound Academy is solid and affordable if like me, you need to be shown multiple times!

Obviously, practice makes perfect and listen to everything you can that’s not just what you want to make - inspiration comes from everywhere. Also network like your life depends on it!

Connect With Liam Monoghan
Instagram / Soundcloud


Genetik Dub

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Genetik Dub, a French Dub producer, specializing in heavyweight Stepper Dub music, but with deep, underground, wide-spreading musical roots. His time spent creating and playing music is heard in the psychedelic, dark, heavy-hitting vibe coming from the sound system during his LIVE Dub sets.

What gear do you use and recommend?

I’m mostly using Ableton live to create my tunes alongside a variety of kits. For creating, a simple midi keyboard is enough with pads for drums (Alesis VI49, Akai MPK 249, M-Audio, Novation, Korg...) and all kinds of real instruments to create a human feeling in the songs.

You need Virtual instruments in Ableton (VST) like Native Instruments Massive (good for the bass and synths), Kontakt libraries (good for skank, melodies, effects...) For the drums, I’m using mostly the Ableton drum rack or some drum machines (XLN Audio Addictive drums, Digikitz, ...)

After creating loops with drum divided in sections (kick, snare, hihats, percussions, bass, skank, melodies, voices) I use a midi controller (Novation XL, Akai APC 40) to mix these loops combined with external analog effects like reverb/delay (space echo, lexicon multi effect, kaos pad) pus some distortion for the bass (Line6 FM4 filter) and a bunch of little effects creating movement (Mooer Shim Verb, liquid, Boss overdrive, Thyme Bastl,...) I then “dub" it using a mixing table (Soundcraft Signature 12MTK, Soundcraft Signature 22MTK)

Be open for criticism, that's the best way to progress

What practical advice do you have for performing a live production?

Try to create simple loops and twist them as maximum.  Don't compress too much because you will kill the punch of your song.

Use EQs to separate the bass from everything (before 60hz-65hz cut everything with a high pass filter).

Use returns on Ableton or mixing table to add your effects – this works better than adding them directly onto the channel.

The production is yours to work on from your taste and your heart, so enjoy it as much as you can.

Any useful tips for new artists, both in terms of generally starting out and also using gear in their sets?

Try to produce simple songs at first, finish them and then upload them online (SoundCloud, Bandcamp, etc.) Be open for criticism, that's the best way to progress.  Tutorials are everywhere, even after 15 years I’m still finding some new techniques.  Practice, practice, practice...  Keep up the good sound!!!  Blessings. 

Watch Genetik Dub Live

Connect With Genetik Dub
FacebookSoundcloud


Roadtripper Soundsystem

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RoadTripper SoundSystem all started in 2011 when friends Vedran Simunec (Little Vex) and Luka Sertic (Roadtripper3000) met at a party. A great friendship immediately sparked and RoadTrippers (acoustic reggae, ska band) was formed. After years of performing at various festivals, clubs and restaurants, the idea emerged to create a soundsystem to bring the people of Sisak, Croatia together for the enjoyment of spreading of dub bass culture.

What gear do you use and recommend?

Mackie PROFX16v2 is a great analog mixer with a heavy all metal build. The preamps are world class and have very minimal distortion. Good all around mixer for the price. Amps: I'm using Powersoft K Series amps for driving the most important part of the sound system, the bass. Incredible efficiency is the game here. Also taking up 1U space for 18 KW of power and having state of the art DSP control shows that Powersoft is a brand to stick with for me.

There is no wrong way to make music

What practical advice do you have for performing a live production?

Try to be fresh, there are so many different pieces of equipment to use nowadays, be creative. I use a DIY dub siren from RDH Electronics. The delays for my siren and vocals are Boss DD-7 and DD6 guitar pedals.

Any useful tips for new artists, both in terms of generally starting out and also using gear in their sets?

There is no wrong way to make music. Many people are taking advantage of the great software that exists today such as Ableton and using it to mix their live music and add effects. For me personally, I like the feeling of having outboard effects that I can use. The more pedals and boxes the better! In the end, it all comes down to what speaks most to you.

Connect With Roadtripper Soundsystem
Facebook / Instagram


KESER

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Rasta Altitude Sound (R.A.S.) aka Keso Selecta is a young and ambitious reggae/roots/dub/dancehall selector and founder of Heshteg association, which organizes Fešta festival and RAW & Ram Jam Session club events. He is also one of the hosts and editor of Zion Radio Show.

What gear do you use and recommend?

For live session I usually use two turntables (usually Technics Sl-1210 MKII), two USB players (Pioneer CDJ or XDJ, any version with USB option), DJ mixer (I'm not picky about that, I have Numark M6 USB Black with 4 channels for myself, and on session usually I use Allen & Heath Xone 42 Black or Pioneer DJM any type), SE1 siren from Rigsmith with delay and mic (I prefer Shure's microphones).

Sometimes I use laptop with Traktor software, which is connected to Traktor Audio 6 soundcard. Then I have two separate channels that go into a Numark M6 DJ mixer.

For production, I’m working in Steinberg Cubase DAW software, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen soundcard and Soundcraft signature 16 mixer. I'm using 8 channels on Soundcraft for multitracks and two channels for delay and reverb. With time I want to gather some more effects so 16 channels is perfect for me, and Soundcraft have 4 AUX sends so I can plug in up to 4 external effects. Reverb is integrated in mixer (Lexicon Effects Engine), which is amazing, and there is no need to get external one.

Everybody is using something different. It really depends on what you want to do on your sessions, but some standard equipment like Technics 1210 MK2 turntable or any CDJ would be a great basic start.

Produce as much as you can

What practical advice do you have for performing a live production?

Produce as much as you can because then you’re always learning, and with some time your knowledge will improve and your tracks will be of better quality.

Any useful tips for new artists, both in terms of generally starting out and also using gear in their sets?

Know about the equipment you're working on! Read manuals and learn how to connect it yourself. Often you will come to a place where you need to do stuff on your own, and if you don't have any knowledge about the equipment you’ll have a bad time. Also experiment with stuff you have, practice a lot and sooner or later you will feel very comfortable on the DJ desk.

Watch Keser

Connect With KESER
Facebook


Shantea Controls

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Igor aka “Shantea Controls” is a selector based in Zagreb, Croatia who has been building custom MIDI controllers for over 10 years, as well as managing an open-source platform called OpenDeck to allow people to setup their performance the way they like it.

What gear do you use and recommend? 

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, Sennheiser HD-25, my Cardamom (a custom build MIDI controller with touchscreen) as well as my Dell XPS. My advice is to get the gear that gets in your way the least! The simpler the better – try to use minimal equipment to achieve the sound you are after

What practical advice do you have for performing a live production?

Keep it simple - get some keyboards and loop stations. The brand doesn’t matter but I do recommend the above – No need to overkill it when you are just starting out. Keep striving to improve and believe in yourself. Find your own style, just practice, practice, practice.

The simpler the better – try to use minimal equipment to achieve the sound you are after

Any useful tips for new artists, both in terms of generally starting out and also using gear in their sets?

You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on the best gear. Standard monitors, keyboard and general equipment will do just fine, save your resources! For example, you just need to learn how your monitors sound and you can then translate this into any situation. If you are going to spend some serious money however, there are some great shouts for high quality sound and samples. Serum and Nexus 2 as I mentioned before are great, but you should also look at a good EQ and a loudness meter, especially if you would like to master your tracks post performance/recording.

Connect With Shantea Controls
Website / Mixcloud / Github


MRADAR

Article photo - Getting into Dub & Reggae: Gear, Techniques and Practical Advice from Established Artists

Zagreb based DJ/Producer and record collector MRADAR offers his short but succinct advice on gear and live performances.

What gear do you use and recommend?

Steinberg Cubase, Slate Digital collection and Shure Microphones

Get in the studio with other artists to see how they have perfected their craft

What practical advice do you have for performing a live production?

Keep it simple, practice and make sure you rely on your friends for good honest advice.

Any useful tips for new artists, both in terms of generally starting out and also using gear in their sets?

Get in the studio with other artists to see how they have perfected their craft. You can always gain inspiration from others. The same goes for checking out other performances

About Aron Peak

A passionate writer with diverse interests, an eclectic range of styles and over 5 years of experience writing for the likes of global music festivals, market leading technology companies and national arts and lifestyle outlets. Aron is also a professional music producer and runs his own record label Bare Bones. Over the past 7 years he has had multiple releases that have been supported both in the UK and Internationally (e.g. BBC Radio 1, EDC Las Vegas etc), and has toured across the world as a DJ.

Contact Aron Peak at aron.peak@musicngear.com