BECOME A PRO PRODUCER with step-by-step music production courses from industry leading artists.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Dubstep, a genre of electronic dance music known for its profound bass and intricate rhythms, has dramatically transformed the music landscape. This genre, originating from the urban sprawls of South London, resonates through the dance floors with its unique blend of 2-step garage, reggae, drum and bass, and jungle. The essence of dubstep is not just in its bass but also in its ability to mold moods with mid-range frequencies and atmospheric sounds.

The Origins and Evolution of Dubstep

Dubstep began in the late 1990s as an underground movement. Initially, it was an offshoot of the broader genre known as UK garage. The early 2000s, characterized by minimalist soundscapes created by artists like El-B and Horsepower Productions, marked the first wave of traditional dubstep. This sound further evolved with the introduction of more aggressive and textured elements, leading to different sub-genres within dubstep, including “dirty dubstep” and “modern dubstep.”

Late 1990sDubstep emerges as an underground movement, initially as an offshoot of UK garage, in the urban sprawls of South London. Artists experiment with minimalist soundscapes and sparse rhythms.
Early 2000sArtists like El-B and Horsepower Productions pioneer the first wave of traditional dubstep, characterized by restrained basslines and atmospheric qualities.
Mid-2000sDubstep evolves with the introduction of more aggressive and textured elements. Different sub-genres such as “dirty dubstep” and “modern dubstep” begin to emerge, diversifying the genre.
Present DayDubstep continues to evolve, embracing new elements from various genres while maintaining its core characteristics. It remains a dynamic and influential genre in the electronic music landscape.
a dj is playing music on a dubstep party

Characteristics of Dubstep Music

Core Elements

Dubstep is fundamentally characterized by its sparse rhythmic patterns, predominantly featuring snare hits on the third beat of each bar, a sub-bass that fills the lower frequency range, and wobble bass that has become synonymous with the genre. Noteworthy is the importance of mid-range frequencies which craft the crunchy sounds and drops iconic to dubstep.

Sparse Rhythmic PatternsDubstep is known for its sparse rhythmic patterns, often featuring snare hits on the third beat of each bar. This minimalistic approach allows the bass and other elements to stand out.
Sub-BassA defining feature of dubstep is its sub-bass, which fills the lower frequency range. This deep, resonant bass creates the genre’s signature sound and is felt as much as it is heard.
Wobble BassWobble bass is a distinctive element of dubstep, characterized by its modulating basslines that create a sense of movement and intensity. This technique adds texture and depth to the music.
Mid-Range FrequenciesIn addition to its emphasis on bass, dubstep utilizes mid-range frequencies to craft crunchy sounds and drops iconic to the genre. These frequencies contribute to its dynamic and energetic nature.
Atmospheric SoundsDubstep incorporates atmospheric sounds, often creating a mood or setting through the use of ambient textures and effects. This adds depth and dimension to the music, enhancing its emotive impact.

Sub-genres of Dubstep

  1. Traditional Dubstep: Often purer with restrained basslines and atmospheric quality.
  2. Brostep: Popular in North America, noted for its aggressive, metal-esque sounds.
  3. Future Garage: Incorporates a more melodic and subtle approach, progressing from 2-step rhythms.

Key Artists and Influences in Dubstep

Artists like Skream, Benga, and Burial have been pivotal in shaping the early sounds of dubstep. However, the genre was catapulted into global recognition through the works of American producer Sonny Moore, known by his stage name Skrillex. His style, often classified under ‘brostep’, is credited with introducing dubstep to North Americans and integrating elements that catered to mosh pits and larger audiences.

SkreamSkream played a pivotal role in shaping the early sounds of dubstep, contributing to its development and popularity.
BengaBenga is another key figure in the early dubstep scene, known for his innovative productions and contributions to the genre.
BurialBurial’s atmospheric and emotive approach to dubstep has influenced many artists and added depth to the genre’s sonic landscape.
SkrillexSkrillex introduced dubstep to a global audience, particularly in North America, with his aggressive style and energetic performances.
El-BEl-B’s minimalist soundscapes in the early 2000s contributed to the development of traditional dubstep and influenced subsequent artists.
a dubstep music producer is making music

The Cultural Impact of Dubstep

Dubstep has not only influenced music but has permeated various elements of culture, including film music, advertisements, and even video games. Its appeal lies in its ability to adapt and resonate with a wide range of audiences, transforming not just tastes in music but also live performance norms with its emphasis on heavy bass and dramatic drop.

Dubstep vs. Brostep: Understanding the Differences

The evolution of dubstep in North America led to the birth of brostep, which some purists argue is a departure from what is considered ‘real dubstep.’ The primary difference lies in the sonic intensity and production style — brostep features more aggressive, distorted, and metal-esque aggression compared to the subtler, rhythm-focused UK counterpart.

Sound IntensityTypically features subtler, rhythm-focused beats.Characterized by more aggressive, distorted, and intense sounds.
Production StyleEmphasizes minimalistic soundscapes and atmospheric effects.Utilizes heavier production techniques with emphasis on bass drops.
Sonic CharacteristicsKnown for its deep, resonant sub-bass and wobble basslines.Features exaggerated bass drops and metallic-sounding elements.
Geographic InfluenceOriginated in South London and evolved from UK garage.Emerged in North America, drawing influence from metal and dubstep.
Audience PreferenceAppeals to fans of underground electronic music and UK sounds.Popular among audiences seeking high-energy, aggressive music.
What Is Dubstep? Video

How to Appreciate Dubstep as a Genre of Music

Appreciating dubstep involves understanding its roots and the craftsmanship behind its sound designs and production. Listening to a range of sub-genres from different periods can provide a fuller picture of its evolution and diversity. Additionally, attending live performances can showcase how dubstep influences and energizes the crowd, making it a unique live music experience.

a dubstep producer making music in studio

Conclusion: The Future of Dubstep

As dubstep continues to evolve, it embraces new elements from various genres, indicating its resilient and adaptive nature. The future of dubstep seems promising, with continual innovation and fusion, ensuring its place on the global music stage. Engage with this dynamic genre, explore its layers, and perhaps, you’ll find your rhythm in its complex beats.


What distinguishes dubstep from other genres of electronic music?

Dubstep is characterized by its profound bass, sparse rhythmic patterns, and wobble bass. It also incorporates elements from 2-step garage, reggae, drum and bass, and jungle, giving it a unique blend of sounds not found in other electronic genres.

Who are some key artists that have shaped the dubstep genre?

Pivotal artists include Skream, Benga, Burial, and Skrillex. Skream and Benga contributed to the early sounds of dubstep, while Burial added atmospheric qualities. Skrillex, with his aggressive style, introduced dubstep to North America, popularizing it on a global scale.

What are the main sub-genres of dubstep?

Traditional dubstep features restrained basslines and atmospheric quality. Brostep, popular in North America, is known for its aggressive, metal-esque sounds. Future garage incorporates a more melodic and subtle approach, evolving from 2-step rhythms.

How has dubstep influenced other aspects of culture beyond music?

Dubstep has permeated various elements of culture, including film music, advertisements, and video games. Its ability to adapt and resonate with diverse audiences has transformed not only musical tastes but also live performance norms, emphasizing heavy bass and dramatic drops.

What is the difference between dubstep and brostep?

The primary difference lies in sonic intensity and production style. Dubstep typically features subtler, rhythm-focused beats, while brostep is more aggressive, with distorted and metal-esque sounds. Some purists argue that brostep represents a departure from the traditional characteristics of dubstep.