Your Questions: Exactly What BPM Is Dubstep?

Is it 70? Or 140? Pic from: webtaj

Is it 70? Or 140? Pic from: webtaj

Digital DJ Tips reader DJ-eZ writes: "I run Virtual DJ, and it shows wildly varying BPMs on different dubstep tracks. I also hear on the radio house music and pop music that has dubstep elements. Again, there seems to be no fixed BPM range like with house etc. My research shows that there's also a debate about whether dubstep should be classified at 70BPM (on the kick drums) or 140BPM (on the hi-hats etc.). What's right? And should I be concerned about this?"

Digital DJ Tips says:

Let's discount the pop tunes (that could be any BPM really), and focus on the dancefloor tunes in this style.

Dubstep tends to be around 140BPM, but as you guess, it could also more usefully be around 70BPM, if you decide it "feels" spacier and slower. Both could be right for exactly the same tune, and your software may go either way with it too when auto BPMing for you.

Which BPM range you ultimately go with thus depends really on the style - but to an extent it also depends on what other music you DJ with. For instance, I DJ a mixed-genre bar set at my beach bar gig, which has material from ambient and chill out, through to slo-mo disco, nu-disco, house, and then broken beats / drum and bass. I play some mellow dubstep in my sets (and incidentally some mellow "liquid" drum & bass too, which is another genre that arguably shares the characteristic we're discussing).

So, how do I classify my dubstep (and drum & bass) tunes? Do I lump them around 140BPM (for the dubstep tunes) and around 170BPM (drum & bass)? Or do I halve the BPMs and go with values around 70 and 85 respectively?

In my case, the answer is that I tend to go with the lower speeds, because I mix these tunes in to chill out music so prefer to have the two genres together when I sort by BPM. But say I were a dubstep DJ playing heavier, faster "feeling" tunes as well as the more mellow stuff. Or a drum & bass DJ who uses the laid-back material in his warm-ups but then develops into tougher drum & bass later. Then I would choose to classify them around 140 / 160BPM. This is what most people choose to do.

The bottom line is not to get too hung up about it. Always remember to look at the top and bottom of the BPM rages in your collection when you're deciding what to play next (in case your new tunes have been auto BPMed at the other extreme by your software). And don't be scared to half or double the BPM (even on the fly if you want) to suit where you feel a tune belongs in your collection.

And of course, don't be scared to mix a half-speed tune into a full speed one. This DJ trick can be used to completely change the mood. While it's a bit extreme in club sets, works well on the radio or in bars and lounges.

How do you classify the dubstep in your collection? Are you a DJ who plays mellower, spacier dubstep and prefers to tag it at 70-80BPM? Or is it all bangin' 140+ in your world? Share your thoughts below!

Comments

  1. Like you mentioned, it can completely depend on what genres you wish to play. If you club DJ you will want to keep them at the faster tempos I reckon. Crossing genres say from house > electro > dubstep > dnb it will be alot easier and progressive. A progressive mix going through the tempos is quite important for longer sets too building up, and cooling down at respective timings.

  2. I just naturally count it at 140, just as I naturally count dnb at 175… it’s just the way my brain works.

  3. 140 up to 145 ish (skrillex plays a lot at 145 with foreign beggars) (also halves @ 70 and 72.5 ish range)

    170 (drum and bass primarily plays at this tempo… dirtyphonics has some awesome dubby breaks in their DnB tracks) and the halve of that, 85, is a favorite of bass nectar.

    these are all ranges, 140 range (70 half) and 170 range (85 half)

    also, electromoombahton @ 105-115 range can get really dirty and ‘dubby’ sometimes. (knife party’s remix of porter robinson’s Unison is an example. delta heavy’s remix of nero’s ‘must be the feeling’ is also pretty dubby, but still electromoombah.

    a notable exception is the slower version of house/dub in the same song which is Steve Aoki’s Ladi Dadi which plays at 133 or 135, i forgot.

    Also a good note, a lot of electro house songs have dubstep breakdowns. CAZZETTE has a TON of these, i’m sure y’all know what i mean.

    so yeah…

    140 range (the most popular…slightly faster than a house beat @ 128/130ish)
    170/85 range
    133 slow(er) dub

    something good to note is that a lot of hiphop/rap and REGGAE (where i feel dub came from, although some will argue) play AT THESE SAME BPMs as well! Add in 100/99 and 110 as well.

    Just some food for thought :)

    happy dj/producing!

  4. I would say, this is musical theory which can be interpretated in the way you want to. 128BPM could also be 256 BPM. This would result that you have got a blank beat between two “real” ones. Me for example, I am using the 140BPM variant of Dubstep because my Main music is around 124 (Deephouse) and 135- 140 (Trance) so it would be not very comfortable if I pitch down 124 Tunes or even 140 BPM Tunes to 70BPM to mix with Dubstep so I use 140 BPM. I could alternately use 70 BPM and start it as usual with a 140 BPM one. Would be the same, but I am more satisfied when the BPMs matching exactly.(this is one of my crazy things ;)) As a plus, sync is working correct if the BPMs Match and is not working on 140 vs 70 BPM, so if your using this, take a look at your Libraries average BPM and decide. I hope you’ve got the Point :)

    • ummm…. sync does work with 140/70 or any two tracks where one bpm is half the other. With some tracks, It doesn’t sound very great but with others, it could be awesome!

      • Depends on your software of course… in Serato ITCH I find this can throw the program, eventually forcing an unwelcome restart…

      • I am was noticing that it was not working in Traktor 2.1.2 it was not working. I don’t know about other programs

      • Virtual DJ can do this :)

      • Traktor also of course has the BPM times 2 (*2) or divide by 2 (/2) buttons in the grid section underneath each deck. I find that very useful, decide on a BPM range(say 70’s or 140’s etc, doesn’t matter) and just change every tune that doesn’t meet this by either dividing or multiplying by 2.

  5. at my gigs, I play a mix of house, Dubstep and HipHop. If I need to mix in a dubstep track into a house track, I start speeding up the house tempo during a buildup and by the time the beat is about to drop again, I’ve completely transitioned to “Dubstep mode”. At this point, my brain thinks of Dubstep as 140 bpm. After a few Dubstep tracks, I mix in some HipHop songs at 70 bpm. Then I play another Dubstep track. At this point, my brain thinks of Dubstep as 70 bpm! I’ve done it so many times I dont need to think abt it. It’s sort of automatic. Just have fun playing with it and you’ll enjoy it

  6. djfrostgiant says:

    I beat grid my songs bpms primarily for the use of my effects in Traktor. While halving or doubling your bpm doesn’t actually change the song itself, if your master tempo is locked into what track is playing, then your effects are greatly adjusted. A beat roll filter sweep at 70 bpm has a lot of swing and buildup, where the same beat roll and filter at 140 bpm may sound like you’re being dive bombed by a fighter jet.

  7. It’s actually sad that Traktor still doesn’t lock half/double tempo together. I think Mixxx or Virtual DJ used to do that, and I used to be surprised that Traktor doesn’t. Fortunately it has this grid double/half button in there which I sometimes have used.

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      What is also somewhat disturbing is that you can’t manually compare the two tracks side-by-side (or over-under) to line up the two tracks to manually beatmatch tracks if you can’t choose half-speed tracks. Relying solely on you ear can be a little bit discouraging to people who want to synch tracks in these out-of-time ranges.

  8. If you activate a beatsynced 1 beat echo on a dubstep/breaks/trance/techno track it sounds better a 140bpm, with Drum n Bass/drumstep/hiphop it sounds better at 87bpm… That is how I choose.

    Also if you half the bpm of dubstep your pitch fader looses finer resolution.

    If you want to change the bpm in VDJ you can create a filter folder to get all the tracks in one place and map this to your keyboard http://www.virtualdj.com/wiki/FilterExamples.html

    filter folder for the half bpm tracks
    bpm<80

    double
    set_bpm 200% & browser_scroll +1

    Half
    set_bpm 50% & browser_scroll +1

    http://www.virtualdj.com/wiki/VDJscript.html

    then just hold the key down and it will change all of the tracks in the list.

  9. I had the same questions/issues about BPM when I got started!

  10. One of my favorite things about dubstep is its ability to go double time. Generally, dubstep is at 70 bpm, but often times in a song it goes double time to 140 bpm, and as such it’s usually better to have 140 as a guideline. It’s all personal preference though!

  11. I look at what i’m going to mix it with. I play a club with about 400 people, and am asked to play pretty open formate. though i tend to be more electro and hiphop than anything else. To me dubstep fits with “hiphop” more than anything else Playing tracks like black and yellow and all i do is win then mixing into some skrillex or nero track work great for me, so to me all dubstep is at 70 (ish) BPM. I do as an effect loops some faster electro tracks (133BM) and pitch them up and then half it into a dub step song but I find that transition to be to much of a change for some people. Dubstep is big in my city though (home of datsik and excision) so people are very open to hearing it in the “top40″ bar, so i find i can get away with playing a lot of it at any point in the night. On a side note trap remixes are everywhere and i would rather play those with h70 BPM hiphop and dubstep than anything else.

    I disagree with this line completely “This DJ trick can be used to completely change the mood. While it’s a bit extreme in club sets, works well on the radio or in bars and lounges.”

    People love change, big musical changes in the feel of the dance floor that make people stop and take notice that there hearing a live DJ and not a juke Box tend to go over real well and work to build the energy. I fucking hate listening to a DJ play a club gig (A list headliners aside) and never leave the comfort for 125-132 BPM, it makes me want to punch a baby. Get some transitions in your set dude. Dont sound like a machine.

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