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March 7, 2008 8:57 AM   Subscribe

What is that quintessential dub percussion sound and how do they make it?

It is often the echoic 3rd beat that provides a nice counterpoint and texture to the rhythm of dub:
To me it sounds like the striking of an amp with reverb turned up, but I'm only guessing. Is it just a mic'd snare with the reverb cranked up, or is someone really smackin' an amp?

Example: A Hundred Pounds of Collie (Songza.com)
Dubheads, fill me in.
posted by isopraxis to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If I understand which sound you are referring to, I think it is indeed a snare drum with the reverb cranked up, sometimes with a bit of delay as well. The characteristic sound is produced by a very short regeneration time and a large number of regeneration cycles, often on an old analog spring or plate reverb (or digital facsimile therof). See here for a bit of further discussion.
posted by googly at 9:09 AM on March 7, 2008

Space Echo
posted by cloeburner at 9:11 AM on March 7, 2008

Best answer: Fucking Google and their stupid false links... Space Echo
posted by cloeburner at 9:12 AM on March 7, 2008

Best answer: Yes, a quick send of the snare hit to a spring verb, classically the one in the Roland Space Echo RE-201. When the mix is on, you can quickly flash the snare fader into a verb send to make it sound like a gigantic echo hit appearing from nowhere.

There are millions of other dub tricks in the arsenal, too. Keep your ears on!
posted by Aquaman at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2008

Best answer: Here is the modern derivation of the Space Echo.
posted by cloeburner at 9:19 AM on March 7, 2008

Another piece of gear used by many (King Tubby esp.) is the Fisher K-10 Space Expander. It's actually designed for 50's/60's home hi-fi's but works great in the studio.
posted by Paid In Full at 9:20 AM on March 7, 2008

How does that work when they play live? Is there a second snare mic'd and run through the effects? Is there an effects engineer off to the side doing crazy things just for that snare?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:34 AM on March 7, 2008

Best answer: Yeah, usually the knob-twiddlin' is done on the other side of the booth. This video is pretty crucial. I'm pretty certain it's from the documentary Roots, Rock, Reggae.
posted by cloeburner at 9:42 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Live dubbing works like this:

A) dub-savvy sound engineer will take over the sound board to run the main mix AND at the same time use the aux sends or unused busses to route chosen sources to outboard FX, e.g. snare hits to spring reverb, guitar stabs through analog delay unit, hi-hats through phase/flange effect, etc.
These fx returns are brought back into the mix along with the instrument & vocal channels, adjusted to taste. The fx sends and parameters are adjusted in real-time to create a layer of changing (and hopefully appropriate-sounding) effects on top of the band.

B) a band will hire a dub engineer to bring a separate board & effects units who performs essentially as a band member, not as a sound engineer. Dub engineer takes feeds from the monitor mix (or the main mix), routes them through his/her board and effects, and returns a channel or two of effects ONLY, where it is mixed in with the rest of the band by the non-dubbing sound engineer at the main board.

Awesomely fun either way.
posted by Aquaman at 12:06 PM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: I had a bit of an urge to mark each answer as best, because this awesome feedback was virtually instantaneous and shed fantastic light on details for questions I didn't quite know how to annunciate. I didn't mark every answer as best, because I didn't want to come across as indiscrete, but the good info has surpassed my expectations.

That Lee Scratch Perry video is fantastic - I love the shantytown style studio & mixer.
The Space Echo had me drooling (I love vintage gear) and the Boss RE 20 Space Echo is now shortlisted on my gear purchase queue.

Better yet, now I know a few more details about the effects & processes that make Dub so gratifying to listen to. . . and I don't even smoke da collie weed mahn!

posted by isopraxis at 12:38 PM on March 7, 2008

Everyone's right above, and I do love that clip of Perry, but you should also know (in case you don't) that King Tubby--arguably the most innovating innovator of the dub--built and modded his own equipment.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:18 PM on March 7, 2008

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