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Skrillex’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites – Dubstep Production Analysis

Skrillex’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites – Dubstep Production Analysis

Skrillex has quickly catapulted himself to the upper echelon of DJ’s producing listener-friendly Dub Step mixes and mash-ups. His reviews and reputation are often disputed on message boards and blogs online and throughout the mainstream media, as any artist in the mainstream media is used to. Although his fame is a primary cause for these disputes, more so his appearance and his remixes of other artist’s songs catch the eye of the quick to judge a book by its cover reviewers. This post will demonstrate his aesthetic approach to his single “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” off of his 2010 debut with the same name with emphasis strictly on the music itself, not his appearance or reputation.

The intro to the song starts out with a sweeping periphery of what the basis of the entire song relies upon: the contrasting eighth note vs. sixteenth note pulse in the drums that has a snare sound akin to the classic Roland 808 used mostly in hip-hop and reggae in the 1990’s, the melody in the synth piano, and the perceived performance environment in the mid-to-high range frequencies. When the bass drops in it provides the low frequencies to occupy the overall frequency range for the rest of the song.

In terms of his pounding bass and low frequency response, that has to do with his production approach in Massive plug-in and Native Instruments, using sine-wave tones and a variety of other techniques to give it a crisp, clear and “scary” sound. He equalizes the bass frequencies depending on the specific notes and gives them their “scary” sound by using a bit-crusher and distortion plug-in. Skrillex is able to adapt the plug-ins which are cross-platform available, but since he uses Logic Pro which is stream lined and user friendly he is able to give the industry standard .wav files to get mastered with most emphasis on the low-mid range frequency focus.

Although many listeners’ opinions still consider dubstep music “noise” rather than melodic and seamless, there is finesse and artistry in creating a song that has many different layers and an overall concept which stays constant throughout the piece. When the vocals of the song come in during the verse and choruses the piano melody drops out and the mid-range frequencies are replaced. Although the vocals appear to be softer in the mix, they are merely not compressed at the same rate as the piano melody so the perceived loudness is changed in the listener’s ear. On first inspection the introduction of the song gives the listener an appearance of a small club setting, but as the bass and other melodic elements are added the performance environment is increased to that of a large stadium due to the depth of the bass and high frequencies in the high-hats and snare. His clear use of vocoder and pitch correction on the vocals surprisingly doesn’t take away from the overall sound of the piece, which normally would infringe upon a song sounding authentic, because the vocals are meant to sound sampled. The consistent phaser effect on the vocals also adds a spooky tinge to the overall sound of the piece, which is well received throughout the song as it one of the main themes.

The production of a dubstep song may be considered amateur, but in terms of clarity of frequencies and overall mix there is a lot that can be learned to provide a full spectrum of sound in comparison to radio-friendly pop and rock music. Where most pop music is focused on the vocals around the 4 kHz range and neglecting the high and low frequencies given by the cymbals and bass or bass drum, dubstep music at this calibre can show that even electronically produced music has the ability to demonstrate the entire range of the human ear.