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Summer Drum & Bass: A Technical Guide

summer D&B

It’s hot, it’s sexy, it puts a massive smile on your face; electronic music and the summertime is a match made in heaven. The chemistry between the sounds and the sun is sweeter than Jack Daniels glaze on your freshly barbequed smorgasbord of delights.

The aim of this is to dive head first into deconstructing what makes summer tracks sizzle. But before we begin we need to salute to an undeniable classic. LK is the quintessential summer track; no more needs to be said on the matter.

Marky & XRS feat. Stamina MC – LK 

So, what makes dance music and the summer months so compatible?

Obviously the festivals and carnivals play a big part in the melting pot – there is no better genre in the outdoor environment to get everybody vibing. The real question is: Are there any specific ingredients that make summer tracks? It’s time to cast your mind to parties on the beach, sun drenched BBQs, holidays and summer romance; as we explore what makes summer tracks sizzle.

Contrasting Major and Minor chords

Maduk – How Could You

Let me hit you with an analogy – we all know the days when the sun wants to shine brightly but there are a few clouds in the sky messing up the vibes. This track is like outrunning the cloudy days and basking in the sun.

In the piano sections Maduk uses major and minor chords to create this kind of brooding tension. When we are hit with a beautiful G flat major chord, it’s like the first rays of summer sun on your skin. As we move to an E flat minor the clouds go across the sun. You say ‘screw it’ we are going to outrun the clouds, everyone jumps in the car for a road trip – that moment when you hit the fast lane on open road the drop kicks in. Summer is in session.

Female Vocals

SpectraSoul – Shelter VIP (ft. Lily McKenzie)

This track has so many elements that could be considered ‘summery’ but what stands out is the incredible vocals from Lily McKenzie. The 90s RnB style vocals with stunning harmonies are reminiscent of being a younger version of you and having your first summer romance. The bass and drums are driving your heart to pump faster, the electric piano, warm organs, and clean guitar in the break down are like a cool breeze on a scorching day, perfect.

Massive build-ups and super saw leads

Tantrum Desire – Oblivion (Ft. Solah)

A massive summer track needs to have a huge build up before the drop, synths with pitch bend risers over three octaves, kick drums going at a million miles an hour, breaks filtering in, siren FX and vocals all make for the perfect build.

That’s all great but the drop needs to match the tension you have created, you need to exceed everyone’s expectations. This is where the super saws come in, saw wave style synths that all duck out of the way of the drums using side chain compression. A classic house technique used to forcing any by-stander to start moving their feet.

Pluck Leads

Dimension – Pull Me Under (Ft. Raphaella)

This track has festival season written all over it, you can imagine the late summer evening; clear sky, warm breeze, the lights, the lasers a perfect atmosphere.

When the DJ pulls for the last track of the night you know it has to be a big one. A ‘pluck lead’ is the main melody sound you hear in the build up and drop. They are created using any synth with a good selection of oscillators to choose from, it’s all about short synth sounds with lots of reverb to make any festival goer dance, jump and rave like it is the last tune on the last night.

Heartwarming Strings

Dr Meaker – Freaks (Ft. Cappo D & Sharlene Hector)

There is a special place in everyone’s heart for beautiful strings on a summer track. The high strings and stabs cut through the mix like the suns rays cutting through the clouds and making all of your problems fade away into the horizon.

The strings play such an up beat and heart warming melody that it is impossible not to feel good. If you combine this with classic breaks and the fact that the lyrics give you permission to dance like an absolute freak, there is no excuse for not letting loose to this one.

Rhodes Organs

Ephemerals – Life Is Good (Technimatic Remix)

A Rhodes style organ is such a beautiful and summery sound. So rich and warm, it has such an expressive tone for such a simple sound. If you combine this with beautiful brass and jazzy electric guitar you have a match made in heaven. The title of this track ‘Life is good’ is so apt, it is like the first sip of an ice-cold beer after a hard days work. The call and response between the guitar and the brass is so melodic and fleeting like birdsong waking you, urging you to make the most of those stunning sun through the blinds summer mornings.

Carnival Vibes

The Prototypes – Pop It Off (feat. Mad Hed City)

Mainly Notting Hill Carnival: August bank holiday means serious sound systems and everyone in W11 sharing some low-end bass. The syncopated rhythm of the percussion instantly gives you a classic dancehall step, MCs bringing fiyah’ on the microphone is reminiscent of toasters and Rodigan shouting over the biggest tracks, rave stabs and an incredible amount of attention on everything 100Hz and below gets me properly in the mood for the Notting Hill Carnival.

Nostalgia

Ulterior Motive – Tape Pack

There is nothing like sitting with friends on a late summers evening around a fire reminiscing about classic raves and unforgettable memories. The elements in this track, high pitched chopped up vocals, bold Rhodes stabs and the iconic ‘Joe Beltram – Mentasm’ sample all make for the most amazing and nostalgic trip down memory lane about past summer memories, first kisses, first rave and the first time you heard True Romance on a big sound system.

The list wouldn’t be complete without this…

Roy Davis Jr – Gabriel

Finishing up with a personal favorite. This is summer music; every element you hear is the epitome of summer. Let this one speak for itself.

So here’s to the start of your summer sound track. As you’re chilling out this summer listen out for the elements that give you good vibrations. Dance music deconstruction could have its own book to cover the whole topic. So if there are any tracks that you thing should have made the list, let us know below. What elements do you think make the perfect summer track? What is your favorite summer track of all time? What do you think will be the biggest hit this summer?

Need more summer sounds? UKF Summer Drum & Bass Vol 2 is out now: iTunes / UKF Live Store