UKG: UK Garage and Two-step

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UK Garage is usually split into the sub-genres 4x4 Garage or 2step, however this style of music is not to be confused with the original Garage house music genre of the late 1980s and early 1990s, which is a purer form of house music and not such a fusion with other genres such as Ragga, R&B and Rap.

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[edit] 2step

2Step (also known as 2 Step, Two Step or 2 Step Garage) is a typically British style of modern dance music, and one of the two major sub-genres of UK Garage (although UK Garage is sometimes imprecisely used as a synonym for 2Step), together with its brother 4x4 Garage.

[edit] History

The roots of 2Step are embedded in (US) garage, a form of house music named after the legendary New York club Paradise Garage, where some DJs (e.g. Larry Levan) started playing this style of dance music during the 1980s.

In the UK, where jungle and techno were strong at the time, Garage was played in the second room at Jungle parties (as counterpart to chill-out rooms at techno parties). As Jungle tracks are usually much faster compared to (US) Garage, DJs in the UK started to speed up Garage tracks to make them more suitable for the jungle audience in the UK. The media started to call this fast-played garage music "Speed Garage", 2Step's predecessor. DJs usually played dub versions (arrangements without vocals) of Garage tracks, which do not sound odd when played faster. The absence of vocals left a lot of empty space for MCs, who started rhyming to the records. Since then MCs became one of the vital aspects of Speed and UK Garage parties and records. Early promoters of Speed Garage included the Dreem Team and Tuff Jam and many pirate radio stations like Magic FM, Deja Vu, Erotic FM or Kiss FM. The Speed Garage scene was also called the "Sunday Scene". The reason behind this was that it was difficult to hire a club at that time for a party playing any other sound than the predominant Jungle or Hardcore. So the only available night for Speed Garage was Sunday night. Popular party labels who focused on this kind of music were Deja Vu, Spread Love and Twice as Nice.

Image:Sincere.jpg
MJ Cole's first album "Sincere"

Speed garage already incorporated many aspects of today's UK Garage (and 2Step) sound like sub-bass lines, ragga vocals, spin backs and reversed drums. What changed over time, until the so called 2Step sound emerged, was the addition of further funky elements like RnB vocals, more shuffled beats and a different drum pattern. The most radical change from Speed Garage to 2Step was the removal of the 2nd and 4th bass kick from each bar (see "Characteristics" for more details). So you could say that 2Step actually has taken the speed out of Speed Garage. This energy-deficit is compensated by syncoping bass lines and the percussive use of other instruments like pads, strings and pizzicatos.

Image:Re-rewind.jpg
"Re-rewind": The 2step anthem from Artful Dodger and Craig David

While there were many key players involved in making UK Garage the most hyped dance music genre around the turn of the century, some of them really stand out. Among those Todd Edwards, who is sometimes cited as the most influential person on the whole UK Garage scene. The producer from New Jersey, who never actually made any 2Step track, changed the whole way of working with vocals. Instead of having full verses and choruses, he picked out vocal phrases and played them like an instrument. This became possible through the use of sampling technology. Edwards' way of chopping vocals and using them in a very unusual manner was adopted by many UK Garage producers and is still a very characteristic element of the whole UK Garage vibe.

The UK's "answer" to Todd Edwards was MJ Cole, a classically trained oboe and piano player, who became very successful with his own songs "Sincere" and "Crazy Love". Even more successful became the producer duo The Artful Dodger, aka Pete Devereu and Mark Hill, who (together with Craig David) were very successful with the track "Re-rewind", which became an anthem for the whole 2Step scene.

Recent developments are showing an evolvement into two main directions: firstly, 2Step is moving away from its glamorous appeal into a darker direction called Grime. This sound is much harder and rougher than its predecessor. This is one of the reasons why 2Step is being pushed back underground again, as more and more people turn away from the "negative" sound. Secondly, you see 4x4 Garage gaining popularity, which is a convergence towards UK Garage's mother House music. This sound abandons the classical 2Step patterns used for UK Garage, as it employs the old "4 to the floor" drum pattern (see "Characteristics) as it is used in many forms of electronic music.

[edit] Characteristics

2Step is a melting pot of ideas incorporating elements from a wide field of different styles (mainly house, jungle, rhythm and blues and Hip Hop) and has produced a large spectrum of different sounding songs/tracks over the last few years. What holds all 2Step productions together is the basic logic of the drum patterns, which also denominated the name of this style of electronic dance music.

[edit] Bass kick and snare drum

Different from other styles of electronic dance music (e.g. most forms of house and techno), 2Step does not use a so called "4 to the floor" bass drum, which hits strictly on every beat of a bar (usually those types of music have 4/4 bars and therefore you will have 4 bass kicks per bar, which explains the name of this bass drum pattern). 2Step differs from this scheme as its bass kicks basically skip the 2nd and the 4th beat of each bar. Additionally, besides the first bass kick (which usually rests on the first beat), the other kicks are also moved away from the main beats of the bar and create a busy and skippy feeling. What holds the pattern together is a powerful snare drum on the 2nd and the 4th beat. There may be additional snare drums to add further groove and drive to the pattern, but you will always have a snare drum which emphasizes the 2nd and 4th beat of any bar.

Image:2step pattern1.jpg
A basic 2step pattern within Cubase SX. Please click on the thumbnail for a larger image and the audio file of the loop

[edit] Other drum sounds

Alongside the basic kick and snare, the drum kit used for 2step consists of closed and open hi-hats which give the pattern the needed drive to create a busy groove. Furthermore you will find additional snare drums, and other kinds of percussion, which will vary from song to song. The sound of the drum elements is often slightly distorted, as most of them are "second-hand", which means, that they are manipulated by various kind of sound-modifying techniques and are difficult to classify.

[edit] Bass

As 2step was heavily influenced by Jungle, the bass lines play a strong role for the 2step sound. Often you have very dominant sub-bass lines, which generate heavy pressure if heard in the club or on a sound system which is able to play low frequencies. Sometimes these bass lines are doubled with an organ. Mostly you will find bass melodies of two bars length, which are interacting with the drum pattern.

[edit] Heavy shuffle

All 2Step tracks are heavily shuffled, which gives the tracks a swing feeling. This means that you move away from a metronomic and strict to a more natural sounding drum pattern, which creates a very busy and nervous feeling. This swing beat is quickly applied to the whole track, as the "quantisation function" of modern music production programs (e.g. Cubase or Logic) allows the application of a shuffle feeling with the push of a button.

Image:2step pattern2.jpg
A second example of a 2step pattern. Please click on the thumbnail for a larger image and the audio file of the loop

[edit] Tune

Basically you will find two different kinds of tunes among 2step tracks. Firstly, you will find tracks that are very upbeat and create a positive vibe. Mostly these tracks contain full vocal arrangements and are very bright and crisp sounding. Many R'n'B bootlegs and remixes go into this direction. Secondly, there are tracks that have a more bass oriented composition. There the main focus is on a heavy bass line that is already meant to be the hook of the track. Sometimes there exist many different versions of the same track to cover both aspects of 2step music and it's the listener's (or the DJ's) choice which track he prefers.

[edit] MCs

As described in the history part, you will find tons of 2step records with MCs rhyming to the music. This is very characteristic for 2step tracks. Often you will find separate versions of the same tune, one with the MC's rhymes and one without it. The reason for this is that at 2step parties you mostly have live MCs rhyming to the music and DJs will therefore play versions without the recorded MCs to leave enough space for the live MC's voice.

[edit] Notable tracks

[edit] 4x4 Garage

4x4 Garage is a variety of UK Garage with a 4/4 time signature and drums consisting of a bass drum on each beat in the bar, similar in style to house music.

4x4 Garage was the most common form of Garage before 2-Step Garage became more popular. Since the "death" of Garage in the mainstream and the increased popularity of grime, 4x4 has once again become the favoured drum pattern for producers of UK Garage.

The terms "4x4", "Speed Garage" and "Bassline House" have become interchangeable in today's 4/4 Garage scene, although speed garage is often used to falsely identify 2 step or UK Garage.

Since the turn of the new millennium, this brand of Garage has re emerged as a firm favourite with UK clubbers, resulting in the return of the term "raving" among clubbers. A number of new producers, DJ's and nightclubs have also emerged of the back of its success, including DJ Joe Hunt, Danny Bond, Naughty Nick, and Big Ang. Many major clubs such as Air, Moonlounge and Radius have hosted Speed Garage nights and promotions, while the long standing champion of the 4x4 Garage sound Niche Nightclub from Sheffield continues to hold major Speed Garage events, attracting ravers from all over the world.

[edit] Notable Artists

[edit] References

[edit] External links


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UKG: UK Garage and Two-step

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