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Downtempo for Beginners: A Guide to the Chillout Genre




If you're looking for a genre of music that can help you relax, unwind, and focus, you might want to give downtempo a try. Downtempo is a broad term for electronic music that features an atmospheric sound and slower beats than typical dance music. It's closely related to ambient music, but with more emphasis on rhythm and melody.




Downtempo for Beginners TUTORiAL-SYNTHiC4TE


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In this article, we'll explore what downtempo music is, where it came from, and why it's so popular among listeners and producers. We'll also give you some recommendations on how to start listening to downtempo music, and how to make your own if you're feeling creative. Let's dive in!


What is downtempo music?




Downtempo music is a genre of electronic music that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, influenced by hip hop, dub reggae, jazz, soul, and world music. It's characterized by slow tempos (usually around 90 BPM), atmospheric sounds, gentle melodies, and complex textures. Downtempo music often incorporates elements of other genres, such as trip hop, ambient house, chillwave, psybient, and lo-fi hip hop.


The origins and influences of downtempo




Downtempo music has its roots in the UK's Bristol sound, which developed a slow, psychedelic fusion of hip hop and electronic music known as trip hop. Some of the pioneers of this style were Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky, who blended samples, synths, drums, vocals, and instruments to create dark, moody, and cinematic soundscapes.


In the 1990s, downtempo music spread across the world, especially in Ibiza, where DJs and promoters would play slower and gentler electronic music during sunrise or sunset sessions. These chillout rooms or sections became popular places to relax after dancing or partying. Some of the artists who contributed to this scene were Nightmares on Wax, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Fila Brazillia, and Thievery Corporation.


The characteristics and subgenres of downtempo




Downtempo music is a diverse genre that can vary in mood, style, and instrumentation. However, some of the common features that define downtempo music are:



  • Atmospheric sound: Downtempo artists focus more on creating layered sounds and moods than on catchy melodies or riffs. They use effects such as reverb, delay, filters, and modulation to create spacious and immersive soundscapes.



  • Slow beats: Downtempo songs typically feature beats around 90 BPM or lower. They can be simple or complex, but they usually have a smooth and groovy feel. They can also include elements of breakbeat, drum and bass, dubstep, or glitch.



  • Gentle melodies: Downtempo artists often include more melodic phrases than straightforward ambient music. They can use synths, guitars, pianos, vocals, or samples to create soothing or haunting melodies that complement the beats.



Some of the subgenres that fall under the umbrella of downtempo music are:



  • Trip hop: A fusion of hip hop and electronic music that features slow beats, samples, rap vocals, and dark or melancholic themes. Some of the examples are Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky, and Morcheeba.



  • Ambient house: A blend of ambient and house music that features minimal beats, synths, pads, and ambient sounds. Some of the examples are The Orb, The KLF, Orbital, and Aphex Twin.



  • Chillwave: A style of electronic music that emerged in the late 2000s and early 2010s, influenced by 1980s synth-pop, lo-fi, and indie rock. It features synth-heavy melodies, distorted vocals, and nostalgic or dreamy themes. Some of the examples are Washed Out, Toro y Moi, Neon Indian, and Tycho.



  • Psybient: A fusion of psychedelic and ambient music that features complex beats, synths, samples, and psychedelic effects. It often has a spiritual or mystical vibe. Some of the examples are Shpongle, Entheogenic, Carbon Based Lifeforms, and Ott.



  • Lo-fi hip hop: A style of hip hop music that emerged in the late 2010s and early 2020s, influenced by jazz, soul, and boom bap. It features low-fidelity beats, samples, keyboards, and vocals. It often has a relaxing or nostalgic vibe. Some of the examples are J Dilla, Nujabes, DJ Shadow, and lofi hip hop radio.



Why listen to downtempo music?




Downtempo music is not only enjoyable to listen to, but also beneficial for your well-being. Here are some of the reasons why you should listen to downtempo music:


The benefits of downtempo for relaxation and focus




Downtempo music can help you relax your mind and body by lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. It can also help you focus by enhancing your concentration, memory, and creativity. Studies have shown that listening to downtempo music can improve your academic performance, work productivity, and mood.


Downtempo music can also help you sleep better by inducing a state of calmness and relaxation. It can also help you meditate by creating a peaceful and serene atmosphere. Downtempo music can also help you cope with anxiety, depression, or pain by providing a soothing and comforting sound.


The best downtempo artists and albums to start with




If you're new to downtempo music, you might be wondering where to start. There are many downtempo artists and albums to choose from, but here are some of the most popular and influential ones that you should check out:



Artist


Album


Description


Massive Attack


Mezzanine


A classic trip hop album that features dark beats, samples, vocals from Elizabeth Fraser and Horace Andy, and hits such as "Teardrop" and "Angel".


Portishead


Dummy


A groundbreaking trip hop album that features slow beats, samples from old records, vocals from Beth Gibbons, and hits such as "Glory Box" and "Sour Times".


Nightmares on Wax


Carboot Soul


A smooth downtempo album that features groovy beats, samples from soul and jazz records, vocals from Sara Winton and De La Soul's Maseo.


Kruder & Dorfmeister


The K&D Sessions


A legendary downtempo album that features remixes of songs by artists such as Depeche Mode, Roni Size, Lamb, and Bomb The Bass.


Boards of Canada


Music Has the Right to Children


An influential ambient house album that features synth melodies, samples from old documentaries and TV shows, and a nostalgic and mysterious vibe.


Bonobo


Black Sands


A beautiful downtempo album that features organic beats, instruments such as piano, guitar, flute, and strings, vocals from Andreya Triana, and hits such as "Kiara" and "The Keeper".


Washed Out


Within and Without


A dreamy chillwave album that features synth-heavy melodies, distorted vocals from Ernest Greene, All Around Me" and "Amor Fati".


Shpongle


Are You Shpongled?


A psychedelic psybient album that features complex beats, synths, samples, vocals from Raja Ram and Terence McKenna, and a spiritual and mystical vibe.


J Dilla


Donuts


A masterpiece of lo-fi hip hop that features low-fidelity beats, samples from soul and jazz records, vocals from various artists, and a relaxing and nostalgic vibe.


How to make your own downtempo music?




If you're feeling inspired by downtempo music and want to try making your own, you'll need some equipment and software to get started. You'll also need some basic knowledge and skills to create a downtempo track. Here are some of the essentials for downtempo production:


The essential equipment and software for downtempo production




To make downtempo music, you'll need at least a computer, a digital audio workstation (DAW), a MIDI controller, a pair of headphones or speakers, and a microphone. Here are some of the options you can choose from:



  • Computer: You'll need a computer that can run your DAW and other software smoothly. You can use either a PC or a Mac, depending on your preference and budget. You'll also need enough storage space for your files and samples.



  • DAW: You'll need a DAW that can record, edit, mix, and master your tracks. You can use any DAW that suits your style and workflow, such as Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic Pro, Cubase, or Reaper. You'll also need some plugins that can generate or process sounds, such as synths, samplers, effects, and EQs.



  • MIDI controller: You'll need a MIDI controller that can trigger sounds from your DAW or plugins. You can use any MIDI controller that has keys, pads, knobs, or sliders, such as a keyboard, a drum pad, or a launchpad. You can also use an app on your phone or tablet that can act as a MIDI controller.



  • Headphones or speakers: You'll need a pair of headphones or speakers that can deliver clear and accurate sound. You can use any headphones or speakers that are comfortable and reliable, such as studio headphones, monitor speakers, or earbuds.



  • Microphone: You'll need a microphone if you want to record vocals or other acoustic sounds. You can use any microphone that can capture good quality sound, such as a condenser microphone, a dynamic microphone, or a USB microphone.



The basic steps and tips for creating a downtempo track




To make downtempo music, you'll need to follow some basic steps and tips that can help you create a chillout track. Here are some of the steps and tips you can follow:



  • Pick a tempo: You'll need to pick a tempo that matches the mood and vibe of your track. You can use any tempo that is slow enough to create a relaxing atmosphere, but not too slow to lose the groove. A common range for downtempo music is between 80 and 120 BPM.



  • Create a beat: You'll need to create a beat that provides the rhythm and structure of your track. You can use any drum sounds that suit your style and genre, such as acoustic drums, electronic drums, or percussion. You can also use samples from other songs or records to add some flavor and texture to your beat.



  • Add a bassline: You'll need to add a bassline that supports the beat and adds some depth and warmth to your track. You can use any bass sounds that complement your beat and genre, such as synth bass, electric bass, or upright bass. You can also use samples from other songs or records to add some variation and interest to your bassline.



  • Add some melodies: You'll need to add some melodies that provide the main theme and emotion of your track. You can use any melodic sounds that contrast with your beat and bassline, such as synths, guitars, pianos, or vocals. You can also use samples from other songs or records to add some harmony and complexity to your melodies.



  • Add some effects: You'll need to add some effects that enhance the sound and atmosphere of your track. You can use any effects that suit your style and genre, such as reverb, delay, filter, or modulation. You can also use effects to create transitions and changes in your track.



  • Mix and master your track: You'll need to mix and master your track to balance the levels, frequencies, and dynamics of your sounds. You can use any tools that can help you achieve a clear and professional sound, such as EQs, compressors, limiters, or meters. You can also use reference tracks to compare and improve your sound.



Conclusion




Downtempo music is a genre of electronic music that features an atmospheric sound and slower beats than typical dance music. It's closely related to ambient music, but with more emphasis on rhythm and melody. It emerged from the UK's Bristol sound in the late 1980s and early 1990s, influenced by hip hop, dub reggae, jazz, soul, and world music. It has many subgenres, such as trip hop, ambient house, chillwave, psybient, and lo-fi hip hop.


Downtempo music is not only enjoyable to listen to, but also beneficial for your well-being. It can help you relax, focus, sleep, meditate, and cope with stress. It can also inspire you to make your own downtempo music, using some equipment and software, and following some basic steps and tips.


We hope this article has given you a good introduction to downtempo music, and encouraged you to explore more of this chillout genre. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Thanks for reading!


FAQs




Here are some of the frequently asked questions about downtempo music:



  • Q: What is the difference between downtempo and ambient music?



  • A: Downtempo and ambient music are both genres of electronic music that feature an atmospheric sound and slow tempos. However, downtempo music usually has more rhythm and melody than ambient music, which is more focused on creating a background or environmental sound.



  • Q: What is the difference between downtempo and chillout music?



  • A: Downtempo and chillout music are both terms that describe electronic music that is relaxing and soothing. However, downtempo music is more specific and refers to a genre of electronic music that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Chillout music is more general and can refer to any type of electronic music that is played in chillout rooms or sections.



  • Q: What are some of the best downtempo radio stations or playlists?



  • A: There are many downtempo radio stations or playlists that you can listen to online or offline. Some of the examples are:



  • Downtempo Essentials by Apple Music Electronic



  • Downtempo Lounge by Spotify



  • Downtempo Dreams by YouTube Music



  • SomaFM Groove Salad by SomaFM



  • Chilltrax by Chilltrax



  • Q: What are some of the best downtempo tutorials or courses?



  • A: There are many downtempo tutorials or courses that you can watch or enroll in online or offline. Some of the examples are:



  • Downtempo Production Fundamentals by Producertech



  • How to Make Downtempo Music in Ableton Live by Udemy



  • Downtempo Secrets by Sonic Academy



  • How to Make Chillout Music by ADSR



  • Downtempo Production Tips by Point Blank Music School



  • Q: What are some of the best downtempo blogs or magazines?



  • A: There are many downtempo blogs or magazines that you can read online or offline. Some of the examples are:



  • Ambient Music Guide by Mike G



  • Echoes by John Diliberto



  • Headphone Commute by HC



  • XLR8R by XLR8R Staff



  • Magnetic Magazine by Magnetic Staff



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