One of the signature sounds of dubstep is the "wub-wub-wub" sound.

How do I create this sound? I'm using Reaper as my DAW but if there's a way to create the sound with subtractive synthesis on a 3 oscillator synth, I'd be interested in that, too.


In general, to generate a "wub" you just have to change the timbre over (a relative short amount of) time. If the amplitude (volume) is changing it's called a tremolo. If the frequency (pitch) is changing it's called a vibrato. If the timbre is changing it's a "wub" in a dubstep context, or a "wah" in an electric guitar context.

So you use the same tools that you use for tremolos and vibratos:

  • LFOs
  • Envelopes
  • Velocity
  • Aftertouch
  • Track automation
  • Envelope followers
  • Triggers
  • Sidechain

But instead of targeting them to amplitude or frequency, you target them to timbre, or more specifically:

  • Filter frequency
  • Filter resonance
  • FM amount
  • Overdrive
  • Equalizer
  • Distortion
  • Overtone amplitude
  • Compressor

The actual "how to" heavily depends on the tool you are using, but in general it is achieved by routing a modulator to a component that is affecting the timbre of the sound.

subtractive synthesis on a 3 oscillator synth

The most common way is to route an LFO or envelope to the filter's cutoff frequency. The "wubs" will become more accentuated if you increase the filter's resonance.

A lot of the "wubs" you hear in dubstep are made through FM or additive synthesis though, so you might want to look into those.

(Pitch - frequency, and amplitude - volume are not actually the same thing, but I'm using the oversimplification to make the answer more clear for a layman.)


How do I create this sound?

This kind of sound is usually created with modulation on synthesizers. Like @foreyez already mentioned in the comments, you can use an LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) to modulate your sound.

For example you can set up a low pass filter on some basic sound which will filter out the top end of your sound. So only the low end part will come through. Then you can link an LFO to control the frequency where the low pass filter filters. The LFO will now raise and lower the frequenzy where the low pass filter runs over time. The faster the LFO runs, the faster will the "wobble" get.

You can experiment with different kind of sounds, filters, lfo's, envelopes and all these settings which your synth provides. You can combine them and try new things out.

The link from @foreyez seems a good starting point.

You should familiarize yourself with what all these different knobs and filters are really doing with the input signal and play around with them.

You can also experiment by using samples instead of basic synth sounds which you want to modulate. Play with the sample-rate and the time-stretching.

Like the sound of a tie fighter from starwars (which at least to me has a similar timbre like a lot of dubstep sounds) is just the sound of a car which runs on a wet road combined with the sound of an elephant crying for its newborn.

Try to be creative.

if there's a way to create the sound with subtractive synthesis on a 3 oscillator synth

I am by far no synth-expert, but if i get the word subtractive synthesis right, it is basically what i have written above.

From wikipedia

Subtractive synthesis is a method of sound synthesis in which partials of an audio signal (often one rich in harmonics) are attenuated by a filter to alter the timbre of the sound

If you can do this with the synth you are using depends on capabilities of the synth. I have often seen massiv beeing used. But basically any synth with some basic lfo and filter can work out.

  • I think that it is not uncommon to add a compressor (or similar) as an envelope follower that ducks the audio of other tracks when the beat hits. – Yorik Feb 21 '20 at 15:39
  • Yes, thats side chain compression. It could be added, but is not necessarily part of the "wub-wub" bass itself. – Olli Feb 24 '20 at 8:29

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