Reggae music is a genre that originated from Jamaica a small island in the Caribbean in 18. Music (Reggae) in the Caribbean was used as a source of communication to pass messages to the people of the public and a way of protesting against America’s slavery and policies by the slaves who were working on plantations during that era. Rastafari a Caribbean spiritual group also used reggae as a way of promoting Peace love and unity among the communities. Until today the Rastafarians around the global still use the genre to promote “ONE LOVE” for example Bob Marley the legend who produced heaps of albums which some for these were to fight brutal policy of slave masters and others promoted love.
The lyrics used in most of the reggae songs got a positive message that encourages and develop people in different ways such as spiritually, self-love, unity and hard work. Personally, I grew up listening to lots of reggae music and it has played a big role in my life to becoming the man I am today. As a little boy, listening to Bob Marley’s songs, Peter Tosh and Lucky Dube helped me much. Reggae music got Strong, heavy rhythms (riddims) that make one feel relaxed and chill out. Because the rhythm (mainly the kick drum and the bass guitar) can be felt in the body playing mimicking the heart pulse pattern (Thump, Thump, Pause, Thump, Thump).
Besides the drums and the bass, the genre has other instruments (elements) like guitars, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, pianos and percussions like shakers, claves congas and bongos. All the above elements give the genre a unique feel that makes it stand out from other genres depending on the way the instruments are played.
As we have listed the instruments in reggae music, let’s talk about its production.
The genre has a slower tempo ranging between 50 – 110 BPM (beats per minute) that creates the relaxing vibe and is most of the time played in a 4/4-time signature. The sweet slow reggae melodies are mainly composed of piano, guitars or organs which are played offbeat.
The drumming style
Reggae has 3 drum patterns used in its production and each pattern has a different technique applied to it. One of the patterns is called one-drop and this is where the kick drum is emphasised on the third beat of the 4/4 time signature.
The stepper is another drum pattern when the drumbeat is played on every beat of time signature and lastly the rocker drum pattern where the kick drum plays only on the first and the fourth beat.
The snare drum in reggae music is played loud on every second beat and it tends to be over compress in most songs. Reverb is also applied to it and to other instruments to give the song space (atmospheric) and ambience sound which is hard in almost all reggae tracks. And don’t forget to apply it the vocals as it makes them sound sweet.
The bass guitar is used to play the rhythm of the track where its pattern is groovy, catchy and repetitive. The guitars are then played accompanying the keyboard by adding a doubling effect to make a variation of the chords. But some guitarists palm mute creating a chopping effect while accompanying the bass guitar to create a full rhythm while playing. Delays is a might of at least of the guitar in the track as it makes the track sound rich and more interesting. Apply it to the vocals to create some echoing effects and vocal will be bouncing around don’t forget echoes are a must in the reggae dub.
Wind instruments and percussions
Horns are instruments that are commonly blown/played to grab the attention of listens. They were most used in the African traditional. Due to technology advancement today, the horns have been replaced with various wind instruments such as trumpets and saxophones are played in reggae composition to grab attentions of the listeners as the horn used to do.
They are often played in the introduction sections of the song and also in the chorus acting as fill-ins.
Reggae tends to use more than one wind instrument most of the times its two trumpets and one saxophone. One trumpet might be played as the counter melody and the second one played the same melody on a higher octave. The saxophone instrument also played one octave higher thanks the second trumpet to create variations.
In reggae music different percussions likes congas, djembes, bongos, shakers and cowbells are played in a free pattern for variations.
Lastly, let me talk about the arrangement of reggae music.
In most music genre arrangement is a big pain to music and produce but thanks the founder of reggae who made the arrangement format as easy as smiling while laughing.
In reggae production the arrangement format used is Intro, Chorus, Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus, Verse 3, Chorus, Middle 8 and an Outro. But today the arrangement structure of the song depends on the artist or the producer or the song meaning they can go beyond the above arrangement and create their own.
Introductions section in reggae music tend to range from 6-8 bars and are always started off with a drum kit and wind instruments then the other groups follow in from the chorus.
Choruses are mostly made of 8 bars and verses range from 8-14bars, both the chorus and verses share most of the same instruments. Thou some elements change the playing pattern in each part. The bass and drums pattern rarely change.
The bridge section, which ranges from 6-8 bars automation is applied to some instruments like wind instruments or the brass instruments to keep it in and out of the song. And most instruments are cut off in the section leaving 3 to 4 instruments to play. Mostly the keyboard, bass and the vocal are left to play. Then the rest are brought back in the outro, which is another version of a chorus that closes off the song.
With all the above information that I have shared with you today, you can now create reggae tracks without limitation. So please fill free to send me some of the tracks and thank you for your time. BLESS UP AND ONE LOVE. PEACE OUT……
Rohan N. (N.D) How to plan reggae .com, Retrieved 12th -march- 2015 from http://www.how-to-play-reggae.com
Jim, M. (N.D) mixing Jamaican music. Retrieved, 12th-march-2015 from http://www.music-production-guide.com/mixing-jamaican-music.html