Are you an electronic dance music producer looking to add that iconic dub chord sound to your tracks? Look no further! In this blog post, we'll break down the essential steps to create captivating dub chords that will elevate your music and set your listeners in a groove.

The Dub chord is used in Dub and reggae of course, but you will also find it in genres such as Techno, House, Breakbeat, and Lofi to name a few. They provide a deep, spacious atmosphere and help drive the groove. Many classic dub chord sounds utilize simple waveforms like sine, triangle, or saw waves. The key is to add subtle modulation and effects to make them more interesting. A slight chorus or phaser effect can go a long way on a dub chord. You can also modulate filter cutoff or oscillator pitch subtly for movement.

Oscar from Underdog takes us through how to design a Dub chord using Ableton

- [00:32]Creating dub chords is a fundamental skill for electronic dance music producers and can be iconic in techno music.

- [00:46]To make a dub chord, start with a minor 7th chord consisting of A, C, E (Minor triad), and add the G (seventh note) for a rich, harmonious sound.

- [01:15]Use a polyphonic synthesizer that can play chords and employ Sawtooth waves. Adjust the sound with a short, plucky amp envelope to create a rhythmic effect.

- [01:58]Apply a low pass filter with a slow open-and-close motion over time using an LFO. Experiment with different filter shapes to achieve a desired sound.

- [02:54]Enhance the dub chord with effects, like delay (dotted eighth notes are a good start), to add syncopation and make it more danceable.

- [03:48]If you want to learn more, consider taking a foundations course and share your creations on a Discord channel. Like, subscribe, and explore the syncopation concept for a better understanding of music production.

Introduction to Dub Chords

Dub chords are a fundamental element of electronic dance music, especially in genres like techno. These chords not only sound amazing but also serve as a gateway to understanding synthesis and sound design. With dub chords, you can create a rhythmic, pulsating energy that keeps the dance floor moving. Let's dive into the five key steps to craft your own dub chords.

Step 1: Choose the Right Chords

The first step in creating dub chords is to select the right chord. For our purpose, we'll start with a minor 7th chord, specifically a minor 7. This chord is comprised of the notes A, C, and E, which form a minor triad. To add depth and character, include the G, the seventh note, to complete the chord. These four notes harmonize beautifully when you play with their octaves, creating a rich and evolving sound.

Step 2: Sound Design

Now that you have your chord structure, it's time to synthesize it. Use a polyphonic synthesizer capable of playing chords. The classic choice for dub chords is Sawtooth waves. The default sound of Sawtooth waves can be a bit harsh, but it's an excellent starting point for our dub chord.

You can also try layering multiple synth voices. Try combining a bright saw wave with a sub oscillator an octave or two below. You can pan the voices slightly to give a wider stereo image. Don't be afraid to experiment with different waveforms and octaves for unique tonal colors. Many synth plugins feature multiple oscillator modes which are ideal for dub chord design.

Oscar uses the free synthesizer Vital, If you haven't used it before, there are helpful tutorials to get you started, otherwise, check out our sound design tutorial for more background information

Step 3: Amp Envelope for Rhythm

Dub chords are all about rhythm, so your sound shouldn't sustain like a pad. Instead, it should be short plucky and rhythmic. Apply an amp envelope to shape the sound. Make it short and plucky, allowing the chord to contribute to the rhythm of your music. This approach will ensure that your dub chord enhances the groove rather than dominating it.

Step 4: Adding a Filter

Modulation is key for movement and interest. You can also try routing an LFO to the pan position to sweep the chord voices back and forth in the stereo field. 

To soften the sound further and give it character, apply a low pass filter. The filter should slowly open and close over time. You can achieve this by using an LFO (Low-Frequency Oscillator) set to sync mode, making the filter gradually open and close through the timeline.

Experiment with different filter shapes to find the one that complements your track's vibe. Adjusting resonance can also add variations to the sound, giving you creative control.

Step 5: Effects for the Finishing Touch

To add depth and atmosphere to your dub chord, apply effects. Effects like delay and reverb are crucial for achieving that spacious dub sound. Long delays in the 300-500ms range work well on dub chords. Try using ping-pong or stereo delays to make them wider. You can also route the chord synth through a send effect to a reverb for an ambient backdrop. Also, using dotted eighth notes is another way to enhance the groove. Place the delay strategically in your track to contribute to the syncopation of the music. This effect not only sounds great but also makes your dub chord more danceable.

Effects like delay and reverb are crucial for achieving that spacious dub sound. Long delays in the 300-500ms range work well on dub chords. Try using ping-pong or stereo delays to make them wider. You can also route the chord synth through a send effect to a reverb for an ambient backdrop.

Subtle use of overdrive or bit crushing can add grit and texture to otherwise clean chord patches.


Creating dub chords is not only fun but also an excellent way to learn more about synthesis and sound design. These chords are a staple in electronic dance music, and mastering them can set you apart as a producer. By following these five steps, you'll be well on your way to crafting captivating dub chords that elevate your tracks and get the crowd moving.

Remember to experiment, stay creative, and let your dub chords enhance the rhythm and energy of your music. For more in-depth knowledge and to share your creations, consider taking a foundations course and joining the music producer community. Like, subscribe, and delve into syncopation for a deeper understanding of electronic music production.

So, start creating those mesmerizing dub chords and watch your music come alive with rhythmic energy!

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