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I know many dubstep styles don't use the "wobble" effect at all, and that the "wobble" effect is used by many other genres, so it's not a defining characteristic, even if it's sometimes considered a genre's cliche.

Wikipedia includes some characteristics:

tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals

But that applies to a huge chunk of the electronic music universe. The rhythm section further specifies:

Dubstep rhythms are usually syncopated, and often shuffled or incorporating tuplets. The tempo is nearly always in the range of 138–142 beats per minute, with a clap or snare usually inserted every third beat in a bar

But that also applies to a huge portion of electronic music. It applies to them all if you consider the pitch control of a dj context. It's not rare to see house, techno, and trance productions with those characteristics, that would be hardly considered dubstep.

If that's not it, then what is defining dubstep as a musical genre? Which are the patterns that define a dubstep song? Is it possible to define dubstep in more precise, less generalized, terms? What makes a dubstep song a dubstep song, that isn't shared by pretty much every other electronic music genre?

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with a clap or snare usually inserted every third beat in a bar [...]

But that also applies to a huge portion of electronic music

This doesn't apply to a huge portion of electronic music. Most styles have the clap/snare every other beat, not every third. And that's, to me, one of the defining characteristics of dubstep, that is the half-time rhythm that, mixed with the other characteristics you mentioned (wobble (sometimes), bass-heavy productions...) make dubstep dubstep.

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  • But how is the snare on the third beat related to double-time rhythm? – Anton dB Mar 2 at 15:07
  • @AntondB yeah, I misread that quote the other way around. It's more confusing than anything. What I meant was half-time rhythm. – Federico klez Culloca Mar 2 at 15:13
  • But how is the snare on the third beat related to half-time rhythm? Or any specific rhythm? Is it supposed to be syncopation? Is it supposed to be a strong beat? What do we mean by half-time rhythms? Rhythms in 2/2? Is 2/2 rhythm really that prevalent, or expected, in dubstep? – Anton dB Mar 2 at 15:19
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    Usually electronic music (snare/clap on every other beat) goes "boom-cha-boom-cha", dubstep (snare/clap every third beat in a bar) goes (boom-pause-cha-pause) making it seem like it's going half the speed (e.g. 140 bpms sound like 70 bpms). That's what I mean by half time. See the first picture in this section of the wikipedia article on half time. – Federico klez Culloca Mar 2 at 15:30
  • Oh! I see what you mean now! – Anton dB Mar 2 at 15:32

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