Hip-hop music is made through the process of beat making.
Beat making is accomplished in a variety of ways, but ultimately it involves using an eclectic mix of musical styles — funk, soul, jazz, blues and early disco — to create unique sounds.
Although every beat maker has an individual style, there are some proven tips and techniques that beat makers can follow to improve their skills.
The Three Spheres of Beat Making
To create quality beats, three spheres must be considered: technical, logical and creative.
- Technical. This is the mechanical process of making hip-hop/rap music, and it involves operating various electronic music production instruments. Sampling, chopping, looping, sequencing, recording, mixing and mastering may all be part of this process.
- Logical. This is the structuring and arranging process of making hip-hop, and it involves using your knowledge of fundamental music structures, music arrangement practices and concepts of traditional music theory, as well as hip-hop and rap theory.
- Creative. This involves using your imagination, musical knowledge, musical intuition, personal style and other factors to create your beat.
Making beats can be purely instrumental, or it can involve a combination of music instrumental and vocal, but usually the beats are created first and then vocals are added. Making amazing beats takes time and experimentation. Here are some tips for creating hip hop and rap music:
- Learn the basics of music and composition. You can do so by searching the Internet, reading books or taking classes. It’s also a good idea to learn more about the history of hip-hop and rap.
- Listen to other artists. Find other accomplished beat makers and think about what makes their work good. Analyze their beats and copy them to discover how they were made. Multi-platinum producer Johnny “Juice” Rosado says that beat makers should find a unique influence to help them find their voice as a beat maker. This means choosing an influence that inspires you and then studying extensively what makes that particular style, musician, composer or vocalist so special. Next, think about ways you can apply what you learn to your own work.
- Listen to different music. If you only listen to one type of music, try listening to new music in other genres and styles or by other artists and see what you can learn. Pay attention to the various melodies and rhythms and how they are put together.
- Learn to play a musical instrument. Learning how to play an instrument takes time, but it will help you greatly when making beats. If you can’t play an instrument, make noises with your mouth. Hum melodies and remake them with your keyboard or software.
- Collaborate. Work with another producer, a songwriter or a singer to come up with something new. This way both of you might learn something new.
There are many people out there making beats, but to improve your beats so that they stand out from the crowd, it’s important to pay attention to your technique. Here are some areas to learn more about:
- Equalization. To make good beats, you must understand the basics of equalization, which is the process of adjusting the balance between frequency components within an electronic signal.
- Frequencies of instruments. All the instruments used in hip-hop have different sounds. Learn more about the sounds of instruments and the ways they work.
- Panning and using reverb. Panning music means making the sounds interchange from one speaker to the next or making sounds appear in one speaker or the other. Reverb places instrument sounds in the back, or farther away from the listener.
- Compression. Using compression takes the peaks out of beat, which is very important. Play around with different ways to use the compressor.
- Spend only 10 minutes on a beat. Spend only a short amount of time on a beat, rather than tweaking it for hours. Make a bunch of beats, and then focus on the ones with the most potential.
- Switch things up. Change up your routine and do things differently than you normally do. The industry changes a lot, and so should you.
About the Author: Jay Sims has been making beats since he was in high school. Now he also loves helping others learn how to make great beats.