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beats
rap music
minor chords
guitar skills
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metronome
stepping stone
Beginners Tutorial - Tips For Making Beats (part 1)
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This is a beginners tutorial to give you a bit of a start. It can be used as a stepping stone to making any genre of music - the principles are the same.

Pick the style of music you want to produce and listen to the top performers tracks over and over again. Get a feel for where all the instruments fit in and what instrumentation is used. How do they interact with each other, can you hear all of the separation between different instruments? How are the dynamics of the music - are there soft parts followed by loud parts?

Structure your music properly

How do your favourite artists do it? Is there minimal instrumentation during the chorus or is it uplifting and powerful?

Try a 2 or 4 bar intro, 16 bar verse, 8 bar chorus, 16 bar verse, 8 bar chorus, 16 bar verse, 8 bar breakdown/bridge/instrumental, 8 bar chorus, 2 - 8 bar outro (common in rap music.) Experiment with what works.

Set the BPM

Hip hop 80 - 100 BPM

Techno 120 - 150 BPM

Trance 120 - 145 BPM

Rap 90 - 120 BPM

Reggae - 60 - 80 BPM

These are guidelines as it depends on, for example, what type of techno you are making. Find what sounds right for your track. Trust your ears.

Start to build the beat

Start with drums first. Kick, snare, hi-hat. 4 bar intro pattern with the kick on 1. Layer these initial kick drum beats with toms on 2 and 4, or whatever you want to use that fits in with what you are trying to say. The drums are the most important part of any song, not just rap or hip hop, as it is the drums that power the song or drive the tune. If the drummer in a live band is weak, the band is usually weak. Making beats is no different. Get the drums full and powerful. Enter them in directly or play live to a metronome.

Getting the melody

Keyboard or guitar skills. It doesn't have to be brilliant as you can edit later, just major and minor chords and scales. Use samples at first if you want. After a while you will be more confident and put your creativity in by experimentation and knowing what fits and how different notes interact with each other. Use violin samples, or anything that will stand out and be catchy. Try different patterns with the drum beat and see how different variations sound. Try to achieve a catchy bass line.

Layering

This is in order to make the beat sound big and full. This is accomplished by adding other tracks to your beat creator sequencer with different instrumentation playing the same pattern as other instruments in the track. Beware of the instruments adding together and giving a muddy sound. This could be dealt with by EQ (more on this in part 2.)

Panning

Make sure your instruments are not all in the middle of the stereo field. Use panning to separate. For example, kick and hi-hat in the centre, snare 11 o’clock, toms 1 o’clock. Guitar 10 o’clock, violin 2 o’clock. This is not set in stone, again, just experiment with what sounds good to you. Trust your ears. Panning will help to separate the track so get the basic mix with the individual instrument levels and panning before you do any processing.

Most programs to make beats with will allow you to achieve all this.

See part 2 for the mixing and mastering process.


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