How to be a Beat Maker
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Featured image is of Jamaal Taylor, Recording Connection graduate and beatmaker, live sound engineer, and composer who recently placed two original songs in a Blumhouse Productions film.
The popularity and meteoric rise of rap and hip hop has everything to do with the genres’ abilities to hook listeners and get them moving. Since its beginnings nearly four decades ago, hip hop and rap have risen to world domination. Today, top beat makers are branching out infusing rock, pop, alternative, indie, and even country music. Crossovers used to be notable, now they’re a given.
Beat-making technology has grown quite a bit since the 1980s. As audio-recording hardware has become more sophisticated, and computers became a staple in homes across America, making beats became much more accessible. Because of this and the mass appeal of great beats, many artists and musicians are expanding their knowledge base to include beat making.
But what if you don’t know a preset from a sample? Before downloading a bunch of music making apps or investing in expensive plugins, do your research. Even though it may seem like a headache, especially when you’re aching to create, take some time to learn what beat making is all about and know what the fundamentals are about.
Once you have an understanding of everything that goes into becoming a beat maker, you can start gathering the equipment you need to get started. Start small – you don’t want to break the bank if you’re going to get bored after a month. If you discover you have a knack, and you start improving your sound, you can upgrade then.
One of the most expensive parts of any studio, equipment for making beats is no different. And while you don’t need a room stacked with speakers, instruments, and more, there are a few items you’ll need to get started. Some are mandatory and others make the process of beat making a little easier.
Computer – Do you absolutely, positively need a computer to start working on beats? No. However, the vast majority of today’s beat makers create most of their beats in a DAW, whether or not they choose to create their own samples and sounds utilizing analog or digital production techniques, or both.
DAW stands for “Digital Audio Workstation” i.e. software on a computer that can take the place of all of the above, and more. As a beginner, you certainly don’t need a new Macbook Pro, but consider spending some money to get at least 16 gigs of RAM. To keep costs down, consider a PC because there is a lot more free software available for laptops running Windows.
Of course, you may already have a computer so just make sure it has enough power to run the software and enough storage to hold your music files and samples. You can always buy extra storage by purchasing an external hard drive and/or uploading to the cloud.
External Hard Drives – The easiest way to backup your tracks or hold samples and sound files, external hard drives provide an easy way to transport all of your music to a studio or a show. External hard drives come in a variety of sizes and costs. You probably won’t need a ton of space at the start, but as your library grows, you’ll definitely be upgrading.
Headphones – Unless you want to annoy (or delight) your roommates with hours upon hours of practice, you’ll want to invest in a quality pair of headphones. And while being considerate to your housemates is a plus, good headphones will cancel out any ambient sound so that you can concentrate on making music rather than hearing Call of Duty from the next room.
The very best headphones aren’t cheap, but you may want to spend a little more up front for a good set. If plunking down some cash for a pair of Beats headphones is in your gameplan, you may want to reconsider. Getting bass-boosting headphones can distort the sounds you hear while you’re making beats. Aside from accuracy and superior noise-canceling capabilities, you’ll want to make sure the headphones you invest in feel comfortable and deliver a clear sound. You shouldn’t have to spend more than $100 for a quality set of headphones – so do your research.
At the start, you won’t need studio monitors because you won’t be performing for others right away. But as you begin to make beats for wider consumption, monitors are a great way to hear your music as an audience would. A midi keyboard will give you a little more control and flexibility when making beats. While these keyboards can be had on the cheap, you can hold off until you get better acclimated to your DAW.
Above all, don’t break the bank on getting your beat making gear. At least not yet. Once you feel comfortable with what you’re doing – after months and months of work – you’ll have a better idea of what works for you and what doesn’t. You can start making upgrades at this point.
Digital Audio Workstation
We mentioned above that you don’t need a computer to make beats. However, it takes years of experience to get to that point. Even then, DAWs are still an industry standard and used by some of the biggest names in music.
While Ableton, Logic Pro X, and Pro Tools are all widely used, they can be spendy if you buy full versions of the software. However, many of these professional DAWs offer limited versions at a lower cost, student or educational discounts, and even free trials. Take the time to work with a few to find a good fit.
DAWs come with the ability to record multiple tracks, a mixer, a library of sounds, samples, and presets, and much more. Take the time to understand the interface and how the features work together. It can take months to gain even a basic understanding of the software. But once you do, you’ll find the learning curve begins to accelerate.
Get An Education
Once you’ve learned the basics of a DAW, compiled a decent library of music, and created a few tracks of your own, it’s time to up your game. Listen to the beat makers that impress you, read about music theory, and understand what goes into songwriting.
The Recording Connection for Hip Hop and Beat Making Program is a way to fully immerse yourself into the culture of the genre. We place you in a professional studio where you’ll receive one-on-one time learning with an experienced mentor so that you can get to making beats the right way, fast.
Whether you have years of experience or are just starting your journey, our programs will give you access to state of the art equipment and opportunities to network. Our most successful students are the ones that showed up to work every day and made the effort to learn even when it was difficult. Many of these students have since gone on to work in the music industry, land work with their mentors, or have struck out on their own as music entrepreneurs.
Want to learn more? Appy to Recording Connection today.