Hip Hop Production Techniques

Latest posts by Liya Swift (see all)

From humble beginnings in the Bronx underground to worldwide domination, hip hop may be the most popular form of music globally. The mix of drum machines, dope lyrics, syncopated beats, and samples create music that is both thoughtful and explosive.

Two turntables and a microphone signaled the birth of hip hop, but the Roland TR-808 gave it a growth spurt. As the popularity of home computers grew, and electronic instruments became more accessible, hip hop hit its stride in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s – known as the Golden Age of Hip Hop.

So how is the hip hop sound made? Part music theory, part encyclopedic knowledge of music forms past and present, and part engineering wizardry. Sure, you can download a beat-maker to your phone and create a funky little baseline but it’ll take more than that to make a name for yourself in the hip hop-sphere.

Music Theory
Understanding how chords work together, why certain instruments sound so good together, and the building blocks of music: rhythm, melody, and harmony, having a music background isn’t mandatory, but it helps. Pharrell Williams was in high school marching band and things worked out well for him.

Listen and Learn
It certainly helps growing up in a musical family. If your parents loved music, chances are you were exposed to many forms of music, artists, and genres from an early age. Use that experience to your advantage. If your mom or dad didn’t know the difference between a drum and a didgeridoo, you’re going to have dive in for yourself.

Even though vinyl is making a comeback, buying hundreds of albums isn’t the best use of your time or your money at this point. You can do some research online and discover who influenced your favorite artists, download their music, and find out for yourself why it had such an impact.

Fill Your Toolbox
Hip hop artists have it much easier today, at least when it comes to the tools of the trade. Almost 50 years ago, acts had to use a tape recorder and be fast with their fingers to create their loops. Milk crates filled with records have been replaced with the cloud. Instead of two turntables, artists have a laptop.

It seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? If you came looking for a magic bullet, there just isn’t one – unless the hip hop gods blessed you at birth. What we can give you is a roadmap to building a solid foundation and understanding that can serve you for years to come.

Choose a Digital Audio Workstation

The 808 may have revolutionized the hip hop landscape, but digital audio workstations took the genre to dizzying heights. Used for hip hop, electronic music, techno, pop, rock, country, and almost any other type of music, a DAW is tool No. 1 for most music producers.

Audio engineers using hip hop recording techniques in a music studioWhile there are many, many, MANY DAWs to choose from, a few of them are among the most popular with the big-name stars: Ableton Live, ProTools, and Logic Pro. Most DAWs operate in similar ways – even the cheap or free versions, although there are notable differences.

If you have no experience using a DAW, we recommend surfing your app store of choice and trying a few versions. Ableton and ProTools offer slimmed-down free versions while cheaper Logic Pro versions can be had as part of a bundle. Free apps like Garageband are also a great way to get a feel of a DAW, but you’ll need to upgrade at some point to step up your game.

At the start, you won’t need an 808, midi keyboard, or other gear. Just learn how the track stage works, how to implement different instruments, and other features work to give yourself a solid base of understanding. Create drum beats, drum loops, and other hip hop staples.

Once that happens, you can start working in samples, play with the tempos, and create infectious hip hop beats. Learn how the kick and snare drums can be used to enhance each other. Sample packs will give your hip hop production even more versatility.

Hip Hop Submersion

As an extern in the Recording Connection Hip Hop and Beat Making Program, you’ll be placed with a hip hop producer in a real-world recording studio or music production room. Working side by side with your mentor, you’ll learn the history, fundamentals, and how to create hip hop music.

We use studios instead of classrooms, industry insiders instead of teachers, and give you opportunities not available at four-year universities or trade schools. From day one you’ll be exposed to the tools that hip hop legends like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne have been using for years.

In fact, many of our mentors have worked with those hip hop artists and others in the music industry. During our six- or nine-month programs, our externs will be setting up the studio one day and potentially working with hip hop stars the next.

While learning from or working with today’s music industry professionals sounds great, we also understand the real-world concerns of our students. Our programs cost less than universities, junior colleges, or vocational schools. When combined with the length of our programs, you can save time and money with Recording Connection when compared to a conventional trade school and college programs.

And you won’t need to move to New York City, Los Angeles, or Miami to enroll, either. The Recording Connection has more than 130 locations in 48 states. Instead of quitting your job, moving thousands of miles, and finding a place to live, any disruptions to your life will be minimal.

But you’ll need to be all-in. Our programs are intense and you’re expected to put in 10 to 40 hours a week at the studio, put in work on your own music, and take tests and finals. This isn’t the time or place to be playing on your phone. Our most successful graduates have been hired at the studios they externed at, moved on to other studios, or started their own.

It can happen to you, too. But it rests entirely on your shoulders. Ready? Apply today.

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