How to Start Producing Beats
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While harmonies, melodies, and structure are all important in music, nothing drives the music of today like the beat. Setting the tempo, the beat drives a song along, providing a backbone for all other elements to grab onto. Fast or slow, it’s what audiences tap their foot or nod their head to when listening in the car, at work, or while chilling at home.
The music of today is heavily influenced by the sounds brought to the masses by hip hop in the early ‘90s. Pop, rock, R&B, jazz, and even country-western use recognizable beats that stick with their listeners. An entire genre of music – electronic dance music and its multitudes of descendants – are dominated by beats.
So why has the beat become so important? Technology. Thanks to home computer explosion of the ‘80s, and the musical hardware and software that came along shortly thereafter, beat making was no longer left to the pros. Anyone with a powerful enough computer could start making music on their own.
Prices dropped, more people owned computers, and software blossomed. With smart technology and mobile devices, we all carry a potential mini-studio in the palm of our hands. With that kind of access, experimentations, variations, and mutations become more commonplace.
Found you’re ready to put your stamp on the scene? You have the computer, access to the internet, and a beat in your head you can’t wait to unleash. So what comes next? You’ll need to learn the tools of the trade, obviously, but you’ll also need to understand what makes a beat, a beat.
To Gear or Not to Gear
There are two schools of thought on the best way to start making beats or upping your beat game: Spend the cash to get the gear the pros use? Or start with the bare minimum and just work on your craft? Is there a right or wrong answer? Not necessarily.
After all, the hip hop masters of the late ‘70s had about .01% of the gear available today when you consider all the software and electronics at our disposal. And they certainly didn’t have the mobile sound studios that are found on the most recent and powerful laptops. But what they had started a revolution.
To be fair, that revolution was armed with a Roland TR-808, a drum machine that was the first of its kind in the early ‘80s. Although it wasn’t commercially successful – often criticized for it’s “unnatural” sound – the hip hop community fully embraced it and many still do today.
Which isn’t to say a studio setup full of midi keyboards, studio monitors, boards to mix and master, and more, is a waste of money. Many music producers around the world use just as much of the equipment and software as is available because they work with a wide range of artists with varying needs, tastes, and sounds.
If you’re just starting to produce beats it makes sense to start small. Take the time it takes to learn the craft. Outside of a laptop with a capable sound card and headphones, the only gear you really need is a digital audio workstation (DAW). As a beginning beat maker, a DAW has everything you need to start learning how to make hip hop beats.
Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic Pro, FL Studio (“Fruity Loops”), and Cubase are a few of the most popular DAWs on the market. Midi controllers and other beat making software come with virtual instruments, faders, track stage, and other features in a wide variety of prices, from free versions of Ableton and Pro Tools to the pro versions which cost hundreds of dollars. Hence, once you know you want to give it a try, you’ll have to figure out how much time you have to spend on it and what you can afford. It’s really a chicken/egg question. Don’t get the gear until you understand how to make rap beats and fully understand what a “beat” is. As your experience grows, then you can start thinking about what kind of equipment you’ll need.
Before you fire up the DAW, open a browser window first and investigate what beats are. Figure out the beats per minute (BPM), the time signature, and the distinction between downbeats, backbeats, and breakbeats of the music you listen to. If you’ve ever played an instrument, you’ve given yourself a bit of a head start.
If not, you’ll have to do some homework. Learn about what a beat is, how it’s used in electronic music (including hip hop) and why it’s so important to music as a whole. As you start to understand the makeup of a beat, put that knowledge to work with your DAW.
Are you thinking about making music production and beat making something more than a hobby? You’ll need to spend more than an hour here or there playing around with your DAW. Otherwise, you won’t really retain any of the information or techniques you’re reading about (if you’re doing any research at all).
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Seriously – if everybody could make killer beats, everybody would be making killer beats. However, if you find yourself devouring music theory, spending hours after work learning how instruments sound together, or simply find yourself tapping out or hearing beats and are hungering for more, Recording Connection might be able to help.
Our unique programs and workshops place you with an experienced mentor in their environment: the studio. Instead of guessing what you’ll need to know, your mentor will show you. Instead of hoping those online tutorials know what they’re talking about, your mentor is a proven resource. Instead of wishing your questions could be answered by a YouTube video, your mentor is ready to be asked and talk to you about it, explain it through conversation not diagrams or just words in a book.
In addition to the Recording Connection Hip Hop and Beat Making Program, we offer several other programs geared towards giving you a solid foundation in the music-making marketplace. This includes Ableton and Logic Pro Electronic Music Production, Audio Engineering and Music Production Programs. We even have a music business program.
We also offer other advantages 4-year universities, community colleges, or trade schools just can’t offer. This includes shorter programs (ranging from six to nine months), less tuition (on average), and potential opportunities to work with local legends and traveling artists. You’ll save time and money while learning to make beats the right way.
There are no guarantees. Your success depends on how much work you do both inside the studio and out of it. The responsibility and willingness to learn all you can and to aquire the many skills and techniques it takes to make music on a professional level comes down to you.
Ready for a seat at the table? Apply to Recording Connection today.