The Top 5 Things You Need To Start Making A Beat in 2019
- A Mac or a PC (With at least 4GB of RAM and a 500GB Hard Drive if you can get one. 120GB or 250GB Hard Drives can work fine also. )
- Software Digital Audio Workstation (D.A.W. This would be software like Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Fruity Loops, Reason, Cubase, and more. )
- Midi Controller Keyboard (There are many options on the market, but this is so you can play keys directly. It is not required, but highly recommended. Its much more fun to make beats on a midi keyboard then a computer keyboard. )
- Virtual Instruments VSTs (For more sound options)
- Headphones or Studio Monitors (So you can hear that sweet sweet bass better)
(Technically this is all you need to start off with in order to make a beat. The Production Software usually comes with a variety of sounds that you can get started with right out of the box. We of course would recommend a lot more equipment for the fun factor and added tools to your arsenal, but this is also where we started in our journey of software production as it has developed to overtake hardware over the years. Well, actually we started on a Casio board and recorded our beats to a cassette using a Walkman Car Adapter that had a cassette case with an aux cable on it. Also, we made beats on workstation keyboards like the Yamaha motif, and Roland Fantom. But more about that later. )
Is It Really Hard To Make A Beat?
Of course not! Beat making is fun! Is there a little work involved from taking the beat you made and making it a professional track? Yes of course, but the essence of beat making is a fun process. Software beat making, in our opinion, is a little less fun then hardware just because of the awesome toys you get to play with, but all in all, its a fun profession.
Do I Need To Learn Sound Design Or Engineering?
Sound design is not a requirement, but imagine this. You get get a new keyboard or software and have scrolled through all of the preset sounds many times. What are you going to do now? Well, sound design is your go to. That is how you take a keyboard with 1000 sounds to infinite sounds by designing your own. It can be fun at times of discovery and daunting when you want a specific sound.
Can I Make A Beat For Another Genre With These Steps?
Beat making is beat making! All genres do it. These methods work well for all genres. However, live instruments like guitars, wind instruments, etc have a slightly different process on how you record them into your computer, but essentially it is the same as all songs are a collection of individual instruments that come together in harmony to form a beat.
- Basics to making a beat
- What is a Virtual Instrument
- Make beats and have fun!
- Stacking your tracks
- Song structure
- Mix and mastering
- Selling your beats
- Online Distribution
- Keyboard Workstations and Synthesizers
You Have Everything, So Whats The Basics Of Making A Beat ?
The best way to the learn the basics of your new equipment and software is youtube videos. Yes you can go straight to the users manual like we did in the days of yesteryear, but in this new age of everyone wanting to be a star online, you can find lots of visual tutorials that can get you at least knowing how to open, set up, and record a basic 1 instrument track.
All software, although very similar, has a different look to them and some have slightly different terminologies. But don’t let that overwhelm you, once you know the basics, you can follow along with anyone. Our blog videos on here will primarily focus on Apple Logic Pro and Ableton Live for beat making just because that is what we love to use, but the meat and potatoes of beat making comes when you add in the virtual instruments and new hardware instruments.
What The Heck Is A Virtual Instrument?
In the past, expensive keyboard workstations like the Roland Fantom, Yamaha Motif Line, Korg, and more were the best way to get a lot of sounds inside of a piece of hardware that would make beats. Computers were still using floppy disk. (Yup, some of you all have never heard of floppy disk.)
Todays computers of course are more advanced and now offer instruments that are literally on your computers hard drive. You trigger the sounds using a USB midi keyboard or clicking in the notes in your DAW. The Midi keyboard does not actually have any sounds stored on it, it just plays the sounds from your computers hard drive virtually! Hints the name, Virtual Instrument!
Virtual instruments have expanded the world of beat making. Before, most keyboards had a limit to the sounds available. We once payed $2499 for a Motif that gave a max of about 1000 preset sounds, where as today you can get software around $499 that comes with tens of thousands of sounds. Software manufacturers like Spectrasonics, Native Instruments, & other are to thank for the advancement of the virtual instrument boom.
You Know How To Record Now, Lets Make A Beat And Have Fun!
Now that you know the basics on how to record 1 track, its time to layers those tracks into multiple recordings to form a full beat loop. Start with either a 4 or 8 bar loop range to record with. Make sure to have your Metronome turned on so you get a solid count in to get ready to start playing.
Its also good to make sure Quantization is turned on in order to stay on beat. We will have a video explaining Quantization soon but until we do, check out some youtube videos about it. With those 2 things set, you are ready to record your first track. Do you start with the Drums? Do you start with the Melodies? Well, that is the fun part. You can start anywhere you want to. Art is art and there are no wrong decisions.
I personally like to start with the melodies. So I would play around with sounds until I found a beautiful 4-8 bar loop of an instrument. What is a Bar and Loop? A Loop is a repeating pattern, so you play a piano pattern for a certain time and then stop and let it repeat over and over. A bar is the name given to a unit for measuring music time. Think of snapping your fingers to the beat. Each finger snap is 1 bar. 4 finger snaps would be a 4 bar loop. The timing (Tempo) can vary, but a bar will always be the same.
Build Your Tracks Together
After you have recorded your first track, lets say it is a 4 bar piano loop. Now this is where you add another track to your project, and play another instrument on top. This simply is the basics of making a beat. You can add a dope string ensemble to accompany your piano, or you can go to the drum kits and add some character to your track. It is totally up to you.
Congratulations, You are now making a beat! This is the fun part. Getting to this point is where you want to be. You can now let the inspiration flow. Try tons of different sounds. What sound sounds best with the original loop you made? Did you try to twist a few knobs on your midi controller to see if the sound changes and if it gets better?
All sounds start as a preset. A preset is a sound parameter set up by the manufacturer of the software or hardware. In many cases, they make a lot of great sounds that are ready to go right out of the box. But if you start to twist some knobs, you will uncover some new ear candy for your beats. Play around as much as possible at this point while you layer away.
There is no limit to the layers of tracks you can add. Just keep in mind, this is just the beginning. All of these loops are the foundation of your new beat! Try muting certain tracks during playback to get an idea on how the song structure may go. Song structure is meant by the layout of the beat having a hook, verse, intro, and outro, at the least.
You Have Loops, Now Is This How You Make A Beat?
YUP! Well, that is the most fun part of it in our opinion. Here comes a little bit of structure. We will have many videos in our “How To” section of our blogs about this as well. You want to have an idea of the way you want the beat to flow into a full song. Think about some of your favorite songs out there currently. Notice the way the song’s structure changes throughout. Each change has a type of name. Its good to know a bit of what that is.
Hook: The fun part of the beat. This is the catchy looped part of any song that stays on peoples brain the most. This is where you want your beat to shine! Also known correctly as a Chorus. Typically 8 Bars.
Verse: The verse is where an artist will have their longer performed parts of the song. These are typically the part where you can drop instruments in and out of the beat to give it some dynamics. Typically 16 Bars.
Intro: This is what sets the tone for the track. Or it could be used as an attention grabber. Either way, it is the first thing people hear, and remember, first impressions are everything. Of course in beat making though, you do not want to give them everything at once in the beginning. Make it grab attention while still allowing the beat to build for a great impact. Typically 4-8 Bars.
Bridge: This is not really something you have to do for all beats, but this is another type of change in the beat, usually associated with a change in the melodic key. It gives the beat an added flair and allows for a full key change for those songs that want that. Typically 4-8 Bars.
Outro: You can either fade on out like the conformists, or stop on a dope beat drop. Either way, the outro is just another area where the producer can have a chance to shine.
Why Do I Need To Know This?
You want a full beat that you can jam out to in your ride as you freestyle along horribly right? Well we do too, and in order for you to not get bored with your beat so fast, you want to add in some structure. This also helps to give your beat some value to an artist that may be looking for some ready made beats.
Song structure tells the story of your beat. Many of the artists that we have worked with over the years will sit back and listen to each beat to see how it catches them. It can be a dark sounding beat with some low bass lines and suspenseful strings, or it could be a party time beat with some machine gun high hats and some dope analog synths! Either way, another fun part about making a beat is choosing how you want to effect other people through the tones in your music.
The music producer in todays time and of yesterdays time, in our opinion, are the real stars. When was the last time you heard an acapella song that made the top the top billboard charts? Almost Never! Doo Wop Music has been dead and is never coming back! That means that these artists would be nothing without the skilled craftsmanship of a solid beat maker.
Over the years many beat makers have been given a bad rap and are usually unheard of. But this is just the nature of the business currently as singers and rappers try to shine for attention. Most beat makers are not seeking attention. But don’t let that fool you, we are the ones that need to shine. We are the catalyst to many of these artists so we deserve our cred!
All in all, song structure will get you there. It will give those that listen to your beat some new things to hear when you bring in and out different sounds for different parts of the song structure. And yes, simply put, you can just extend your loop that you made into a 2-3 minute length. Then you can go through and add in and take out instruments by deleting the 4 bar loops in the areas you want to take things out. This is just a basic idea of how to structure.
In many cases, your software will allow you to just copy and paste your tracks over and over until you reach the desired length. There are more advanced features that can do it quicker as well. Until we get our how to videos up, you will want to check youtube for “how to copy paste tracks” or “how to extend my loops.” There is lots of info specific to the software you chose.
Mix And Mastering
So your loop is now extended out and you have Bounced (exported, saved) the beat to your phone and ran to play it in your ride and noticed one thing, it sounds like straight ass! I mean, you hear it and know its dope, but the bass is either too loud or non existent, the high hats sound like they are stabbing your ear drums, and you have the volume down low and its still clipping.
What is clipping? That is when the audio signal reaches past a threshold level in loudness when recording and it starts to get a lot of distortion. What is distortion? That is usually when something sounds like garbage unless its intentional. It can be too much noise from clipping causing the sound frequencies to clash heavily, or a muddied up sounding mess.
What is a sound frequency. Well these are all questions that deal with mixing and mastering your music. These topics can get pretty intuitive and we will expand on them with videos, but at the least, now that you have heard your beat, make notes on what YOU don’t like about it. Maybe you think the bass is killing already and you just need to lower the other sounds to match. Maybe you need to bring the volume of the high hats down so they don’t hurt your ears. It’s totally up to you.
As far as mixing goes, it is the “mixing” together of all of the loops that you made until the sounds are in perfect harmony. This can be started off simply by playing with the volume levels of each instrument you did a loop with in order to get everything at a good level when the music is turned up. But then its gets more advanced when you start to ad in reverb, delays, panning, Equalizing, and more. Equalizing (EQ) is heavily important. This is where you take certain sounds and carve them out a place in the song. Meaning, the bass should only take up the “low end” part of your song, so cutting everything above the low end helps for it not to clash with lets say your piano or kick drums in the mid section. This can be a long topic in itself that we will discuss further. But trust me, it is not as hard as it sounds. A good visual of what is being explained will help you discover how simple it can be on the surface.
Mastering deals more with the end product. The overall loudness and quality of the entire track. Once you have properly mixed together all of these loops, they will all combine onto one track, that track being the master track. This is the final process of playing with levels, frequencies, and more in order to give the track that final polishing before it is done.
Mixing and mastering is not required to know how to make a beat, but they will give you a good sound which we all want. You can always pay for this service as well and leave it to the pros. Beware, there are many people that claim to mix and master and do some very basic things you can do on your own without the desired results. Everyone who can add a compressor or change a EQ setting thinks they are a Sound Engineer, but that is just a small part of the craft, so research your chosen engineer thoroughly, and ask for A/B test. An A/B test is a track that was before their master and after. It may not be radio quality, but as long as you like it and your friends, then it may be worth the price.
Now You Know How To Make A Beat! Practice, Practice, Practice!
Making a beat is really simply just like that. That is why everybody and their mom with a windows 95 or better computer wants to be a producer. There are even programs that give you premade loops, which also likely the software you have has them, where all you have to do is click around and arrange the loops until you hear what you like. But what is the fun in that?
There is nothing better then tapping out beats on drum pads with your fingers to colorful lighted pads making you feel like a kid again. Well, of course playing the actual drums would be fun, but lets face it, music producer are usually not full out Instrumentalist, and vice versa usually as well. Many producers couldn’t play a Brian Mcknight song to save their life, but could make a dope R&B ballad that tops the chart with a original piano riff that they made up. So do you want to be like Beethoven and play in concert halls, or do you want to chillax in your home studio making dope tracks in your basketball shorts that could one day go top charts?
Now we love instrumentalist. Live music would not be the same without them. Think about the impact a band has live versus somebody playing their beat over their iphones Aux cable. The dynamics and excitement are never the same without a solid band. So we always give props where props are due. We just want to stress that making beats is an ancient art that anyone can do without any training. It comes from the soul. You can either be tapping on random items to make drums, beatboxing with your mouth, using glasses, bell instruments, whatever! That is the fun part about making beats over being an instrumentalist.
Think about our ancestors in the past. They did not have computers, steinway pianos, organs, synths, etc. But they still made music. They of course could not record it, but could make it from any random items they wanted to, and with out any practice, they could stay on rhythm and make an amazing beat. And it takes a beat to make people dance! So have a lot more pride about your beat making abilities already to this point!
The Rest Will Come With Time
As you continue making beats, you will hear things from other songs that you may want to put in your tracks. You may get stuck on certain technical issues when trying to add new products to your beat making arsenal. You might want to learn about mixing and mastering fully so you can stop paying some schmo out there thats not doing anything better then you could.
This is where our website and youtube will become your best resource. Your tracks won’t turn out radio ready right away. And no, we are not going to tell you that it will take years either. It just takes the right guidance and most importantly the right tools. No matter how much knowledge you have, some tools are just designed for better uses then others which makes them invaluable to your beat making and mixing/mastering stash.
This is where each product you get is going to need a bit of research. Some things are easy plug and play items, but if you decide to ball out and get a MPC Live or something, then that will require some learning to get up and going. Each piece of equipment and software usually requires some learning but once you have gone through many of them, then you will start to notice the similar nuances of them all. Some just have horrible user interfaces as well and will piss you off and make you post it up on craigslist.
We want to be your source for many of these issues. Our blogs and vlogs over time will cover an array of different devices giving you a place you can always check whenever you upgrade your gear. Some of the videos will be basic, “How to make a beat using ***”, which will be quick start guides to get you having fun in little time. That’s why you spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars of course is to have some freaking fun!
This game is inexpensive and expensive at the same time! We say that because yes you can use stock sounds, a midi controller, etc to get started, but once you are started, it gets pretty hard to stay out of a local Guitar Center. Walking in and seeing all of those flagship keyboards and studio monitors and more just makes you want to empty your wallets onto the floor!
That is how they get you! Make it fun, then jack up the prices! Just kidding, but it does get expensive from here so we suggest some good research before making any purchases. Also check out used equipment from time to time for a good steal! but make sure it doesn’t require software or a One time license on a USB Flash Drive. That could leave you with buying something you can’t even use. So be very careful on things that are software based sold used.
So A Local Rapper Wants To Buy Your Beats?
First off, congrats on making a beat that someone listened to and wants it to fit into their projects! Don’t get too cocky though! Many of these locals will say everything in order to get that beat from you. This might make you nervous as no one wants to be taken advantage of. So let us give you some pointers.
MOST LOCAL RAPPERS WONT SELL OR STREAM MUCH!
So worrying about if they will make a lot of money and leave you stranded is not really a normal thing to happen. Unless you are in a major music hub like Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Or Miami. Underground artists from these areas are proven to birth some stars. But yes it still can happen as some people are just A-holes. In many cases, most of them will take your beat and do nothing with it. They might make a track and never release it, or release it on soundcloud with no buzz and promo. So its up to you if you want to let them use it or not.
You can always copyright your tracks. The US Copyright website has a way to upload multiple tracks at once to them and pay a one time fee of around $30-35 to get them all protected. Are your beats worth that? Only you know the answer to that. But pricing is another thing to look at when giving out your beats.
Rappers and singers may want your beats free or for a price. You can set it to $1 or $1000. Its up to you of course, but knowing the market a bit will help you determine what you want to do. Some people Lease a beat which allows a person to use it for usually a low fee, but they do not have exclusive rights which means you can sell the beat many times. This is actually a good way to make some decent money over time. Another way is giving them exclusive rights. this is more like a small contract that you will not sell the beat to anyone else. These of course you want to charge a higher cost for. How high? That is up to you. You can check some beat making websites to see what their charges are and how the quality of theirs is and base yours accordingly. You could also believe you are the next Pharrell Williams and just charge 40 grand right off the rip! Who knows, you could be some upcoming producer in Cali next to some people who got it like that that really love your beats. Either way, you make the call.
As far as having a beat stolen, like should you really guard your beats like your life depended on them? Not really. I mean, once you have a certain amount of buzz then yes, but starting off, its good to get your music out there and be heard. If you live in a area where there are high end artists then you can maybe be more secretive, but in order to be heard sometimes, you have to “be heard” which means playing your beats for others. Sending those emails and everything else. If you feel like you want a bit more protection, add a TAG in the song. A TAG is a repeating human voice saying something like your production company name over and over while the beat plays. That makes the beat unusable but of course any skilled producer can always just recreate it. So you are never fully 100% safe. Instead, focus on being heard. Maybe you save some beats while letting others be heard. Its totally up to you, but BE HEARD!
HOW TO BE HEARD, DISTRIBUTION, COPYRIGHT, & MORE
SoundCloud: This is a great platform for gaining social cred amongst others trying to be heard. It is also a free option to place your music up along with premium features at a cost. Socialize with many people on there. Many producers get found on there by releasing their instrumentals to be heard. Its a good way to step outside of your local area virtually and let others try your beats out in another state. It always feels good to hear an artists in another state has used your beat in a live performance! So make a beat and put it on there with many others to find you a more national audience.
Distro Kid: This is one of our favorite sites for getting your fully finished tracks onto Itunes, GooglePlay, Spotify, IHeartRadio, and more! They offer super low fees for placing up multiple albums and singles. They even have a record label plan that allows you to have multiple artists. This is good if you want to take your beat making forward to production and recording vocals, all the way to the end product. You could possibly find you a group of 3-4 people to exclusively produce for and promote them. Either way, we find them to be better options then the others out there.
Search for Music Agents in major music hub cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, and more. This can get very pricey, but this is one of those things that other artists don’t tell others that they have for some reason. But maybe you just want an agent to find you some rappers and singers in another state that want to pay for your beats. Of course the agent will get a cut of that profit, and it may cost you for their time, but it may push you into some doors you may not have known existed since you are not in those states. Research anyone you choose carefully. Check their facebook pages, instagram, background, references, prior clients, and more.
You can also place you beat on Marketplaces out there for other beats. They may only get you a small amount per download, as they will likely be leased, but it will give you another chance to have your beats heard by people looking for some new inspiration. These tracks you will for sure want to put a TAG in as the sample that gets played back before they buy it is your track and you don’t want them to steal it. Not because they will make money, but more because of the principal that you should be paid. So protect yourself from that early.
Hit up the local spots with CDs, Flyers with download Barcodes, and all other local primitive forms of promoting yourself that still works today. You can carry around some headphones and video peoples reactions to your beats at an event. You can go up to DJ’s and slide them a few bucks to spin your track, just make sure he hypes it up on the mic first to get your moneys worth of attention. Just playing an unknown track can make a crowd not pay attention that it is a local track. These tracks of course you will likely want some artist already on them at this point. So this is for further down the line.
Keyboards And Synths, Very Fun Stuff, Yet VERY Pricey!
Once you know how to make a beat, you will start exploring the world of gear that drains your pocket book! Keyboards and Synths come in a variety of types, sizes, uses, and more. Going into your local pro audio store can be like heaven as you play on all of those great instruments until you have to just choose only one to walk out with!
What is the difference between a synth and a keyboard? Well usually they are combined, but a synth (synthesizer) is a piece of hardware that makes sounds using electricity. Which technically is every keyboard. But a Synth could also have no keys on it and be a box, beat machine or other form factor that can be quite fun and change up the pace of just playing on piano keys all day.
A keyboard is simply any hardware that has piano keys on it that allows you to play sounds either stored in the hardware or on your computer. So watch out, as you walk the pro audio shop, you will see a keyboard for $2499 and another for $199. Obviously there are many reasons why, the main reason being is the cheaper keyboard is just a Midi Controller with no sounds on it. The high end keyboards have a ton of features from sounds, recording, mixing, live sound, and much more. If you are just starting out, a midi controller keyboard and some basic software is all you will need. But there is a lot of fun to be had with owning a major flagship keyboard. Making a beat on one of those will have us like a kid in our room playing with our favorite toys. Software based production can be fun also, but it is something about that large new gear that inspires new beat creations.
Take the time to research all keyboards and synths before you buy. We will have many videos on our blog and vlog about this as well. You might want to look at features such as expandability, number of preset sounds, mobility, software integration, etc. For purchases under $500, F*** it just have fun, but when making a purchase for a large flagship keyboard for thousands of dollars, you want to know what you are getting yourself into. The best part about these boards is they do hold their value quite well. We have owned fantoms, motifs, Korgs, junos, and more, and all of them resell very well. You could literally have fun with these things for 2-3 years and sell them for just a few hundred shy of what you paid. Unless you get unlucky and try to sell when a new model drops in the stores. Then your value will go down a bit more but you will still be able to sell it for a great value. So putting your money into large flagship boards is a pretty good investment.
So Someone gave you a cracked version of FL Studios, and now you feel like you are ready!
How do you make beats in FL Studios? Well everyone knows this. You just get the software, and click on the squares right? And once you figure out the patterns, then now you know how to make beats right? Well, to a degree. The best part about Fruity Loops is that it makes things easy for the end user to be able to start making beats. Ease of use can sometimes be looked at as a crutch and frowned upon. But when producers started making hit records using the software, no one could deny the fact that no matter what their opinion was on the software, it had now made careers and lives for people simply through the same method of clicking in beats.
A beat is a beat though, however you slice it. If some rapper decides to toss some vocals on it and it becomes a major hit, then who are we to judge what tool was used and why? I know I said we started on hardware, but it was software that revived our love for becoming producers. To be honest. Neither one of use knew what to do with the tracks we had made on cassettes and synth workstations. We figured someone would just take them to a studio and eventually something would happen. But when computer integration happened, it opened our eyes to the possibilities of finishing tracks from start to finish ourselves with ease. And FL Studios was one of the first software DAW that we worked with that just really helped us see this happen. Then a company called Native Instruments came along and completely changed our ideas of the ability to reproduce sound via a computer. At that point we were hooked. Since we have moved on to DAWs with lots more capabilities then FL Studios had at the time. FL Studios has evolved though to be a powerhouse. Obviously so as those same producers that made it big using the software, now needed to rely on it to make more.
Making a beat in Fruity Loops is not hard but you do need to know a few things. Accessing sounds, mixing options, mastering options, adding tracks, using VSTs, recording vocals, and more. When you first open the program, you notice the large play and record options, along with the buttons next to sounds like kick, clap, snare, and high hat. Ahhhhhh, the basics of any beat. Not all have to include them all, but many of them will. But once you have figured out a drum pattern, you will then start feeling yourself a bit. Calm down there Mr. Happy, you have to add some melodies to that drum pattern. Could you make just only drum patterns? Maybe! But when was the last time you saw a drummer going solo? Exactly. So click on that option to add a track and select a instrument like a piano, strings, synth, bell, or whatever you hearts desire! Its basically time to have some fun.
Are you not the best at melodies? There are many options. Some people just come up with some fire a** drum patterns and some added instruments. Many producers are just sample beat makers, which means they may take a 4 or more bar loop from a song from the past and add in some flair from today. There is nothing wrong with this production style. I will however note that in our opinion, there is no feeling better listening to a track that was 100% manifested from your cranium. But sometimes that same cranium gets to a point where its not putting out a D*** thing and you just want to make a track no matter what. Thats where loops, samples, and instrumentalist come into play. The main instruments are only the base of a major track. Yes, a full song can be made with vocals and a main melody alone. But that has its own lane, like a solo guitar vocalist at a mom and pops bar.
Also, do yourself a everyone else a favor and PAY for the software once you have made a little money off of it at least! We realize software piracy happens, but if the companies that made the software for us to love made $0 in sales due to it being pirated, then how do you expect them to update or make new versions? You have to support what you love in this world, and that usually means financially. So man/woman up and pay the people some money.