Since this is my first blog, i’m going to introduce myself. Im 18 years old and have been doing hip hop, since i was 13 years old. I started by rapping and expanded to beat making.
I’m not going to write a guide here, there is a great guide from Tweak in his guide. Instead i will take you through me own considerations on making hip hop tracks, my workflow and some tips, i use myself.
Where to start?
This consideration comes from a ad, i saw once. It said “Don’t know where to start your beat?” At first I just laughed at it, thinking “you start with the kick.” To minutes later it hit me, why do we start with the kick?
I found that i started with the kick, because i had nowhere else to start. Since this hit me, i started with what i got. This may sound simple, yet it isn’t always though. Basically i never start a beat without a idea, this is what i got, when i press new project in Cubase.
This idea can take many forms, it maybe a kick track, a snare, Bassline, or a melody. it may be a line, or lyrics to the whole track. When one of my partners in rhyme asked me to make a beat, this idea was a choir loop, he found on Looperman.
I like this approach, sure you can start with the kick, if the idea is lyrical, but it make it easier to make the track fit. In the case with the loop, i dropped the 4 bar sample, he gave me and then did the kick.
My point; don’t start with the kick, because someone said you should, do it if you want, but not because you “have to”.
While most hip hop tracks follow the standard pop template, you can really make a track shine by just tweaking the arrangement. My main concern is keeping people listening. While i don’t do a project, if i can’t feel it, i know that not every part of the song is equally strong, there is always parts that stand out, and there is always parts that are less striking, this is good, if everything was striking nothing would stand out, and it will become as monotone as a song with nothing striking.
When writing lyrics, i try to put the three most striking lines in the start, middle and end.
When i arrange the beat, i mostly go intro hook (Chorus) verse and throw in a brake around the middle, then i end with a verse and then outro.
This is my starting point for every beat, but i rarely end on it, maybe i remove the intro, brake or outro. Sometimes i got no hooks, this is good for freestyles, and any track where you need people to really listen to the lyrics. Remember human beings got limited attention spans, so sometimes you need to keep something simple and nonstriking, so the parts you want to strike strike.
When hip hop started, it was based on samples, as you probably already know.
I know a lot of guys is against sampling. First of all, always clear your samples. Second consider how you are going to make beat, loops and one-shot samples is used a lot in hip hop.
A argument i have heard a million times, is that sampling isn’t making the music. While this is partly true, to me, with loops (you still effect the music by choosing them etc.), it don’t hold much water to me, when we talking one-shots or loops sliced in to one-shots, a kick is kick, no matter if it’s a kick one shot on a pad.
I use both loops and one shots, i never use loops for the main drums, to me this is what define the beat. with melody and percussion I use both loops and self made stuff, from synth and one-shots. I’m also a big fan of recreating parts, for my current project i actually learn part of a Mozart symphony, and recreated it with a soft synth, this is very fun to do a lot fun then get a sample from it.
This has made the genre very versatile, last time i went through me CD and LP collections, i found samples of everything from funk and rock guitars, to dance over country and world music, even classical violins. This mean that you are rather unlimited by the genre.
The downside is you need a big sound library and a lot of sounds for when you want to build it up yourself. Software and hardware both got strengths and weaknesses, what you use depend on many things, like wanting to play live, mixing ITB or OTB, Strength of your DAW and millions of other variables. Cubase comes with a lot of useful features, even the Essential version (which i got) comes with enough to make a beat, I will recommend at least Studio since it got Groove-Agent.
Now when you got your feet wet, start considering which way you want to go. Of course it’s a good idea to get a wide selection, but you need to prioritize.
I always been a sucker for ivories, so i got the piano collection ET pretty quickly, i also like the westcoast style so 9 mm Beats ET was also high priority, just bellow the the PC since it’s loops.
Of course sites like looperman got a lot of free loops, and most are good. Looperman is my only free resource for loops, since it’s trustworthy. If you need to expand a bit, this is a great way to expand your sound library.
DIY mix and master or professional?
This is the last consideration, you should do in the production phase, i would not advise you to think about it, before you are at a point, where all you need to do is fine tune the track. I mix myself, i can’t afford to get it professionally mixed, since i don’t make money, i also quite like the fact i can say: “I have made this beat, mixed it, and mastered it”, this is a great pick-up line too. Of course a professional mix and mastering engineer, or just home studios that specialties in it, is giving better results.
If you are releasing something big and commercial, i would advise getting it done professionally.
If you are releasing a small time project, or free, then i would say DIY is the way to go.
I just have to say this:
Hip hop is not a genre of music, it’s a culture. It consists of four elements: Breakdancing, DJing (this included beatmaking), Graffiti and Rap.
Just thought i let you know.