Introduction: Your Own Hip-Hop Beat
“Where words leave off, music begins.” ― Heinrich Heine
Have you ever listened to music and thought: I wish I could do that too? I have. So a few months ago I decided to get a midi pad which comes with Ableton Live Lite and started to make beats. I found out it is much easier to create awesome music than I expected and is a great thing to relax and escape life.
So who am I? I am just a basic 18-year-old student from Germany who loves to make music. But the quote above says it all...so let's let the music speak.
Here are a few examples of my work:
This one is my first beat ever:
I decided to upload my music to youtube and let everyone use my music for free, even for commercial use and recently someone asked me if I could make a tutorial on how I create my beats.
As you can hear, my first beat does not sound as clean as the other two examples. I want you to get to the point that you can easily create the first beat I made. From there, you will always learn new things by yourself. This Instructable is also meant to let you be creative and create your own piece of music.
So let's start...
Step 1: Choosing Your Soft- and Hardware
To make music, you need a good DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). You already own the most important thing: Your Laptop/PC!
So there are only 2 things left. One of them is even optional - Software and Hardware.
Alright! Now go and search for "DAW Software" on google...you will find about 500.000 results. Let me make it easier for you: There are a lot of great programs out there for making music and each of them has its own loyal fanbase. I personly use Ableton Live Lite (planning to upgrade to full version) which I love and use to demonstrate everything in this tutorial.
To be honest, I only have experience with Ableton so I can not offer my knowledge on other programs. This is the point where you have to do some research on your own. That is actually a good thing because every program has its own unique strengths and every artist has a different definition of the perfect program. But I won't leave you completely alone: here are a few tips when choosing your program
- Start simple (you have to get used to making music)
- Budget (How much do you want to spend?...yes there are also good free DAW's out there)
- Your PC/Laptop Specs (should not be a problem at all, but i think i should mention it)
- Just try everything (if it's free or there is a demo available: JUST TEST IT
Found your program?Great! Now let's talk about hardware (yes,I am actually holding myself back from making a stupid joke). To create great music you don't need additional hardware but in my opinion, it makes it easier to get the thing that is on your mind into the computer...and it really is fun to play around with them. Most DAW's already have a feature that uses your normal computer keyboard as input for notes so maybe you want to start using that first before spending money on the hardware I will list below.
Most used in private small "studios" are the midi pads and midi-keyboards.
MIDI-Pads (Picture 2) are great for playing drums and really fun to use. However, in my opinion, they are not that good for creating complex beats. When buying an MIDI-Pad always look for pads that are sensitive so you can adjust the volume of each note while playing to save time.
MIDI-Keyboards (Picture 3) are exactly what you think they are: Keyboards. Great all-rounders since you can create the lead with it extremely good even without piano skills or anything like that and also play drums. Also, look for pressure sensitive keyboards.
Most Midi-Controllers come with more than just pads or keys, often there are also potentiometers or faders built in or the products come with a software package. The MIDI-Pad on picture 2, for example, comes with Ableton Live Lite and tons of drums. The potentiometers are very useful too and make my life a lot easier.
Something that actually is important especially when it comes to mastering your track is a good pair of earphones. You need to hear every single noise clearly to make sure it really sounds the way you want it. However, for beginners, it is okay to master without great studio earphones for a while if you at least do not use your laptop speakers. Try using your normal PC-Speakers or at least regular earphones when mastering.
Ableton Live Lite
Classic Cantabile MK-49
Step 2: Building Your Drum- and Sample Library (Digging)
Now you are ready to make some music..but wait...you need samples and drums. Building a library is not a thing you do once...it will grow with the time and get bigger almost every day. That means keeping everything organized and making sure you have backups of it is very important.
Where to get samples and drums from:
You can sample really everything! There are special samplers that can make sounds from a vinyl record digital. But always keep in mind that you are allowed to use them for personal use only. If you want to sample a song for your beat and sell it then you have to get the permission of the artist and/or the record label who probably won't even pick up your call. So what can you do? There are a lot of sample packs out there which contain a huge amount of samples and drums but the problem is that you mostly only use a few of them. If you consider the price of these packs than it is really not worth it. And now?You have a few options. You can use every audio that is dedicated to the public domain (CC0 License) or you can search for sites that offer free samples that can be used for commercial stuff. I strongly recommend: https://www.conversesamplelibrary.com/
If you are able to invest 7.99$ a month than I really recommend https://splice.com/sounds
That is a huge sample library where you can pick 100 samples a month for 7.99$ and use them for any purpose.
I also want to give you the advice to always use high-quality samples. Sounds from youtube videos or .mp3's are not nearly as good as a .wav file.
Creating a Library:
So now you should have some basic drums (Hi-Hats,Snares, and Kicks) and a few strings. Create a new folder for each instrument to keep it organized, trust me, that makes working with them later a lot easier and time-saving. You will put a lot of work into your own unique library so losing it because of a PC crash or something would be the worst thing that could happen.I suggest creating the folders on a cloud service to always have a backup. A list of popular cloud services can be found at the end of this step.
To give you some basic drums and strings to start your library I created a download with some great stuff.
*Referal link,no additional costs for you.
Step 3: Drums
Finally, you can start making your own beat! If you start with the lead or with the drums is actually not important, I prefer starting with the drums but other producers I know start with the lead. I think starting with the drums already sets a good speed and vibe for the track. But it really is a personal thing, if you like to start with the strings...just do it.
Okay, we will just make a basic hip hop track so you get an idea of the basic construction of a beat. By the way, at this point, you should already have some basic knowledge of your DAW if not, no problem! Just google the things that are underlined while reading this and then do it. In the example video, I am using Ableton, your DAW probably looks different, but they are also probably similar so watch the videos I embed in my steps before you google.
Start with setting the BPM of your DAW to any BPM between 80 and 120 (I mostly use 85-110 for my beats).
Now you should create a new audio track with a Hi-Hat sample and have 4 hits for each bar.
Next, let's add a kick at the beginning of each bar and a snare at every third hit of the hi-hat So there is a Hi-Hat on 1,2,3 and 4, a kick on every 1 and a snare on every 3 now.
Here is an example:
There are infinite ways to create a drum pattern but this is just for you to understand the basics. After this instructable, you can play around with the drums as much as you want. :)
Here is an example of some changes with the drum pattern we just created:
Step 4: Making the Lead
Congratulations! This is going to be the funniest and most creative part of making a beat and also the shortest step of this instructable.
Here you can basically just play around with the samples or instruments that are in your DAW until you have something that sounds good to you. When creating the lead I also mostly stick to 4 bars and loop them afterwards.
Just a few tips before you can start:
-Don't overdo it, sometimes silence between two notes sounds awesome too
-Try different note heights
-Play around with the effects of your DAW
Just play around for a while, it takes some time until something comes out that you like. I remember my first time, I played around with the few samples I had for 3 hours. There is no right or wrong, it is about your personal taste!
Finally have something that sounds good in your ears? Great..lets continue with Mixing.
Step 5: Mixing
Mixing is one of the easiest things of the whole beat making process.
In case you did not use the best speakers/earphones you have in the previous steps, use them now! It is important to hear the sound as clear as possible already to make sure your beat sounds exactly how you want it to sound.
So basically when you mix you adjust the volume of each track you created and make sure that no sound is too loud or too quiet. Every producer also has his/her own method in doing this and so are you free to do it the way you like but I am going to tell you the way I am doing it. I start with going to a place on my beat where the most tracks are used at the same time and loop it there (again 4 bars). Now I simply adjust the volume of each track until I am satisfied with the outcome. After that, i am listening to the whole beat and look for parts where the mixing can be different again and adjust it there until I am completely satisfied with the whole beat. This also includes the effect settings.
It is an easy process actually but always keep in mind that you have to listen to the whole beat because sometimes the volume of a track has to be loud on one part and quiet on another part of your beat. Also don't make your beat too loud! Most DAW's should have an indicator on the master volume track so try to keep an eye on it.
Here is an example:
Can you hear the difference?
Step 6: Mastering
Now let's finish your great track off and make it sound even better!
Mastering is basically editing details of your song that will improve the overall sound of your beat. Or in other words: Mastering is like photoshop for audio. Normally it is a process that is done by professional mastering engineers, but you and I don't have the money to hire one, right? You can easily master your song at home although it won't be as good as if a professional would have done it, but it will still be great.
So for mastering every producer has a different approach that is the same in the core but I won't get into great detail with the art of mastering here since you just need the basics for the moment.
Now for this step you are going to get some (free)VST plugins so you have the tools to work with. Please, go and find a tutorial on google about how to install a VST on your DAW.
Got it?Great! Now get these plugins and install them.
Now let's get to it:
1: Apply the Equalizer to your Master track and select the MASTERING1 preset. Here you can adjust the Lows,Mids and Highs of your song but you can also leave that untouched. Now set the OUT GAIN to -1 to -2.
2: Apply the Compressor to the Master track and select the PREMASTER preset. Make sure maximumly is between 0 and 1.
3:Apply the Limiter to the Master track and select the MASTERING 3 preset. Now this is a little bit different for each song, but there are some areas in which you can work. Please only use the GAIN wheels to adjust the settings
COMPRESSOR (of the Limiter): Maximum = 4
PEAK LIMITER: Between 2 and 3
HF Limiter: Maximum = 1
CLIPPER: Maximum = 2 (always different)
PROTECTION: Maximum = 1
Always adjust the settings so they sound good to YOU. Don't stick to numbers or anything, they are just a little help. A true artist thinks outside the box!
You can see the whole process in the video below.
Now save your awesome piece of art and you have successfully created your own beat!
Can you hear the difference?
The Beat is now louder and clearer.
Step 7: 8 Useful Tips
- Constantly expand your Sample Library- You can't make better music if you always use the same samples
- Stay organized - Saves time!
- Do not Rush yourself - Do not ever just finish a beat just because you want it to be finished. Take your time to make it perfect
- Take breaks - Sometimes you just can't make a song..take a walk, go outside or just do not try it for a week. you can not force yourself to create awesome music.
- accept a failure - sometimes starting over is better than just trying to have a beat.
- Be open to influence - Listening to a lot of music (genres) will make you a better beat maker. I often listen to 30s-50s and 80s music besides hip hop.
- be creative - don't stick to a "pattern", no one can create a blueprint for creative music.
- never let someone say your music sucks - It is YOUR art, so if you think it is perfect-IT IS!
So that's it..my first Instructable. Any questions? Just let me know!
P.S: I would love to listen to your beats! Just contact me :)