Sunday, January 13, 2013

Process of making a beat

The Mechanics, Process, and Anatomy of Making a Beat

Here I dicuss the basics of building a beat from scratch.

Make your OWN beats!

You may have used loop-mased music creation software, but if you really want to get your hands dirty you will want to make your own loops & beats from scratch! Now, by "scratch" I mean samples, either purchased professionally, downloaded for free off the Internet, or created by noise-producing instruments you record yourself. I'd recommend downloading as many free samples as you can to start out. They probably won't be of the greatest quality, but they will let you know if you are ready to invest in some production-level sound libraries.

Now that you've got samples what do you do with them?

You'll need to purchase a software program capable of playing a sequence of samples over and over again while you tweak the sounds themselves and the times that they are triggered. I would recommend Fruity Loops. You will have to mess with the program on your own to get an idea of how it operates. (I am planning on eventually creating a tutorial of my own for that purpose.) Search Google for "Fruityloops Tutorials" to get a list of sites that can get you up to speed on the mechanics of the program. It will take some time to learn it, and even longer to master, but you should be able to pick up the basics quickly, since the timing of the sample triggering is visual.

A Quick Word on the Creative Process & Listening

Anyway, back to the music creation process. The first myth I'd like to bust, is the whole "vision" thing. Forget your hopes and dreams for what you want your music to sound like - for now. Creating music from a vision and interpreting it to reality is nearly impossible in the early stages. You need to master the process first. About all you can do at this stage is choose a genre. Once you've picked a genre, listen to as many similar beats as possible - this includes the pre-made loops that come with a lot of music programs out there. Now don't just jam out to them, really listen to what is going on. Do the hi-hats hit on the beat, between the beats, right before the snare, right after? Pay attention to what is going on between the beats, as well as the overall timing of the major components of the beat - i.e. hi-hat, bass drum, and snare. Develop a habit of this, and you'll start to notice cool stuff that is going on in everyday music that you can experiment with in your own music.

Sample Guidelines for Creating Beats

Now all you need to do is sit down and actually create a beat out of nothing. You've got a bunch of empty boxes in front of you, and you want them to come to life. Where to start? I'm sure everyone has their own way to start, but I've found a few ways to work best.
  1. Add something constant, like a hi-hat, on every 4th down-beat. This will serve as a timing reference until you get some rhythm going on.
  2. Grab a cool kick drum and snare and start to lay them down. Don't just place them randomly - trigger the samples manually, either with the keyboard or with your mouse, until you find something cool. Pay attention to your own timing for the desired location of the sounds, then trigger the sounds automatically in those places. It will take some practice, but you will soon learn to place the triggers on the first try. Until then, use trial and error until they sound how you want.
  3. Remove your reference hi-hat, and place new hi-hat sounds using the same method as the kick and snare.
  4. Now you've got a beat skeleton, and it's just that - boring and lifeless - although, it does have the form of a beat. Now to bring it to life. Most people would want to add some bass here and call it a day, but I'd recommend saving the bass for later. Beginners tend to add WAY too much bass to a beat, and too much bass will only give you the illusion that it sounds cool. Then, when the beat is played in some other set of speakers it sounds terrible, so remember to use bass sparingly. Instead of adding tons of bass, try going through your sample collection randomly. While your beat loops in the background, play sample after sample until one hits you as a match to your beat. I usually go through about 200 samples of so before I find one that works. Now layer this sound into your beat as you did the other elements.
  5. Repeat step 4 until you've got something interesting going on, while avoiding sounding too "busy". About now, you'll want to make sure there is something melodic going on. It doesn't have to be a full-blown song, just something that the listener be able to hum as they listen to your song.
  6. Now for the bass. Try to find a bass sample that is clear and defined, as well as one that fits in with the sounds you've got going on. Layer this into the beat as described before, possibly changing its tone to match the melody element you created in the previous step.
  7. Clean up! Some of the sounds you originally added might not sound as cool now that you've got other things going on. Drop these out of the beat and decide if you want to keep them or not. Delete the ones that are definitely bad, and save other ones for later use.
  8. Re-mix! At this point I like to drop out EVERYTHING from my beat, and re-mix the layers one by one. By re-mix, I mean simply adjust the levels focusing on JUST the level of the sound. During this phase, you will want to switch between at least 2 sets of speakers and a pair of headphones while you mix. This will ensure that the beat will sound good on ANY system.

Sequencing Your Beat into a Useful Track

Now that you've got a good beat going on, mess around with it by dropping out various layers and you'll see that you can create some very interesting variations in your beat without actually doing any more work. Once you've got a few interesting variations of layers in the beat, sequence these patterns into a track. Now you can layer in things like vocals, guitars, etc. to complete your masterpiece!
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P.S. if you are looking for a good beat making software this one has really done well for me DUBTURBO

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