Don’t your Hip Hop beats sound as fat as you imagined? Have you only produced songs from other music genres so far and would you like to try your hand at hip hop now? Or is beat producing even completely new territory for you? Then this article should give you a few practical tips to avoid classic mistakes in the production of hip hop beats.
Choose Your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
The digital age has changed the music industry. A curse for one, a blessing for another, because suddenly many musicians had the opportunity to realize their musical ideas. One was no longer dependent on the expensive analog technology of the large recording studios. Today you can start producing hip hop beats cheaply with a PC or laptop and the right software. There are now a number of audio software manufacturers. Which one is right for you depends on the following factors, among others:
- How much budget do you have for the software?
- Which user interfaces are intuitive for you?
- How stable does the software run with extreme numbers of tracks and effects?
- How is the integration with your existing controller and hardware done?
- Does the existing sound library basically match your musical ideas?
- What options do you have to expand the software (e.g. with VST plugins)?
- Do you have the opportunity to creatively combine different modules?
- How is the community of users?
Here you will find a small selection of the most popular DAWs. It is best to have a look at the product videos and use the demo versions on the manufacturer’s pages to get a good insight:
2. Building your sound library
Since hip hop beats live mainly from the sound of the drums, the quality of the drum samples is decisive for victory or defeat. Again and again I hear hip hop beats on soundcloud.com, rappers.in or soundclick.com, which are melodically very memorable and elaborate, but unfortunately not convincing because the drums seem too thin and lacking in energy. From my point of view, it makes sense to work with fat drum kits from external providers right from the start. To get started, I can recommend the following pages to you. Always ensure a sample resolution of 24 or better 32 bit.
If you have collected enough drum material for your hip hop beats in the sound library, I recommend you create a folder structure according to kick, snare, hihats, cymbals, etc. This reduces the workload involved in producing and searching for suitable drum sounds. In order to give your drums their own note, you can, for example, record all conceivable sounds from your environment with so-called field recorders, edit them with effects and integrate them. Beat producer Timbaland often adds his own vocal noises and several percussion tracks to the rhythm of his drums (heard in “Nelly Furtado – Say it Right” or “Aaliyah – Try Again”). Another example of creative sound design is provided by producer and rapper Tua with his “Vodka Beat”:
Many myths and legends exist around the subject of copyright infringement in sampling. Quickly delete sentences like “You can only sample a sequence of up to 8 notes” or “Anything less than 2 seconds is allowed when sampling” from your head. The fact is, sampling has been an integral part of the genre since the beginnings of hip hop (the most recent example: “Cro – Easy” uses samples from “Bobby Hebb – Sunny”). Producer greats like Dr. Dre and Timbaland repeatedly access their huge record collections for Hip Hop Beat Producing, which covers all genres from soul to oriental music. The reason for this is usually not a lack of creativity, but the chance to create an unmistakable new sound from “old sound found pieces”. This sound is difficult to achieve with instruments you have rehearsed yourself. Whether it is a matter of a copyright infringement is always an individual decision and depends on whether the sample used in the song is “recognizable” part of the original. As a beat producer there are 4 options:
Option 1: You could use samples with recognizable parts and take care of a sampling clearing, speak to the authors agreeing a license agreement for the use of the samples (see “Kool Savas – Aura” and “Hans Zimmer – Time”)
Option 2: You could use samples with recognizable parts and not worry about sampling clearing, which leads to copyright infringement. The trouble comes by itself when the song is successful!
Option 3: You could use short samples that you edit, cut and change in such a way that nobody (not even the author) could infer the original. No plaintiff, no judge!
Option 4: You dispense with samples, compose all melodies yourself and play them in or play unrecognizable samples with your own instruments.
If you choose a variant with sampling, try only to sample from high-resolution media such as Vynyl or CD. MP3 soundtracks from the network are therefore eliminated. You can often find exotic, unknown and old sampling material for as little as € 1 on flea markets. Then use effects such as reverb, delay, pitch, EQ or distortion for your suitable samples in your hip hop beats to find your characteristic sound. Very individual hip hop beats can also be created by reversing the sounds and combining several sampling sources. For my samples I like to use a pitch, some reverb and the “Propellerhead Reason Pulsar” to give the samples their own rhythm. Over time, each producer develops their own creative sampling process. For a separate bass track, it is often necessary to completely filter out the bass of the samples with an equalizer. If you want to compose and play your melodies yourself, you should make sure that the instruments you play have a natural touch dynamic. Pianos and strings often seem very artificial when every note is “clicked into” the DAW with 100% attack.
Mix & Master Your Beats
When you have brought in all the elements according to your ideas, you can optimize the sound of your hip hop beats with a few small “beauty interventions” (the mixing process begins now). Works with the full stereo panorama. It is best to leave the kick and bass in the stereo center. Other percussion elements and instruments can then be distributed to the left and right, so the beat appears more present. Avoid using reverb on the kick and bass. All other elements such as claps, hi-hats, snares or synths appear livelier through a reverb. At the moment you can hear kicks in many songs that have been “greased” with sub-basses (e.g. “Kendrick Lamar – Bitch, don’t kill my vibe”).
You can find a separate blog article on the topic of kick and bass mixing here: . My article about parallel compression of drums could also help you with sound optimization: https://www.beatbruecke.de/mixing-drums-parallelkompression/
If your mix sounds too clean and sterile, effects devices like “Audimatic” are used. This can be used to add a vinyl effect to the drums or the hum track, for example. But be careful, you shouldn’t exaggerate these effects on the hum track.