If you’re a complete newbie at music production, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article I’ll be explaining to you how to make beats with the most minimal amount of equipment and knowledge needed.
Equipment You Will Need
You’ve most probably seen the studio setup that super producers such as Dr. Dre, Timbaland and Kanye West has to make their beats. All of that equipment costs thousands upon thousands of dollars and years of experience to operate.
In the beginning, they didn’t have any of that stuff and fortunately for us, technology has paved the way for anyone with a bit of desire and creativity to make beats from their computer. The following equipment is necessary in order to start making beats.
First of all, you’ll need a computer that is powerful enough to handle a Digital Audio Workstation. I recommend a computer that has at least:
- 1GB RAM (although 2GB or more would be ideal)
- Most modern processors are capable though at least a 2GHZ / Intel i3 (or MAC equivalent) is ideal
Now you might be wondering whether to get a PC or MAC. In my personal opinion, a MAC is more suited for media based applications such as music and video production, but it comes with a hefty price tag.
If you prefer not to buy an expensive MAC, you’ll be able to get a PC with the same specs for practically half the price of a MAC, which is what a lot of prefer instead.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
The DAW is where you’ll be producing your music. It’s a software that allows you to record, edit and play back digital audio. There are loads of DAW’s on the market, but you must choose wisely because some are just outright terrible.
For beginners, which is the focus of this article and website, I would recommend the following DAW’s:
- BTV SOLO: I consider this to be the best music production software for absolute beginners, simply because it’s so easy to use. The layout is simple, the sounds that come with it are plentiful and professionally engineered to the high quality, and the best thing of all, it’s very reasonably priced. You can read my full review.
- Fruity Loops Studio: This is a popular starting music production software for beginners, but has includes a lot of technical features also. It’s designed for beginners and professionals, and is probably the best tool for advancement from the amateur to pro ranks in making beats. You can get the latest version of Fruity Loops here.
Your desktop computer may already come with speakers, or if it’s a laptop, you’ll have speakers built-in. However, with standard speakers, you won’t be able to hear all the fine details when you’re producing a beat.
I would recommend that you get a pair of studio monitor speakers as they’re specifically designed for audio production and engineered to produce relatively flat (linear) phase and frequency responses which are essential to getting a tight and clean mix to your beats.
You’ll need to spend at least $100 for studio monitor speakers and it’ll be well worth it. If you cannot afford to spend that at the moment, you should at the very least get a pair of decent PC speakers.
A high quality pair of studio headphones will come in handy especially when you don’t want to disturb your neighbors. As a matter of fact, many producers use studio headphones for monitoring signal sources and to fine-tune the finer details of a track.
I’m sure that you’ve noticed the differences between listening to music over speakers and listening to music on headphones. You begin to hear certain instruments that wasn’t so noticeable before. These subtle sounds makes a huge impact over overall sound and vibe of your beat.
When you do decide to purchase a pair of headphones, don’t go cheap. I recommend the brands Sennheiser, AKG and KRK for some great mid-high end studio headphones. There’s a world of difference between the headphone ranges.
Audio Loops, Drum Kits & Samples
Drum kits and samples are essentially the foundation of your beat. You want your drums to sound so crisp that it forces people to bob their heads to the beat. Your instrument samples are just as important, as they bring life to your beats.
Audio loops are melodic sounds or percussive sequences that repeats itself over a certain period of time. They make up a big part of your beat making game and the more variety you have, the more creative you can be.
DAW’s such as FL Studio will already come with plenty of drum kits and sound samples, and some audio loops, but after a while you’ll want to increase your range instead of repeatedly using the same sounds over and over again.
You can get a tonne of high-quality and banging audio loop, drum kits and samples at various websites such as BeatProduction.net. They cater to a wide range of genres and especially to Hip-Hop, Dubstep and House music, and they can be imported and used on any DAW.
What You Need To Know
Ok, so you’ve now got all your equipment in place, and you cannot wait to start making some sick beats. Where do you start?
The following are the main points you need to learn in order to actually make a complete track.
You can’t just put your drums, snares and instruments anywhere you want on a track. Everything has to be structured so there’s an organized pattern to your song.
A song structure depends on what genre you’re focusing on, but for vocal based genres such as Rap (How To Make Rap Beats), RnB and Rock, a typical song structure would be:
- Introduction: Builds up suspense for the listener, which leads to the drop.
- First Verse: The main part of the song.
- Chorus: This part of a song contains the hook, which is designed to “catch the ear of the listener”. The chorus usually repeats itself at least once both lyrically and musically.
- Second Verse
- Middle 8: This part of the song has a distinctly different melody from the rest of the song and is a great lead-up to the final chorus.
- Final Chorus & Outro
You’ll find that some songs have a third verse or two choruses after the second verse, but a song structure will generally vary depending on the producer’s preference.
In urban genres that have little or no vocals such as Dubstep (How To Make Dubstep), Drum and Bass and House music, a typical song structure can be slightly different.
It will usually comprised of:
- Main Section: Usually incorporates a bass drop.
- Midsection / Bridge: This sets up the second main section.
- Second Main Section: Similar to the first and often features another drop.
Whatever genre of music you decide to make, just make sure that you get used to its song structures by listening and making note of the different sections of the songs.
The pitch, rhythm, chord, melody, harmony etc. all make up music theory. It’s a very important part not just in making beats, but in everything to do with music, no matter if you’re learning how to play the piano, guitar or flute.
It’s vital that you understand how music works because you don’t want to make beats that are completely out of tune, as it’ll just sound bad.
You don’t have to become Mozart but it’s a good idea to know which note follows another note or what chords go together without sounding out of place.
If you’re learning how to make beats for Rap or Dubstep, they’re not as melodic as other genres so you don’t have to be a musical genius. Most producers of urban musical make use of different audio loops and samples to make a song sound great, which makes up for a lack of knowledge in music theory.
If all of this seems a bit confusing to you at first, don’t worry because the more you experiment with music production, the better you’ll begin to understand it.
Don’t fill your head with too much information yet. Making beats is addictive so I’m pretty sure that you won’t need much motivation to get you going.
If you want to start making beats or become successful at it, then you're going to need some great music production equipment to enhance your skills. Take a look at the following: