If you’re wondering how to make rap beats, then read on. Many people don’t understand nor appreciate the kind of effort and skill that goes into making great rap (hip-hop) beats.
Granted, a lot of rap producers don’t know how to play instruments, but their skills lies in organizing, sampling and mastering a track so it becomes a hit.
There are so many different styles of rap, and they all warrant their own section, so in this article, I’ll just be going through the typical formation of a rap beat.
Understand The Structure
The first thing you need to understand before laying down any kicks and snares, is the structure of a rap beat, and the typical elements would include:
Sequencer Layout: The three key ingredients that makes up the drum loop and gives a rap beat that bouncy, head snapping vibe is the kick, snare and hi-hats. They have to be placed in the sequencer in a consistent manner to get the hip-hop vibe. If those drum elements are all jumbled up, it’ll just end up being a bad listening experience.
For example, a basic drum pattern would be:
- White = Kick
- Green = Snare
- Blue = Hi-Hats
This drum pattern is common in many old school hip-hop beats, and is still even used to this day. In certain sections of the sequencer, one of those elements or all can be removed temporarily to emphasize something else on the track (such as the melody or vocals).
Tempo: Between 80-120, which varies according to the mood and style of the song. Are you aiming for a laid back or bouncy party vibe? What pace does the featured rapper (if there is one) prefer to rap in? All these things must be taken into account.
Song Structure: A typical hip-hop song would be structured like this:
- First Verse
- Second Verse
- Third Verse
- Final Chorus & Outro
In rap, each verse would usually be 16 bars (32 lines) and the chorus would be 8 bars (16 lines), although this is not set in stone and will often vary significantly. This kind of structure was often common in earlier East Coast raps, but in modern commercial hip-hop, content is kept to a minimal.
Audio Loop: Many rap beats feature a single loop/sample which is repeated over and over throughout the track with a slight switch up in the pattern/melody before the third verse. This loop should be toned down enough so it does not interfere with the vocals.
Melody: You need a catchy melody to draw in the listeners attention. If you have no idea about music theory and what keynotes/chords go together without sounding off-key, don’t worry, you don’t have to be a musical genius to make a great beat.
One tip is to listen to a bunch of songs and pinpoint a particular melody that you like within a song, and search the Internet for the song notes. Be careful not to use too much portion of the melody, but rather just a few notes because you may get in trouble for copyright infringement, and rap beats usually just repeat short melodies anyway.
Bass Line: One of the most important parts needed for a hot beat is a sick bass line that bonds well with the rest of the track, especially the drum loop. The bass line is supposed to form a relationship alongside the melody and they’re both often played using the same key notes.
Getting Great Sound Kits & Samples
Sound Kits: No one is going to want to listen to your beats if your drum kits sound completely outdated or lacks the crispness that adds flair to your beats. You need a good variety of high quality sounds that have been mastered well. The more different sounds you have, the more creative you can get with your beats.
Samples: Be attentive when finding samples to fit the mood of your beat. Samples can be anything from strange sounds/noises to vocals from another song or a movie. You can find many free samples online (although they may not be great) or even chop parts of a track up and make your own samples.
Chopping samples warrants an entire section on its own as it’s a skill in itself. Remember that you’re only limited by your imagination.
Extra Tips On How To Make Rap Beats
- Listen to a lot of different rap instrumentals (without vocals) and get a feel and understanding of how everything comes together to make the beat.
- Notice that different rap producers use certain kind of sounds/instruments to make their beats. Dr. Dre uses a lot of orchestral hits, Timbaland is associated with using lots of synths and ethnic instruments, while Kanye West uses a lot of soulful samples. Their distinctive way of production has led people to recognize who produced the beat.
- Experiment with a variety of different drum patterns, instruments and samples. The more you experiment, the more ideas will come to you.
- If you’ve discovered a great melody, bass line, drum pattern or sample, but it just doesn’t fit into the beat that you’re making, remember to save it for another beat.
- You can download MIDI files of different songs from games, TV shows, movies and import them into your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and it’ll bring up all the keynotes from that song. This will come in handy when you’re working on your melody/bass line.
Producing any kind of beat is often a long process and you must be a perfectionist to make an amazing beat, but that process is exciting and addictive.
Once you get started it’s easy to lose track of time, but it’s all worthwhile in the end when you listen back and think to yourself “wow! I just made that from scratch”. It’s a great feeling.
I recommend that you also check out the Top 10 Tips For Making Rap Beats.================================================================
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: