The hardest part about making beats, whether it’s rap or EDM, is when you’re first starting out. You’re faced with what beat making software to choose, how to make a beat, how are you are going to sell a beat and so forth.
Long-time and successful independent music producer Blitz Beats was generous to share some very insightful tips with us for beginners who want to learn how to make beats.
1) Start Off With A Basic Beat Making Software
It may sound like common sense, but too many aspiring music producers want to jump to the big leagues straight away and start using very technical music production software. What tends to happen is that they get so overwhelmed with everything and end up giving up, thinking that it’s too difficult.
By starting with a simple and basic beat making program, you can progressively learn step-by-step at a much quicker pace, while making hot beats at the same time.
Don’t let the simplicity of a software fool you, because making hot beats is just as much about what you have in your creative mind as well as your sound kits.
“When I started making beats, I started with Fruity Loops, FL Studio. I don’t even remember what number it was back then, but it was a basic one. I had to download a bunch of sounds and drum kits…”
“…The biggest tip is to start with a basic program as far as making beats, and that would be Fruity Loops, FL Studio. If the latest versions are too advanced for you, then go and get an older version that’s not as advanced.”
It’s true that Fruity Loops is a good starting point for beginners, but some feel that it’s still a bit too technical especially for those who have no experience whatsoever in music production.
However, it’s an excellent learning tool and long lasting since it offers high quality sound kits and a multitude of special effects. You can also read my Top 3 Music Production Software For Beginners article for more information.
2) Get A MIDI Keyboard
A MIDI keyboard hooks up to your existing DAW (digital audio workstation) aka. beat making software, and allows you to play melodies and sounds from it instead of using your computer keyboard and mouse. It’s much more efficient and more enjoyable as well.
“Even if you have FL Studio, that’s not enough. You need a MIDI keyboard or a controller because you’re going to have to play your own sounds. This was one of the biggest things I had to learn when I started making beats. [At first] I didn’t have no keyboard. I would just be clicking the mouse or clicking my typing keyboard and it wasn’t working for me.”
“I’ve never been trained to play piano or nothing like that but I do eventually plan to take piano lessons to take my skills up to the next level, but it’s not necessary, especially when you have loops and samples that you can chop up.”
“What I love doing is taking a sample or a loop of a melody, chop it up really good and then play a new melody from those chops. That way, you don’t have to play the entire loop as it is, you can play different slices and make a whole new melody. But you need a keyboard for that, so I really recommend you to get a MIDI keyboard controller.”
Most decent music production software have the capability to be controlled via a MIDI keyboard, but some basic software do not, and you should avoid those, even if you don’t plan on immediately getting a MIDI keyboard. Both FL Studio and BTV SOLO are advanced enough to have this feature.
3) Advance When You Feel It’s Necessary
It’s important that you don’t rush your initial learning stages. Take your time learning how to make beats, and when and if you decide that you want to advance further, choose a software that is highly rated and has an interface that you like (you can check this out on Youtube).
“I advanced into Propeller Head Reason 3. FL Studio to me was cool and awesome when I started but eventually, I wanted to get better.”
“Til this day, 7 years later, I still use Reason because something they do with the sound is so big, juicy and fat. No matter where you listen to it, no matter if it’s in a car system or an iPod, or whatever it is, the drums and sounds are always banging, once you learn how to mix and make a nice default mixing patch.”
“In FL Studio it’s not like that. A lot of the times, the drums and the sounds are weak. That’s why I say that when the time is right, advance yourself into another program. Either Reason or Logic.”
Although certain drum kits and sounds may not be up to your personal liking, you can always upload new sounds and samples into your software. Also, there are techniques to make your beats hit harder, so don’t believe that in order to have great sounds, you need to spend hundreds on a professional software.
4) Make Beats Everyday
They say that practice makes perfect, and you cannot get your beats perfect unless you constantly practice. There are times that you need to take a breather and refresh your memory, which is fine, but you if you want to become great, you need to hone your skills daily.
“When I first started making beats, believe me, I was making beats every single day. I would never take a break because I was so passionate about it that I couldn’t take a break.”
“I was in high school, and as soon as I got home from school at 3 or 4pm in the afternoon until midnight, I would make beats all day long. Trust me, that’s how you get good. You just got to practice it and get better.”
5) Listen Closely
“What really helps is to listen closely to beats and production that sound good to you. Let’s say that you’re a fan of Just Blaze or Dr Dre, then listen to those guy’s beats a lot and then you’ll start to pick up on what they do with their beats.”
“Maybe they stack different snares and claps or maybe they have two kick drums going at the same time. Or maybe they pan certain hi-hats to the left. Whatever it is, you got to listen closely for these things because that’s what’s going to train your ear.”
“Everybody always asks me, “how do your beats always sound so clean and how do you mix so good?” Well, it’s because I train my ear and every single day making beats and listening to other people’s beats that inspire me. So now, instantly I just know what’s good. I know exactly where sounds need to be placed within a beat.”
To be able to effectively listen to all the sound elements of a beat, you need to have good studio speakers or studio headphones. I recommend that you start out with a good pair of studio monitor headphones, put some of your favorite instrumentals on (no vocals), and close your eyes.
Once you focus your mind on all the different sounds, you’ll be amazed at what you can hear, and how everything is put together. All it takes is patience and concentration.
6) Use Banging Drums
To make your listeners heads bop, you need to have drums that hit hard. In Hip-Hop especially, the drums are everything. Why do you think people feel Dr Dre’s or DJ Premier’s beats more than others? It’s because they utilize the use of drums.
“When I first started making beats using Fruity Loops, I didn’t know about that. I was using any drum sounds, even if they didn’t bang, I would still use them because I didn’t know the impact they had on the beat. I still hear beats til this day that don’t have banging sounds. They use ordinary lame ass sounds.”
“To fix that, what I do now is, I’ve been using for quite a while now, Traumah Drums. I buy those kits and each beat I make now for the most part, I’d be using Traumah Drums. Even if I use other drums, I would still put those Traumah Drums underneath those sounds just so that they’re banging.”
“The point of this is to make sure your beats bang hard. That way, when you’re listening to it in the car or at the club or on headphones, the drums bang no matter what. That’s the key…When you get the right sounds, the subwoofer will kick the way it’s supposed to in the car.”
“Drums are what gets people moving. It’s what gets the head nodding, it’s what gets everybody dancing in the club. They’re not dancing to your synth melody, they’re dancing to your drum track.”
It appears as though Traumah Drums is now defunct, but another great alternative would be to use the professional engineered drums and sounds from The Producers Choice. You can check it out here.
7) Use Great Instruments
Using bland and unemotional sounds just doesn’t cut it. You need to choose your instruments carefully, and fine tune it to really get the right sound that you want.
“Another thing just as important as the drums are the instrument sounds you use. It’s not so much the melodies you play, although that does make a difference, but the actual sounds that you use.”
“I recommend getting some VST’s, or if you use Reason or anything like that, get some refills. Personally what I love doing, is going to some loop sites, and buying some high quality loops, like piano loops or synth loops and chop them up, and then I replay them to make my own melodies.”
“That way, those loops that I buy are already super high quality sounds. Combine those with traumah drums and then you got bangers! It’s a winning formula.”
8) Know How To Use Quantization
Quantization is a very useful technique that slides your MIDI notes to a particular point of the track so that it doesn’t sound off key.
For example, when you’re freestyle playing your melodies on a computer or MIDI keyboard, if it doesn’t synch properly with the rest of the beat, then you should use the quantization. You can read more about quantization here.
“In different programs it might be called something else. I know in Reason they call it quantize. Some people can’t play piano. I was never trained to play piano, but I can still make melodies easily. I like to use loops, chop them up and play different sounds where I feel they fit best.”
“One of the biggest tips I can give you is to take off quantization when you’re recording your melodies, even when you’re playing drums. Most of the time, when I play a drum pattern on the piano roll, I would take quantize off. When I’m done, if it sounds really bad, I would put the quantize to like 75%.”
“That way it won’t do 100% completely locked in on the note, as it’ll be a little bit off key, which is what you want. Especially when you’re playing melodies and bass lines and pianos, you don’t want to completely quantize on every single note. You want it to be off note a bit, which will give a super awesome groove to the natural feel.”
It’s true that you don’t want to use quantization too much, otherwise it will sound a bit too perfect. It will sound like it’s machine made, instead of human made like a live band, which is ultimately what you want to aim for.================================================================
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: