Beatmaker is the name that the hip hop community gives to the person who creates instrumental tracks for Artists. A Producer creates music for a wider range of purposes and using a richer palette of techniques. When it comes to making beats there are two main schools of thought. They have a different origin and use different resources, but share the same purpose, to serve as the foundation of a song. We are talking, of course, about sample based beats and original beats aka keyboard beats.
SAMPLE BASED BEATS
Sampling consists in extracting audio from a source and incorporating it into a musical piece. Sometimes it is used as the lead melodic element but it can also be sliced into small fragments and used to create new loops and patterns. The extraction process can be done in two different ways. Analog and Digital.
One of the most common analog practices is to use an MPC or Sampler to capture a fragment of music from an old vinyl record with the purpose of making a new arrangement and adding drums, bass, keys, etc.
This can also be done digitally with the use of any digital audio workstation, by downloading and importing a song to your editing software e.g FL Studio; and adding more percussive and melodic layers.
ORIGINAL BEATS (KEYBOARD BEATS)
As it self implies, creating an original beat is the process of composing every single element of an instrumental from scratch. Again, this can be done in the same two ways. Analog and Digital.
The analog way consists in recording melodic elements like drums, bass, keyboards, guitar, orchestra, etc. Usually done in a studio setup.
This can also be done completely in the box with the use of any DAW and a Midi Controller to trigger samples, emulate instruments and create original sequences.
A mix of both techniques is the most used approach in today’s music industry and will probably produce the best results for your composition.
PROS AND CONS OF SAMPLE BASED BEATS
The positive aspect of working with samples is that if you have a limited musical background in terms of playing instruments, it is fairly easy to come up with a great melodic progression derived from the sample it self.
On a more negative note, in order to publish a song that contains a sample you need to get clearance from the record company. If you fail to do so and your song becomes a hit you will most likely face legal troubles. In case you successfully clear the sample, a percentage of the profits will go to the label. Also keep in mind that these beats can not be leased or sold in online beat stores because it is considered copyright infringement.
PROS AND CONS OF ORIGINAL BEATS
The bright side of creating original beats is that you will only have to split the profit with the Artist, and if the song blows up you will also have a piece of music history in your hands, which will be undeniably yours and it may very well be sampled by future producers generating you further earnings. You can also lease or sell these beats in online beat stores and keep 100% of your earnings.
I can not really think of a negative side to it besides that it takes more work given that you will need some sort of musical training. Whether you took piano lessons as a kid or picked up guitar in high school, a considerable amount of hours need to be invested to learn how to play an instrument. If you decide to take the long route, in the end it is more rewarding in every possible way.
ELEMENTS OF A BEAT
Every piece of music is different but for the most part they share more similarities than differences. This can be divided into musical elements like percussion, bassline, pads, leads, samples; and sections like the intro, verses, chorus, hook, bridge, breaks, outro, etc.
Many different beat genres exist and the possibility to create new fusions are endless, but let’s name some of the most popular in no particular order.
- Hip Hop
- Gangsta Rap
- West Coast
- East Coast
- G Funk
- Old School
- Latin Rap
- Boom Bap
- Cloud Rap
- Club Bangers
WHAT IS A TYPE BEAT?
A type beat is an instrumental that follows a certain trend or the sound of a specific artist. This is accomplished by using similar instruments and chord progressions. While most of the time they are mere soundalikes, in some cases we can find very creative type beats. It is ok to have musical influences, every beatmaker does, but it is also very easy to fall into the “type beat producer” category. I personally believe that this is a phase in the development of every producer, independently of the music genre of choice. In my experience the best thing to do is to just power through it. After some beatmaking hours you will discover your own sound and this is when the real fun begins.
WHEN IS A BEAT READY?
When all the elements have been recorded, programmed, sampled and arranged into the desired sequence, the beat is ready for mixing or at least leveling. After this, it can now be listened by artists who will later write and record lyrics to the music based on the groove and the particular sections of the beat.
CREATING A BEAT CATALOG
After spending some time perfecting the craft you will eventually end up with several music compositions. Every professional should have a portfolio to be able to showcase their talent, and beatmakers are no exception. When you have reached a certain point, take the time to mix your beats and compile them in any way you want e.g soundcloud, cd, usb, etc. Find out what works best for you. If you wish to market and sell your beats online, in a future post we will analyze and discuss services like soundclick, airbit, beatstars and having your own beat selling website.