The main rap hits we are listening to on Spotify wouldn’t have seen the light without the hard work of a music producer. But actually, what’s a music producer ? To make it short, it is the one creating the sounds and the instrumentals. The rappers, for example, are only putting their voice on the beats. Because one cannot become a beatmaker in a snap, I tried to establish 5 unavoidable steps to compete with Dr Dre and Timbaland.
1. Choose your software.
To become a beatmaker, you’d better be equipped with an effective computer. The next step is choosing the software we’ll be using. You must be guessing that there are a lot of them and each one has its advantages and inconveniences. For those who are beginning and don’t know if beatmaking is made for them, some softwares are free, such as Garageband (under Mac) or DarkWave Studio (under Windows).
Of course, I’m not going to hide from you that the most completed sequencers need some investments. You can find various one, such as REASON, FL STUDIO, ABLETON LIVE 10 or again PROTOOLS. For the record, they are available on Mac and Windows, which is good already. On my side, I am using Logic Pro X as a sequencer, only available on Apple. It’s not cheap but it is efficient and it perfectly suits my expectations. The most important is that you chose a software that suits you. It’s absolutely possible to start with a freeware to evolve towards a paid software of better quality !
2. Finding your method to compose
When getting to pure and hard instrumental composition, there are various methods. First, there are the most motivated working in analogic, i.e. they are composing their beats thanks to real music instruments. To do so, these instruments must be supported by an audio interface associated with a selected software. For the synthesiser fans, it is totally possible to directly record your instrumental in the synthesiser before exporting it to the computer. The advantage of that method in analogic music is that the audio quality is better. The problem is that it’s impossible to modify the recorded notes. In other words, you’d better not be mistaken when recording !
The second method, the one I’m actually using, is in MIDI. The main difference with analogic is that the instrument we’re using are entirely virtual and simulated. It requires to be equipped with a MIDI keyboard (as you can see in my videos) and some audio plugins. The good side, unlike the first method, is that you can modify the recorded notes as much as you want.
Of course, you may have guessed, it’s absolutely possible to combine both methods: you can record analogic guitar notes and then add MIDI drum sounds. Beatmaking is most of all about creativity so you’re free to use the method that suits you best.
3. Get equiped with sound banks as a professional music producer
A sound bank, what is it ? Without going through four paths, a sound bank refers to a repertoire with thousands of different beats and sound effects. Some of them can be techno oriented whereas others may be more based on afrobeat or hip-hop sounds. In other words, there are sound banks for every music styles. Choosing well your sound bank plays a key role for the beatmaker because it will contribute to personalise its instrumentals and participate creating its own universe.
The software possess are already incrusted sound bank. It is totally possible to be satisfied with it but I think we are quickly turning in circles and most sounds are viewed and reviewed. Thanks to the internet magic, we can now find a lot of sound banks, proposing a large variety of audios and plugins. Some of them are for free, as you can find on the famous Sound Effects Library or on Music Radar, and other are not free of charge as you can find on some websites. For those who are interested, I’ve gathered all the sounds of my covers in a pack that you can buy here. I will also try to regularly share with you links to download packs made by other music producer in the “Other Sample pack” category of this website. Last, you can create your own sound banks thanks to different plugins but I’ll go into details in another article.
4. To have (a few) bases in solfege
The most passionate for music must already have cumulated various solfege lessons, therefore what’s next will look like a repetition. However, to know the basics is a big advantage to propel oneself in the world of beatmaking. First and foremost, you must know about chords. For the new ones, a chord refers to a sound obtained by playing various notes at the same time on a keynote, a guitar etc. Here are the most important ones :
Now we have a good starting point. Also note that a chord can be minor or major. If a C chord is major, we will simply write it “C”. However, if it’s minor, we’ll add a “m” next to the C, it will appear “Cm”. This rule is valid for every note. Next, there are two recurring notions in solfege you have to keep in mind: the sharp and the flat. While the first one increases the chord by one key, the second one lowers it.
“ No need to be a solfege boss to become a good music producer ”
The songs we are used to listen to are a series of chords. To be more precise, each song includes between 2 and 4 chords (for most of the songs). To further illustrate this idea, you can focus on the “Mask Off” soon by Future, that I’ve covered. There are exactly 3 chords (with one repeated): Dm – Gm – C – Dm.
If you want to find the exact chords of a song, there are some websites indexing them. I am thinking about the excellent MyChordsBook, but also the app Chordify. If necessary, Google is your friend: you only have to tap chords + the song title you are looking for, and the hard part is done.
Generally speaking, it’s thanks to these famous chords you can determine the melody. It will logically follow the chord range. That’s why it is preferable to find the chords first before creating the melody. The opposite is possible too but it needs more expertise and confidence. Here are the basics of solfege that will be more than useful in the art of beatmaking. But be reassured, no need to be a solfege boss to become a good music producer, it is more of an asset than anything else.
5. Listen to a lot of music
Well, you guessed that. Being a big fan of music, all types combined, and listen to it regularly is a prerequisite. This part is less technical than the previous ones but is no less important. Paying attention to the songs that you are listening to and that you like allows to learn how they are built over time.
This way, we develop a musical knowledge that can only help when doing beatmaking. To value your musical culture is thus of utmost importance, that’s why I strongly encourage you to discover a maximum of titles, diversify your listening and continuously open up to styles you may not know.
Although I don’t have the pretention to be a beatmaking expert, I tried to guide you through these five steps. I’d also like to stress the importance of autonomy because beatmaking is more of a solitary art, and you have to be able to train yourself. Be resourceful, open-minded, motivated and bold, and everything is going to be alright !