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Beat Production - How do you?
Old 3rd August 2005
  #1
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Beat Production - How do you?

I'm curious how you guys go about making beats. I'll share my methods and then sit back and read yours and maybe I can learn some new techniques. This will be a long post so bear with with. I'm working in Cubase SX.

When producing beats I usually work with a 1/4 note click track. Usually a dark wood block sound or something. I'll let the rapper flow a little and we'll tweak the tempo until the click track is in a comfortable spot and then I'll track a verse or two and the basic flow of the hook and save it. The reason I do this is that I want the rapper's natural flow. I don't want him adusting his flow to any drum beat or musical part. I want the beat to fit his or her rap.

When I start to produce the beat (whenever, days later sometimes) I'll get Fruity Loops running in SX as a VSTI, set it two swing just a little and get a good 8-12 bar kick drum pattern going. Sometimes it'll be a single kick and sometimes it'll be 2 layered for a bigger main sound and maybe a third occasional 808-type or other sub bass sound on an off beat. I'll tweak the velocities of the kick tracks (and actually all midi or sample drum parts later) to make it sound more alive.

Once I got something I like I'll shut my eyes and start humming bass lines into a mic and record everything I hum on an audio track. I'll try many different things and record them all on the same track. I'll play them back and see what I like best, usually saving a second good one for a bridge or breakdown. Kick drum mics work well for this BTW.

Note: I hum the bass line because that feel is going to be much more musical timing-wise than what I play. When I do play it to match I can align the audio or midi notes to what I hummed to retain that original timing.

Now I'll pick a midi bass sound or (if it's a pretty simple melody) try to play what I hummed on the low strings of a six string bass. I'm not a bass player but I can play simple passages. I'll mix that midi or electric bass line in with the bass melody I hummed and compress them together. The vocal bass line humming makes a nice foundation sometimes but you gotta scoop out the midrange vocal tone and boost it in a good low place. Proximity effect is useful here. I often use a Shure Beta 52 which is a kick drum mic for this and sometimes a SM57.

If I need more sub bass I'll add a duplicate midi track an octave down (maybe with a different sound), scoop out some 250hz, compress it and mix it in with the other two bass tracks in the main bass group. I cut around 250hz from either the bass or the kick or both to get the boom or thump without the mud. You can really make a bass stand out by getting rid of some of that and pushing up the level.

Now I'll roll with the kick, bass and lyrics for about 2 to 3 passes of the entire song and beat on a table or my lap to try to flesh out some percussion stuff. Once I find something I like I'll put the percussion (hats, whatever else) into Fruity Loops. It's at this point where I also decide if the upbeat is a clap or snare or some other sound and at what pitch it should be. Pitching a snare to the key of a song (at this point determined by the bass line) can make a big difference.

Now I might go to the hook and rush the beat just a little to add more excitement. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. Sometimes just rushing a hat 5-10 milleseconds can help drive the beat on the hook a little more. Sometimes a 1/4 note cowbell WAY down in the mix and virtually inaudible can make the track move more.

Once it's grooving where I like it the rest is purely subjective. Keys? Attack strings? Swells? Synth line? I just try to get the basic drums and bass flowing around the rappers words and then just experiment on from there. That's my basic methodology for producing beats. Although obviously as a song goes deeper into production things will change.

I might call in a female singer, give her no direction, and just play the track letting her do whatever she feels like doing in the context of the hook. Sometimes singers will surprise you. When I do that I'll mute all of my synth lines etc. and let her flow with the basic track. If she hits something we'll develop it. If not, I'll turn the other parts on and let her have at it again. Or we'll do it both ways and choose which to use later.

That's about it. I'd be interested in hearing some of your methods. Thanks.

Lawrence
Old 3rd August 2005
  #2
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TonyBelmont's Avatar
 

Wow. All that to make a beat?

I do one of two things. Listen to some old records and wait for something to catch my ear. Or, I'll just get an idea, and start banging it out with whatever comes to mind after I open Cubase or Logic. I hardly ever do it exactly the same twice.

Although I usually start with a basic drum beat.
Old 3rd August 2005
  #3
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XHipHop's Avatar
My beats are usually already done in my head, and i have to backwards engineer to get myself to that finished product.

I usually always start with drums but those can change later and I'm always after the "main" sound I was hearing originally. Once I nail that, it's time for the "filler" sounds.

In 2005, sometimes even the bassline is considered a "filler" sound and sometimes you don't even need one at all.

But even though I already start out with a beat in my head, luckily I always stumble across something while putting it together that changes it someway (usually for the better). Like I'll lay down the original line but start switching through presets and hear something that I never thought of that gives the track a totally different feel.

Sometimes I'll just start playing with the portamento on a synth sound and see how it reacts if it is sliding around from note to note. I like to experiment and whatever sounds good, is good.
Old 3rd August 2005
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyBelmont
Wow. All that to make a beat?

I do one of two things. Listen to some old records and wait for something to catch my ear. Or, I'll just get an idea, and start banging it out with whatever comes to mind after I open Cubase or Logic. I hardly ever do it exactly the same twice.

Although I usually start with a basic drum beat.
It reads like a lot but it's not, I was just describing the process of creating a beat around an existing rap and some of the EQ'ing or other tricks I might use to fatten it up along the way. That entire process takes about 30 minutes and it works really well for me. But yeah, if I didn't know me I'd say it reads like a lot! It's all about how it feels against the lyrics for me.

Yeah, just making beats with no particular lyric or rapper in mind to use it? I just hammer stuff out. I can see why that long written process might seem like a lot though Tony.

Thanks.

Lawrence
Old 3rd August 2005
  #5
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XHipHop's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence
It reads like a lot but it's not, I was just describing the process. That entire process takes about 30 minutes and it works really well for me.

Lawrence
I wish I could do that...my process takes about 2 days. But I need to sleep on it after the first day and then on the 2nd day I like to listen with fresh ears and decide if I really liked what I did and what I dislike.

I guess I'm a picky guy!
Old 3rd August 2005
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XHipHop
I wish I could do that...my process takes about 2 days. But I need to sleep on it after the first day and then on the 2nd day I like to listen with fresh ears and decide if I really liked what I did and what I dislike.

I guess I'm a picky guy!
You're absolutely right. As I said "...as a song goes deeper into production things will change..." Sometimes you will hear it the next day and think "Man, that one part sucks..." and change some stuff.

It 'aint done till it's done. heh But sometimes that initial basic flow is close and it's almost there. Who knows what it'll be in it's final state but it should be still recognizable as the "basic" beat that was created that first night.

A beat that someone might want to buy and use on a record? Nope, you can't do that in 30 minutes. tutt A good solid original beat for a low cost rap demo? Absolutely.

That's what I do mostly because a lot of the kids (16-21 years old) can't afford a "big time" producton so I'll produce a basic original track, mix it and when they come back the next day it's done. At $40 hr. they want to get in and out and have something that sounds better than a home recording. $50 for (temporary) exclusive use of the track and 2 hours of studio time will just about do it. About $130-$150 per track.

Lawrence
Old 3rd August 2005
  #7
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Stoneface's Avatar
 

Excellent Thread!!!

I usually will start with drums but that depends on what has inspired me. Sometimes I'll do all keys first and build the drums around it. Or if I can't seem to program drums that seem to match, I'll begin digging through previous drum tracks in the MPC until I find something that works.

After I have what I consider to be a usable track, I'll go ahead and track everything into PT or DP4. If I'm still feeling it, I call in the musicians to replace the keyboard guitar, rhodes, and other "imitated" parts, within reason. Sometimes a keyboard part works better than a live instrument but I like to hit my tracks from all possible angles.

Once I've got what I'm looking for, I begin the arrangement process. Many times this process will cause more creative juices to flow as I begin to open up spaces in the track. This then requires that I begin adding more midi or live parts to really take the track to the next level.

Most of the time, I can complete a track in 2-3 days. However, I've been known to spend upto a week on 1 sound. Sound crazy? Maybe...but as long as you love what you do and get the sound you're hearing in your head, how could it be wrong.

Old 3rd August 2005
  #8
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TonyBelmont's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by XHipHop
I wish I could do that...my process takes about 2 days. But I need to sleep on it after the first day and then on the 2nd day I like to listen with fresh ears and decide if I really liked what I did and what I dislike.

I guess I'm a picky guy!

I use to do that but recently I'll just leave it alone for an hour, and go get something to eat. Then come back and if it still sounds hot, then it's emailed to the A&R's...
Old 3rd August 2005
  #9
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I was trying to find some examples of recent productions but they're all 24-bit. Here's a link to some older productions...

Audio Cave Demos

1 R&B song and three hip hop songs. These were done about a year ago on the "budget" progam. I could have done a lot better with more money & time.

Garageband's lo-fi sucks. If you have DSL or Cable hit "HI" bandwidth when the window pops up.

Lawrence
Old 3rd August 2005
  #10
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listen for some samples or lay down some keys....then add the drums bass etc.
Old 3rd August 2005
  #11
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I hear ya. Actually I don't even take new rap client anymore, I'm kinda phasing that side of the business out.

I wish all of you guys the best of luck.

Lawrence
Old 3rd August 2005
  #12
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grouphome's Avatar
The Heatmakerz, they make a beat in 10 minutes and get paid 20 grand for it.

the way i start depends on the way i'm feeling, or what kind of idea I have.
Drums, Piano, Sample, Synthline, weird bleep.
after that i start adding stuff
if the song doesnt bounces after 30 minutes i will start another track, it wont work if i'll be adding stuff, it only takes up time.
I i'm working on a remix and it doesnt feel right, i start making another beat.

I usually start tracking/mixing after a week (depending on what project).

this is just for beatmaking, usually if someone wants the track, i might add some stuff to the track, or if im working with an rapper/singer in the lab we might do it different
Old 3rd August 2005
  #13
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Switchcraft's Avatar
 

I never really do the same thing twice, or try not to, but unlike most other I almost never do the drums first. I get all the chord progressions (if there is one) bass line, filler sounds, melodies and live instruments down and make sure I have some rhythmic stalls and silences in there, then I add drums and hand percussion. but thats only a process, what I do with each instrument is different everytim e. Whether I resample live instruments and make a huge assortment of chord frases and then play them on an MPC or just play stuff live or sequence strings or a rhodes, it all depends on the mood and the direction I am going so I guess there is no real info there, just gotta tap into the collective concsionse of people ... somehow.
Old 3rd August 2005
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grouphome
The Heatmakerz, they make a beat in 10 minutes and get paid 20 grand for it.

U have to grow into the 20G status. that comes from having hits. they sample dudes. nowadays w/ recycle and stuff chopping up and/or looping samples is real fast.
Old 3rd August 2005
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

i program bass and drums in logic, do a quick sketch of some melody and/or chords.. if its in my head , if not i leave it..
get the vocalist in have them do a scratchvocal.
and take the rest of the production from there, add live bass, keys and other stuff from there, if needed. after the main work is done i record the vocal again.
Old 3rd August 2005
  #16
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TonyBelmont's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by grouphome
The Heatmakerz, they make a beat in 10 minutes and get paid 20 grand for it.
I'm not hatin', but you can tell they make those beats in 10 mins. They probably do get $20k, but no publishing. It all goes to the artist they sampled.
Old 3rd August 2005
  #17
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beatzz's Avatar
 

I usually start with Reason or FL for the drums tracks. I always render them as soon as they are done and import them into either Cubase SX or Pro tools.

If i'm working in pro tools, i'll usually work with hardware synths like the motif and trition because i don't like the way pro tools handles vsti's.

However if i'm using Cubase SX, i'll get a wicked bass sound going using kontakt or the albino and just build the track up from their. I don't like to do it the same way twice. The only constant for me is having the drums up and pounding first.
Old 17th August 2005
  #18
Gear Head
 

I guess I'm just interested to know what sort of tools ya'll cats is working with... I peeped Cubase and Logic both getting a couple of mentions... Is anyone using reason, or garageband, as basic scratchpad sort of apps?
And how 'bout ITB, OTB and/or varying levels of integration between the two?
I ask because I use all of the above, not really because it necessarily suits my style, or because it smoothes my workflow - on the later point, being all over the map like that actually causes quite a few headaches that can get in the way of making music.... It's just that I've been kind of in the midst of a revolution in my workstyle - I used to do it all in the box, at least for the sequencing and electronic elements... Now I've moved over to an external sequencer for much of my basic composing, and I plan on sinking most of my cash budgeted to music in the near future to acquiring some nifty outboard modules and samplers. I guess I['ve just found the OTB stuff to be more hands on, palpable - just finding lots of MIDI related headaches popping up now that I'm trying to get the while hard/soft studio operation up and running that I didn't have to deal with when I was all ITB

One thing about my process that hasn't changed is that I tend to get inspired with a bass or guitar first... Just sit on the sofa, drilling technique, biting songs, and goofing off, and something's bound to happen that's worth working with...
Old 17th August 2005
  #19
Gear Nut
 

Usually it starts with samples... diggin´through records to find something I think I can base a beat on. Either something musically dope or just something thats got a fat and nice sound to it. Jazz has always been a favourite source of mine, taking a bar or two from the middle of a jazz solo halfway into a 6 minute song and looping it. Looping up a one time passage and turning it into a repetitive groove can be really cool cuz it puts the material in a whole different context , if you heard the sample for Organized Konfusion´s "The Extinction Agenda" (its from Herbie Hancock´s Sextant album) you know what I´m talking about. Its just so much more creative than looping up the intro of some funk or soul song, where you basically just steal the main riff from the song you sample. I aint gonna knock that though...

If I think I´m just gonna go with straight loops I´ll slap the sample on a audio track in sx, and use the metronome to adjust the bpm to fit the loop. If I find the loop needs some tightening, thats where sx´s wonderful part editor comes in handy.

If I feel I want to mess around and chop up the sample and lay it out on midi keys I´ll usually go to Halion for that.

Then to the drums, Battery is pretty much always what I use for drums, got tons of drum hits that I collected over the years. Trying to a lay out a nice basic groove that works with the sample, just a foundation to move ahead from.

Then its usually bass time. I normally let my production partner handle the bass work, either synth bass or electric bass depending of what feels best for the particular beat.

With the bassline laid out, we might go back to the drums to refine them, adding some percussion, layering with more sound to fatten things up and so on.

Then we usually add more elements to the beat, either live played or more sampled stuff. Strings, keys, horns, guitar whatever. Adding new melodical parts

Sometimes we remove the original sample and replace it with something played, and you could never even guess what sample it was in the first place.

This is probably the most typical workflow for us, but it might be very different. Sometimes it doesnt start with a sample, we might build a drum groove and go from there, just playing instruments all the way, looping parts of the takes.

Its really anything goes, the way I see it, if you got a feel for the hip hop aesthetic you can pretty much make beats from anything, or with anything. Its just the result that counts.

cheers /Arka
Old 17th August 2005
  #20
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I get in this "Listen to Others" mode, where I'll listen to, for instance Scott Storch. Hes got this real minimal way about his stuff, but not Neptunes minimal. I try to incorporate his style as much as possible, then slowly move my own ear back in. I'll do this with as many producers I respect, and soon turns into something completely different than what I started with.

It also helps keep you current. Nowadays, all the hottest **** is on this abstract, minimal tip. (like Missys new joint) But this is the type of **** a&r's want.

Usually I start with the drums, then I'll layer/mult the kicks and snares, then I picture where the vox are to sit, and I build around that...
Old 16th July 2009
  #21
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voicegenius's Avatar
 



Interesting thread...
Old 16th July 2009
  #22
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terrytee's Avatar
 

Sorry Lawrence but i haven't read your first post but by a quick glance it would seem that you have got quite a lengthy way of doing things.

This is how i get down. Find some good drums, i my case this is only really a kick snare & hi hat, often no open hi. Make sure they all sound good then make a beat patten, yes at this point i have no idea of what direction the sample or even keys, if you do that thing, will sound like. The beat patten for me is the most important thing and the one aspect i spend most of my focus on. Ok i don't just punch in the first thing in my head, most of the time, or if i do i will often spend some time dropping things out so it feels right & doesn't have any unnecessary elements or sound messy. Spacing out hats & maybe a little shifting will be done just get it feeling natural & then maybe 1 or 2 notes every couple of bars catch a bit of swing to make a off beat feel more funky. Once the beat is done am good to go. Pull out a load of old records and search for ideas generally by just cutting them in over the patten to see what works. If it sounds good take some sounds and add them. Often at this point i will have a half finished beat & may need something else so i do some digging around and see if i can find a noise that will work if not i will often get the idea from my head to work with a ATC-1. Add bass if i already haven't got it & am good to track. Build on it & arrange within logic from that point on.

If i need inspiration to get started like Tony i my just listen to some old records to get the juices flowing.
Old 16th July 2009
  #23
Lives for gear
There are all kinds of ways to do it, but two things Lawrence said I like to do when possible.

1) If the MC already has stuff written, make the beat to his vox.

and

2) sing parts first. The good thing about this is in order to sing something you HAVE to have an idea. You can plunk you fingers down on a keyboard and just play a bunch of BS. But if you sing your parts first you really cant BS them.

Personally I dont usually record it. I just sit there and start singing a part, then figure it out on the keys and then put it down. But it's the same basic concept.
Old 16th July 2009
  #24
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there's a few different ways i do things but i think it's silly to say "i do it differently everytime" unless you've only made 10 beats in your life haha but that's just my opinion i guess

here's a few ways:

1. a. Turn on MPC, load up a kit / make a new one, make a drum pattern
b. Turn on a keyboard / VI and start adding
i. usually like to start with piano because that's probably the sound
I use most often in general
ii. decide whether or not to use a bassline then decide if i want to
make it a synth/sub bassline or guitar bass line
iii. continue to layer with the original piano part with more patches /
instruments (most often layer piano/strings, strings/brass, synths/
guitar)
c. after first part is made i decide how i feel about it and whether or
or not I want it to be the chorus or the verse
d. finish from there / come back the next day (9/10 i make the second
part the next day to purposefully wait)

2. a. Grab my acoustic guitar and write a song
b. Record myself playing the song
c. Add other instruments until complete (oversimplifying)
d. Decide whether or not to keep the guitar in

3. a. Randomly come up with a hook/song in my head
b. record it into DAW by itself
c. Build beat around it in Reason / Logic (oversimplifying)

4. Someone else brought lyrics / idea and go from there...Wish that was more common haha

That's my main three ways sometimes it happens other ways like if I'm a another studio it'll depend on what goodies are available for me to use. It's common if I go somewhere and they have an acoustic drum kit I'll start with that because I don't have that at home right now.

Usually making the first part takes between 30 min. to an hour
I almost always make myself wait a day to finish a beat / song just because in the past i've come up / changed some crazy stuff on a second go-'round. If I sample the whole beat will be done in 30 min. for sure but I don't like to sample cuz I don't like the workflow in looking through them and you "ain't takin' my publishin' son!"
Old 16th July 2009
  #25
What I do:

I Go on FL8

I listen to all my samples in the sample folders, and choose the ones who catch my ears.

I play a melody on my MicroX

I save it as midi and then convert the music

I add layers etc.

So this can take like 2 days to get everything working? I'm talking about a full instrumental.
Old 16th July 2009
  #26
Gear Maniac
 

after reading this thread i see alot of people go through alot of thinking to make beats. i dont make beats that come up in my head i just use sounds. if i hear a sound i like ill make the beat around that. i go throught he sounds of a synth and if i like the sound my hand magically starts makin a melody and thats how i start all my beats.
Old 16th July 2009
  #27
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kingchong's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bigblessin View Post
after reading this thread i see alot of people go through alot of thinking to make beats. i dont make beats that come up in my head i just use sounds. if i hear a sound i like ill make the beat around that. i go throught he sounds of a synth and if i like the sound my hand magically starts makin a melody and thats how i start all my beats.
I have the same "problem." I go through all the sounds and as soon as I hear that "sound of the day" it's on!

I used to think that I was getting lucky, but after 7 years, my luck still hasn't run out Although, I am a lot more experienced (which sometimes equals more lazy) and I know a more about music theory and chords, and try to apply it to my productions.

Sometimes when I'm at work, I'll have a melody stuck in my head, and by the time I get home, and try to find the sound and lay it down, I lose what I heard. It's really frustrating..
Old 16th July 2009
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigblessin View Post
after reading this thread i see alot of people go through alot of thinking to make beats. i dont make beats that come up in my head i just use sounds. if i hear a sound i like ill make the beat around that. i go throught he sounds of a synth and if i like the sound my hand magically starts makin a melody and thats how i start all my beats.
Oh you're not alone! When it comes to beatmaking, I go through every sound and test all of them out, on my synth, in my sample folders. Then I mix and match with a song that I have pre-written. Sometimes (Like today), I do the beat, think about a good hook, and then I write the song at the same time, now you know you got something good if everything (beat/lyrics/melody/hooks) works.
Old 16th July 2009
  #29
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kingchong View Post
I have the same "problem." I go through all the sounds and as soon as I hear that "sound of the day" it's on!

I used to think that I was getting lucky, but after 7 years, my luck still hasn't run out Although, I am a lot more experienced (which sometimes equals more lazy) and I know a more about music theory and chords, and try to apply it to my productions.

Sometimes when I'm at work, I'll have a melody stuck in my head, and by the time I get home, and try to find the sound and lay it down, I lose what I heard. It's really frustrating..
Happens to me ALL the time. I always get great melodies going through my head when I'm in the office, or when I'm driving somewhere. Get back to the house to record and... nothing. DAMN!
Old 16th July 2009
  #30
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kingchong's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeSV View Post
Happens to me ALL the time. I always get great melodies going through my head when I'm in the office, or when I'm driving somewhere. Get back to the house to record and... nothing. DAMN!
Yea, I even bought a mini flash recorder to take to work with me so I could possibly capture the idea, but I've yet to take it with me.. I work in really noisy places, so I prolly couldn't hear what I was doin anyways.. I might get some cool samples tho. I've had it over a year lol.
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