Before I actually start writing down the steps required to make a beat, I want to say that this is aimed at people that have already read the Fl Studio manual (or their DAW’s manual) and know their way around the program. Some of the things I will say in this article may be regarded as false or untrue by some, but this is just the way I do things, everyone has their own technique.
With that cleared, I’ve structured the art of beat making in a few steps that can be taken in any order you want(except the tempo). I’ll explain each step separately. Here they are:
3) Musical Scale
4) Chord Progression
To put it simply, the tempo of a song dictates it’s speed. Most music genres can be found in a certain tempo interval. Hip-Hop can be found around 70-90 BPM (Beats Per Minute=Tempo), though I’ve made tracks that had a tempo of 60 or even 100. Setting the tempo right depends on what feelings you want to transmit. Slow tempos are really good for emotional tracks while faster tempo’s are better for club oriented beats.
Drums, in my opinion are the most important part of a hip hop beat. They must have a good rhythm and also pack a punch. Let’s take a look at the most common drum types(these are usually enough to make drum sequence):
-The kick drum, also known as the bass drum. As stated, this delivers the bass or so called boom of a beat. In your Fl studio sequencer that has 16 steps the simplest way to arrange a kick drum is to put one on the first step and the ninth step. You can arrange them mostly however you want, kick drums offer a lot of freedom on arrangement. Experiment a lot with their placement.
-The snare drum. If the kick is the boom, then the snare is the bap. It doe sent offer as much variation as the kick, it usual only stays on the 5th and 13th step. It can rarely be found on any other step in a classic hip hop beat.
-The hi hats. These are percussion sounds that form a rhythm. They can be layered with the kick drum or be put to for a pattern on their own.
Now that I’ve cleared things a bit on drum types (there are many more: toms, cymbals, crashes, bongos, shakers etc) let’s make a basic drum rhythm. Place a kick on the 1st and 9th step, a snare on the 5th and 13th and a hi hat on the 3rd, 7th, 11th and 15th step. That is the simplest but also one of the most effective drum patterns created.
To quickly become good at designing drum patterns you should take songs you really like, find their tempo and then remake their drum sequence, you will learn quite a lot this way.This is a really helpful exercise.
3) Musical Scales
When adding instrumentation it is very important for it to remain on a musical scale. A musical scale is a selection of notes that you can play and sound good together. There are many types of scales, but the most used are the Major and Minor ones.Major scales have a happier feel to them while minor ones are sadder. They are not set in stone however, you can make minor scales sound happier, it just depends on how you play them, what rhythm etc.
A good way to find scales is to use the scale/chord helper found on warbeats.com. Just pick a note, the scale type(Major or minor or other) and it will show all the notes in that scale.
I’ve only covered the basics on musical scales, there are a lot of quality articles, videos that cover this more in depth, but for starters what I’ve just said is just enough.
4) Chord progression
Let me start by explaining what a chord is. Basically it’s a selection of three or more notes played at the same time. Chord progressions are a sequence of these chords played one after another.Progressions are usually noted in roman numbers (I, II, III, IV etc). An example chord progression is the I. IV. V. To apply that to the C Major scale for example we must find the I.IV.V notes (the first, fourth and fifth). Using the scale/chord helper again we know that the first note is unsurprisingly C, we then select the chords tab and select “Major”. It shows the C Major chord is played with the C, E and G notes all at the same time. We then go on and find the fourth note in the scale and the fifth and do the same. Then we play our progression. NOTE:Chords must be the same as the scale, if the scale is Major the chord must also be Major.
Look up more information on different chord progressions on the in internet or on books about music theory.
This can be very enigmatic. Basically play notes in your chosen scale until you’ve come up with a pattern that is catchy and sounds good. Unfortunately I cannot help you past that with creating melodies, it’s a thing that comes naturally, there is no special technique on it. What you can do though is to look up videos explaining how to play popular songs and learn to play them yourself, it will really help in creating melodies in the future seeing how the pro’s do it.
6) Chord Progression
This part comes when you;ve got several melodies built, a strong chord progression and a good drum pattern.Lets take a look at a simple structure:
Intro(4 bars)-Verse(16 bars)-Chorus(8 bars)-Verse(16 bars)-Chorus(8 bars)- Outro
The Intro must attract attention and determine someone to listen to the whole song. Use your beat’s most interesting part on this one. It can be the melody, intro drums, chords etc.
The Verse is the part where the artist tells his story. It shouldn’t be overcrowded. The accent must be put on the artist. Subtle changes in the beat make an interesting verse.
The chorus must be the catchiest part of the song. It must have the listener begging for more. Use your best melody on it and accentuate it with a pad in the background.
The Outro must end the beat in a nice manner, either by takking out elements gradually or by fading everything out slowly.
Instrumentation wise try to complement individual melodies with each other, change instruments during the beat. Make things interesting.
Experience is the best teacher when deciding which instruments to use, when to place them. As said before, listen ot the music you like and pay attention to the changes, the way the sounds come in, etc. Learn from the experts, learn their techniques and adapt them to your style.
This is the last part of making a beat(there is also mastering, but that is pointless until you’ve recorded the artist)
The mix is the part where you make everything sound good by adjusting volume levels, panning the sound left and right, EQ’ing and compressing, adding FX(effects) such as delay, reeverb, distort, gate etc.
In my opinion you should always start by adjusting volume levels. This is up to your ear only, I can’t say specifically what db level to assign each sound, what i can say though is never cross 0db. Don’t ask why, just do it.
On pannin sounds, the only rule is to not over pan things. For example a snare panned 60% left, sounds awful in the mix. Usually keep the kick centered, pan the snare 10-15% left/right, the hihats 20% left/right and decide the rest for yourself. Use your ears.
EQ stands for equalization. To get a better idea of it, open in a mixer channel the Fruity Parametric EQ 2(preferably on a channel that has a sound going on). Play the beat and you will observe the bright light going in a certain part of the Parametric EQ. That zone represents the frequency space your sound is most active in. Using the parameters of the plugin you can either accentuate that frequency or lower it. To get a clear sound in a beat you must make sure every sound has it’s own frequency space. Bass sits down low between approximately 40 and 100Hz, while higher pitched instruments live in the treble range of 5 khz and 10 khz.
As much as I would like to talk in depth about compression I believe there are others that are much better at this than me. I will just explain what it is. Compression basically levels the track volume wise. It doesn’t allow the level to pass a certain threshold. Sounds simple in theory but it gets a bit complicated.
Adding Fx on certain sounds is really optional but it can make your track really that much better. I will just give you an example. You have your drum pattern put out, bt it just needs a little more presence to it. Try adding a reeverb plugin on the snare and then slightly distort it with another plugin(Fruity Dist I think). Suddenly your pattern sounds more interesting!
I think I’ve covered everything needed to make beats. Do not however stick to this article, read up everything you can, watch every video on the subject and constantly learn!