1. January 2021| Type Beat Artwork

Do your hip hop beats not yet sound as fat as you imagined? Have you only produced songs from other music genres so far and would now like to try your hand at hip hop? Or is beat producing still completely new territory for you? Then this article should give you a few practical tips to avoid classic mistakes when producing hip hop beats.

1. choosing the right software (DAW – Digital Audio Workstation)

(bild – logo sammlung software)

The digital age brought about a change in the music industry. A curse for some, a blessing for others, because suddenly many musicians had the opportunity to realize their musical ideas. One was no longer dependent on the expensive analog technology of the big recording studios. Today, with a PC or laptop and the right software, you can get into the production of hip hop beats at low cost. In the meantime, there is a multitude of audio software manufacturers. Which one is right for you depends on the following factors:

– How much budget do you have for the software?
– Which user interfaces seem intuitive to you?
– How stable is the software with extreme track counts and effects?
– How does it integrate with your existing controllers and hardware?
– Does the existing sound library basically fit your musical ideas?
– What possibilities do you have to extend the software (e.g. with VST plugins)?
– Do you have the possibility to creatively combine different modules?
– What is the user community like?

Here you will find a small selection of the most popular DAWs. It’s best to watch the product videos and use the demo versions on the manufacturer’s pages to get a good insight:

Ableton Live https://www.ableton.com/
Avid Pro Tools: http://www.avid.com/DE/products/family/pro-tools
Cakewalk Sonar: http://www.cakewalk.com/products/sonar/
ImageLine FL Studio: http://www.image-line.com/documents/flstudio.html
Steinberg Cubase: http://www.steinberg.net/en/products/cubase/start.html
Propellerhead Reason http://www.propellerheads.se/products/reason/

Personally, I started producing hip hop beats with Magix Music Maker over 13 years ago, because the software was very simple and seemed very suitable for beginners. A short time later I got to know Fruity Loops. Fruity Loops was also very intuitive and in its current version is a versatile and powerful audio software. Many hip hop producers I know still work with Fruity Loops today, countless Youtube tutorials for hip hop beats confirm this impression. At some point, a former classmate raved about the individual possibilities in Propellerhead Reason and so I decided to go with this Swedish software manufacturer. In version 2.5 there were still no recording possibilities (for that I used Steinberg’s Cubase in parallel) and the start was quite complex. From my current point of view, the following special features distinguish Reason Propellerhead:

– the incredibly warm sound of the mastering bus
– the digital mixer as an emulation of the legendary analog SSL 9000k mixing console
– the stability of the software
– the possibility to creatively connect all devices with virtual cables

In the current version of Propellerhead Reason 6.5 no VST plugins are supported (there is a separate store with so-called “Rack Extensions”) and the internal sample resolution is not higher than 24bit (from my point of view perfectly sufficient). An extensive comparison of all DAWs was not possible for me due to time constraints, because as a user you often need several weeks to really “get to know” the strengths and weaknesses of a software. I suspect that some producers have chosen an audio software because an acquaintance has just downloaded the appropriate image illegally.


2. building a sound library for hip hop beats.

Since hip hop beats mainly live on the sound of the drums, the quality of the drum samples decides about victory or defeat. Again and again I hear Hip Hop beats on soundcloud.com, rappers.in or soundclick.com, which are melodically very catchy and elaborated, but unfortunately not convincing, because the drums seem too thin and without energy. From my point of view it makes sense to work with fat drum kits from external providers right from the start. For a start I can recommend the following sites. Always pay attention to a sample resolution of 24 or better 32 bit.






If you have collected enough drum material for your hip hop beats in the sound library, I recommend that you create a folder structure according to kick, snare, hihats, cymbals, etc. This will reduce the workload when producing and searching for suitable drum sounds. This will reduce the amount of work you have to do when producing and searching for suitable drum sounds. To give your drums their own touch, you can use so-called field recorders to record all conceivable sounds from your environment, process them with effects and integrate them. Beat producer Timbaland often adds his own vocal sounds and several percussion tracks to the rhythm of his drums (can be heard in “Nelly Furtado – Say it Right” or “Aaliyah – Try Again”). Another example of creative sound design is provided by producer and rapper Tua with his “Vodka Beat”:

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9fsi2pO-a8) (youtube video einbingung)

3. beat, tempo, rhythm and groove of hip hop beats.

Almost all electronic tracks are based on a 4/4 beat. Classic hip hop beats often have a tempo between 80 and 100 BPM. House or dubstep beats tend to be above 120 BPM. From a rhythm perspective, the clap or snare is almost always on the 2 and the 4. The kick and hihats vary. Typical for hihats in hip hop are continuous 8th or 16th notes.

It’s often easier for me to start with the drums. This way the rest of the elements can already be built on a certain groove. To get the natural groove, I recommend you to play in the drums not by programming a drum computer, but by controller or drum pad. The controller “Akai MPD 18” is perfect for this, because it comes very close to the feeling of a classic MPC due to its 16 pads. Make sure that you only correct beat errors with an automatic quantization and do not destroy the natural groove of the hip hop beats. To create a “laidback effect” you can move the claps or snares a little bit to the back.

4. rhythmic elements in hip hop beats

Everyone knows the feeling of compulsively nodding their head along to some songs. Most of the time, rhythmic elements are responsible throughout the beats, which don’t always have to be in the foreground. In Eminem’s “Lose yourself”, this effect is created by the electric guitars and the bassline. In dubstep, this stylistic device is the main feature of the genre, as the song “Katy B – Katy On A Mission” clearly shows.

(video einbindung)

5. melodies: sampling or composing?

There are many myths and legends about copyright infringement in sampling. Quickly put phrases like “You can only sample a sequence of notes up to 8 notes” or “Anything under 2 seconds is allowed when sampling” out of your mind. The fact is, sampling has been an integral part of the genre since the early days of hip hop (most recent example: “Cro – Easy” uses samples from “Bobby Hebb – Sunny”). Producer greats like Dr. Dre and Timbaland are always drawing on their huge record collections for hip hop beat producing, covering all genres from soul to oriental music. The reason for this is usually not a lack of creativity, but the chance to create a distinctive, new sound from “old sound finds”. This sound is difficult to achieve with self-recorded instruments. Whether this is a copyright infringement is always a case-by-case decision and depends on whether the sample used in the song is “recognizably” a part of the original. As a beat producer, this leaves you with 4 options:

Option 1: You could use samples with recognizable parts and take care of a sampling clearing, i.e. agree on a license agreement with the authors for the use of the samples (see “Kool Savas – Aura” and “Hans Zimmer – Time”).

Option 2: You could use samples with recognizable parts and not care about sampling clearing, resulting in copyright infringement. The trouble will come on its own if the song is successful!

Option 3: You could use short samples that you edit, cut and change in such a way that nobody (not even the copyright holder) could infer the original. Where no plaintiff, there no judge!

Option 4: You don’t use samples, compose all melodies yourself and play them or play unrecognizable samples with your own instruments.

If you decide for a variant with sampling, try to sample only from high resolution media like Vynyl or CD. MP3 soundtracks from the net are therefore out. You can often find exotic, unknown and old sampling material for as little as 1 € at flea markets. Then use effects like reverb, delay, pitch, EQ or distortion for your matching samples in your hip hop beats to find your characteristic sound. Also from the reversing (Reverse) of the sounds and the combinations from several sampling sources very individual Hip Hop Beats can arise. I like to use a pitch, some reverb and the “Propellerhead Reason Pulsar” for my samples to give them their own rhythm. Over time, every producer develops their own creative sampling process. For an own bass track it is often necessary to filter out the bass of the samples completely with an equalizer. If you want to compose and record your own melodies, you should make sure that your recorded instruments have a natural touch. Pianos and strings often look very artificial if every note is “clicked” into the DAW with 100% velocity.

6. panorama, effects and equalizing

When you have recorded all elements according to your idea, you can optimize the sound of your hip hop beats with some small “beauty interventions” (now the mixing process already starts). Work with the full stereo panorama. It’s best to leave the kick and bass in the stereo center. Other percussion elements and instruments can then be distributed to the left and right, making the beat more present. If possible, do not use reverb on the kick and bass. All other elements like claps, hihats, snares or synths seem more alive with a reverb. Currently you can hear kicks in many songs that have been “fattened up” with sub-basses (e.g. “Kendrick Lamar – Bitch, don’t kill my vibe”).

A separate blog article on kick and bass mixing can be found here: https://www.beatbruecke.de/mixing-kick-bass/

Also my article about parallel compression of drums might help you with sound optimization: https://www.beatbruecke.de/mixing-drums-parallelkompression/

If your mix sounds too clean and sterile, you can use effect devices like “Audimatic”. This can be used to add a vinyl effect to the drums or the hum track, for example. But be careful, you should not overdo these effects on the sum track.


7 Arrangement – Keep it simple!

When you are satisfied with the sound of your hip hop beat, you can finally take care of the arrangement. Try to build up the tension until the chorus and leave the highlights for the chorus. Before the hook, you could take out the drum track and use a fade-in effect, for example. The hook usually features special percussion elements and melodies. Often the hook has a larger stereo panorama than the verse. The most important thing: Keep it simple! The average listener usually can’t handle more than three new elements at once. Also, if your beats are too cluttered and complex, it will be difficult for the singers and rappers to place their vocals appropriately. A little anecdote on the side: when we worked on an oldschool track for the project “Daily Biz” some time ago (the beat consisted of only one drum, sample and bass track), we thought that with such a minimalistic structure, no element should be missing at any time in the arrangement. We accidentally hit the delete key while mixing and deleted the sample track before the hook. Suddenly, we accidentally created a certain “oldschool flavor” by doing this, as at times only the drums and vocals could be heard. Less is sometimes more!

I hope I could give you a good introduction to this topic and I’m looking forward to your feedback! There are for sure hundreds of more stylistic elements and tricks. What practical moves do you have ready for your hip hop beats?

Categories: Producing Beats

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