Making instrumental beats is a procedure that requires determination and a certain level of knowledge around the basics of hip hop music production.
It is easier for people to recognize artists than talented beatmakers and this fact makes it even harder for a producer to make a name for himself in the music industry. Patience and hard work are the key factors that lead to success.
How to make instrumental rap beats
There are a few important steps that a beginner producer has to follow in order to start creating his own instrumental rap beats. Here are all the required steps:
Equipment and room set-up
The first thing you need to do is an initial investment into equipment and music software. To get started, you are going to need and personal computer (PC) or a laptop, and audio interface and a good set of studio monitors.
Along with these and if your budget allows you to, you can purchase a drum pad controller and a midi keyboard. You will need those two to make the process of creating drum loop, basslines and melodies much easier and entertaining.
You are also going to need a desk, if possible a studio desk in order to organize your equipment and ideally a room that you can sound proof so that you can maximize the quality of your sound.
To soundproof your room, you will need sound-absorbing materials such as foam panels, and you will have to put them in corners and hard surfaces so that no sounds gets reflected. Furthermore, a good idea is to put carpets on your floor to enhance the soundproof potential of the room.
DAW, plugins and sounds
Next very important step is to acquire the appropriate music software. You can search and find many significant DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) such as Pro Tools, Ableton Live, FL Studio, Reason, Cubase and Reaper.
All of them have their own plugins. Plugins are the effect processors such as compressors, equalizers, reverbs and delays, stereo wideners and limiters that help you process, improve and balance the sound of your instrumental.
What is more, you can find many extremely powerful plugins that can help you take your music productions to the next level. Some of the best are the Waves Bundle, the FabFilter series, the Izotope Ozone and the T-Racks series.
After you acquire the DAW and the plugins that suit you best, you have to find sounds that you can use to create your instrumental beats.
There are sound packages available for all kinds of instruments. Piano, guitar, bass, saxophone, percussion, violin, cello, flute and effects are some of the most common. Along with these sound, you can purchase loop packages, which contain complete loop melodies from similar categories of instruments.
You can chop and process these loops, rearrange them and create your own melodies. Remember always to look for royalty free loops that you can use into your instrumentals, to avoid having any license issues when you distribute your music.
Get familiar with your equipment and software
Once your equipment are in place and you have installed the music software of your choice, it is time to learn how to use them properly.
First thing you should do is to get familiar with your equipment and software. Watch tutorial videos on youtube and read their manuals to get an idea about how to use them. There is a tutorial and guide for almost any piece of equipment, so this part shouldn’t be difficult for you.
What is more, you should start experimenting with the environment of your DAW and learn about the use of your plugins. Start testing the sounds you have acquired and organize them into categories of instruments or music genres, so that you can be able to find them quick and speed up the process.
Start creating instrumentals
The first thing you need to do, is to choose a module to use. Modules are the synth plugins, the virtual drum machines and the sampler. Those are the tools on which you are going to load your sounds, so that you start creating your melodies and loops.
You can also load loops, chop and rearrange them (usually with a sampler or an editor) and recreate their melody structure to make new loops. What is more, you should experiment with sampling small parts of older songs. The process is about the same.
Have in mind that considering hip hop music, sampling is a part of major importance and most producers follow this method to create their instrumentals. Test the ground, and find out which method suits you best. When you are satisfied, try different techniques and implement them to create your beats.
Next step is to create the drum loops. Drum loops are usually the basic rhythmic element of an instrumental, and along with the baseline, they are the two heavier sounds in a music production.
To create a drum loop, you can load some of your sound packages and make a drum that fits your main loop. Furthermore, you can load breakbeats or any drum loops you may have acquired, chop their kicks, hi-hats and snares and rearrange with your virtual drum machine.
Make sure that you play around, test your sounds and experiment with different ways of structuring your drumloops, until you create the most suitable rhythm to accompany your melody or sampled loop.
After the drum loop creation process, it is time for you to make the bassline. Load your bass instruments and search for a suitable bass sound. What you need to do, is create a bass loop that will accompany the main melody, the drum loop or both.
Yu can apply additional percussion loops to make your beat sound full and more structured. You can add more secondary melodies to enrich your production. The use of effects comes very handy when a beat has many quiet part or bridges.
Do not forget to check your beat many times, make the transitions between introductions, main parts and hooks smooth, so that you engage the listener, and make the overall instrumental more interesting.
This process is called beat structure, and it is essential in order to make your instrumental sound like a complete song on its own. Be creative and do not be afraid to experiment and find new ways to enrich your music productions.
What to avoid
Try to keep your instrumentals as simple as possible. Listeners tend to avoid overcomplicated and noisy music productions. In addition, it makes it difficult for rappers and artists in general to write their lyrics on complex beat.
Use your common sense and create a balanced number of melodies and loops. If you have too many ideas that you think would be excessive if you used them on one single instrumental, note your ideas down and apply them to other instrumental you make.
What is more, you should keep the structure of the beat as simple as possible too. Two or three verses and two to three hooks is a very convenient structure for most rappers. Try not to overcomplicate this part and make small variations following this method as the basis of your instrumental.
Improve the sound of your beat
When a beginner, it will take you some time to improve your skills and create satisfying instrumentals. Remember to compare your own music with the music of already established artists and try to compete with their sound.
It will be difficult in the beginning because of the lack of experience, but it is going to get easier over time as learn new ways and techniques to enrich your music and make your instrumentals sound more professional.
You should consider visiting relevant forum and participating in discussions about music productions. You can make connections and talk about your problems and concerns so that you constantly improve the result of your projects.
In addition, you could use social media to reach out to other music producers and sound engineers. Ask them to share their knowledge with you or tell you their opinion about your music, what you should focus on and changes you may need to make.
Insights from already established musicians are critical to every stage of your music creation process and they will help you understand what it takes to create instrumentals from their perspective.
Mixing and mastering the instrumental
If you have noticed that the beats of well-known artists sound perfectly clear, loud and warm this because of proper audio mixing and mastering.
Use the equalizers to clean your mix from potential noisy parts or blurriness. You can achieve that by clearing all the low frequencies of the sound below 30 or 40Hz. Most stereo sound systems, even the most expensive ones cannot play sound frequencies below 30Hz, so these frequencies have no use into your mix.
What is more, you can additionally clean the sound of your mix by cutting down frequencies that create noise. For example, if you have a sampled loop as your lead melody and synth as your secondary that use sounds in the same frequencies, you can cut down some of the frequencies of the synth or lower its volume to help the main melody stand out.
You have to use compressors and dynamic processor to control the volume range of your tracks. Make sure that compress mostly the lower frequencies between 40Hz and 200Hz. Those are the sound frequencies that are used by the heavier instruments of your mix, such as the drum loops and the basslines.
For instance, the kick and the bass use similar sound frequencies, usually around 60Hz. You can adjust those frequencies and apply a dynamic processor to both of these instruments to control the balance of their sound.
One very important thing you should consider when you mix your instrumental, is panning. Using panning, you can make your mix sound wider and clean the overall sound even more. Consider applying higher volumes of stereo widening to the sounds that use mid-high to high frequencies.
Heavier instruments should stay in the middle of the mix to maintain a certain sense of stability.
Once you have created and structured your instrumental the way you prefer and you consider it ready you can export it as a mixdown into WAV or AIFF format. Make a case of maintaining the bit-rate range as high as possible, usually at 32 bits.
Load your mixdown to your DAW and listen to it carefully. Analyze what the strong and weak parts of your mixed track is and try to correct them.
Apply subtle equalizers and compressors to change lightly the sound to achieve the results you want. Remember not to make drastic tweaks because they will cause saturation and alternate the sound of your track.
Want you want to accomplish is to balance your sound. Your track should sound smoother and more unified than before. Load a stereo widener once again and apply the same principles as you did earlier: keep the lower frequencies in the middle and expand the higher ones.
The last step is to apply a limiter. The limiter will make your track sound a lot louder and even more unified than before. Make sure that you do not make excessive use of your limiter and burn your track.
The best way to find out whether you are on the right track to achieve the sound you want within the industry standards, is to compare multiple times the results of your mastering process to a mainstream song.
Choose a song that you like and admire its sound quality, preferably of the same musical genre and compare it to your track. Do they sound similar? Does your track need more compressing? Is the balance of your lower frequencies within the desirable limits? Is your track loud enough? Does it sound equally clean and warm?
Those are some of the questions you need to answer before you consider your instrumental ready and mastered.
Do not forget to revisit your project as many times as you want in order to correct any imperfections and achieve the best results you can.
These are some basic steps you need to take in order to start making your own instrumental beats.
Time to take action!