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In this article I will touch on the key factors that you will need to master and this is what separates the pros from the amateurs when producing hot rap beats.
Where to Start
Some people have a preference in what instrument they first want to layout when producing beats in FL Studio. Some prefer the melody, some prefer the bass line and some prefer the drums. No answer to this is wrong or right, and it is mostly a matter of opinion, but for starters I will recommend laying out a good drum pattern first.
Before we get started, set your BPM (beats per minute) to something between 85 and 95.
Creating the Drum Pattern
First, search through your sounds for a nice, hard-hitting kick sample. In the example that we’re going to create, you’ll want to try to find a kick sound that hits hard but does not contain a lot of low-end sub bass (this will make it easier to mix with the bass later). Once you have found a good drum kick sound, fill in the steps on the step sequencer of where you would like the kick to be heard. Now, right-click on the sound in the step sequencer and select “Send to piano roll.” This will put your drum kick pattern in the piano roll where you will want to adjust your velocity. Velocity is what gives the sound a human feel and not so robotic. Technically, velocity is to adjust how hard something is hit, or how hard a string is plucked, a piano key is pressed, etc. Play with this a little bit until your drum kick pattern starts to sound more human and natural.
Next, find a hi-hat sound that you like and again, click the steps where you want the hi-hat to be. Generally, every other note on the step sequencer is a good place to start. Now, do the same thing that you did with the kick sound and send the channel to the piano roll and adjust the velocity. This is even more important on the hi-hat than it is with the kick.
Now for the snare drum(s). I usually like to layer a few together to get the sound just right. I usually like a tight and hard-hitting sound, so I might mix a clap sound with a rim shot and then take 2 different traditional snare hits and turn the level down a little bit on those and then pan one to the right and one to the left at about 35%. For starters, you’ll want to put your snare drum on every 4th step in the step sequencer.
Now, you can add more personal touch if you want using the same techniques already mentioned. Feel free to throw in a cowbell, tambourine, cymbal, etc.
Creating the Bass Line
In most hip hop, a low bass sound is used so really all it provides is power and thump and possibly a catchy tune that helps to “glue” the drum sounds together with the rest of the instruments. Choose a low bass sound that will give a good rumble when being bumped, and if there is too much high-end frequency to the sound then you can always cut it out with proper EQ or low-pass filter. I usually like to have the bass frequency set at 50 to 75hz and have the kick set at about 85 to 90 hz. You can also do this in reverse (have the kick lower frequency than the bass). The most important thing is that they don’t both occupy the SAME frequency space. This is where most amateur beat makers struggle. It can take a lot of practice to mix the drum kick and the bass line together so that they don’t sound weird or cause distortion when they’re on top of each other. This will probably be the last thing that you master when learning to make beats because it can take precise EQ and compression to make it sound crisp and professional.
When writing the bass melody, start out simple. Choose a note scale that you want to use and stay within that scale. If you don’t know music theory, start out by researching scales and pick one at random. Next, put a blank sound (use a sampler channel, or just turn the volume all the way down on the sound) in your step sequencer in fruity loops. Right click it and open the piano roll. Fill in all the notes in that scale, in every octave, and drag the edge of them so that they show up for the whole duration of the full pattern. Now, open the piano roll for your bass and click the little piano icon in the top left corner of the window. Select view > Ghost Channels. Now every note in the scale will be highlighted gray and you know to stay in these notes while writing your melody. This is a tip you really don’t want to ignore because it can help you a lot!
Writing the Main Melody
First, choose your instrument. Let’s pick something simple like a piano. Write a melody that goes along with the bass line. Sometimes you can copy your same bass line but then add more notes in between (remember I said to keep your bass line simple). If you have researched some music theory, you should use some chords here and there and use some type of chord progression. Remember to stay in the scale and always view Ghost Channels to make sure you’re in the scale in you’re unsure. If you want to stay simple you can just have the piano playing for the melody, but feel free to select a couple other complimentary instruments and add some accents here and there. Sometimes I like to use something like a violin just to emphasize certain notes or phrases in the melody.
Writing the Hook
The hook is where you can really go wild because it is the most climactic part of the song. You still want to stay in the correct scale of course, but you can add lots of strings and other instruments. You should either elaborate on the normal verse melody and make it more complex or you should write a totally new melody in the same scale. Remember to try to picture it with vocals on top of it and try to add things that will compliment a finished product / song.
Ryan Jobe has been producing rap beats for 10 years and is the owner of ProBangers.com where he offers completely free beats for commercial (profitable) use with no royalty payments required.
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