5 tips for making a Hip Hop beat with Melody Sauce
1. Samples, samples, samples!
Sampling has always been a huge part of Hip-hop production. Whether it's a melodic part or a drum loop, pick something high quality and make it your own with different creative effects. There are so many royalty free sample packs out there now that's there is no need to sample from copyrighted material (and face a potential legal battle!).
Even if you don't use a loop for your track, you will want to use high quality one shot samples of the best drum machines. There are plenty of emulations and samples out there, with your DAW more than likely having a few of their own included.
Classic drum machines to checkout are;
- The mighty Roland TR - 808. This one needs no introduction and is possibly the most important drum machine of all time. A good 808 sample is can be the difference between a good beat and a great beat.
- The Oberheim DMX. Used on countless hit records from the likes of Run DMC and Public Enemy, the DMX has a soul all of its own.
- The Linn LM-1 was a big favourite of Prince and was the first drum machine to use samples of a real drum kit.
- The Roland TR – 909. The 909 is often overshadowed in Hip Hop by it's relative the 808, but it has found it's way on some important Hip Hop records. One of the most notable was Schoolly D - 'PSK, What Does It Mean?', widely seen as the first Gangsta Rap record and an inspiration to the likes of NWA, Notorious BIG and many more.
2. Hi hats for groove
It's important to get a good groove in your beat. The right hi hat pattern is vital to giving your beat rhythm and flow.
More modern Hip Hop and Trap tends to focus on Triplet patterns, also using rolling patterns and pitching techniques to accentuate transitions. The image below shows an example of a rolling hat pattern.
Classic Hip Hop focusses on more standard 16th patterns, with the hi hats playing a less prominent role in creating groove but helping to maintain the energy – as seen in the image below.
Don't forget to edit the velocity of each note to give your pattern a more human feel.
3. Don't go overboard with quantization
Hip Hop is a genre of groove and feeling, so be careful not to come across too robotic by quantizing your track too much.
Try nudging some elements slightly off grid to give them a more human feel. Bringing an element slightly forward before the kick creates a sense of urgency, whilst nudging an element back a touch makes the groove stagger. Play around with different amounts until the groove sounds right.
If you can, play your chords in live so you maintain a human feel. If not you can edit notes in your piano roll to give it a more live feel.
Another good thing to use are foley samples. These are recordings of everyday sounds like glass breaking or doors slamming. They can be a great way to add subtle atmosphere to your beat and also tend to be less rigid than other samples.
Also don't forget to try out the swing option in your DAW. Ableton has Groove Pools, FL Studio has a swing slider – find the option for your DAW and give your track some groove.
4. Less is more - give your track space
Hip Hop tends to be pretty minimal in production. This is mainly so the rapper is heard clearly and isn't competing with a busy arrangement. The rap really takes prominence, so complex changes in melody are not a great idea, as are elements with frequencies that overpower and mask the vocal.
The less elements your track has the more space each sound has in the mix. This is particularly important for huge sounding 808 hits. Use a sparse kick pattern so your 808 has time and space to go through its full range. This will stop any frequency masking issues, with what is a crucial element of your beat.
5. Melodies with Melody Sauce
You can take control of Melody Sauce and its simple controls to create the main melody for your Hip Hop beat or a killer counter melody. Instead of searching far and wide for a great sample, you can create your own melody using your favourite synth as a sound source and then edit the MIDI further within your DAW.
Using Melody Sauce to effectively create your own sample means no chance of a copyright claim and no chance someone else uses the same sample!
See Melody Sauce in action in the video below.
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Want to make a Trap beat but don't know where to start? Pro producer Dusti "Raw" Miraglia (collaborator of Killer Mike of Run The Jewels) offers up his tips and tricks, plus the full track made in this example with free audio stems to download and use, as well as MIDI!