How to Make Beats that Aren’t Boring

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Written By Tanya

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There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t hear a non-hip-hop listener say something like “Listen to this crap.” This beat could be mine! It’s impossible to do otherwise. I should be a millionaire.”

If you spend even 10 minutes looking into the online beat-making community, you’ll see that many of these people are actually trying to be producers.

They are not all millionaires, but they are trying. They’re selling their beats all over the internet in hopes of finding someone who will listen to their unique talent and “put them up.”

Problem is, most of these guys aren’t talented. They are just plain awful. You think you can copy the greats because you thought you could.

You don’t have an ear. The subtleties are not obvious to you. You don’t know a thing about music theory. Trust me, anyone can tell that you are using (a bootleg version of) Fruity Loops. Let me be blunt:

Your Beats are Flat Out Boring (But we Can Fix That)

Do you remember when you first started? That’s it. I can do it in a matter of minutes. You’ve been creating simple beats ever since because you mistook the simple orchestration for an arrangement.

They’re using three sounds to do things that you can’t with 15. That’s why they’re selling exclusives at $100,000 per pop. Soundclick leases your tracks for $1.00 per download.

This article will help you solve your problem by discussing what makes a good beat.

  • Sound Fonts
  • Music Theory
  • Mixing and Mastering
  • Orchestration
  • Arrangement

All of this will give you a formula that will help you rise up the ladder, regardless of where you are at. Take the time to reflect on your own situation and consider how these tips can be applied. These suggestions are not optional if your goal is to be a serious scratcher.

SOUND FONTS – MAGICALLY MAKE BEATS BETTER

Most likely, you are like me when you started. You are young and on a tight budget. As we all know, it can be expensive to buy software and then upgrade the sound fonts.

Many people still have the mid-90s versions of Cool Edit Pro 2 and Fruity Loops. However, I will tell you now that this is not the best way to go. These rack sound modules are available from Yamaha, Korg and Roland. Alesis is also available.

Higher quality samples, one shots, and sound fonts can make your beats more powerful. You can easily take any old instrumentals and swap the sounds to create a better beat without having to change anything else.

OUTBOARD RACK SOUND BANKS

You have two options: you can learn to use a plugin or synthesizer to create the sounds that you desire (which will be extremely difficult), or you can start collecting and buying sound fonts and sample files. Any keyboard that can be played with the keys will have a midi output/input so you can control your sound effects.

You could also save money by purchasing an outboard sound bank using one of the amazing keyboards. You can see the Yamaha Motif, Korg Triton, and Roland Fantom. All of these keyboards were huge winners in my time.

SOUND FONTS & SAMPLE CD’S

Common software can be distinguished easily by its default sound fonts. They will not be good until they reach the Logic Pro and Pro Tools levels. You will need to buy additional tools.

You can either get authentic samples of live instruments or classic packs such as the 808 set. There are many options. I would not recommend spending too much. Find your style and focus on your clientele.

Your chances of success can be greatly increased by narrowing your focus to South West, West, MidWest or Dubstep. It also prevents you from being overwhelmed by the sheer number of sound fonts available. Start with a set of sound fonts that you are familiar with, and then go from there.

THE KEY TO A GOOD BEATS – MUSIC THEORY

Sometimes, people don’t follow the rules. There are men like Mr. Sche who can be found in Memphis blagging out heaters while still sequencing on Fruity Loops. They also use some default sounds to land beats for guys such as Al Kapone and 8 Ball.

Do you know why his beats still ring? Because he is an expert in music theory. This is what will set you apart. It’s not easy at first.

It will be necessary to read a book or go online, and treat it as school. It will be necessary to do your homework and study. It’s an investment in your business, so do it.

A lack of song sections and chord changes is the main problem in amateur beat makers’ tracks. Talk about boring. When someone asks me how I make a beat, I ask if they are familiar with a chord progression. You can guess the answer.

Rap beats typically only require two chords to complete the song. Although they are very simple, you need to understand the basics of music theory in order to make them work. You can add some chord inversions to make simplicity more interesting.

can help you understand basic music theory.

I’m talking Music Theory101 levels that will help you improve your game in just a few weeks with some quick study. You’ll see a significant improvement in your instrumentals if you read the Ledger Note article that I linked to.

MIXING AND MASTERING – MAKING BEATS SOUND BETTER

Mixing and mastering are two things you want to leave to professionals, but knowing a little bit about it can increase the likelihood of your beats being picked up by artists.

MIXING

Because there is no mixing, amateur beats often sound muddy and slurred. You’ll hear kick drums and bass lines bleed into each other and other instruments colliding into disaster.

Mixing with EQ’s and compression can make your tracks sound polished. If your track is truly good, mixing can make it a masterpiece.

It’s easy and we have some tips for you. This is a crucial part of the mix, and it’s a must-have. First impressions are everything.

MASTERING

Mastering is another issue. People will use a mastering plugin that has a default setting and just call it a day. Then, they’ll be confused when someone listens to the track and comments about all the distortion and clipping.

Do not attempt mastering your tracks. You can just add compression to individual sounds, and then watch the needles for peaking. To maintain your mixing balance, lock all tracks together and then turn them down.

ORCHESTRATION: BETTER INSTRUMENTS EQUALS BETTER BEATS

Although orchestration and arrangement are technically part of music theory, they deserve their own attention. If done correctly, both can take your beat-making skills to the next level.

When you think orchestration of , picture a literal orchestra with the maestro swinging his stick around. He tells certain people to play their instruments at specific times depending on their seating position (mixing or panning).

He will tell specific people to stop and others to start. When he wants to really blow your mind, however, he will bring them all in at once. They sound great together, because they use harmony and off-set each other’s beats. Your beats should be the same.

You want to use all frequencies of human hearing. You will need to know the frequencies of different instruments and sounds in order to do this. You have heard enough music to be able to understand the Hertz frequencies, but not necessarily memorize them. Your ears are your best friend!

This means you don’t need five instruments all pounding in the same bass range. You should have a bass, a kickdrum that is a bit more frequent, a snare that is higher, and then human vocals. Then, you need a few other instruments that are a bit higher and can be panned around to support the lead melody.

Once you recognize the difference, it is easy to see the difference in enjoyment and quality. It is much easier to start with the right instrumentation.

SYNCOPATION

This is rap, or R&B, for the most part. This means that there is a lot of emphasis on the drums, and the rhythm in which they beat out their beat.

All down beats are the most boring. This is the main reason why your beats are so boring. Music theory will teach you about what you already feel: strong beats and weak beats.

Common time is four over four beats or four beats per minute. You’ll intuitively count them out as…

ONE, two, THREE, four, ONE, two, THREE, four…

As you can see, the 1 beat is strongest followed by the 3 beat. The weak beats are two and four. However, if you go into 8th or 16th notes, then two and four can be felt stronger.

Syncopation is when your drums are hitting the weak beats rather than the strong. The listener feels the weak beats and anticipates the strong. This creates an underlying sense of driving forward (aka not being boring).

You can get an idea of the concept by creating a loop in which you start with the kick and then move on to the second and fourth beats. Go back in and expand your view to the 8th or 16th notes.

Now, drop kicks wherever you like except for the strong beats (1 to 2, 3 and 4). You’re now creating hip-hop, not thumping heavy metal, club-techno or 80’s music.

SPARE OR FULL

As you listen to different songs, notice that they often follow one of two paths. They are either very sparsely instrumented or very full sounding. Pharell’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” was very sparse while Dr. Dre’s “Kush” is full. See the difference below.

The track above is a good example of a simple beat. However, the one below is a great example of a full beat.

This will ensure that orchestration is not an issue. Dre’s selection of instruments sounds doesn’t clash because they each have a frequency range that doesn’t butt head. Kanye’s early Midwest beats included more full beats.

You can’t go too sparse if you don’t want to use unique sounds. Pharell used silly mouth sounds and synths to create a bizarre juxtaposition. It worked.

Another tip is to keep the beat and rhythm consistent but switch instruments halfway through the verse. This section focuses on arrangement.

ARRANGEMENT – UNDERSTANDING HIPHOP BEAT STRUCTURE

Consider arrangement is the moment you have chosen your instrumentation. The question is not which instrument to use, but how to use them. It’s not possible to smash them all at once or they’ll make a mess.

You don’t have songs if they all sing the same song together. It is important to decide what each instrument does.

Music is about space and emptyness as well as filling that space. The mind and ears need to be able to “breathe” and process the information it hears.

This is why sometimes less is more. Songs that reach fullness often use delays and reverbs more than other instruments. Overflooding someone’s senses will not get their attention. It’ll make them turn off your song, just like how we always muffle the TV during loud commercials.

CUSTOM DRUM FULLS

Making beats is fun in two ways. First, you can create custom fills at the end of sections. Second, after receiving the vocals from the singer or rapper, you can add your own fills. Pre-vocals are not required. You can loop your song with predictable, repetitive rhythms.

This allows the user to focus on the lyrics and vocals. You can be boring if you want to be memorable. But, it also opens up the possibility of creating more “ear candy” by fillings.

Once you have your basic layout set up with repetitive rhythms that your listener is familiar with, you can pick specific parts of the song (usually transitional points) to accent with custom fills. You can move out of the verse’s end and into the chorus at the classic moment.

A nice snare sound can be added to the mix. This will energize the listener’s ears. This gets them to pay closer attention and alerts them to something that is about happen (in this instance, the chorus). You have both interest and familiarity, while transitions aren’t abrupt, sudden, or upsetting.

You can listen to the vocals and notice any unusual words or rhythmic elements. These parts can shine even more if you create custom drum fills underneath them or bring in (or take out) other instruments that will help draw attention to it. It’s important not to overdo it. This will cause it to lose its power and disrupt the familiarity that you have.

DYNAMIC BREATHING

Remember how I said that a song must breathe? You need to change the feel of song sections and switch between melodies, but you also need to vary the intensity throughout a song.

You can do this by being clever. I love to play the double- or half-time drums.

Although it’s not often used in hip-hop, you can change the tempo and time signatures. Dropping out and bringing back other instruments is the best way to use this type of music. You can do this by removing the high-hats from a section, removing the bass from a measure or removing the snare.

You can keep instruments in your repertoire, but you can also maintain familiarity. Then, when you introduce it again, the original impact will make it seem fresh and improved. The brain will play catch up and forget about the instrument, which you’ll be able to do in a song.

This can be done with any instrument at any time during the song. However, it is important to choose carefully and not just delete tracks.

This is how to make better beats…

Here are my recommendations. You can choose any instrument you like. You might choose your favourite or your weakest instrument. Reread the article again and then apply one of these suggestions to it. Next, try another.

You can work your way through them all and then give another full-bounce version of the song. Then forget about it. Give it a week, then go back and listen to the original version again.

Listen to the new version of your song and be amazed at all the improvements you will make. Once you have absorbed these concepts, you will be able to apply them to your beats and start getting more clients. You will see a rise in your reputation, but it doesn’t end there.

These are just some of the many tricks you can learn. Continue to learn music theory and apply your new knowledge. You will lose to your competition if you don’t study music theory. It’s a zero-sum game. Your beats will either be placed on the album or another’s. Keep working and grinding!

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