Are you ready to learn the art of how to make Hip Hop beats? Creating your rhythms can seem intimidating, but with a little basic knowledge of music production, you’ll be up and running in no time. Whether you’re an experienced musician or new to the world of music-making, we’ll show you exactly how to make beats.
Below, we’ll cover what it takes to make music, how to make Hip Hop beats, and share some expert beat-making tips to help you along your musical journey. Let’s start!
What you need to create beats
So what do you need on how to make Hip Hop beats? Here are some of the basic building blocks of music production. Every musician should have these elements in their music production toolkit.
DAW or beat-making equipment
The most important tool for how to make Hip Hop beats is the digital audio workstation, otherwise known as a DAW. Popular DAWs include Pro Tools, Ableton Live, FL Studio, Cubase, and Logic Pro. There is also an expanding selection of rhythm software available for smartphones, including Garageband or BandLab.
If you prefer hardware to software, you can start the process of how to make Hip Hop beats on a separate device like the AKAI MPC or Roland SP-404. If you choose this path, keep in mind that you may need the basic capabilities of a digital audio workstation to mix your track.
A basic MIDI controller, such as a MIDI keyboard, isn’t necessarily needed how to make Hip Hop beats, but it can make things a lot easier. These devices are designed for music producers to play virtual instruments and samples with adaptable hardware. MIDI controllers can also be mapped to automation options, making it easy to create live music digitally. Consider entry-level options like the AKAI MPK Midi or the Novation Launchpad Mini.
Sample packs undoubtedly define the sound of your creations. When creating music, you will want to have many different samples available so that you have everything you need to bring your idea to life.
Your DAW probably comes with several sample packs built-in. These packs are great, but it’s also worth considering downloading other sounds to create a more unique collection as an artist. You can get samples from sites like BPM Create or Splice. There are also free sounds available from sites like Freesound.
The audio interface helps you record live sounds such as vocals or instrument parts directly into your DAW with reduced or audible latency. The interfaces may also contain audio outputs, allowing music to be played through audio monitors or studio headphones. They can also supply phantom power to condenser microphones or audio equipment that needs additional support. Any interface from the Focusrite Scarlett series is a great entry-level choice.
Studio monitors or headphones
You’ll need something to help you hear your rhythms objectively as you create them. Studio monitors can provide you with an accurate interpretation of your songs. It’s also a good idea to get a pair of studio headphones to use during those hours when you don’t want to wake up the neighbors.
Please note that you should not use any headphones that are lying around at your fingertips, especially Bluetooth headphones. Many headphones designed for everyday listening have a bass or treble boost. While this may improve your listening experience when listening to already processed tracks, they distort the true perception of the song. Therefore, headphones for everyday listening are not the best choice for the recording, production, mixing, and mastering process.
Whether you’re creating beats for indie pop or hip hop, creating your beats requires a strong musical mindset. It is important to understand that many producers take years to create their best music. Your first few beats won’t be the best, of course, but remember that they’re still a valuable part of the process.
Creating a rhythm from start to finish is not an easy process, but a very rewarding one. Try to be patient with yourself and persevere through the more difficult parts of production. Remember that learning how to make music will get easier and easier.
How to make beats in 7 steps
Are you ready to make music? Without further ado, here’s how to build your first beat in seven easy steps.
1. Define your game plan
Before you start creating your beat, you need to collect all the necessary tools and, most importantly, draw up a game plan. Producers creating beats for indie rock and hip hop will have very different approaches and sonic influences.
It may be helpful to listen to a few songs that are similar to the song you want to create. While you never want to completely copy elements from a song, you can certainly benefit from a strong reference point in your music creation process.
The process of creating beats is different for everyone, and that’s okay! As you progress along the path of creating music, you will understand what works best for you. In this demo, we will create a basic indie-pop beat. We’ll use Ableton Live and switch to the timeline view by pressing Tab when opening a new session:
Select the BPM or tempo on the top left that matches your vision. Different musical genres usually rest on certain tempos, but while you are learning how to make rhythms, allow yourself to experiment on your own! In my case, I stuck with Ableton Live’s default tempo, which is 120 BPM in 4/4 time signature. Remember, if you don’t feel like starting from scratch, you can also find project templates for any DAW on the web for inspiration or to get started.
2. Build your drum pattern
To learn how to create rhythms, you need to start by learning drum patterns. You can build a basic drum beat using drum kits, drum samples, or a live drum recording using the interface. For simplicity, we’ll be using one of Ableton Live’s stock drum kits called “Ichor kit”.
To do this, we can select drums in the project window and double-click on the kit, which will land on the loaded MIDI track like this:
Additional MIDI and audio tracks can be created by right-clicking in the timeline view or by pressing Command-T or Command-Shift-T. When you open the drum kit, you can individually demo each loaded sound by pressing the mute, play, or solo buttons, and set up the samples in the setup window:
This space also allows you to adjust the overall sound of the kit using built-in effects. You can also change the sampled sounds to your own if, for example, you prefer one drum kit sound instead of a drum kit.
While we’ll be using a drum kit, you can also drag and drop drum samples directly into the timeline onto separate audio tracks for an alternate workflow. Drum kits work via MIDI. To start rhythm creation, double-click on the loaded MIDI track in the timeline to create a MIDI clip.
Deselect “Loop” in the clip menu. You can adjust the length of a clip by clicking and dragging its ends. It should look like this:
To set up a grid in the MIDI sequencer, right-click and select various fixed grids. This will allow you to use different note variations (for example, 1/4 is a quarter note, 1/8 is an eighth note, etc.).
For this demo, I’m going to create a basic “four to the floor” rhythm. In this basic rhythm, the kick drum will sound at the beginning of each bar 1, 2, 3, 4 in 4/4 time. The slow drum will fall on bars 2 and 4, and the hi-hat or shaker-type sound will hit every eighth note. If you don’t have a deep understanding of basic music theory vocabulary, don’t worry!
I also added a Marching Drum sound in bar 1 and an 8th note before bar 3, but this is not necessary. Next, adjust the speed (below the piano) and duration (click and drag the notes to the desired length) of some of the notes to create a more lively, organic feel:
Pretty cool, right? It’s also worth noting that beginners can easily drag the drum loop onto the timeline and move on to the next step. There is nothing wrong with using a drum loop as long as it makes it easier for you to create a rhythm. Once you have a simple rhythm, it’s time to move on!
3. Add a bass line
Now that you’ve learned how to build a drum groove, it’s time to create the bass line. When it comes to creating rhythm, the bass line, drums, and vocal melody are probably the driving forces behind your song. Even if you don’t plan on recording vocals, you’ll still want to pay a lot of attention to the bassline and drums.
In this example, we’ll be using a stock Ableton Live bass called “Super Sub Drone Bass”. I’ll also add some Ableton Live “overdrive” to the bass line to give it more grain. To load a software instrument track, open a new MIDI track and select the desired software instrument. Bass lines can be used to outline the main chord progression of a song, or they can be more distinct.
After loading a MIDI track, you can enter notes directly into the Piano roll or play the bass line using a MIDI keyboard. I decided to try out a few basslines before settling on my favorite and recording it on Ableton Live. I’ve added some sidechain compression to make the bassline blend better with the drums, but that’s just my personal preference:
4. Consider some chords
As you learn how to make beats, you’ll quickly learn that some genres don’t require chords at all. However, most pop music includes chord progression, so we’ll keep going!
You can add chords to the beat by loading any of your software instruments onto a MIDI track. Then play the chord progression that matches the key of your song (in this case it’s Bb major!):
Also, you can just experiment with notes that sound good. Even if you’re not into music theory, most of us intuitively understand which notes make sense together. I added a chord progression using “Grand Piano” from Ableton Live’s stock and added some reverb and delay. With drums and bass, the rhythm goes like this:
If you get stuck at this step in the rhythm creation process, please note that full chord progression samples can be downloaded as an alternative. You can also use MIDI Chord Packs, which allow you to drag and drop pre-made MIDI chord templates onto the timeline and pair them with any virtual instruments of your choice.
5. Experiment with patterns
Samples are one of the best tools to help you learn how to make beats. Not only can they be used as finished loops, but they are their melodic elements that can make a good beat great! I’m going to add a couple of audio samples to separate tracks on the Live timeline. Note that you may need to change the key of the samples up or down to match the key of your song:
6. Automation add-ons and effects
Congratulations! You have completed the most difficult rhythm creation process. Now that you have the basic foundation of your rhythm, it’s time to add additional effects and automation to create a more interesting listening experience.
For example, I thought these vocal samples could be a little more interesting. I decided to group them (by selecting the tracks and holding down Command-G) and process them using Ableton’s “ethereal canyon” delay and sidechain:
You can also add automation by filtering, changing the duration of the effect, and experimenting with different parameters. I automated the drum track to get a decaying sound and subtle reverb automation.
7. Creation of composition and variations
Once you have a good beat, you can turn it into a full song. Create a full-fledged track by experimenting with looping certain fragments, adding small audio details, and creating separate parts of the song:
Of course, learning how to write songs will help with this part of the process. You can also listen to someone else’s song and mimic its song structure based on your own. When in doubt, trust your ears! If you can make a song sound good, then you will succeed, no matter what the “rules” are!
This is by no means a complete song, but you should have the tools you need how to make Hip Hop beats!
7 beat-making tips to help you improve your game in production
Now that you’ve created your first beat, the next step will undoubtedly be creating another track! Here are some essential music-making tips to help you develop your skills as an aspiring producer and musician.
Do a ton of beats
Making beats is a matter of practice. The question is not if you will get an amazing song, but when. If you take the time to consistently create beats and experiment with different genres, you are sure to become a great producer.
Sometimes you have to sift through low-quality music to find your voice as an artist and producer. Remember that every track you create helps you grow as a producer and musician, so even if you don’t love every song you create, it’s still worth the effort.
Look for the information
The best producers don’t wait for information to come to them, they look for it. You dictate your success as a musician. Therefore, if you choose to regularly learn new skills like how to make Hip Hop beats and go beyond the usual genres, you will learn much faster than a producer who sticks only to what he is comfortable with. Do not forget that in the beginning, everything is difficult, but with patience and practice, everything will gradually become easier.
Collaborate with other producers
If you want to make a career in the music industry, you need to learn how to collaborate and network with other producers. Not only will this help you improve your production skills, but it will also help you build your network – a vital part of making music. Try challenging yourself and collaborating with producers who are more experienced than you or create a style you are less familiar with.
If you are planning to perform as an artist, you should also start playing live. Some too many talented producers fail to translate their material into an interesting live performance. Starting early can help you understand which elements your audience responds to the most, which in turn can help guide your creative process.
Experiment with other genres
While some producers specialize in one genre like how to make Hip Hop beats, some of the best have tried their hand at many. Whether you’re up for a challenge or you just want to grow your band as a producer, you’re bound to experiment with other genres.
If you don’t know where to start on how to make Hip Hop beats, look for free music production tutorials on YouTube. The information is there if you are willing to look for it.
As already mentioned on how to make Hip Hop beats, consistency is key. If you don’t make music regularly, it will be much harder for you to improve your skills as a producer. Try to take responsibility and create a production schedule that works for you. Having a work partner can also help.
Whether it’s another musician, trusted friend, or significant other, ask them to follow your music. Informing about your musical plans will help motivate you to new achievements.
Use creative limits
Sometimes the hardest thing about making music is getting started more so on how to make Hip Hop beats. Music production is great and can be amazing as the possibilities are endless, but there are times when the endless possibilities can feel overwhelming.
If you find yourself stuck as an artist, try creating a challenge or creative constraint to help you make beats. It could be something as simple as a deadline for your beats, or a challenge to yourself to make a beat using only samples or live instruments. Try pushing yourself and watch your beat-making skills grow!
Too often we forget that making music should be fun! There’s no guarantee that you’ll enjoy every last track, but that’s okay. Art is self-exploration and experimentation. You may stumble upon a radio hit along the way, but that’s not the point!
Experienced sound engineers know that there are many tedious moments in how to make Hip Hop beats, but it is these magical moments of music creation that are worth it. Songwriting is no small feat, pat yourself on the back for this musical journey!
Making music is not easy. However, with a little practice, you will surely master the art of how to make Hip Hop beats in no time. We hope this guide will show you that beat-making is just a matter of practice, just like any other skill. Enjoy how to make Hip Hop beats!