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So you are wanting to start producing rap beats?

So, making a rap beat. Where to start? There’s so many different products, styles, and programs. What are you going to start with?

Are you going to sample your beat, play the piano, record live instruments? As you can see, there’s a few different approaches, but a lot of people make it more confusing than it is. So let’s get started.

First,

What’s a DAW?

A DAW is your program where you actually create your music. It’s called a “Digital Audio Workstation”. Sometimes these come in real expensive keyboards, and allow you to create the beat all in your keyboard!

But nowadays,it’s moved into your computer because you computer has way more capability over a keyboard. (More RAM, Hard drives, video cards, all that stuff).

What are some DAW Brand names?

There’s tons of DAWs to use: FL Studio, Reason, Cubase, and Protools just to name some.

You may be thinking.. well what one’s best for me? — They’ll all do the job, they just do it in different ways.

A big DAW that people use for making beats is called Fruity Loops, or FL Studio. It’s inexpensive, and you get free updates for life! It’s very quick to make a beat inside the program.

There will be a never ending argument about “Reason is better than Fruity Loops, or Cubase is way better than Pro tools..” etc, this goes for all the DAWs. But personally, I use FL Studio for the fact of it being not too expensive, the free updates are a big one, as most companies charge on each update, and it’s pretty easy to use. (Depending on how complex you want to get).

You may also want to check this out — What Is FL Studio?

So before we continue, what’s making you want to make beats? Here’s a few questions.

Do you have a friend who makes music? Do you enjoy music more than the average? Do you notice small parts of songs that other don’t? Have you heard some songs that are just not catchy at all and think you are able to make a catchier one? Do you know how to play the piano? What do you know about music? Do you know how to keep tempo? (1..2..3..4..). What about do you know where to get sounds from and what sounds you’re going to need?

For example, Your kicks, claps, snares, hi-hats, what about all those dance sounds?

Reading all that can get someone intimidated!

So.. Who am I?

My name is Riley Weller, but most people on the internet know me as GratuiTous.

I live for the Lord, and strive to let Him be known through my actions and especially my music.

You can check out my beats here.

Continuing on!

So what else are we going to need to make beats?

We’ve covered music program, I’ve asked you a lot of overwhelming questions, and we’ve touched a little bit on sounds. So let’s move on to sounds.

Sounds Are Important!

Why are sounds important? Well.. you want High Quality sounds.

If you buy a sound kit, and find out the sounds are “weak” and not very powerful.. you’ll always wonder why everyone else’s beats are so much more powerful than yours. Now this can come down to a couple things..

  1. Experience – They have been making beats longer and know a couple tricks here and there.
  2. Mixing – this is a huge part of making your beat sound “how you want it to sound”.
  3. Mastering – This is where you make your song as loud as possible without it sounding bad.

Now if you’re new to making beats, you’ll have 0/3 on that list haha, and THAT’S OKAY, cause I’ve been there!

What Kind of Sounds am I Looking for?

Now there are 2 big differences in sounds.

  1. Samples/One Shots
  2. Instruments/VSTi

What’s the difference, and what are they even? Okay, I’ll explain!

Samples/One Shots:

These are your basic sounds like your kicks, clap, hats, claps, shakers etc.

Pretty much what you’d find on a drum kit and percussion stuff. Shakers, bongos etc.

Instrument/VSTi sounds:

These sounds are your instruments. Your pianos, synths, guitars, basslines etc.

They are sounds that are inside your computer that you play through MIDI. It gives you tons of flexibility on where you want the note to play and how long you want the note to play etc.

You can read my reviews on VSTi’s here.

I’d highly recommend Nexus 2 by reFX. — The video above of me making a beat I used Nexus 2. That was the purple window I kept going to while making the beat.

So how are you going to hear all those sounds without SPEAKERS!

So when it comes to producing music you want speakers that are going to make your music sound as it is. This is called Flat Response. Many speakers you buy from the store add stuff to the sound, for example, they may add extra bass just to make it “sound better”.

When I first started I just kept using my logitech computer speakers thinking “my speakers are fine!”… but you will eventually want to get some reference monitor speakers.

Also, to get better sound quality, you will also want to get an audio interface which is just like a sound card that you plug in USB to your computer. Watch the video here to learn how one works/how to set it up with your speakers. (And a sub if you have one, it’s down lower on that page).

You will either need to connect them with a speaker cable called a TRS 1/4″ cable. Click here to find out where I got mine, I got mine for like $4! You will read online about audio cables being balanced and unbalanced, this is just a big distraction, especially when I started out being new trying to read up on all this stuff. Just get TRS 1/4″ cables, and you will be 100% happy! (TRS has 2 rings, TS just has 1 ring).

Okay, so that’s pretty much it!

You have your music program, your sounds, and speakers. This is all you need to make beats.

If you really wanted to, you could use your typing keyboard as a keyboard, which is what I did for awhile until..

I wanted to create thoseBeautiful Piano Pieces!

YOU WANT A MIDI KEYBOARD!

A MIDI keyboard itself does not have any sounds in it! So when you buy your keyboard, plug it in, and realize it has no sounds, it’s ok because you use the sounds we were talking about above. (You use the sounds within your music program). The whole point of a MIDI keyboard is to use it with your VSTs, plus it can control your music program with it’s sliders, knobs, and buttons!

The main advantage the MIDI keyboard has is that it is meant for DAWs.

Just for ideas, I got an Axiom 49 2nd Gen keyboard, it’s a way nicer MIDI keyboard, but it has more features than I’m ever going to use.

The important things to get on a MIDI Keyboard are the record, play, stop, fast forward etc, cause these are crucial to help your work flow go smoother. (Instead of always going back and forth to your mouse).

Now most DAW’s are really good at working with MIDI Keyboards/Controllers, but FL Studio is not.. Although FL Studio is an awesome program to make beats on, it doesn’t work good when it comes to “auto mapping” your knobs and sliders. Now this does not mean you can’t use your knobs and slidrs in FL Studio! It just means you have to do it manually.. which is a hassle I find!

M-Audio has a keyboard very similar to the Axiom 49 2nd Gen and it’s less than half the price. It’s called the M-Audio Oxygen 49v3.

Again, having all the “bells and whistles” are awesome, but when you have a music program that doesn’t take advantage of them.. it’s a waste of money! (The Oxygen would be a good choice because it’s not as expensive, plus comes with tons of features just like the Axiom!).

So those are the Major things you will need to create solid beats. But here are a few recommendations on top of those!

So besides what we talked about, which was pretty much just hardware (besides the sounds), here’s some extras that may push your beatmaking career further.

  • A Subwoofer
  • A Drum Pad
  • A Turntable
  • 2 Computer monitors
  • Microphone (if you want to record voices, or your own sounds!)

A Subwoofer

I have M-Audio’s SBX10. This is a very big sub but it’s done me very well. This helps tremendously when wanting hear the super low parts of your song. You can check out my review here. (Or watch the video on how to setup a Subwoofer to Reference Monitor Speakers!).

A Drum Pad

I have a Korg PadKontrol. So since it’s a “Midi Controller”, just like the Axiom 49 2nd Gen, it has no sounds in it by itself. (Remember, you use the sounds within your music program! To watch a video on how it works/my review on it, you can check it out here.

A Turntable

So I always saw people using vinyl records to create their beats. I thought to myself, I should practice that in case there is ever a time where someone requests a “sampled beat” from me! But always keep in mind about the copyright issues when using someone else’s music.

Here’s an interesting video I’ve made on Sampling vs. Piano Beats:

I just have a Numark TTXUSB, which plugs into your computer usb, you record what you want off the record, and then chop up the song how ever you want. I bought a special scratching needle cause I wanted to try scratching, but if you are just wanting it to take loops and sample them, I would not recommend getting a new needle. For all the info on the turntable check out the review here.

2 Computer Monitors

With so much going on in your screen, 2 computer monitors is really a must. It helps you be like 10x more organized. I would highly recommend this and wish I got 2 computer monitors sooner! Learn to set up 2+ computer monitors.

*UPDATE*

I’ve recently done some renovations to my home studio, you can check them out in this video!

Microphone

I currently own 2 microphones. I have a Shure SM58 microphone, and an Audio Technia 2035.

Shure SM58 = Dynamic Microphone — Audio Technica 2035 = Condenser Microphone.

Since the M-audio fast track pro does not have much power, I’ve struggled with getting a “strong solid microphone signal”. What I ended up having to do was buy a separate pre-amp called the Behringer Tube Ultragain Mic200.

I personally really like the Audio Technia 2035, it picks up my vocals very naturally when I record for my albums! (Watch the video review below!).

The Shure SM58 really has a solid name in the industry. From my experience with it, it’s made my voice sound very “flat” and not as “close sounding” as I like within my songs.

But keep in mind a Condenser microphone will pick up sound much easier than a dynamic! I had to learn that the hard way!

So that’s it!