Make A Hip Hop Beat: The Basic Recipe

If you are like me, you may have been wondering how music producers make a hip hop beat. Every time you hear a new slamming beat on the radio or Internet, the thought of how that person crafted such a wicked sound probably pops into your head. As I have found out through trial and error, there is no magic potion that producers sprinkle on their beats to make them come out sounding so nasty. Instead, many producers follow a predictive and simple basic recipe that enables them to produce quality beat after quality beat. I want to share with you what I have learned over time about how to construct a hip hop beat.

Song Pattern or Structure

When laying down an entire hip hop beat you need to first decide how you want to pattern or structure the beat. The rap beat structure will consist of an Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge or Break and then Fade Out or even another verse before fading out. Keep this pattern in mind as you go through the process of creating your beat. Remember that the Intro will hit them with a taste of the entire song and will build into the first verse, which will then add a few more sounds to the overall beat. Typically the Intro and Chorus are 8 bars, the Verses are 8-16 bars, the Break or Bridge up to 8 bars and the Fade Out up to 8 bars as well. During the creative process, you may not know exactly how the song will be structured, because you are working out the beat etc. but at some point you are going to have to put up that framework.

Beats Per Minute (BPM)

Before you start banging out a memorable drum or bass line you need to set your BPM. With hip-hop, most songs hover in the 80-100 BPM range. However, you can play around with this setting and see what tempo works best for you.

Necessary Components of a Beat

There are four critical components of most banging hip hop beats. Using your Sequencer, Drum Machine and Keyboard you will be able to add all of these important parts into your beat. The four parts consist of:

Drums – Whether you have your own MPC or a drum machine on your computer you will be building your beat with the drum as the anchor. You will need to create a drum loop or pattern that will play throughout most, if not your entire beat. Many beat making software packages come preloaded with drum loops, which you can easily apply to your beat, or you can sequence or sample existing drum patterns using a variety of hardware of software options. Most quality drum machines will have tons of drums to choose from, so you don’t have to create your own.

Bass Line – What would a hip hop beat be without a devastating bass line? If you have the experience, and means, you can create your very own bass lines with a digital synth. However, your software should have loads of loops to throw into your beat. Remember that more bass is rarely a bad thing when it comes to a slamming rap beat.

Keyboard/Instrument sounds – Using either your physical keyboard or a software-based keyboard will enable you to add in different instruments. Most beats have some sort of keys added in, be it from a piano or other instrument. Play around with the numerous different sounds, and keep in mind what feeling you are trying to create with your beat.

Dubs/Samples – Another key aspect of any quality beat are the Dubs or Samples thrown in. Usually these dubs come from a quick sample of any variety of sources, including vocals, guitars, or some unique sound. Most sequencers come with many different samples, or you can purchase additional ones online or even record your own.

Get To Work

There is no secret to actually creating the beat, only creativity, hard work and lots of practice. The first few times you set out to build your beat you will definitely run into some roadblocks and face frustration. However, like anything in life, you will need to spend a good deal of time practicing the process of making a hip hop beat. Follow your song structure, add in all the four beat components and you will have a head-snapping beat in no time.