We all strive to make better beats, yet a lot of beat makers often make the mistake of not learning new tricks. Most of us are set in our ways and are perfectly content with doing the same type of beats, but there comes a time when you need to learn something in order to progress. Here are three of them:
1. How To Mix
This is essential. It’s fine to make beats all day long, but when it comes time to mix it down, you have to know what you’re doing. First thing’s first: garbage in, garbage out. This is something you have to consider before you even attempt to make a beat. You could be sampling an old record that is full of hiss or is very muffled, but then you’ll have a hard time trying to make it sound good when you mix. For example, if I’m going to sample something, I make sure it sounds as clean as possible, that way if I want it to sound dirty, I’ll add the dirt later on, rather than trying to get it off the original when I mix.
When mixing, it’s best that you keep it simple. It’s not all about having tons of effects and plug-ins open in your DAW, it’s about using your ears and letting them guide you. Your mix must sound good no matter how many effects you put, but I recommend that you apply a minimal amount because mixing basically comes down to just setting your volume levels first, then working your way up from there.
2. When To Apply Effects
Once you do start adding effects to your mix, you have to know when (and if) you should use them. The most common effect that will be used is reverb. Compression is also up there as one of the most popular, but honestly, I rarely use compression because it’s too easy to get carried away, resulting in an over-compressed mix.
Reverb on the other hand, can make or break your beat. Countless times I’ve made a beat and it sounded great to me, but something would be missing so I would add reverb to the snare of my drums, for example. Just that alone makes a world of difference! You don’t have to use reverb on everything, but small amounts in certain spots are what work best. There are times when you need to apply effects, and others when you don’t.
What I tend to do is add reverb to my snare drum, then add a small amount to my overall mix, just to liven everything up. But it depends on the beat and what I’m trying to accomplish. Again, it comes down to using your ears and letting them make the decision for you.
3. Using Swing
Swing is one of those things that is often not even mentioned when talking about beat making. Swing is basically like reverb, in the sense that it can make or break your beat. I always add swing to my beat, and just like reverb, I use it sparingly. I think in today’s Hip Hop world, a lot of beats don’t use swing that much, thus most beats have a robotic/digital sound to them. I could be wrong, but to me they don’t sound as fluid as they should be, and I assume a lot of it has to do with swing.
There were times when I made a beat and I forgot to add swing, yet the beat sounded great to me. When I finally did add swing, I usually say to myself, “Ooooh, now we’re talking!”, because it’s like this secret ingredient that I forgot to add. I recommend using a basic amount of swing (around 20%) and see how your beat sounds, then work your way up from there.
These are only three techniques for you to learn in order to make better beats. Of course there are plenty of other things that could factor in, but for now, work on these and see if they make a difference in your beats. I’m sure they will. Good luck!