Challenge Yourself By Making Mellow Beats

Smooth and mellow beats have always been a favorite of mine, it’s just what I do. Many times I’ve tried making really hardcore beats, especially if I was in a nasty mood and felt like hitting on the pads until they bled, but it hardly ever works out that way. This is because I’m so used to making smooth beats – I must be hardwired that way.
I’ve noticed that a lot of today’s beats are “harder” and more “in-your-face”, if you will. I’m not saying it’s easy to do, but maybe by switching it up and making more laid-back beats, you might just challenge yourself.

Challenging Is Good
As a producer or beatmaker, it can be way too easy to get stuck in a certain way of making music. For some producers, it’s just their style (think DJ Premier), and it works for them. But for most of us, doing the same style of beats time and again can lead to stagnation, and that’s not something you want happening because you could easily slip into a beatmaking slump.
By challenging yourself, it will force you to make something different, and as such, you will gain more skills, and maybe even discover a strength you didn’t know you had.
Why Mellow Beats?
It’s simple. Trying to make beats that are mellow always seem to be more difficult and complex because you have to really think about how you’re going to fill out the space. With fast and hardcore beats, it’s easy enough where you can just have a drum break over a heavy bassline, then throw a synth on top of that and you’re pretty much done.
Again, it’s not to say that fast and hard beats are easy to make, but with mellow beats, they have to be more thought out.
Creating laid back beats are actually more fun than faster tempo beats because:
  1. You have more space to work with.
  2. The tempo is slower so you do more.
  3. You can use more instruments.
Some of you may argue that all of those can apply to faster beats, and they can, but not in the same sense as a slower beat.
More Space To Work With
As I wrote about previously about using the mixing canvas to the fullest, it’s important to make use of your audio space. With a slower tempo beat, now you have an even greater opportunity to use that space.
Tempo Is Slower
Not all of you make Hip Hop beats, and I understand that, but even with something like EDM, you can slow things down even with a faster tempo by spacing out your instruments and giving the impression of a slower beat.
Use More Instruments
I’m a big fan of keeping things simple, but if your canvas is wide open because of a slower tempo, then why not use more instruments? I’m not saying you should create clutter, but it’s there if you need it.
The Challenge
Give yourself a few weeks and make as many beats as possible with a slower tempo. It’s not just about the tempo either, it’s about making things mellow and laid back. Take for example a Jazz musician. Everyone knows who Miles Davis is, and just like any great Jazz musician, he was able to make use of his space by not even playing!
You don’t always have to have a sound in every part of your beat – slow it down. It’s okay to have parts of your beat that are wide open and have nothing but the tail end of a piano sound, or even just the bassline playing. This is what will set great beats apart from the rest.
So with the challenge in mind, try making mellow beats for a few weeks and see what you can come up with. It might not turn out the way you imagined, and that’s okay because you might still walk away with a new appreciation for mellow beats.
You can start off with your drums. Instead of having 808s and percussion all over the place, keep it simple with 1 kick, 1 snare, and 1 hat. Build upon that by adding a bassline, but make sure it’s subtle and does nothing but compliment the kick drum. Now you have your foundation, and you can build from here by slowly adding in instruments that will fill up the space, not take up space.
A lot of beats are just straight up loops with the same sounds and patterns throughout, but what’s stopping you from having a long saxophone note playing over 9 bars?
It’s thinking like that, that will lead to mellow beats.

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