No Samples? No Problem

Sampling and Hip Hop go hand in hand. If you have read my other articles, you can easily tell that I love to sample when I make beats, but it wasn’t always that way.
There was a time when I was first starting out, where I didn’t know how to sample – just like most newbies. I had no choice but to use whatever was at my disposal, and guess what? My beats weren’t half bad!

General MIDI
The first thing I did when I got into the production game, was I bought a Casio keyboard so that I could come up with some good compositions. All I was able to use at the time was the General MIDI that came with my DAW, and actually that’s all I needed.
With my keyboard and a choice of many different MIDI selections to choose from, I was able to play for hours and I ended up with some decent pieces of music, to which I then put drums to. I didn’t have any sort of hardware other than my keyboard, but it didn’t matter because that’s all I needed.
Even though my beats didn’t sound too much like Hip Hop, at least I thought they did, and that’s what mattered to me the most. What ended up happening though, was that I got pretty good at using just regular MIDI to get the sound I wanted.
When I first discovered soundfonts, I thought this was the greatest thing ever because now I could select GOOD sounds from a wide variety of kits. Even though they sounded much better than General MIDI, they were still pretty cheesy. But I still made dope beats.
Use What You Have
Over the years I’ve heard lots of beats from many beatmakers that are just starting out. Most of them have some decent beats, but there are some whose beats catch my ear right away, and that’s because they’re using General MIDI. The thing with using cheesy sounds is that it’s hard to put together a nice beat with them, but that’s the challenge in doing so.
My advice to those newbies was always to keep using what you have, but make sure it sounds good.
For example, there was this one beat that someone had posted years ago, and the sounds were lame. But from what I heard, they did a great job at putting together a great sounding beat, because they didn’t let the lame sounds get in the way. There have been some great sounding beats that used lame sounds, and that’s because the beatmaker had a good ear.
To this day, I still go back to my old beats and listen to them just for fun. Even though they’re nowhere near how my beats sound today, they were pretty good considering what I had at the time. Yes, the General MIDI Piano or Strings sounded like they were from a computer, but that didn’t stop me from still making something great.
It’s A Learning Process
Since I didn’t sample at the time, I was learning how to put together a beat – with lame sounds. And after all these years, it’s because of that learning that I’m now able to make beats easily.
A friend of mine to this day, hates creating basslines. What he used to do though, was he would just hold down a long bass tone as his bassline, which I’m sure a lot of beatmakers did when they first started. It’s funny if you think about it, but I guess it’s because basslines can be kind of boring.
With the lame sounds though, I kept making beats and I kept learning, such as learning how to use filters and EQ. This is because since the sounds weren’t that great, it got me thinking and I realized that I should use the sounds, but then filter, EQ, and beat them up to the point that they didn’t sound cheesy anymore.
It worked.
Sampling Is Great – Sometimes
Even though sampling is my number one thing when I make beats, it can be hard at times, especially when I can’t find something good enough to sample. People don’t realize how hard it can be, so there are times when I don’t even want to bother, and just get on my keyboard instead, and go back to creating music with the keys.
With all of today’s software and plug-ins readily available, you don’t need to sample – and a lot of beatmakers don’t. It’s simple to put together a beat without the use of samples, but just make sure it sounds good. Even though using General MIDI is not something I can see people using today, there are still some lame sounds out there, like the ones that came with my current Casio keyboard.
But that won’t stop me from making beats.

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