As a beatmaker, it can be difficult to create the perfect beat. Often times, samples are used in a way that they sound great but tend to take up too much space in the mix. This is why it’s important to learn how to use the silence in between sounds to your advantage.
Just as a Jazz musician is able to manipulate your ears by using the silence technique, so can you when making beats. Here’s how.
Your Beats Should Have Silence, Not Just Non-Stop Sounds
The biggest problem when making a beat is that it can be hard to control certain sounds. Whether you’re composing actual music or sampling from vinyl (especially this one), you may come across a sample that’s dope but also prevents you from opening things up in your beat.
Here’s an example:
When I first started making beats, I would chop my samples into little bits and then rearrange them, pitch them up and down, all to try and create my own melody from a simple piece of music. I became very good at it, but it got to the point where I realized I didn’t leave any space open.
I would take a sample like from a piano, and have the main melody part but then the piano would stop short before the bar would end. To combat this, I would then add little piano notes from the main melody and just position them at certain points by using my drum track as a guide, until the entire bar was filled with sound.
This is good, but it’s also wrong.
Jazz Musicians Are The Kings Of Silence
Ask anyone that listens to Jazz and they will tell you stuff that will mess with your mind. Like how “it’s not about the notes, but what’s between the notes”. Whenever I hear that I have to laugh. But the bottom line is that it’s true.
Jazz musicians (especially with slow songs), take their time and leave the listener wondering what note they will hit next. Take a listen to this Miles Davis song “Blue In Green”. Miles starts playing around 19 seconds, then around 25 seconds there’s just silence and he comes in what seems to be off-beat.
With that as an example, I try to tailor some of my beats in that way now. I still like to fill out my audio space, but a lot of times I try to really change things up and have some silence in there in a way that it captivates the listener.
But it’s not just about Jazz musicians and beat making, because this even applies to DJs that scratch (turntablists). I, like many other DJs, would scratch endlessly over a beat and just go nuts trying to pull off ridiculous scratches. Then one day I realized that I needed to take a step back and control the scratches, as well as make use of silence when I can.
(There is a video of Q-Bert doing some great scratching with silence in between but I can’t find it.)
My Advice To You
I would suggest that you use silence as a way of drawing in the listener. Just as Miles Davis did it, you can do the very same with your beat because guess what? It’s YOUR beat! You get to decide what sound goes where, and there’s no need to use the typical patterns all the time.
Let’s say you have a piano part as your main melody. You could have it playing throughout an entire 4 bars, or you could play it for 3 bars, and on the 4th, you just have no piano at all. You don’t have to have complete silence, of course not, but silencing certain sounds is what you’re aiming for.
One trick I like to use is to have other sounds come in on the open parts, but they’re sounds that are trailing off. For example, a bassline is ideal because with the example above, on the 4th bar, you can make it so that your piano cuts off but the tail end of a bass note is trailing off to end that bar.
No matter what technique you choose, it will definitely make your productions better and maybe even change the way you make beats. Good luck!