When most new producers get started on their production journies, they start with creating simple beats. Of course, if you're an inexperienced producer, then even the idea of hashing out a simple hip-hop beat can seem like a serious challenge.
In many cases, making beats might seem very intimidating, which is the one thing that stops producers from trying in the first place.
Luckily, you've come to the right place. In its article, we're going to provide you with a step-by-step beginner's guide to making beats, as well as a variety of answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding beat-making.
How To Make A Beat In Seven Steps
- Understand the elements that make up a beat
- Collect the tools you need to make your first beat
- Additional tools you might consider for beat making
- The Six-Step beat making process
- Tops Tips and Strategies for making beats
- Elevating your beat making game
Understanding the Elements That Make A Beat
The beauty of beats is that there is usually a formula that comes along with them, whether producers approach it this way consciously or subconsciously. Yes, popular music composition and production can seem complex from the outside, though when you begin to dissect the various elements and ingredients that make up a beat, you might see that you are overthinking the process.
We can break down any standard hip-hop beat into a few "ingredients," including:
- Melodic Instruments
When we talk about drums in the world of beat making, we're mostly talking about kick and snare. Anything else, including hi-hats, shakers, tambourine, etc., play supporting roles.
First and foremost, the kick will define your beat and act as the foundation. You can use it to provide your listener with the downbeats or play around with accentuating additional off-beats.
It is very important to spend time picking out the right kick sound.
Once you have your kick, you will want to pair it with a complementary snare. The snare pattern is the skeleton of the backbeat, typically occurring on the 2 and 4 in a standard 4/4 groove. However, you can play around with "ghost notes" and off-beat hits to give your beat a bit of life.
You might even choose to use multiple snare sounds in your beat.
For example, your main snare can sit on the 2 and 4, a softer snare can act as the ghost notes between the hits, and a large, reverb-laden snare on the 4 to separate the measures.
Many producers will layer up their snares with other sounds, such as snaps and claps. Doing so can add a bit of variation and width to your sound. It is the act of layering that often makes a producer's beat sound so complex.
When layering, however, you want to make sure you have a purpose behind it so that you don't end up layering a ton of sounds that share the same frequency content. For example, if you have a fat, deep snare sound for your main snare, you may consider layering it with a gritty, snappy snare sound to get the full frequency spectrum when the two are layered together.
Once you have the backbone of your beat down with your kick and snare, you can start adding a bit of flair with percussion and hi-hats. Listen to just about any beat and you will hear percussion and hats outlining the groove and feel.
I like to think of percussion as a unique gap-filler. Because the kicks and snares are on the downbeats, you'll have empty space in the sub-divisions or the "and's" of the groove. You can utilize this empty space by filling it with something rhythmic.
The world of hats and percussion is limitless. From closed trap hi-hats to shakers to wood blocks to tambourines, the choices are pretty much endless.
In a trap beat, for example, you will probably hear a closed 808-style hi-hat with an array of unique rhythmic phrases. When playing around with hi-hats, you might consider adding rolls or pitch-shifting to create interest.
Listen to some of your favorite beatmakers and get an idea of what type of percussion they are using. Jot it down on a list and see if you can find a unique way to fit it into your own production.
At this point, your drums are banging. Now it's time to lay down the chordal foundation by finding the right bass sound. You may choose to make your beat complex with a linear chord progression, such as a II-V-I. You may also choose to stay on the same chord the entire time (in many instances, hip-hop producers will literally sit on the same bass note for an entire track while adding octave variations to give the listeners a bit of flavor).
Let's start with the simplest form of bass, the 808.
If you listen to modern hip-hop, there is no doubt that you've heard an 808. This quick-decaying, slightly distorted sine wave comes in many forms, though it originally appeared after the introduction of the original Roland TR-808, which came about in the early 1980s.
If you can't figure out how you want to arrange your bassline, a good way to start is by layering each kick with a bass note.
The sound of the bass that you choose will ultimately dictate the overall tonality of your beat. You want the bass sound that you choose to complement your kick drum, not fight it.
If you have a dusty and boxy acoustic-style kick drum with a ton of mid-range, you might consider pairing it with a deep and subby bass. On the other hand, if your kick sounds like a heartbeat with no top-end at all, deep sub might swallow it up. In this case, you might consider adding a mid-range bass with some high-end frequencies to complement it.
Again, listen to some of your favorite producers and see how they arrange the bass both tonally and rhythmically.
Here's where the fun part comes in. The melodic instrument is the thing people are going to remember about your beat. It is the thing that will provide your beat with contextuality and allow listeners to know exactly what they are listening to right off the bat.
The melodic instrument that you choose is completely up to you. You might choose to chop up a vocal sample and play it like you would a drum machine. Maybe you're a keyboard player and the idea of adding a lo-fi Rhodes piano seems like the most natural choice.
Whatever you choose, it should complement your bass line harmonically.
Do note that sometimes producers will find a melodic instrument before writing their bassline so that they can create a supportive bassline based on the melody rather than the other way around. It is completely up to you how you want to approach this, as there are no rules!
In most modern hip-hop beats, the melodic instrument will typically loop for four bars with a unique turnaround to take the listener back to the beginning of the loop.
It is important to remember that if you are planning on having a rapper or singing atop your beat, you will want to keep this melody quite simple, otherwise, it could conflict with the eventual melody or rhythm that your rapper or singer comes up with.
At this point, you should have a four or eight-bar loop going with your drums, percussion, bass, and melodic instrument. To add a bit of secret sauce to your beat, you might consider adding some fx.
Fx can be anything from risers to impact noises to tonal synth sounds and beyond. You can place these elements at different points in your beat to accentuate certain sections or break up the monotony of the loop.
You can also use fx processors to add interest to the elements that are already there.
For example, you might choose to throw your snare through a reverb or delay every four beats or so, throw your melodic instrument through a filter during a verse and allow the filter to open up during the chorus, or drench the entire beat in a phaser sound coming out of the fourth bar.
The possibilities are literally endless. However, using F x presents a good opportunity for you to get experimental and add your own stamp on your beat.
The Tools You Need for Beat Making
When it comes to finding the right equipment to make beats, there are plenty of different options to choose from.
However, before you go out and spend thousands of dollars on unnecessary equipment, let's start you off with some of the basic essentials.
Laptop or Desktop
The first thing that you will need to start making modern beats is a laptop or desktop computer.
Whether you end up going with a Mac or PC, or a laptop or desktop, is completely up to you and your needs. We have an excellent article outlining the best production laptops on the market today, which I highly recommend checking out if you don't have something already.
If you really want to know more about computers for production, the article above will be your best friend. For this article, however, let's break down the basics of what you need in terms of computing power for modern beat making:
- At least 4GB of RAM (The more, the better)
- 2.4Ghz quad-core processor (minimum)
- A 64-bit Operating System
- A 13" screen or more
500GB or more of internal storage (SSD > HDD)
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
Once you have your computer, you will need some beat making software. This software is known as a Digital Audio Workstation or DAW for short.
Your DAW is where you will arrange your tracks, chop up samples, write out MIDI, record live sounds, and mix and master your beat.
There are so many DAWs available on the market today, each of which has its own pros and cons.
When it comes to making beats, there are a few specialized DAWs that come to mind:
To learn more about DAWs and why they are so important, make sure to check out our article:
What Is A DAW and Why You Need One
Additional Tools For Making Your Beats Sound More Professional
While all you truly need to start making beats is a computer and a DAW, there are certain pieces of equipment that will make your productions sound far more professional.
Of course, there is a lot of equipment out there that is wildly expensive and far out of reach for most beginner producers. Luckily, many manufacturers put out budget equipment nowadays, making it easy to build a home studio on a budget.
Here are some of the things you should consider adding to your arsenal if you're serious about making beats:
The world of virtual instruments is vast.
While most DAWs come with stock sounds, these sounds have been used and abused by thousands if not millions of producers around the world. If you want your productions to stand out, having unique sounds can be helpful.
When it comes to VSTs, there are a few companies that I highly recommend checking out:
Between these three VST manufacturers, you will find just about any sound you can dream up, from drums to synths to acoustic instruments and beyond.
If you don't have the money to spend, you might consider checking out Spitfire Audio's free VSTs through their LABS Series .
Here you'll find an extensive collection of high-end virtual instruments made by some of the most creative musical minds on the planet.
If you're more into the idea of sampling, Splice is the go-to.
This unique platform is filled to the brim with millions of royalty-free samples made by some of the best producers in the music industry. With a simple subscription, you can start downloading samples to use in your productions right away.
When it comes to professional production work, having an audio interface is crucial. Professionals use audio interfaces to record live instruments, such as vocals, guitars, and drums. Audio interfaces are also used to hook up to studio monitors.
To get started, a simple two-channel interface will do the job. For beginners, I highly recommend checking out
This manufacturer has some of the best budget-friendly interfaces on the market today, all of which have high-quality components that sound great.
While you could technically playback your beat on your laptop speakers, you won't get the best sound or the full spectrum of your music. The sound card simply isn't good enough. Plus, it's pretty much impossible to mix a beat with clarity on limited-range laptop speakers or Airpods.
If you are just getting started, we highly recommend going with a budget pair of studio monitors. Some great options include:
If you don't quite have the budget or the space for studio monitors, you could also consider getting a pair of studio headphones.
Some of the best budget studio headphone options include:
To create a more tactile experience when making beats, you might want to consider adding some MIDI equipment to your arsenal. From MIDI drum pads to MIDI keyboards and combo equipment, there are many options to choose from.
The beauty of having MIDI equipment is that you can create a deeper connection with your music rather than clicking and dragging MIDI notes on a grid. Plus, your music will end up sounding far more natural.
Here are some of the best MIDI controllers for beginners:
How To Make Beats: The Process
Start with The Drum Groove
The first step is to open up your DAW and create a new virtual instrument track, choosing the drum plugin you want to use. Make sure the track is armed for recording, and then choose a tempo that feels right.
I’d suggest coming up with the kick-snare rhythm first. This will be the backbone of your beat. It’s very important you use a click track and/or turn on the “Snap to grid” setting if you’re adding parts without a MIDI controller. Snapping to the grid will make the MIDI notes line up perfectly with the tempo.
Next, you’ll want to add some sort of continuous rhythm to accentuate the kick and snare, like a hi-hat or shaker. It might be helpful to use a reference beat — a beat from another artist that you want yours to sound like. Listen to how the kick, snare, and hi-hat/shaker interact with each other and you’ll get an idea of how to use them all together.
If the beat is made up of just a kick, snare, and hi-hat, it’ll probably be pretty boring. That’s why it’s a good idea to
add in some extra percussion sounds
, like claps, bells, or chimes. Doing this will really bring your beat to life.
Add Your Melodic Instrument
At this point, it’s time to add your melodic instrument. Your melodic instrument will give uniqueness to your beat — it'll differentiate your beat from all the others.
There are many ways to approach melodic instruments. You can use samples, VSTs, or a combination of both.
It's all about vibe and finding good sounds to make a good beat.
You might choose to keep it simple with a dope chord progression or chop up a sample and play around with it using your MIDI controller to create a unique sequence.
Play around and follow what sounds good to you.
The main thing to remember when building your beat is how you’re feeling during the process. Are you bobbing your head? Do you find yourself closing your eyes because you’re so into the music? If so, then that’s good. You’re on the right track.
Edit Your Beat
After you’ve got the meat and bones of your beat, the next step is to edit and tweak it.
First, make everything snap to the grid by simply turning on the “Snap to grid” setting in your DAW. This setting makes all the parts perfectly line up with the metronome.
You’ll also want to tweak the velocity of the drum hits. “Velocity” describes how hard or soft the hit is — by varying the velocity of the different parts throughout your beat, you can make it sound less robotic and a little more human.
And the last main thing you should listen for is aggressiveness and whether or not you want to bring it down. Aggressive sounds usually show up in the higher frequency instruments like the hi-hat and shaker, so to counteract this, you can cut some of the high frequencies using EQ. It may also be as simple as lowering the volume of the harsh instrument.
If neither EQ nor volume fix the harshness, you can try a formant shift, which makes the sound more muffled. Typically, a formant shift setting is included with whatever pitch plugin your DAW has.
Mix And Master Your Track
Finally, you’ve made your beat and it’s time to mix and master it.
Mixing is where you (or a mixing engineer) set the volume levels, pan the instruments, EQ stuff, use compressors, and add any other effects you want.
When it comes to mastering, if you’re just selling your beats online, you may not need to master because that would happen after it has been mixed with the buyer’s song.
However, if you’ve decided to add your own music on top of the beat and you want this to sound professional, you’ll definitely want to master the track . It polishes the song and prepares it for sharing on streaming platforms.
If you’re new to making beats, you may not yet have an income from your music, so the thought of paying a mastering engineer $100 a song may overwhelm you. But with
, you can pay a reasonable monthly price to master an unlimited number of songs.
Tips & Strategies for Making Beats
If you're feeling stuck at this point, we don't blame you. Getting started is the hardest part. Here are a few tried and tested ways to make your beats better.
Use Samples and Pre-Made Loops for Inspiration
Start by grabbing some cool samples or loops online and drag them into your DAW. Samples and loops can be great for inspiration. Even a good drum loop can help get you in the right mindset for a track.
For example, you might choose to use a sampled breakbeat. Stick it in your DAW and loop it. Start adding your own drum samples on top of the loop to make it your own. In the end, you might consider getting rid of the sample altogether because your drums sound better for your track.
The cool thing is, that sample gave you the platform to jump off of.
Reference Your Favorite Producers
Listen to some of your favorite producers and see what they are doing. Dissect their beats to see how they structure them. What kinds of instruments are they using? What kinds of unique production elements do they employ? How do they balance each of the instruments in their mix?
Referencing other producers is one of the best ways to learn and get inspired. Sit down with a pair of headphones and write down everything you hear when listening. Use this written dissection as a roadmap when making your own beat, checking off the boxes as you go along.
For practice, you might even consider trying to re-make some of your favorite beats by copying the drum patterns, basslines, and melodic ideas. In doing so, you'll learn a substantial amount and discover new techniques that you can employ in your own beats.
Always Finish Your Beats
Ask any seasoned producer and they will probably tell you that they have hundreds if not thousands of unfinished beats lying around on their hard drives.
If you want a sense of accomplishment that will inspire you to move forward, we recommend always finishing your beats. Even if you feel like you've run into a rut or creative wall with a beat, try to push through. You'll learn a lot in doing so and will have something to present in the end.
How To Up Your Beat-Making Game
Make Beats Every Day
Practice makes perfect.
As with any skill, the more you do it, the better you'll be. You can sit online all day, reading articles or watching YouTube videos, trying to learn how to make beats.
However, the only way that you'll actually get better is by making beats.
I recommend sitting down at least once every day, even if only for 30 minutes, and working on your skills.
Learn New Skills
Make it a goal to pick up a new skill as often as possible. If you can do it every day, that's even better.
For example, you might learn how to arrange trap hi-hats today using velocity control, swing, triplets, and more. Tomorrow, you might learn how to use compression on your drum bus to make your drums punchier. The next day, you might learn about sidechain compression to help your kick and bass sit better together.
If you make it a goal to acquire new skills each day, your beat-making toolkit will slowly accumulate as time goes on. By the end of each week, you'll can have seven new skills to use with your beats!
In today's production world, the possibilities are limitless. Unfortunately, that can be to our disadvantage in many ways. Sometimes, it is better to create boundaries for yourself and learn how to work with those boundaries to create the sounds you are looking for.
For example, you might decide to limit yourself to a single drum sample pack. The idea here is that you'll likely have to manipulate sounds to get them how you're hearing them in your head.
Maybe you have a kick drum in that particular pack that is boxy and large, but you need something tight and thumpy. In that case, you might have to use a transient designer, EQ, and compression to get the sound you're after.
Yes, the path to perfection might be a bit longer, but you will learn a lot along the way and end up with something completely unique in the end.
Plus, limiting yourself is a wonderful way to step outside of your habitual state. Here are a few ways in which you can limit yourself in production:
- Limit yourself to a single sample pack
- Limity yourself to stock plugins
- Limit yourself to using a single VST
Limit yourself to using only 'x' number of sounds
Learn Music Theory
Not all beat-makers have a music theory background. However, even understanding the basics of theory can be super helpful. Read up on scales and chords. Gain an understanding of different rhythms. Learn how to develop catchy melodies and fit certain samples together.
Check out some of our blogs surrounding
here on eMastered to get started.
Develop a Workflow
One of the best ways to get better and faster when it comes to making beats is by developing a workflow.
Start by developing a default template in your DAW that you can use every time you craft a beat.
In this template, you can have all of your busses and routing set up, as well as the plugins and VSTs that you often use ready to roll. Having the tedious work done can help you focus more on the creative side of production.
Start Making Beats Now
Start learning how to make beats today!
There are millions of tips and tricks online when it comes to music production and beat making. However, one of the only ways that you are going to get better is if you start making music now!
Stay hungry. Get Inspired. Take a walk around your neighborhood and breathe in the colors and creativity around you.
Use these tips to build a foundation for beat making and experiment from there. Music production and beat making are skills that you will never stop developing, as there is always something new to learn. Bask in the learning process and set small goals for youself.
In no time, you will become the music producer you always wanted to be!
FAQs About Making Beats
Is It Hard To Make Beats?
Making simple beats with standard drum patterns and bass lines is easy. However, to create something at a professional level takes tons of talent, expertise, and experience. The learning process is something you can enjoy.
Are Beats Worth Making?
Absolutely! Of course, it depends on what your goals are. If you want a creative outlet that you can potentially turn into a future career, making beats is great. However, if you want to become a professional producer overnight and make millions, then making hip hop beats might not be for you.
Can You Make Money From Making Beats?
There are plenty of music producers out there that make money with their beats. There are plenty of platforms that you can upload your beats for independent artists and producers to use. You can also sell your beats to very particular artists that you work with.
How Long Does It Usually Take To Learn Making Beats?
As with mastering just about any great skill, it will take 10,000 hours to master the art of making beats. However, you can easily learn the building blocks of how to make a simple beat with a standard drum beat and bass pattern in less than a day. Don't expect to make it to a professional level for at least a few years.
Do Studios Make Beats?
Studios don't typically make beats, though the producers that work at them do. You might work at a collaborative studio as a music producer, where you and a team make beats together under one roof.
Should You Make Your Own Beats or Buy Them?
While you could go out and simply buy beats without having to put in any work, making your own beats gives you full control over your song. Plus, you have something that is totally unique to you as an artist or producer.
How Long Does It Take To Make Beats?
The amount of time it takes to make a beat depends on the complexity of the beat. You could make a simple beat with a kick, snare, hat drum pattern, a simple bass line, and a melody, in less than an hour.
What Do Rappers Use To Make Beats?
Rappers often use a combination of hardware and software to make beats, including laptops with DAWs for digital work and MIDI controllers (beat pads, keyboards, samplers, etc.) for a more tactile beat-making experience.
What Should I Start With When Making Beats?
Start by getting a DAW on your laptop or desktop and explore how it works. Get to know the different tools available on your DAW, how to navigate it, how to load instruments, how to arrange samples and more. The best thing you can do to start making beats is experimenting with the tools you have available to you.
Can You Make Beats With Just a Laptop or PC?
Absolutely! Many beginner producers and beat-makers start with nothing but a PC or laptop. Of course, you will need to download a DAW on your laptop or PC to get started with beat-making, though you don't need to have any external equipment beyond that.
What Is The Best Free Beat-Making Software?
LMMS, a beat-making platform very similar to FL Studio, is my favorite free beat-making software and one I often recommend to beginner beat-makers because of its incredible sequencing workflow. This open-source beat-making platform has all the tools you need to get started and it works on all operating systems, including macOS, Linux, and Windows.