The music industry is one of those areas that is constantly evolving. New directions, new musical genres, and new professions are constantly appearing. One of the most relevant areas today is beatmaking. In this article, we are going to find out what it is and how to start activities in this field.
Who is a beatmaker?
As you can understand from the name, a beatmaker is a person who creates the beat. This means that the beatmaker is tasked with creating the framework of the track and its mood, which means working with rhythms, samples, and arrangements. Today it is not only a sought-after profession but also a very interesting and well-paid craft. However, it should be taken into account that it is also quite a complex activity, which requires both serious theoretical knowledge and practical skills. In particular, the ability to play a musical instrument, the skills of recording, mixing, and mastering, and, of course, a good ear for music and a good sense of rhythm are a big plus for a beatmaker. All this will allow you to create solid and harmonious tracks.
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Where do I start to learn beatmaking?
It is important to understand that beatmaking is a creative profession, and success depends primarily on the desire to do it and not on a lot of expensive equipment, especially in the first stages. So in order to take your first steps in this field and try to create your own beat, your computer or even your phone will be enough for you. Now there are many free applications with basic features which will give you a practical idea of this activity and help you to decide whether the sphere of beatmaking is close to you and interesting. For example, such applications as Groovepad, Drum Pad Machine, Beat Maker Go, available for Android and iOS, will help you understand the basic essence of this craft and give you the opportunity to create your first composition without any difficulty. There are also basic free programs for Windows, like Cakewalk or Wawosaur. And if you want to start getting familiar with professional sequencers right away, most of them have a free trial period.
In order to start creating your own beats, you need to understand the parts that make up your musical compositions. First of all, you can analyze the percussion parts in your favorite pieces and try to write your own beats with the appropriate rhythm. Once you understand the basic rhythm patterns, you can move on to working with off-the-shelf soundtracks and samples and using them to create beats from scratch. There are many sources where you can buy or get samples for free.
If you have already made up your mind and decided to develop professionally in the field of beatmaking, you will need studio equipment for more comfortable work and better results.
Since all the main activity is performed on a computer, it is necessary to have a high-quality and powerful model that can work quickly with professional software. The better your PC or laptop, the faster and more comfortable you will be able to create bits.
A beatmaker’s arsenal should definitely include a MIDI keyboard or controller. These devices will allow you to create your own samples in a convenient format and process them on your computer in any sequencer. A MIDI keyboard is a more versatile option, while a controller is usually designed for more specific tasks. For beatmaking, sequencer pad controllers such as the Novation Launchpad X are best. This is a basic model that is ideal for use with Ableton Live but can also be customized for any other software. The fully assignable, backlit pads can be used for writing drum, keyboard, guitar, or other instrument parts, as well as for comfortable control of sequencer functions. A big advantage of the Launchpad controllers is the free software that comes with them: you can try out Ableton Live Lite and many plug-ins right away. Plus, the MIDI controllers are more compact than the keyboards, so they’ll fit perfectly into the small home studio of a beginner beatmaker.
In the first stages, you will only need a controller to work, but professional beatmakers use both a controller and a keyboard, which significantly expands the possibilities when writing tracks. At the same time, you don’t need a full-size model to create a beat. It is enough to buy a keyboard for 25 or 32 keys, such as AKAI Pro MPK Mini Original MK3 or Novation Launchkey Mini MK3.
Also, for recording samples, you should have a microphone on your equipment. It will come in handy not only for recording vocals but also for acoustic musical instruments. A good studio mic will provide a clean signal without interference or distortion and get rid of feedback. For beginner beatmakers, models like the Alctron CM6-MKII or Samson C01 are great.
You will need a microphone cable with XLR – XLR connectors, for example, Soundking BB110-5M. Also, you should equip the microphone with a pop filter; this accessory will prevent unnecessary explosive and loud sounds from getting into the signal and will make the sound more pleasant and balanced. An excellent pop filter is the Hercules MH200B. In addition, the microphone must be comfortably positioned, so you’ll need a sturdy stand, either tabletop (pantograph) or a floor stand.
You’ll need studio monitors and headphones for full control of the sound. Closed studio headphones are necessary for recording vocals and acoustic instruments. They provide good sound isolation and high signal quality and allow you full control over the sound. Among the reliable options, look out for the budget-friendly Prodipe 3000 model or the popular Beyerdynamic DT 770 professional headphones.
At first, headphones will be more than enough, as they allow you to work with pure sound without distortion, are more compact, and, at the same time, cost much less than monitors. However, monitors are an indispensable attribute for mixing in order to obtain the studio-quality recording. A studio monitor features a maximally smooth amplitude-frequency response, which lets you hear a realistic sound and adjust the beat quality, so it will sound great on any device. Base models include the miniature Mackie CR3-X, PreSonus Eris E5, and the popular KRK RP5G4 monitors. In order for the studio monitors to produce a real sound, it is important to position them correctly. Special stands and stands are designed for this purpose. An excellent budget option is ATEX AP13.
For comfortable and effective work, you will need an audio interface. It transmits a higher-quality signal, allows you to connect multiple devices simultaneously, and is an essential attribute for recording instruments or vocals. The choice of audio interface, first of all, depends on the number of sound sources and the required number of inputs. The most popular models of audio interfaces are Alctron U12 and Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd gen. These are reliable devices that have the optimal number of jacks, have phantom power, which is required for connecting condenser microphones, and will become an integral part of your studio.
As you can see, a beatmaker needs quite a bit of equipment. However, if you are responsible for the creative idea, the equipment is responsible for the quality of its implementation. Good equipment will not only allow you to work comfortably but will also provide a first-class result.
Software: what is it, and how to choose?
The work of creating bits is done in special applications – professional sequencers. Now there is a wide variety of software for different skill levels. The most popular sequencers are FL Studio and Ableton Live, both Mac and Windows compatible. Also widely available are Studio One, Reaper, and Logic Pro. Each of the programs has advantages and disadvantages, but in fact, the capabilities of the sequencers are similar, so you should pay attention to the interface and determine which of the programs will be easier to understand and more comfortable to work with.
It is worth considering that professional sequencers are licensed and are fairly expensive, so it is worth a responsible approach to the choice of a suitable option. Many articles, video reviews, and the opportunity to use a free trial period will help you do this.
Many sequencers already have a number of samples and plug-ins built in, but to create unique, high-quality beats, you can buy additional libraries of guitar, drum, keyboard, or percussion samples and effect plug-ins to help diversify the sound of your track and add your own accents.
How and where do I learn beatmaking?
Beatmaking is a rather complicated job that requires knowledge of music theory and music engineering. A specialized musical education will help to master the basics of this activity much faster, but its absence is not a barrier. Today there are professional beatmaking courses both online and offline. You can find a huge database of useful information on the Internet, as well as a large number of thematic YouTube channels. Of course, training with an instructor will allow you to master the craft more effectively and faster, but with free access, you can also easily get answers to any questions, from basic theory and instructions on working with sequencers to the specifics of marketing and copyright in the field of beatmaking.
But despite the fact that theory is important, it is important to remember that true professionalism is built primarily on practice and experience. So the main advice is not to be afraid and try to create your beats, regardless of whether you have an education or not. If you have a desire and aspiration, everything will definitely work out.