Tips on producing hip-hop

Even though hip-hop is the least demanding genre in terms of the equipment you need, its simplicity makes it harder to produce a decent beat. To write a captivating and exciting beat, you need to learn the basics first. Once you understand the fundamental principles, everything else will follow. Today we will talk with the industry expert in mixing and mastering, who will tell us the basics you need to know to produce hip hop. It doesn’t mean that you have to apply each of the techniques, that we will discuss today in every song. But they will make the production process easier for you. Don’t forget to apply your signature sound to everything you produce because it is essential if you want to stand out in the crowd. Your signature sound works as a personal brand and creates recognizability. So if you use the techniques described in this article and add your unique sound, you have all the chances to become very successful. 

Let’s start with the key elements that can make or break your track. Keep in mind the final destination of your track. A lot of creative decisions you make during the production process depend on the final destination of your song. By that, we mean where it is going to be played. In the car, in the club, or through the home acoustic system? The answer to this question determines how you approach the production of this track. If you are making a club track, then you should focus on the bass and rhythm. These are the defining elements of club music. But if you are writing a song knowing that most people will listen to it in their headphones, you should pay more attention to details and make the track very balanced. Because your listeners will pick up these subtle details while listening to the song through headphones. 

Change the beat. Given that hip-hop is a very beat-oriented genre, you should make the beat interesting and diverse. A drum loop can get annoying after some time, so add some elements to it. Some of the percussive elements can play once or twice during the whole track, but they add variety and novelty, so use it to your advantage. You can also break the rhythm or flow of the song. It adds the element of surprise, and who doesn’t like to be surprised? It also serves as a contrasting element and brings something fresh to the beat.

Always remember about mixing and mastering. This is the final stage of any production process, and it is essential for any track if you want it to sound professional and polished. Pay special attention to the vocals since they are the central element of your track. If you don’t know how to mix rap vocals, we recommend that you find a professional to do it for you since it requires a set of specific skills and knowledge. 

Try using unprocessed sounds. Hip hop is a very rough genre in a good sense. Perfect or ideal doesn’t suit it. This genre is raw and without any pretense. So to emphasize this side of hip hop, you can apply unprocessed or dry signals. The key here is to find a great sample or synth. Try using a dry signal instead of a wet one and see whether it will fit your initial concept. You can also try using dry signals, along with the wet ones, to get the best of the two worlds. 

Don’t forget about the copyright. In hip hop, we often sample songs of other artists. It’s a widespread technique, and there is nothing wrong with using sampled songs, but we have to warn you to be very careful with the songs you choose to sample. If you are not careful enough and accidentally use a copyrighted song without permission, you will be in trouble. If you are a small, aspiring artist, the chances are high that you won’t get noticed, but if you become big and do something like that, the consequences will be way more tangible. So just to be on the safe side, sample royalty-free songs. 

Quantize your notes. In such rhythmically-driven genres as hip hop, quantization is very important. If some of the notes are slightly offbeat, it can make your track sound very sloppy and unprofessional. So we recommend that you use quantization during the production process and if you need to make it less perfect, tweak some of the notes after you have recorded them with quantization. It will give you much cleaner results. 

Record unusual sounds. Samples are a great way to quickly build the foundation of your track, but if you want to take your beat to the next level, you can record your samples and use them as percussive elements, for example. Using such sounds in your beat will set you apart from many other producers because these sounds are unique and exclusive. They can help create your signature sound. These sounds can include light switches, crickets, lighters, matches, and anything you see fit. The possibilities are endless, so you should definitely try it out.

 Don’t overcomplicate your beat. Have you noticed that the most efficient things are very simple? This principle holds true when it comes to producing hip-hop beats as well. With an enormous number of samples available online, it is very tempting to use as much as possible. But don’t forget that vocals or in the case of hip-hop rap, are the central element of the track. So your instrumental should support them and create a solid basis. Always ask yourself – is this element really necessary? What purpose does it serve in the track? If you can’t answer these questions, this sample or element is likely unnecessary for your beat. We should also warn you to go easy on guitar riffs. Hip hop is not the genre that usually has a lot of guitars, so if you decide to use guitars, make sure it is justified and don’t go overboard with it. 

Layer sounds. Layering is a great technique that is applied in all genres of music. In hip-hop, layering is needed to give sound energy and momentum. You can layer your kick drum or horns to make them truly powerful and even intimidating. But as with everything you do in music production, be smart about it. Try to explain why you layer these sounds. If they occupy the same frequency spectrum and add nothing to each other, they are probably not the best match. Try to find another sample. 

Copy to learn. One of the best techniques that can help you learn and understand the structure of a track is copying. Find the song you really like, try to deconstruct it, and then copy it to see how close you can get to the original. It is not necessary to look for the samples the original artist used. Instead, you should try to understand the principle they applied and replicate it in your own work. Copying is a great way to start, however, after a certain point you should start developing your signature sound. So don’t get stuck at the stage of copying and move on when you think you are ready to do that.

Mixing is a part of the music production process, but even though these areas are closely intertwined. Both of these areas require special skills and knowledge. Therefore, there are people out there who focus on one area of the process. The evident distinction lies in the fact that producers are the first ones to do their work, and the engineers are brought in after it’s been written and recorded. But the distinction between them goes even deeper. So let’s examine the subject with a professional audio engineer EKmixmaster.  The first distinction lies in the essence of each of these areas.

Music-making is all about creating tracks from scratch, but it does not include polishing them to perfection. Here mixing comes in. It is all about adjusting levels, taming the frequencies, using compressors and EQs to make all the tracks sound like a whole. We can say the word music production to describe the creation of the song from start to finish. Thus the word will include songwriting, arrangement, recording, mixing, and mastering. However, we cannot apply the term to refer to the creation of a song. It is a specific word, which applies to one of the stages of production. If we want to use both words as separate notions, then the most correct way to do it would be to say the word music production to refer to songwriting, arrangement, and

recording. And the term mixing refers to what happens after the initial stage. Another distinction lies in the process itself. If at the stage of writing, the producer uses synths, virtual instruments, vocals to make the track, at the other stage the audio engineer applies a very different set of techniques to bring it all together.  First of all, he adjusts the volume of each track to make them sound cohesive then he can apply compressors and EQs to make different elements sit well together in the final track.

Sometimes, they can replace some of the instruments if they find a better alternative that suits the message. Audio engineers also use panning to eliminate frequency conflicts between the instruments that occupy the same frequency range. Then they use reverb and delay to highlight certain elements of the composition and give instruments more space to breathe. It is a very important aspect of modern pop. And the final distinction we’ve already mentioned at the beginning is the set of skills. These processes require different skills and knowledge. A producer has to be a great songwriter and storyteller because he needs to engage the audience through his tracks. He also needs good arrangement skills. For an audio engineer, good ears are essential. He has to be able to hear the slightest changes in pitch and EQ, determine what frequencies he wants to cut and which ones need boosting. These two skill sets require different training. We hope that now you understand the difference between these two areas.

As you can see, they are quite different even though they are parts of the same process. Now you know enough to distinguish them. 

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