Today I will show you how I made the beat for this Nicki Minaj and Drake-style track in SoundBridge using Native Instruments Battery 4 and Waves plug-ins.
Here is what the beat sounds like by itself…
1) Drop the tempo down to somewhere between 100 and 110 BMP.
2) The quiet stuff is important! It satisfies ambiance and makes the track sound louder and heavier. Do not try to put every track up front and personal, this is not a proper balance for the style. Just because it a sound is soft in the mix doesn’t mean it is less important!
3) Use cliche sounds, but put your own twist on them. Ask yourself… What about these sounds is so effective? How can I harness that can give it its own identity?
4) The sub acts as the decay of the kick. The kick itself should be barely noticeable and pretty low in the mix.
5) Pay special attention to velocities in your drums. Velocity variation (or using multiple copies of the same sample at different levels) is absolutely crucial. You can try using a feature like cycle random or round robin (See Blog: Cycle Random and Round Robin).
6) Be gentle with effects on the drums. They should sound like realistic acoustic percussion instruments in a room – you should notice the reverb, but barely.
7) Repeating 1 or 2 bar phrases is standard, but each bar should have something unique about it even if it’s just a velocity modification. When at least until 4 bars have passed, then you can duplicate the block.
8) Avoid syncopation except in the low end. The groove is more about dynamics than anything else. Plus, it helps keep the performer (possibly a rapper) comfortable and “zoned in”.
9) Don’t over-compress. Avoid really short attack times on compressors.
10) Keep it smooth and sexy 🙂
1) Sample a 909 Kick with a high velocity.
2) Turn on the volume envelope and shorten the decay to about 60 ms.
3) That’s it!
1) Sample Clap Alphabetical 3
2) Shorten the sample by bringing the end marker to the left a bit. The duration should be about a quarter note.
3) You may need to tune it down a bit. High pitched claps are a bit too harsh for this role.
4) Turn on the bandpass filter and crop out a band from about 200 Hz to about 7 kHz. It should sound sort of distant.
5) Turn the reverb send up about a third of the way up.
1) Sample Snare Elektro 3 with a high velocity.
2) Activate the humanize feature in the setup tab and bring the amount all the way up. Bring the sound parameter down a bit.
3) Copy it and paste it twice into two empty cells. Make some very subtle changes to the envelope and tune of these duplicates. Then, drop their levels way down below the original snare.
4) Turn on the bandpass filter for each of the snare cells. On the original snare, crop out a band from about 60 Hz to 8 kHz. On the duplicates, crop out a band from about 200 Hz to 3 kHz.
5) Use the “swap channels” button to swap the left and right channels on one of the duplicate snares and the “invert phase” button on the other duplicate.
6) Send the original snare about halfway and the duplicates about a third of the way and a quarter of the way, respectively, to the reverb.
1) Grab 4 or 5 different percussive wood samples from this folder.
2) Pan them out pretty wide – not too wide though, 3 and 9 o’clock maximum.
3) On 1 or 2 of the samples, make LFO 1 modulate the pan position quickly and deeply in the modulation tab.
4) That’s it! These samples already have quite a bit of reverb on them.
1) Sample Ride Mushroom 2
2) Copy it and paste it in an open cell.
3) On the duplicate, slightly shorten the decay and nudge the tune knob a little. It should sound like the same cymbal hit in different ways.
4) Lowpass filter them both at around 2 kHz. This makes them sound distant. Distant instruments are cliche in hip-hop nowadays.
5) Send them both to an eighth note delay and the reverb quite a bit. It is okay to make these a bit wet sounding.
6) Enable the humanize feature in the setup tab on the original snare. Move the amount to about 50% and bring the “sound” parameter to about 15%.
The rhythm is not complicated. In fact, the composite rhythm boils down to straight eighth notes with a syncopated kick. The reason it sounds richer than straight eighth notes is the dynamics and the mix. I used enough combinations and copies of samples that nearly every eighth note in the pattern is unique.
The best beats have a sort of hidden complexity, seeming simple on the surface but feeling very deep and confident. This, I believe, is the overall goal here.
In the picture below, you may see something that seems wrong – the velocities are all the same. This is because I used a different method for adding expression I like to call “sample-duplicate-vary”. Instead of drawing in or recording different velocities, I actually used multiple samples recorded at different velocities and adjusted some parameters like panning and decay. This gave me control over every parameter of each variation rather than just the level and allowed me to sequence them separately.
The Sub – an FM patch made up of a sine wave and a filtered triangle wave with some amplification and some very subtle frequency modulation. (See Blog: FM Synthesis)
Bells – a modified preset in Massive called Pristine
Pad – a modified preset in Kontour called Blaugrun with the S1 Imager on it.
The Vocals – an edited, duplicated, reprocessed, and affected sample from Loopmasters called AllAboveMe_Sung