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How To Create Your Own Beats For Beginners?

Starting as a producer can be a daunting and very tricky task. How do you figure out how to produce great songs with no experience?

Well, if you’re a beginner…

The best place to get started is by making your own beats. This is a skill in and of itself, and if you get good at it, you can turn it into a full-fledged career.

I’m writing this guide on how to create your own beats for beginners, assuming you have little to no experience or knowledge of the world of beat-making.

If you do have experience, you might still find some suggestions that can help you improve your skills because learning to make great beats doesn’t happen overnight. But, with some knowledge and a whole lot of practice, you might just end up being a beat-making genius.

Beats for Beginners

How To Create Your Own Beats For Beginners

What is a “Beat” anyway? It sounds like a simple question to answer, but the answer is probably not what you expect. Yes, a beat is a rhythm that backs a song and is usually played by drums and/or other percussion instruments. It drives a song along and backs up vocals and other instruments.

However, there’s more to beats than that…

In today’s music industry, a beat is more than just drums. It’s a finished backing track that a singer, rapper, or instrumentalist can do their thing over top of.

Beats, of course, contain drum sounds. But, they will almost always also include a bass line and be topped off with other melodic elements (i.e., tonal instruments) and sound effects.

A beat is considered finished when it has been fully mixed and mastered…

This can include tweaking volume levels, adding in fades, distortion, reverb, compression, delay, echo, whatever. There are thousands of ways to master a track. So, different producers can and do make the same beats sound very different.

That’s what we’re aiming for. If that piques your curiosity even more, then it’s time to find out what you need to get started making your own original beats.

Tools to Get You Started in Beatmaking

Do you want to know how to create your own beats for beginners? You need to start with some of the basic tools of the trade.

Now, it’s not that this is the only way to make beats, but this is what 99% of people in the industry use. So, if you want to learn how to do what your producer heroes do, then learn to use what they use.

1 Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

A digital audio workstation, or DAW for short, is the industry standard tool for music production. This is a software package that allows you to compose multi-track songs and master and mix them, all in one spot.

A DAW will normally have some built-in instruments that you can play/program into your files. You can also use a DAW to import sounds and tracks from elsewhere, or even to record live music.

A DAW can make music composition easier because you can cut up a track, copy and paste, or loop beats to extend things into a full song. You can then mix and master the different tracks on your song, adjusting volume levels and adding different effects to each track or your song as a whole.

If you don’t use a DAW…

Beat production can be a whole lot more difficult, but still possible. Some producers play instruments live and record them using simple mixers. There are also people who only program beats on a sequencer (my next topic) and send these on for others to mix.

Using a DAW requires a lot of patience and some computer literacy, but it pays off. It’s a powerful tool that allows you to control every aspect of your composition, every step of the way. You can try out free DAWs like Audacity, which is probably the most widely used free package out there.

Garageband is free for Apple users as well. Once you get the hang of using a DAW, you may want to move on to more professional, paid packages like Ableton or Cubase to produce industry-standard quality tracks.

2 Beat Sequencer

A beat sequencer is a program that allows you to create multi-track drum/percussion beats together. This is a different kind of software, but you almost always have a sequencer built into a DAW.

However, you might like the DAW you’ve chosen, but prefer to build beats in a different sequencer. No problem! Most sequenced tracks can be imported into any DAW for later mixing and mastering.

You can use a sequencer in a few different ways…

First, you can get your fingers on some buttons and record yourself playing live. By live, I mean you can just be pressing triggers for drum sounds. The live aspect is that you’re doing it to a timed recording.

Another more common way is to build beats by clicking, dragging, and dropping.

Here’s how it works…

You can set up a track with a time signature and speed. For example, let’s use standard 4/4 time and 60 beats per minute (bpm) for a chilled-out Hip Hop track.

You can then tell the sequencer to play a hi-hat hit on every beat, a bass drum hit on every 1st and 3rd beat, and a snare hit on every 2 and 4. That’s the most basic “backbeat” you can make.

To make things more interesting…

You could later add in more hits or drag the notes you played around, so they’re not precisely on the beat. That would give a bit of a swing feel. You can even delete some of your hits to make your beat sound more minimal.

And finally, you can choose a section to copy and paste to essentially make a loop. Many of the biggest songs in Hip Hop, for example, use a beat loop of about 4 to 8 bars to make up a song. So, a simple sequencer can get you pretty far already.

3 Samples

Samples

Because we’re talking about digital beat production here, we need to have digital sounds to work with. In the industry, these are called samples.

This is a little different from what you may know of as samples, which can also refer to small sections of other people’s songs that get borrowed and reworked. In beat production, a sample can be the sound of a single bass drum, for example. But, of course, you need a whole lot more than just a bass drum to make a beat.

To get samples…

You can do one of three things. You can download them for free or buy sample packs that other producers have made.

There are plenty of free packages out there, like Soundcamp and Bandlab. These give you thousands of pre-recorded sounds to play with. They are mostly instrument sounds like drums and synths, but also include sound effects as well.

If you want to use larger snippets of sounds, like anything from busy road noises to a crowd cheering at a football game, you can find larger samples out there, too, at places like the BBC.

You can also find free or for-purchase VSTs…

A VST is a virtual studio technology plug-in that lets you play an instrument virtually. Let’s say you want to have a guitar sound on your track, but you can’t play guitar. OK, if you have a keyboard, you can use a guitar VST plug-in to get a guitar sound from the keys you play on your keyboard.

These are often quite sophisticated. So, you get different volume and tone qualities depending on how hard or soft you play them.

If you want to create your own samples…

You can do that, too. You can either record yourself playing instruments (or just hitting weird stuff you find in the kitchen) and turn those recordings into playable samples. Or, you can build them from scratch using electronic waveforms that you then manipulate.

4 Hardware

If you’re going to be making digital beats, you need a good computer. Without going into specs, you need to use a machine that’s powerful enough to handle a lot of data at once. Also, you want to have a quality sound card and a heap of RAM to keep delays to a minimum.

If you’re going to record live instruments or sounds…

You might want to invest in a quality microphone. You can get started with a simple, inexpensive cardioid condenser like this one from Audio Technica. Or you can take the leap and get something professional like the SM7B from Shure for a lot more money.

Finally, you might want to think about getting a midi keyboard. Also called a midi controller, this device that looks like a mini synthesizer allows you to play sequenced beats or add instrumentation by triggering those VSTs we talked about.

These are pretty simple machines (your DAW does most of the brain work here). And you can get a good one for under $50, like these examples from Akai and Korg.

How to Make Beats

This is only a rough guide on how to create your own beats for beginners. Also, keep in mind that while there are different steps involved, they don’t necessarily need to come in this order. You will find your preferred way of working once you practice a few times.

1 Choose Your Music Type

As a general rule for composing, you want to know what style you’re composing in. This is much like visual – are you going to use watercolors, oils, charcoal, or what? This choice will help dictate some qualities of your beat.

For example, if you’re trying to write a chilled-out Hip-Hop song, you’re probably going to look at something between 60-80 beats per minute and a bit of instrumentation. Compare that with a dance track that might be 100-120 bpm and full of instruments and lots of effects.

2 Build Your Rhythm

While some songs are built up around a cool guitar riff or a strange sound effect, they’re the exception, not the rule.

Most beats start with the rhythm section, and that general (but not always) means drum and percussion sounds. So, it makes sense to start with your beat sequencer and lay down the coolest rhythm you can to define your song.

Once the rhythm is clear, a bass track will help to pin the song down and provide more body to your beat. This can be simple or complicated. It will depend on what you want the track to sound like, and your skill in actually composing a bass line.

3 Choose Your Samples

Choose Your Samples

Once you have the basic beat structure and bass line established, you can start to assign sounds to the different parts of your beat. Here’s where you can play around and make something unique.

Sure, you could use pretty standard drum sounds if you want. But you could also use something different that will set you apart.

For example…

Check out the beat for Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” This beat was produced by The Neptunes. The rhythm sounds are partially made with real tongue clicks rather than drums, making it sound like nothing else.

Likewise, your bass line can sound like a bass guitar or a thick, luscious synth. It all depends on what sounds good together, so experiment and find a sound you’re happy with.

4 Add Melodic Elements + Sound Effects

So, you have your drums and a thick bass line. If you want to go a bit further, the next step can be adding melodic elements to your song. These are tuned instruments, in other words – everything from guitars to synths to brass, strings, and more.

Most beats have at least a few melodic elements in them. Those make them unique and create catchy hooks that, once again, can set your beats apart from the rest. Whether it’s beeps, blips, or full riffs, add in what you can play comfortably to make your song sound great.

Sound effects can also add feeling to your beat…

Remember the 1992 track “Jump Around” by House of Pain? Producer DJ Muggs included a high-pitched squeal throughout this song which makes it sound both exciting and alarming, and totally unique. Sound effects can similarly create depth and expression for your tracks.

5 Mix and Master

Mixing is one of the final steps in building a beat. This is when you adjust the sound quality and volume of each track so that they blend into a great sound. A mix, right?

To explain, if you laid down one drum track, one percussion track, one bass track, two melodic elements, and a sound effects track, then you have six tracks to balance and make sound good together.

This includes setting the volume levels, so the right elements stand out, and also contouring or even dropping out certain elements at some points in the song. Once again, this can add depth and more interest than just making a loop that repeats the same way forever.

What about mastering?

Mastering a song is the final step in producing it into a finished beat. This is the step where you work on the overall sound of the whole song.

That can mean adjusting the EQ (equalization = relative volume levels of different frequencies in your song) and adding overall effects to the sound. That can include compression, echo, distortion, and much more.

Mastering is getting the beat to sound both good and interesting. So that when you play it back in professional headphones or from an audiophile’s stereo system, it sounds perfect.

Tips for Creating Beautiful Beats

Tips

We’ve gone through the equipment you will probably need and the general process of how to make beats. Now it’s time to look at beat-making from a different perspective. Namely, how do you make beats that are great-sounding, unique, unusual, or otherwise great?

One idea is to look to successful beat producers and take their advice to heart…

West Coast Style legend Dr. Dre is a perfectionist. He constantly tries to learn new elements of music theory and composition and experiments to find sounds and rhythms that he likes. He also works on a beat until he is satisfied with it. This can sometimes take just days or sometimes years.

Timbaland, who’s famous for working with Missy Eliot, Jay-Z, Nas, Madonna, Beyonce, and more, makes his beats in a unique way. He normally gets a melodic idea and sings it into a mic to record it.

From there, he finds a rhythm that will fit it and then works backward to turn his vocal track into instrument sounds. He also experiments a lot and likes to create his own sample sounds rather than using sample libraries.

Did you know?

Rap superstar Kanye West started his career as a successful producer. He famously rapped on his debut album, “Lock yourself in a room – Doing five beats a day for three summers,” suggesting that he found success through ultimate dedication to his craft.

Other great advice comes from many sources. This includes listening for unique sounds that you can incorporate into your music.

You can also listen to what other producers are making (you can search for “beat-only tracks” to some of your favorite songs for better detail) and think about what you like and what you’d improve. For the most part, practice makes perfect.

Ready to Start Making Your Own Music?

If so, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Hardware Sequencers, the Best Beat Machines for Hip Hop, the Best Keyboard Synthesizer, the Best Electronic Drum Pads, and the Best DJ Mixers you can buy in 2022.

Also, take a look at our informative reviews of the Best USB Audio Interfaces, the Best Desktop DAC/Amp, the Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording, as well as the Best Audio Mixers currently on the market.

And don’t miss our handy reviews of the Best Drum VST Plugins, the Best Marimba VST, the Best Xylophone VST, and the Top Free Garageband Plug-Ins for more useful recording and beat-making tools.

How to Create Your Own Beats for Beginners – Final Thoughts

To get started making beats, you need to have the right tools and equipment. This can include a DAW, sequencer, samples, and quality hardware.

Then you can learn and streamline your process for putting together rhythmic elements, melodic elements, bass lines, and sound effects into complete songs. Learning to mix and master is also a crucial step to making professional-sounding beats.

Beatmaking is both an art and a craft. You first have to learn how to put beats together and practice until you get good at it. You can then inject your flavor into the mix and make beats that stand out and sound like no one else’s. So, get your tools together and get started today.

Until next time, good luck, and let the beat go on.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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