How to Make Beats for Beginners
A Step-by-Step Tutorial for Making Beats
Last Updated: February 2024 | Article Details: 2965 words (15 – 17 minute read)
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Learning how to make beats doesn’t have to be difficult and confusing. And in this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know, step-by-step.
Just remember one thing…
Your Beats Are Going To Suck At First.
It’s normal. It happens to EVERYONE. Just keep making beats every single day, as often as you can.
You WILL get better. It just takes time.
Your job as a beat maker is to choose instruments and sounds that work well together (like drum kits, samples, loops, etc.) and use them like building blocks to produce a finished product.
You don’t need anything more than a laptop with some software and a great pair of headphones (like these).
Article Table of Contents
- 1 Intro
- 1.1 How to Make Your Own Beats Step-By-Step
- 1.2 How Music Works
- 1.3 More Details on the Process
- 2 Beat Making Strategies and Tips
- 2.1 Sampling vs. Playing Live
- 2.2 Melody? Drums? Where to Start
- 2.3 The Biggest Mistake Beginners Make
- 2.4 Finishing Your Beats
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How It’s Done
There are a few different ways people make those musical ideas (patterns).
Some have an idea in their head – like a melody or chorus line – and try to recreate it in the studio.
Or you can have a bunch of sounds on the keyboard in front of you and just play around on it – freestyle – until you come up with something that sounds dope, whether it’s chords, melody, bass or drums.
Sometimes you’ll just download a pre-created loop/sample and just start from there, adding drums, chopping it up and re-arranging it, etc.
Here’s a run-down of one style of workflow/process:
Beat Making for Beginners – Step By Step
Here’s a step by step process on how to make your own beats
- Choose Sounds
First, it’s time to choose whatever sound or sounds you want to base your beat around. This can be a sample or an instrument like piano/keys, synths, drums, etc. Pick something you think sounds cool
- Write/Record Various Parts of Beat
Now it’s time to write and record several short (4-16 bar) patterns of musical ideas. You write one, and then continue building on top of it with other layers using different sounds. The main parts you need are chords, melody, drums and bass.
- Arrange Beat Parts Into a Song Format
Now you’re going to combine the parts you wrote in Step 2 in various ways to form larger song sections, and then arrange the sections into a full song. The main sections you need are an intro, verses, choruses, an outro and maybe a pre-chorus plus a bridge/departure, depending on genre.
- Finalize and Mix the Beat
Next, it’s time to finalize your beat. Here you can add transitions between sections or accentuators like drum drops or drum fills, etc. Then you’ll adjust the volume levels of each part/sound so that nothing is too loud or too quiet and everything site well together. You’ll also add some effects to help everything sound polished and balanced.
- Export the Final Product
Finally, now that your beat has been fully composed, it’s time to export/render it out into a useable format – MP3, WAV, YouTube Video, etc.
How Music Works
Bottom line… You have to know how music works to make beats. Study it. And that doesn’t mean go to school or pick up a music theory book. Knowing music theory helps, but really just study the music that you love. Listen to it intensely and figure out it’s moving parts.
That’ll help you figure out how real music is put together – the sounds used, the way the drum pattern is put together, the intro/verse/chorus/bridge/etc and where they happen, the rises and falls throughout the song, changes in sounds/musical key/emotion/vibe.
Study your favorite songs and they’ll tell you a whole lot about how to make GOOD music beats.
Basic Music Theory for Beat Makers
I know… you hear the words music and theory and you fall asleep.
But when you’re making professional music, you have to know the very basics.
You need to know what beats, notes, bars, time signatures, chord progressions and other musical elements are.
Check out our full basic music theory section to learn all that stuff quickly and easily.
Detailed Look at Each Step
Here’s a bit more detail on the steps involved in making beats on your computer:
1. Choosing Sounds
Basically what you do is choose a module in your beat making software (learn more), like a synth VST (here are the best ones), sampler or drum machine, you want to start with. Then you go to your “browser” and load up some sounds/samples.
If you’re sampling music or using a synth, you’re not stuck to the defaults/presets. You can create your own unique sounds too.
2. Making Music Loops + Layers
After that you program (click little boxes with the mouse) or play out (on your MIDI hardware controller – our top picks) a melody, bassline, chord progression or drum groove within the “sequencer.”
Your goal is to create a short (4 or 8 bars) musical idea and have it loop over and over. Then you create more musical loops (or longer musical sections) and stack them on top of each other.
3. Getting Out of the Loop – Beat Arrangement
When you have a great sounding 8 bar loop of various sounds playing together, you’re not done yet – if you just leave it like this, the beat will get boring and tired really quick.
What you have to do next is take those different loops you created and arrange them in the “arrangement window” so that it sounds like a full song – with an intro, verse sections, chorus sections and more.
The idea is to keep the energy of the track building upwards to a climax several different times.
You’ll end up with a screen that looks like this:
So you start with an INTRO – maybe just the melody plays alone for 4 bars and then the hi-hat and melody play together for another 4 bars. After that you could get into the VERSE section.
The energy should slightly increase more, so you could add the rest of the drums here with the melody and let it play for 4 or 8 bars. Then an energy peak happens in the CHORUS section where all of the instruments play together.
That’s how you get out of the boring loop.
Related Content: How to Arrange Beats and Songs
4. Finishing the Track via Mixing
Making your own song requires a few more steps than just making instrumentals. If you want to go this far, you can do some mixing (adjusting levels/volume/EQ, adding digital effects, etc) and even record some vocals on top.
Once the full mixdown of the beat/song has been done it gets sent for mastering to make your song louder for streaming/radioplay/etc and to make sure it will “translate” well across all the different types of music players that will be used to listen to it.
Strategies & Tips for Making Beats
Once you’re all setup the process of actually making music is similar whether you want to learn how to make rap beats, hip hop beats and trap beats or you wanted to learn how to create your own beats in the future bass, tropical house or r&b and pop genres.
Here’s some thoughts on different strategies when making beats for beginners.
Sampling vs. Playing Live
If you’re making electronic music you have a couple different ways to go about it. You can make sample based music, or you can play musical instruments from scratch.
Sampling is where you take a short snippet of another song (just a few seconds) and using it as one of the musical patterns/loops in your own beats.
You can play it back straight, or chop it up and assign each “chop” to a different pad/key on your MIDI controller. You can then trigger and play back the samples however you want to come up with a brand new sound loop.
Just be aware that sometimes there can be copyright issues if you’re using someone else’s song without permission.
Playing Live is to just create a loop/pattern from scratch using notes, chords and scales and an instrument (virtual or real-life). You can either program the notes into your sequencer with a mouse, or play them from a midi controller.
Either way, you’re not taking someone else’s song and chopping it up to create new sounds, you’re making your own loop from scratch. Both approaches are great and come with their own unique pros and cons. If you’re a good producer, you’ll learn how to do both.
— Related Article: How to Design Sounds —
Melody? Drums? Where to Start When Making Beats
This is a question that many new producers (and even experienced ones) struggle with. And to be real, there’s no right answer. It’s all up to what you prefer or what works best for you.
The whole process that you use is called workflow. And different tools have different ideal workflows. But don’t sweat it too much. It doesn’t matter how you start, as long as you finish. But here are the basic elements every beat has:
- Rhythm (drums, bass lines, percussion elements)
- Accompaniment (chord progressions, harmonies, etc.)
- Lead Melody – the main catchy melodic/voice elements
- Transitions between song sections (i.e. verse -> chorus)
- Effects and other one-off sounds/instruments to spice shit up
- Proper Arrangement – making the song tell a story through change-ups
Some producers start with their drums. They may start with a kick drum and a snare drum to lay out the basic pattern. They’ll then add in some high hats and other percussion elements to get a full sounding drum loop. Once the drum loop has a nice groove to it, they’ll begin on a melody, chord progression or bassline.
On the flip-side, other producers already have a melody line or idea in their head or maybe they know a dope chord progression and they lay that down. They may start with a sample they chopped up. Then they add bass, drums and other elements.
Deviant Noise TOP PICK Recommendation:
Learn the Secrets to Writing and Producing HIT SONGS
The Biggest Mistake Newbies Always Make
New producers often get overly excited when learning how to make a song beat on the computer. So they fill up every sonic crevice with some type of sound because options are limitless on computers.
The finished product sounds way too busy and complex. That can be ok if you’re just making instrumental music. But if you’re planning to put your beats up for sale online then that’s a no-no.
You have to remember that someone else is going to be singing or rapping on top of your beat. So you can’t make it too crowded otherwise there will be no space for the vocalist!
When it comes to making music, it’s often true that LESS IS MORE. Simple beats are often then best ones in these cases. So be careful when you’re making your beats to not stuff them with too much sound.
Finishing Your Beats: Always Get Out of the Loop
Whenever you’re making beats, it’s a good idea to finish the track fully. That means, as quick as possible GET OUT OF THE LOOP.
When you’re got a really solid 8 or 16 bar loop, immediate start arranging your beat into different sections – intro, verse, chorus.
This will allow you to finish the track – which is one of the HARDEST things beat makers have to deal with.
Making loops is fun, but arranging the beat can sometimes feel like work. But force yourself to FINISH your beats.
And you’re only really finished when you’ve got a full 3+ minute arrangement that sounds like a full song. Oh and…
Tweak Your Mix for Clarity
Remember how we said at the beginning of this article how your beats would suck at first? Well, sometimes even when your ideas are really solid the beat still sounds like shit.
If you compare your beats and songs to the stuff you hear on the radio, it’s really easy to get depressed. How does every song on the radio sound perfect, loud, bright clear and amazing? While your sound flat, lifeless and dull? Two words… Mixing and Mastering.
It’s more of an advanced topic, but adjusting volume levels of your sounds and adding effects like compression, reverb and delay help to give your track more life. For now, just focus on achieving a good balance between the volume levels of the various instruments in your track.
Turn the volume faders on everything all the way down to start. Then bring up the kick drum or bass level to something you like.
Then slowly and methodically turn up the volume on the other tracks, until you have a nice balance between everything AND you’re not clipping (going into the red) on the audio meters.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Beats
The process of making a beat or instrumental is pretty straight forward, and the steps can be done easily. But beat making IS hard to do well. It takes a lot of practice and time spent honing the craft of music production to really be good at it. So although beat making is not “hard to do,” in a sense, it does take a lot of failing before you can do it “successfully.”
Whether or not you want to become a professional in the music business, it’s a GREAT idea to learn how to make music. So regardless of what you want to do in life, yes you should make your own beats. Creative work is some of the most beneficial work you can do for your well-being. If you ARE a musical artist, it makes sense to make your own beats so that you are able to fully bring your musical ideas to life without having to rely on others. Even if you DO use other people’s beats, you’d benefit from knowing how to make your own instrumentals.
Producers use different tools – both software based and hardware based – to make their beats with. Before the era of computers became mainstream, there were hardware units like the MPC by Akai which could be used to make beats. Nowadays, all you need is a laptop and a piece of software like FL Studio to make your own beats. And there are many other options, both hardware, software and hybrid tools that are more affordable than ever.
Not all music artists make their own beats, but there are a number of them that do. J. Cole is a rapper who also makes beats, as are Russ and Big Krit. But most artists don’t exclusively ONLY use their own beats. They will produce for themselves but also work with other producers to make music. Most artists do work with producers to bring their projects together.
Most times beat makers are referred to as “beat makers.” Sometimes people will interchangeably use the terms “producer” or “music producer” to refer to people who make beats. But the role of a traditional music producer goes far beyond just making the beat or instrumental for a track.
There’s no right answer to this question because it will be different for everyone. Some people like to start with drums so they have a rhythm going, but others start with a melody or a chord progression. Some producers prefer to start with a sample (pre-recorded audio). You can start with whatever instrument or sound you like.
If you’re finding it really difficult to make your own beats, it could be a couple of things impacting your progress. The first thing you want to do is make sure you know the absolute basics about “how music works” (i.e. music theory). When you have even a slight understanding of things like notes, chords, rhythm it makes it easier to get your ideas out quickly. Otherwise you can end up getting frustrated trying to translate what’s in your head. The other reason might be that you don’t know your software/hardware well enough. The more you learn about the ins and outs of what you’re using to make beats, the easier it becomes to do things.
Yes, you can make money as a beat maker. But doing anything for money itself is a good way to either become miserable or not do things as well as you could. If what you want is money, there are better ways to make it than music (like finance or tech). But if you love music and want to be fully focused in a creative field, yes there are ways to make money and sustain yourself as a beat maker. Just don’t expect to get rich. Some can do it, but most won’t.
Beat Making Guide Wrap-Up
You should have a pretty good understanding of the entire beat making process now.
Whether you wanted to learn how to make rap beats, pop beats, edm beats or anything else – the overall process is very similar.
Now all that’s left to do is… go out and do it! Make a beat yourself!
If you’re new to making music, sign-up for our free Beat Making Cheat Sheets and you’ll get our 7-Day Course to Better Beats as well.
There you have it fam – the complete, ultimate, go-to guide on how to make beats for beginners.
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