Learn How to Make Beats STEP-BY-STEP in our Beat Making Video Below!
This is the ultimate guide on how to make beats for beginners.
We’re going to go through everything you need to know about beat making – from basics to beat making software and hardware and even different strategies to use.
After that we’ll talk a little about how to turn your beats into full songs with vocals, effects and getting that “industry” sound you hear on Spotify and YouTube.
If you want to learn how to make instrumentals – this is the only guide you’ll need to get started today.
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.
This isn’t something you can just learn and be good at in a month or two. Learning how to create music is a life-long pursuit of passion.
Quick Word of Warning – This is a LONG Guide.
No time to read the whole thing? Listen to the audio version of this article above
And watch the step-by-step video tutorial at the top of the post to follow along while you make your own beat for the first time using FL Studio 20 on your computer for free!
OK, let’s get it…
This doesn’t have to be a full song in your head.
Maybe it’s just a melody you hum to yourself. Maybe you don’t have any ideas, but are inspired by something in real life – another song, an event, a movie/book, etc.
That’s where everything starts. Now it’s time to take it from your mind and make it real.
Your job as a beat maker or music producer is to find instruments and sounds that work well together and use them like building blocks to:
Now, not every producer does all 4 of those things all the time – especially when collaborating with others – but you should learn about all of them.
There are a few different ways people make beats.
Some have an idea in their head – like a melody or chorus line – and try to recreate it in the studio
Other times, producers will have a bunch of sounds on the keyboard in front of them and just play around on it – freestyle – until they come up with something that sounds dope.
You can start making a beat with the main melody, the underlying chord progression, the drum pattern – whatever you want.
There’s NO ONE SINGLE WAY to do it.
Next, you add another layer of sound – maybe a piano or a bassline, etc. Then add layer on top of layer until you come up with something that sounds full and musical.
Either way the basic process is this:
Load up Sounds (or Grab Your Guitar/Drum Machine/etc) -> Play Around & Record Some Loops -> Add Another Sound That Works -> Repeat Until It’s Hot -> Record Vocals -> Mix and Master
You have to know how music works.
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.
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.
You need to understand the structure of a modern popular song – what are verses, hooks, bridges, etc?
Check out our full basic music theory section to learn all this stuff easily.
You use a lot of different studio equipment and software to get it all done.
And the process above is just a simple breakdown of stuff that’s more complicated than that.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend a ton of money in the beginning.
You can literally just use your laptop and nothing else.
And it’s not as hard as it seems when you first start.
So let’s get into the equipment involved in making your own beats.
So what do you need to make your own beats?
There are a lot of different choices out there in terms of music production equipment and beat making software.
And if you want to really make professional music, you’ll need to buy a few different things.
But let’s make one thing clear – if you just want to make beats (and not full songs), all you really need is a laptop and some beat making software.
Making full songs will usually require more (unless you’re just making instrumental music). But even if you’re just making beats having a keyboard and a drum midi controller makes it easier.
Pretty much every studio setup nowadays is computer based.
Technology has made it so much easier to make professional music without spending tens of thousands of dollars like you’ve had to in the past..
So let’s talk about what you need to make music.
But a lot of people have questions about what type of computer you need.
To some degree, it comes down to your personal preference on both questions.
BUT there are some key things to consider – price and functionality.
We used to say “don’t believe the hype about Mac – it’s not “better” for making music than PCs.”
But that’s not exactly true for us anymore.
The thing about Mac laptops is… they just work. The core audio of a Mac is currently (at the time of this writing – June 2019) far better than ASIO audio in Windows 10 laptops.
It was time for me to buy a new laptop so I could make my music making setup portable.
And I LOVE PC laptops, so I searched one out and ended up buying the HP Spectre x360 with an i7, 16GB of Ram and a 512GB SSD.
That shit was loaded (and expensive) and I was so excited to make beats on this beast.
But then I plugged in my Universal Audio Apollo Twin, opened up Maschine and started making beats.
After a few minutes I started hearing crackling and pops and Maschine’s software started lagging like crazy. And for weeks I couldn’t figure out why this would happen. It killed the vibe of it all.
And the worst part? The only reason I didn’t get a Dell XPS 15 was because so many users said the same thing happened to them too!
So it looks like there’s an issue with External Audio Interfaces, ASIO drivers and Windows 10. Because multiple laptop types are experiencing this and there’s no real fix yet.
So beware if you’re thinking a shiny new Windows 10 laptop.
It’s simple fam… They’re too cot damn expensive!
For the components and specs you get, Mac laptops are super overpriced. You can build a similar PC laptop for half the price (or less!).
And of course Apple doesn’t exactly make customizable devices. They keep you stuck in their eco-system.
But that core audio, though… That’s solid as a rock.
In terms of the style/quality of beats you’re going to make – there’s no difference.
That’s all on you. You can make hit music on Macs and PCs, desktops and laptops.
So don’t think that just because Metro Boomin uses a Razer laptop or because 16yo uses a Mac you’ll be able to make beats like them by buying the same laptop.
Again, it’s mostly preference, price and functionality.
If you plan on making beats in your basement or bedroom and won’t need to go anywhere, go for a desktop computer.
You can often get a more powerful computer for cheaper compared to laptops.
If you plan on going to other peoples’ houses or studios a lot to make music, or like to make beats in parks/beaches or outside, go for a laptop.
The portability of laptops is amazing.
At the very minimum, you want a computer that has an Intel i5 processor, an SSD hard drive and at least 8 GB of RAM.
You also want a pretty big hard drive to store all your music/sounds/etc.
If you plan on using lots of big plugins (Komplete Kontrol, Omnisphere, etc) then go for 16 GB of ram. But to be honest… that won’t be good enough in a few years.
If you can afford it, spring for a system like the one we recommend below:
You don’t have to worry too much about the video card (unless you plan on editing and playing back HD video a lot).
In terms of sound card, don’t worry either.
Most computers/laptops have ones built in that are not suitable for professional music creation.
We’ll talk about professional sound cards (i.e. audio interfaces) later.
Tablets like the iPad have come a long way in terms of making music, but they’re still not 100% there.
Having said that, there are a lot of producers who have more recently switched over completely to tablets (specifically the iPad Pro) to make music.
Henny Tha Biz is one of them (he’s got a great YouTube channel, so definitely check it out if you’re interested in making beats on an iPad)
I haven’t done a lot of beatmaking on a tablet because I have an old ass iPad 4, but to me it seemed like you can start projects on a tablet, but to really finish them you’ll still need a laptop/desktop computer.
So personally, I’d say hold off on buying a tablet for beat making for now. O
But it’s up to you. I’m sure you can make it work if you want to. We’ll do a deeper dive into tablet beat making in a separate, future post.
Next, you’ll need some beat making software to run on the computer.
This software is where you’ll load up your sounds, create your loops, arrange your song and even record, mix and master the final track.
There are a few different types of music making software options available to you depending on what you need.
If you just plan on making beats, go with a software beat maker or a hardware/software combo.
If you want to produce full songs and record instruments/vocals, you’ll also want to pick up a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
These are programs like Magix Music Maker or Reason and FL Studio that allow you to program your beats with nothing more than a laptop.
Most modern music is loop based, meaning you make a bunch of music loops and they repeat in different sequences.
We’ll get into how most beat making software works a bit later, but basically you program sounds into a pattern using your mouse or record yourself playing them with a MIDI hardware controller.
You can stacks sounds on top of each other and arrange them into full blown beats.
A MIDI controller is a keyboard or a set of drum pads that control the sounds in your beat making software.
With a MIDI controller you don’t have to use your mouse to click in little squares of where you want a sound to be. You can play/tap it out by hand.
Here are the best software beat makers out there:
There are also a couple of websites you can use to make beats online without having to download/purchase software.
However a lot of these edm and rap beats maker options are limited because they’re completely internet-based. Here’s a couple options for you:
Most people who start learning how to make instrumentals use FL Studio or Reason and may also pick up a MIDI hardware controller (we’ll get into these more below).
But it can be complicated trying to get certain pieces of hardware to work with certain pieces of software.
That can leave you super frustrated, especially if you’re new to music technology.
But you don’t have to go that route. You can buy a software/hardware combo beat maker.
This is a bundle that has a hardware MIDI controller (usually drum pads) that is specifically designed to work with it’s own software beat maker.
This is the best of both musical worlds – the feeling of hardware and the power/flexibility of software – and so is the ideal choice for a lot of producers.
Options include products like:
A digital audio workstation (or DAW) is a full software-based studio setup.
It provides you with everything you’ll need to make a beat or a full song (except the hardware stuff).
DAWs are different from software beat makers because they have so much more power and capability.
Software beat makers are mostly good for making beats and instrumentals.
But if you want to record vocals, arrange a song easily, mix and master music or even score a film – you need a digital audio workstation for that.
If you just want to make beats and leave the rest for others, just get a beat making program.
But if you plan on setting up a proper studio and doing actual music production, you should consider buying a DAW as well.
Different DAW choices include:
Check Out Our Full Beat Making Software Reviews Today!
Just a quick note about hardware beat makers – software isn’t the only choice for making beats, but it’s the one most people choose.
There are also hardware beat makers which are entire music production centers within a single piece of hardware (like a music production keyboard or drum machine).
Think of the legendary Akai MPC series, or the Yamaha Motif.
These pieces of hardware have everything you need in them to produce a full musical composition (you’ll still need a DAW or old-school studio to make a full song, though).
Here’s some problems with hardware beatmakers:
When you’re first figuring out how to make instrumentals these hardware options can be more difficult to learn to use.
BUT – there are some people who prefer hardware beat makers to software ones.
If you’re just starting out making beats, we really recommend going the software route.
And not all beat making hardware is crazy expensive and limited.
These additional pieces of software and hardware will help you make better music – faster and easier.
But don’t think you need to buy any of them.
Like we said earlier, if you just want to make beats you can get by with a laptop and some software.
But if you want to make full songs or take your beat to the next level, you’ll need some help from the stuff we talk about below.
Now, we don’t mean actual musical instruments (but you can buy guitars and pianos if you want).
We mean virtual instruments, sound/sample/loop libraries and things you can use if your studio software.
Most software will come with stock sounds and instruments,
Some of them are actually good, but most will be mediocre.
To get really good sounds (which make a HUGE difference in your beats), you’ll need to buy third-party sound packs and instruments.
You can buy pre-made loops, single drum sounds and even entire virtual instruments like pianos or synthesizers. Some can be pretty expensive, but they’re well worth it.
As a starting producer the first thing I’d suggest is getting GOOD drum sounds.
They can make or break a track. Download some great drum samples and loops here.. Then work your way up, buying loop packs, sample packs, VST instruments and more.
The great thing about virtual instruments (especially synths) is you can use some of them to create brand new sounds on your own that no one else has.
Bottom line, keep your sounds fresh. Your beats will only be as good as the sounds you use in them.
Here are some good virtual instruments to look out for:
Check Out Our Post on MUST-HAVE VST Synths Every Producer Needs
An audio interface is basically a computer sound card that is designed to be able to handle professional audio production work.
Your computer’s built-in sound card just isn’t good enough.
Sure, you can make beats using it. But if you want to use a MIDI hardware controller or hook up a microphone/guitar, it won’t work properly.
For that you need a pro audio interface.
There are a ton of options out there, but they all basically hook up to your computer (usually through USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt) and allow you to connect studio microphones, guitars and other instruments/sound sources, MIDI controllers and studio monitors (i.e. speakers) to your computer.
If you just want to record vocals, a 2 or 4 channel option will work. If you plan on recording a drummer or full band, you’ll need more inputs.
Another thing you want to be aware of is the circuitry inside the audio interface.
The microphone pre-amps matter a lot when it comes to the quality of your recordings and the DA/AD conversion will determine how good your playback sound will be. Check out some reviews online before making your choice.
Here are some options out there:
Now you’re going to need something to playback and hear your music while you’re creating.
That’s where studio monitors (i.e. professional studio speakers, not computer screens) and headphones come in.
If you’re new to making beats, you can get by with a decent pair of headphones (or even computer speakers).
But if you plan on making full tracks and doing some mixing and mastering work, you’ll need them.
But even as a beat maker, once you get better and better you’re going to want to purchase a set of studio monitors.
Normal speakers and headphones don’t really give you the detail you need to make important decisions.
Studio monitors/speakers are specifically designed to give you the truest sound that’s not colored or distorted by your sound system.
NOTE: Of course, your room shape and characteristics will also determine how well you’re able to hear a TRUE/NEUTRAL sound from your system.
They let you hear all the tiny details and errors in your music. This way you’ll be able to adjust the volume of different instruments properly.
And a good set of headphones can also work if you’re in an apartment or place where noise isn’t allowed.
Here are some different options for monitors:
Check Out Our Post on the Best Headphones for Producers
MIDI controllers are pieces of hardware that let you control the sounds in your beat making software.
So instead of clicking your mouse into a grid, you can play out your melody on a keyboard or your drum beat on some drum pads.
If you choose a software beat maker instead of the hardware/software combos, you can still get a third party midi controller.
They work great, but can sometime be difficult to get working fully since they’re not designed specifically for a particular piece of software.
If you want to make good beats, we highly recommend buying a good MIDI controller. It’s very difficult to get natural sounding music when you’re using just a mouse.
Here are some MIDI Controller Options:
If you plan on doing any vocal or instrument recording, you’ll obviously need a microphone.
But even if you’re just making beats and not full songs, you should eventually purchase a microphone.
You can record different sounds yourself to use in your beats, that no one else will have.
You can also add your own “hooks” into a beat which will allow you to sell it for more money.
It’s just a really good idea to have a microphone if you’re making music at all.
But don’t skimp here and go for that $30 “Vocal USB Mic” you found at Wal-Mart – it’ll sound like trash.
To get a really good vocal or instrument sound recorded you’ll want to spend a couple hundred dollars on a solid studio microphone.
There are a lot of options out there, and they widely vary on price.
Here are some different options you can try out:
There are other pieces of hardware/equipment you could use to help you make better music, but the above are the basics you’ll want to consider at some point in your beat making career.
So once you know what you want to use to make beats and songs you need to setup the computer, install the software and hook up all your equipment.
There’s too many different types of software/hardware for us to get into it in detail on how to set it all up, but you’ll be able to find tons of tutorials on YouTube about this stuff.
Basically what you’ll be doing to create a beat is this:
That’s a very simplified version of how to make music with your software/hardware, but read your manual, check YouTube and you’ll be fine.
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 design your own beats in the future bass, tropical house or r&b and pop genres.
Becoming a really good beat producer takes time, but the process doesn’t have to be complicated.
And there are other different aspects to your DAW too – the sequencer, arrangement window, mixer and more.
They all work together to let you create a full beat. When you’re learning how to make beats and songs, it can all be overwhelming. But we break it down in our full email beat making course (sign up at end of post).
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 something that has been around for a long time and very much popularized by Hip-Hop music.
It’s where you take a short snippet of another song (just a few seconds) and then 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.
You can get as creative as you want with it, but there are some copyright issues you should be aware of if you plan on releasing that song publicly for sale.
The other way to make beats is to just play live from scratch. You’d load up an instrument (like a piano or a synth) and use your keyboard or mouse to come up with a fresh music loop from nothing.
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 playing an instrument from scratch.
You don’t have to worry about copyrights with this approach like you do with sampling (unless of course you re-play another song exactly).
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.
Once you’ve chosen the best beat making software for you, it’s time to start using it to create a beat.
But how do you use a music beat maker correctly?
Basically what you do is choose a module (like a synth, sampler or drum machine) you want to start with.
Then you go to your software’s “browser” and load up some sounds/samples. If you’re sampling or using a synth, you’re not stuck to the defaults/presets. You can create your own unique sounds too.
After that you program (click little boxes with the mouse) or play out (on your MIDI hardware controller) a melody, bassline, chord progression or drum groove within the “sequencer.”
You create different musical loops (or longer musical sections) and stack them on top of each other.
How long should your music loops be?
The longer the better. Yea, we make loop-based music that repeats, but the more repetitive something is, the quicker it becomes boring to a listener.
Don’t do a small 2 bar loop. 4 might work, but 8 is better even if it repeats within those 8 bars. And if ‘you really wanna get wild try making 16 bar loops.
Now 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.
The idea is to keep the energy of the track building upwards to a climax several different times.
This is how to make music the right way.
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 ramp the energy up more – add in the full chord progression or something else for another 4 or 8 bars.
After that comes the CHORUS/HOOK this is where the first peak of energy should appear. In our example we could add in the rest of the instruments.
And then for the second verse, you start all over again and do different things to build anticipation and energy peaks.
Once that’s done you add finishing touches – drop out the drums in certain parts, add cool sound effects in others, etc. The idea is to add variety that makes a listener’s ear keep interest in your song.
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.
And there you have it – you’re a damn producer now.
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 software has 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:
New producers often get overly excited when making beats and fill up every sonic crevice with some type of sound.
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.
Starting With Drums
Some producers start with their drums. In certain genres of music (like Hip-Hop) drums play a very important, central role. They’re the heart of the instrumental.
So what some producers will do is 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 or bassline. Some will move to a basic chord progression instead, and then move onto a lead melody.
It all depends on what works for you.
Starting With Chords or Melodies
On the flip-side, other producers already have a melody line or idea in their head. They start out with that melody (by recreating what they hear in their head on their software), and then build the rest of the beat’s elements around that one melody.
Or maybe they know a dope chord progression (a pattern of different music chords that sound good together) and they lay that down. Then they add a melody or bass and maybe some drums.
Other times, a producer will have nothing in their head and they won’t start with drums. They’ll open up a new instrument or record/chop up a sample and just start playing around (freestyling) on their keyboard/pads until they play something that catches their ear.
Once they have a good idea, they’ll record it into their DAW and build the rest of the track up after that. Some will move to drums, others will put in a bass line before going to percussion. Sometimes you’ll want to build up the melody/accompaniment sections before you do the drums at all.
Again, it’s all about what works for you.
So if you’re trying to be a legit music producer, you should know how to make full songs, not just beats. You should be able to work with an artist from start to finish, handling each step of the process.
Once you’ve got a full beat made (or a mostly full beat made) you can move on to the vocal performance in order to finish creating your own song.
What you should do is export your beat from your beat maker as a WAV file (better yet, export each instrument separately so you have more control later on in the process).
Set up your microphone, connect it to your audio interface and open up your DAW.
When you’re in your DAW you’ll be adding in a bunch of blank “audio tracks.“ These tracks are where you’ll:
It’s usually a good idea to record multiple takes and “comp” them together. Comping is basically taking the best parts from several different recording takes and splicing them together to form one perfect vocal take.
Some people start by recording the chorus of the song first, and placing it in the proper section of the beat. Then they’ll come back around and record the verses after. Others record in the opposite order. There’s no right or wrong way.
Once you’re done with that you can get the vocalist to come back in with some harmonies, some adlibs and other unique vocal elements that make the song pop.
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
Once you’ve got everything arranged (instruments and vocals if applicable) and the beat or instrumental you made sounds like a full length song, it’s time to mix and master your beats.
What’s Mixing and Mastering in Song Making
They adjust volume levels, gain and panning (i.e. moving the sound either left or right in the stereo field). They also add audio effects like reverb and echos to make everything sound less flat and more alive.
Once you become a more advanced producer and you know how to make beats properly, you can probably handle most of the mixing yourself.
But mastering should still be left to an engineer – especially if you want radio play. Mastering is the last step in the music making process that makes sure everything is absolutely perfect. That’s why it’s often done by a Mastering Engineer.
But this is the secret sauce that makes all your favorite songs sound so damn good.
You should have a pretty good understanding of the entire music making process. 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!
Let’s keep it 100 though, there’s a hell of a lot more to it than just what we’ve discussed here. But that’s all stuff that can’t really be taught in a beginner’s guide.
If you want a full step-by-step video tutorial on how to make your first beat using FL Studio for free, click here.
There are so many different styles of music and styles of making music that it’s hard to cover everything. But now that you have a basic grasp of the overall process, you can start digging deep.
Start by making your first few beats and just keep at it.
A lot of what we talked about above might seem over your head or confusing. But don’t worry, cuz like I said above – we got you covered.
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If you want to be a better music producer or beat maker, then this is the first step in the right direction.
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