How to Make Beats in 2022
WITH ZERO FRUSTRATION OR GUESS WORK, EVEN IF YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT MAKING MUSIC
Article Last Updated: May 2022
What You’ll Learn in the Video:
Learn exactly how to use the FREE trial version of FL Studio to make chords, drums, melodies, bass lines and arrangements step-by-step, even if you know NOTHING about music. Plus you’ll learn simple tricks to instantly create chord progressions, melodies, drums and more in seconds. Follow along and you’ll make your very first beat in half an hour!
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Everything You Need to Know About Making Beats
Learning how to make beats doesn’t have to be difficult and confusing. So, in this post we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know. Then we’ll go over what you need to know about software, hardware, recording vocals and much more! If you want to learn how to make instrumentals – this is the only guide you need. 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. Now, not every beat maker does all 4 of those things all the time – especially when collaborating with others or making purely instrumental music – but you should learn about all of them.
How to Make Beats – Step By Step
- Choose instruments or sounds – piano, synth, drums, etc.
- Come up with several short musical patterns – a chord progression, melody ideas, bass/drum groove etc.
- Record those patterns as different “layers” in your software/hardware
- Combine & arrange the different patterns into larger song sections – intro, chorus, verse, etc.
- Adjust the volume levels and add audio effects to help it all sound polished – i.e. mixing.
- Send it out to an artist or record vocals on it to finish the song.
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. Sometimes you’ll just download a pre-created loop/sample and just start from there, adding drums, chopping it up, etc.
1 Process, 100 Ways to Do It
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
How Music Works
Bottom line… You have to know how music works. 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.
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. 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 that stuff quickly.
Some More Detail on the Process
Here’s a bit more detail on the steps involved in making a beat:
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.
Making Music Loops
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.” 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.
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.
Finishing the Track
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.
Choosing Beat Making Equipment
First, 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. But buying equipment is fun. So let’s look at some stuff that can be helpful to beat makers.
Most people want to learn how to make beats on your computer. But a lot of people have questions about what type of computer you need.
Mac or PC for Music Production? Laptop or Desktop?
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 usually just work. The core audio of a Mac is currently (at the time of this writing – July 2020) more stable than ASIO audio in Windows 10 laptops.
A Quick PC Laptop Horror Story:
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. After a few minutes of playing around in my beat maker 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 one magic fix that solves every person’s problem. But it’s not ALL laptops/audio interfaces. It’s hit or miss. And no one knows why. Thankfully I got it to work and it’s good to go now, but it was a HUGE pain in the ass. So beware if you’re thinking a shiny new Windows 10 laptop.
The Problem With Mac Laptops
It’s simple fam… They’re too cot damn expensive! For the components and specs you get, Mac laptops are priced kind of high. You can build a similar PC laptop for much less. And if you want to play video games on your laptop too, Mac ain’t the best choice.
Desktop vs. Laptop
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 VST plugins (orchestral plugins, Omnisphere, etc) then go for at least 16 GB of ram.
If you can afford it, spring for a system like the one we recommend below:
- Intel i9 Processor
- 32 GB of Ram
- 1 – 512 GB Solid State Hard Drive – i.e. SSD (to run the software)
- 1 – 1 TB Drive (SSD or HDD) (to store music/sounds/projects/etc)
- Lots of USB Slots
- Thunderbolt port (totally optional)
What About Tablets for Making Music?
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). You can probably get away with making full songs on a tablet, but it’s easier and you can be more versatile on a proper computer.
Essential Beat Making Tools
Aside from the computer/tablet you’re using, you’ll need some software (and maybe hardware) to help you out.
Software Beat Makers
These are programs like Magix Music Maker or Ableton and FL Studio that allow you to program your beats with nothing more than a laptop. There are 2 major types – pure beat makers and full digital audio workstation (DAWs) which allow you to record vocals and polish finished songs/tracks. Here are the best software beat makers (that also work as DAWs) out there:
- FL Studio
- Magix Music Maker
- Ableton Live
Online Beat Makers
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. Our recommendation is to go with a proper DAW, but here’s a couple online beat maker options for you:
Most people who start learning how to make instrumentals use FL Studio or Ableton 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. BUT 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:
- Native Instruments Maschine MK3
- Akai MPC Studio
- Ableton Live Push 2
Digital Audio Workstations
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 pure software beat makers because they have so much more power and capability. All DAWs also allow you to make beats, but the experience may not be as fluid as with something like FL Studio or Ableton. Different DAW choices include:
- UAD LUNA
- Presonus StudioOne
- Cubase 10
- Logic Pro X
- Pro Tools 2020
Check Out Our Full Beat Making Software Reviews Today!
Hardware Beat Makers
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. Here’s some problems with hardware beatmakers:
- They’re hella expensive (we’re talking like $2500+ for some)
- They’re closed-off systems (you can’t tweak it, etc.)
- They’re made by a single company (with software you can use virtual instruments from any company)
- They’re limited (sounds, processing power, tracks, etc.) in only producing beats/tracks – no vocal recording or real mixing/mastering capability
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 – it’s much cheaper.
Additional Tools for Making Music Beats
There are certain pieces of hardware and software you’ll absolutely want to get if you’re serious about making beats at all. And not all beat making equipment is crazy expensive or limited in functionality.
Sounds / Instruments
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. The best place to get sounds/samples/loops in our opinion is Splice Sounds – check out our review of Splice here. There are also a lot of great companies that make virtual instrument plugins. Here are some good virtual instruments to look out for:
- Output’s Entire Collection
- Native Instruments Komplete Bundle
- Arturia V Collection
Check Out Our Post on MUST-HAVE VST Synths Every Producer Needs
An audio interface is a device 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, record vocals or hook up a microphone/guitar you need a pro audio interface.
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:
- Focusrite Saphire Series
- Universal Audio Apollo
- Native Instruments Komplete Audio
- M-Audio MBox
Studio Monitors and Headphones
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. 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: Your room shape and characteristics will also determine how well you’re able to hear a TRUE/NEUTRAL sound from your system, but that’s an advanced topic. Here’s how you setup studio monitors correctly. Here are some different options for monitors and headphones:
- Adam Audio T Series
- KRK Rokit Series
- M-Audio BX Series
- KRK KNS-8400
- Grado SR-128
- AKG K Series
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 think you’d prefer to play notes on a drum pad or piano rather than click in notes with a mouse, get a MIDI controller. Here are some good options:
- Akai MPD and MPK Series
- M-Audio Oxygen Series
- Novation SL Series
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol Series
Beat Making Strategies & Tips
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. Here’s some thoughts on different strategies for making your own beats.
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 production. 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.
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 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:
- 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.
The Biggest Mistake New Beat Makers Always Make
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.
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.
Beat Making Guide Wrap-Up
You should have a pretty good understanding of the entire music 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 want a full step-by-step video tutorial on how to make your first beat using FL Studio for free, watch our beat making video tutorial. And of course, sign-up for our free Beat Making Cheat Sheets and you’ll be the first to know about the latest tools, guides and offers from Deviant Noise Inc. If you want to be a better music producer or beat maker, then this is the first step in the right direction. There you have it fam – the complete, ultimate, go-to guide on how to make beats.
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