This tutorial is for people who are interested in hip hop beat production, but don’t have the slightest clue where to begin. This will take you through the steps of creating a drum pattern, which will give you a pretty good introduction into beat making. All the software used in this tutorial are free.
By the end of this tutorial you will have covered:
- Sample chopping
- Drum pattern programming
- Basic audio editing
Approx. completion time: 30 min, excluding downloading & installation.
Software we’ll be using
A freeware audio recording and editing tool that actually is pretty good for it being free. We’ll be using its audio editing capability to chop up drum samples. Audacity is great for first starters. It has all the basic functionality that the expensive professional software like Adobe Audition has. Complete songs can be recorded, edited, and mastered using Audacity. Click the image to download.
Fruity Loops Studio 7 Demo
If you make beats on your PC, this is one of the best and most popular programs. Just to let you know what else is out there, there’s a big debate between Propellerhead’s Reason vs. Fruity Loops among computer producers, but I won’t go into that here. Fruity Loops demo has full functionality except that you can’t save, but you can export as WAV or mp3, which is what we’ll do. Click the image to download.
How Beats Are Put Together, A Quick Summary
A beat is made up of drums, bass, chopped samples, and synthesized or real instruments. We are only dealing with drums in this tutorial. The drum sounds can be obtained by purchasing or downloading free drum kits which contain individual sound files of each type of drum (kick, snare, hi-hat, etc.), chopping up break beats to isolate individual drums, or by recording your own drums. We will be cutting some drums out of a break beat.
Cutting the drum samples
We will use this sample drum loop which comes from ccmixter.org, which hosts a huge collection of free sounds. Right click and download the sample to your hard drive. Open the file in Audacity. (A word of caution: Audacity has a tendency to crash, so always save frequently.)
We are interested in taking the kick, snare, and hi-hat from this sample. Listen the sample, and you can hear several instances of each of these drums. One of the major challenges is finding clean sounds. Luckily, this sample has very little background noise like hiss and static. The best sounds to take are the ones that are most isolated.
All the kick drums are highlighted in green. If you listen to the first two, you can definitely hear the hi-hat on top of the kick. The third and fourth ones also have hi-hats, but it is less apparent in the fourth one, so we’ll use this one.
Selecting the sample
We will have to zoom in to get a good selection. First, select the area around the fourth kick (i.e. a little before it, and a little after it). Then click the button indicated by the red circle. Start your selection at the very beginning of where the sound wave forms and end it at the very beginning of the next sound wave.
Once you have this selected, go to File > Export Selection As WAV… and name it kick.wav. It is a good practice to create a folder for every beat you make to stay organized, so create a folder called “Beat 1” and save kick.wav in this folder.
Snare and hi-hat
Do the same for the snare and hi-hat indicated below in green and name them snare.wav and hihat.wav.
Loading the drum samples
Now we are going to load the drum samples we just made into Fruity Loops.
- Open Fruity Loops.
- Go to File > New
- You should see the default view, which has the default drum kit. We are going to replace these drums with our drum sounds. Click the Kick drum button circled in green and click the load sample icon circled in Red. Browse for your kick.wav and click open. To hear the sample, you can click the waveform at the bottom.
- Do the same for hihat and snare.
- You can go ahead and right click and delete clap, which we will not be using.
Inputting the drum pattern
Understanding the layout
The default view for Fruity Loops is a drum sequencer. What you see in front of you is 1 measure of 4 beats, and it is divided into 16 steps.
Understanding the process
A song is made up of drum patterns. We will create 3 drum patterns (intro, main, bridge) that will make up the song. (Note: this is just an example. Not all songs need to have all these pieces. This just demonstrates the use of patterns.)
Intro drum pattern
We’ll keep the intro simple and program it with just a kick and snare. First we have to set the tempo (speed of the track). Click and drag the tempo down to 96. Generally, hip hop tracks tend to be between 90 to 100 beats per minute. Click in the pattern you see below. If you make a mistake, right-click to unclick a mistake. Notice that this is pattern number 1, and the play mode is pattern.
Main drum pattern
Now we move onto pattern number 2. Click in the pattern number box (right next to tempo) and drag it up one step. You should see your drum patterns become blank. Copy the drum pattern you see below.
Hip hop beats generally always have a snare or clap on every 2 and 4 beat, a kick on the 1 and 3 beat, and hihats on every 2 steps.
Click the play button to listen to the beat. The hihats sound a little too loud, so click the volume knob next to hihat and turn it down to 65%. Look right below File, Edit, etc. to see the actual % volume level.
Bridge drum pattern
Click the pattern number box (right next to tempo) and drag it up one step so that it is 3. Copy this drum pattern.
Programming the song
Now that we have 3 patterns to work with, we can program the song. Click the “View Playlist” button indicated by the red circle. To make it snap to bars, click the “Snap to grid” button and select Bar. Use the pencil and copy in the pattern below. Switch the play mode to song and click play to listen. This is the basic layout of our song.
Exporting (saving) the song as a sound file
Now we will export this song into a file that can be played in an audio player. Go to File > Export > Wav file. Songs are almost always exported as Wav rather than mp3 because of higher quality. Save the song as beat1.wav inside the folder with kick.wav, snare.wav, hihat.wav.
Final touches in Audacity
Open beat1.wav in Audacity. There are a ton of things you can do in here. Just check out the Effects menu, but only a few are logical.
Normalize with make the track its maximum loudness without distortion. Select the whole song by pressing ctrl + A (cmd + A on mac). Then go to Effect > Normalize and click OK.
A very common feature to end a lot of songs. Select the last 10 seconds or so and go to Effect > Fade Out.
A Note About Equalization (EQ)
For a simple beat like this, you would not need to use the EQ to do something like bump the kick drum. Just turn up the volume on the kick in Fruity Loops. If something can be done more easily in Fruity, then do it there. EQ is useful for a more complete track with instruments, vocals, etc.
So that’s it. Now you are ready to save this song. First, you need to install the LAME mp3 encoder. Instructions are here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/faq?s=install&item=lame-mp3
To save as mp3, go to File > Export as MP3 and save your song.
Now that you can produce a hip hop beat, try recording vocals over your beat with this 20 min tutorial.
Questions? Comments? Please leave them below.
If you have any general questions as to how to get started in production, try posting your question in the Getting Started forum.