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Recording Vocals
The vocals are the heart and soul of most musical styles, especially Hip Hop and R&B. These days it’s believed that you can fix anything in the mix with Pro Tools. But experience tells me that a well-recorded vocal track makes all the difference in the world.

One of the biggest keys to successful vocal recording is how well the engineer knows his equipment. The better feel you have for your pre-amps, EQ’s, mics, headphones, mixing console, etc, the better prepared you’ll be in the recording of vocals and different types of vocal styles. A major key to successful vocals is how the singer hears himself / herself. Try to make sure that the headphones and the mic are not an issue. One of the best ways to do that is to leave things in general dry. Usually the overall level may be a concern with each individual vocalist. Some people will like a normal amount of level on their headphone volume, while others might want to be blasted to oblivion. When recording R&B vocals, it’s sometimes useful to give the artist a little reverb for warmth and some compression, but not normally sending the reverb or compression to tape. You can add the desired reverb, compression and effects to the final mix. You may also want to compress or effect certain instruments to have them ring or resonate a certain way against the vocals.

Keeping recorded vocals dry is the key to a speedy session and you can re-create and add to the mix later. During most sessions you will at one time or another have to punch in or out.This is made easier with programs like Pro tools, Cubase, or Cakewalk and is mostly non destructive. You can easily move things around or put EQ on a small part, take out breathes and pops. It’s easy to go to an exact word and put in a filter or EQ or take some of the attack off of a phrase.

The studio environment is also essential to a successful recording. Creating a comfortable space for the vocalist so they can do his or her thing will help the artist live up to their greatest potential. Acoustics is important as well. You don’t want room full of ambience and echoes. It’s best to record vocals in an acoustically dead space. If possible it’s also a good idea to have the singer or rapper perform or sing up to the mic. Vocals can greatly be affected by the placement of the mic. If you hang the microphone one or two inches above the singers mouth this usually puts the singer or rapper in a more comfortable position ensuring a better recording. Most vocalists will ease closer and closer to the mic during a session and the engineer will occasionally ask them to step back. This may affect the levels between takes. It also has a chance of making the vocals sound cloudy. This problem can be fixed with EQ. You can reduce the level with a very narrow band at 200 Hz, and that will usually clean up the signal. When you record vocals you want to avoid vocal room or vocal booth noise. Make sure the vocalist isn’t wearing jewelry, chewing gum, or snapping his fingers during the takes. I once had a guy recording his rap track when his cell phone rang during the take. It’s also best to use a mic stand or boom mic stand. The singer will generate more noise if they have to actually handle the mic in their hand.

Basic MIDI Information (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)
MIDI allows keyboards, sound modules, drum machines, sequencers, computers and other MIDI device to communicate and sync with each other. MIDI uses the same technology that computers do to relay information. MIDI uses serial transmission, using a simple five-pin plug called a DIN plug.

Serial data transmission needs only a single wire to send information from machine to machine. Pins 1 and Pin 3 are not used at all. Pin 2 is used as shielding. It’s attached to a wire that is wrapped around all the other wires. This prevents interference and doesn’t allow the sending or receiving of unwanted data that might ruin data in the cable. Pin 4 is a 5 volt current loop to ensure that electricity flows in the proper direction. PIN 5 actually sends all the MIDI data. MIDI only travels in one direction. MIDI has to be able to pass in different directions. This is accomplished by giving each MIDI instrument an IN, OUT, and THRU ports. These three ports IN, OUT and THRU are found on all MIDI devices and most of today Keyboards and Drum Machines. There are some exception but generally IN, OUT, and THRU are the standard. MIDI does not and I repeat does not send sound over its wires. It sends digital codes that represent what is being played on the MIDI instrument. As a person plays a MIDI keyboard or drum machine the computer inside that instrument examines and translate the data being played. The musician’s performance is translated into the MIDI code and the information is sent through the MIDI OUT port. The MIDI in Port receives any incoming MIDI information.

In keyboards there are small computer circuits whose job it is to constantly watch the Keyboards and determine at any time a key is being pressed or released. It sends the information on to the rest of the keyboard and helps the keyboard determine what sounds are created. Midi Thru allows MIDI data to be sent on to other keyboards and synthesizers. The THRU MIDI port duplicates anything that comes to MIDI IN. IN, OUT and THRU are the Mainstay of MIDI. Understanding the principals of MIDI IN, OUT and THRU are the basis for most MIDI setups. When pressing a key a command is sent that says a key has been pressed. That short message is followed by two more: the first says which key was pressed, like Middle C or F sharp. The second cone indicates how quickly a key has been pressed, which also tells other instruments about the dynamics of the note played. The pressing of a key or pad on a drum machine and the releasing of a key are treated as two completely different actions. MIDI doesn’t consider how long a note is held because an instrument doesn’t wait until the note is finished sounding before sending out information about it. The moment the key or pad is pressed a code is sent indicating that action and the moment it is released then another code is sent. The pitch bend on the keyboard has a MIDI code for the pitch bend wheel.

Moving it up or down will produce a code. Most keyboards also have a Modulation wheel. MIDI has a code for the movement of the wheel, the more the wheel is turned, the larger the value of the code and the more intense the vibrato. All MIDI devices have some sort of memory. Keyboards remember sounds, drum machines remember rhythmic patterns, and effects processors remember parameter settings. These settings are called programs. There is a code in MIDI called Program Changes that tells and instrument to change to a specific memory number. Some Sequencers, Keyboards, Drum Machines, and MIDI Instruments have clocks that can be linked and synchronized. This synchronization part of MIDI is called System Real Time. Real Time messages let one instrument tell others how fast to play, when to start, when to stop, when to change tempo, where to begin within a piece, and even which song to play.
Beat Basics - Compression
Written by: Kyle Van Deville

If you’re wondering what compression is and what compression does, this article will hopeful shed some light on the issue of compression. Basically, compression compresses the loudest parts of am audio signal, turning down or reducing the dynamic range of that signal. Once you’ve turned down the loudest parts of the signal, you are then able increase the volume of the entire signal. This enables you to control the dynamic range of the signal. The dynamic range of the signal is the difference between the loudest volume parts and lowest volume parts of that signal. By decreasing the volume level of the loudest parts, it gives the effect of raising the low volume parts within the same signal.

Compression will also control what is known as “clipping.” This is when an audio signal peaks into the red of the LED meters. You must be careful not to over compress. Over compression can limit the dynamic and dimension of the track or signal. In our studio we use a little compression on vocals that we are recording into our DAWS just to control the levels somewhat. This is great for an over excited rapper in the booth or a singer with great pipes that really expresses themselves in the booth. It keeps the vocals from getting in the RED but keeps the overall performance in tact without loosing any energy.

Most compressors, whether hardware or software, has the same features and controls and work mostly likely the same. These features are:

Threshold: Threshold is the level at which the compressor gain reduction starts to happen. The lower the threshold, the more the signal will be subject to compression.

Ratio: This tells the compressor when to start compressing the signal once it reaches the threshold level. Compression ratios are shown with two numbers, like 2:1. The first number means to the input and the second number means to the output. So 2:1 would mean the compressor would produce 1db of output for every 2 db of input or signals that input into the compressor above the threshold are subject to a 50% gain reduction.

Gain/Output: This is used to turn up the output once the signal has been compressed.

Attack: The attack determines how fast the compressor begins to add gain reduction to the signal coming through the threshold. Attack on most compressors in measured in milliseconds (ms). Settings of 25 to 50 ms will allow you to compress drum and bass sounds without knocking out there punch or low end.

Release: The release determines how long the compression will last. The faster the release time the quicker the level is restored. The longer the release times the longer the sound may last. It is also measured in milliseconds.

Knee: The knee control can help smooth out or reduce some undetectable gain. You usually have a hard knee and soft knee. The hard knee compresses the ratio if the signal is over the threshold. The soft knee gradually increases the amount of compression as signal changes or rises above the threshold.

This is the basic concept of how compression and compressors work. It’s a vital part in recording and mixing vocals and music. Hopefully, this article has helped you to better understand what compression can do for your recordings.

Beat Basics - The Art of Mixing
Written by: Kyle Van Deville

When it comes to mixing a track, the mix is never complete. You can keep mixing a song for an eternity and still not be done. What determines when the mix is complete? Your ears and your taste, or if it’s a client situation in which you are mixing for someone else it may be decided by you and your clients. Mixing is broken down into two different areas. One area is getting the levels right. One of the main parts of mixing a song is getting the fader levels right and the balance correct. The second important factor of mixing is adding the correct amount of effects, EQ, and compression to your mix.

When mixing, it’s best to start with the music then work your way to the vocals. I always start with the drums because it’s usually the heart of your mix. Considering that I start with the drums, I usually start with the kick drums and the bottom, I then work my way through the snares, then the cymbals, hi-hats, then shakers, and percussions. The next area I begin to mix is the bass. I’ll then start with the rest of the music mix, keys, synths, guitar, weird EFX sounds and so on. The kick drum has got to be right. If the drums are the heart of your mix, the kick drum is the pulse.

The key to a good mix start with your ears. You have to take time and listen to what you’re doing. Pull all your faders up and listen to what you’re going to be working with. When it comes to hip hop music the bottom is so important. You have to make sure that the bass and the kick drum are working good together and not overdriving. A good parametric EQ is good for kick drums with a boost in 80 -100 hz range. If you want your snare to snap, try cutting below the 100hz range with a high pass EQ. You can also use -2db eq to taste in the frequencies above 4hz. I don’t put a lot reverb or chorus on snares. I try to control the snare with EQ and leveling and some compression if needed. It’s important to get the levels correct on your bottom, because if it’s too loud the overall mix may be too loud and kill your need for headroom.

Once you get your levels correct you need to spend time getting your EQing and effects correct. Using effects like delay, reverb and chorus can give you a wider and fattened up sound. Listen first and decide if that snare really needs reverb. Just because it worked on the last song you mixed, it may not work for this track. I can not emphasize how important is to listen to your mix. But also something that is important is what your listening to your mix through. If you don’t have good monitors, I recommend you invest in a good pair of studio monitors. If you have good ears and a bad source for hearing the music you’re mixing, it doesn’t matter because you’re getting a false representation of the mix.

When mixing the vocals, I try to keep the led dead center in the mix. I try to make sure every word is audible and intelligible. When it comes to rap vocals I use very little reverb and delay. R&B, well that’s a different story. I like to “wettin” the lead on an R&B vocalist. When dealing with background vocals, it’s a good idea to group your vocals via your faders. So if tracks 12 thru 16 are the chorus background vocals, group those faders on the mixing console or DAWS so you can control the backgrounds separately form the rest of the vocal mix. I’ve had people bring me recordings that weren’t recorded all that great. Meaning the levels were horrible or the microphone they used to capture the vocals had a lot to be desired causing the vocals to be somewhat muffled. I always say that a great mix starts with a great source recording. If the stuff is recorded badly, getting a great mix may be out the window. Too many people think they just fix it in the mix, but sometimes a bad recording ends up hurting the overall mix. Just remember one of the most import aspects of the vocal mix is the placement of the vocals, where they sit in the mix compared to the rest of the mix. If the vocals are too low it sounds like they’re lost in the mix. If the vocals are too loud it sounds like the vocals are in one room and the music is in another part of the house. When mixing the vocals, try mixing with the monitors turned down lower. If you’re blasting everything real loud not only will you kill your ears but it’s a good chance you lose the vocal placement in the mix. Once you like the placement level with monitors turned down, turn them back up and listen to where they sit in the mix and adjust as you think they need to be. A good idea when mixing vocals is to make more than one copy of the mix. Record 3 or 4 version of the mix, one with the vocals slightly louder, one slightly lower and one you really love. Take the three mixes and play it different systems and see which one is the best.

Like anything, mixing music takes practice the more you do it the better you will be at it. If you’re using software to mix, the more plug ins the better. A mix with moderation is probably always better than a mix with too much juice so keep it clean and sweet to the ears.

Beat Basics - Hip Hop Production Tips 101 Vol.#1
Written by: Kyle Van Deville

This section deals with various ideas to improve your production skills and the organization of your overall production business. Some of these tips may or may not apply to everybody but we hope you find these tips useful.

1. You just sold your first beat, what do you do with the money?
Always re-up with your money. If you want to be a knuckle head and go out and buy all the latest Play station and XBOX games, that’s on you. But you should take that cash and put it back into your music. Depending on how much you made off the beat will determine what you do with the money. If you made enough to buy some fancy new software, buy it. Invest in some new plug-ins or buy more sounds for your samplers or go digging for more samples at the flea market for some old school wax. But always try to put part of the money or all of it back into your production game because it can only enhance and improve your production in the future.

2. How many beats should I do a week?
A good producer who is heavy in the game should stay on his equipment and try to produce as many beats as his skills will allow. Once again, if you’d rather sit down and play Madden all day, remember while you’re sleeping some brother on the other coast or down the street is banging out joints in his studio or bedroom. Don’t delete beats; the beat you think is whack is a masterpiece to the ears of some aspiring rapper or some rapper’s manager might love that beat you don’t like. I remember playing beats for an artist and his manager and I were skipping the tracks I didn’t like. They were saying, “let us hear those beats you’re skipping.” I played them and they loved them and accused me of holding back the hot stuff. Remember I thought those were weaker beats, but they loved them.

3. Always back up your song data.
I had a friend who is a Hip Hop producer who uses a MPC 2000 hooked up to an external Iomega zip drive. One day he loaded up a beat from a zip disk he had stored and saved beat data to. This disk was corrupted and would not load the song. He had a gang of beats that he had done on this disk that he couldn’t retrieve. The zip disk had gone bad and was full errors when he tried to load data from it. So I came up with a system for backing up your song data. When you finish doing a beat, save it to what ever media you save your beats to: floppy disk, compact flash card, zip disk, CD-ROM, hard drive etc… Then invest in a backup version of your media. So if you save your data to a flash card have a second flash card, a second back up disk. So instead of saving the beat data, midi files, parameters, sequence and songs once to one disk, you save it to second disk also as form of back up. That way if one disk goes bad, you always have a back storage system for the data. Also, always keep your media in dry room temperature environment. Do not leave your storage media sitting on stereo speakers, studio monitors, or near any magnets for this will corrupt and erase the data on most media storage devices.

4. Intros and Outros
If you’re selling beats to clients, it’s a good idea to have hot intros to your beats. This is a great way to grab the attention of your listener. This way people will be excited to hear the rest of the beat. Try to come up with different and exciting intros for each beat; don’t get caught up on using the same type of intro on every song. When it comes to outros don’t feel like you have to use the same old fade-out technique that’s been used on most songs throughout history. Feel free to put an abrupt finish on your beat. Doing different little things may be what sets your beat apart form the competition. The more difference in the details, the more exciting your tracks will be. Try fading out the beat with a sound effect like an explosion or water running or a phone ringing. Try to add that extra something to your intros and outros.

5. To Hook or Not To Hook
A good way to sell your beats is with a hot hook already on it. If you have access to a hot rapper who can lay hot hooks, record them on to your beats. When you shop the beat you also shop the hook that will lead to publishing royalties if someone wants to use the hook. The only draw back to this is that the hook will definitely give the beat a certain personality. That personality may or may not work for the client you are previewing the beat for. Taking that into consideration, that can be a plus or a negative depending who is listening to the beat. The plus to this technique is that when shopping beats to labels they may love the hook and be willing to give publishing for the hook.

6. Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut!
A big mistake a lot beat makers and producers make is that they get stuck in a rut of using the same sounds over and over in their productions. This is cool if you got a platinum sound that everybody is expecting from you and you’re selling a lot of units with that sound. Teddy Riley, when New Jack Swing was at its hottest used a lot of licks and sounds in the same songs but that’s what the public wanted and he was selling millions of records. That’s an exception if it is working then use until it can’t be used no more. But for most of us it’s probably better to experiment with different keyboard and synthesizer sounds. Try to use different types of kicks and snares don’t have every beat have the same sounds. I had a producer play beats for me a few weeks ago and every beat had the exact same sounds from piano, bass, and drums every track had the same sounds. After awhile the beats started to sound a lot alike, I mean a lot alike! Everybody is looking for beats that are gong to set them apart and if the beats are all the same then what gain will you have in using the same sounds. You’re going to lose more people than you’re going to attract.

7. Where to get Feedback
The biggest mistakes a lot of producers’ artists and musicians make are who they allow to give them feedback. If you let your non musical friends and families hear your stuff, they’re going to probably be impressed with the fact you can even play a couple of notes let alone make a complete beat. So a lot of the time, these people will give you praise and make you feel like your beats are unbelievable, which they might be, but they may also be lacking a lot to. The best feedback about how good or how bad your music is should come from people outside your circle. The streets don’t lie. Be careful when letting other producers hear your beats also. I have found that other producer can be over critical of your music and make suggestions that they would have done it this way or that way. But remember, do it your way. Don’t be a follower; there is enough of that in music today. If you live in an area where people are doing beat battles, this is a good way to see if your beats are up to par. If no one is doing beat battles in your area maybe you need to put one together in your community. With the invention of the Internet this is a great way to get feedback from people who don’t have a vested interest in your welfare. You can always find somebody online with an opinion.

8. When too much Gear is too much!
When is having too much gear a bad thing? Normally I would say never, but when you have a bunch of gear you can’t work properly or understand the ends and outs of them, it does you no good. It’s better to have a few pieces of gear that you know real well than to have a whole gang of gear that you can’t work. The biggest problem I see is people who can’t get specific gear to work together. They have Triton, A MPC, Reason and Neuendo and they want to use all the pieces together and have no idea how to hook it all up. If you can’t or haven’t mastered the basics of MIDI then don’t try to go out and spend $5,000 dollars on a studio set up you can’t take full advantage of. If you are in a situation where you’ve got a bunch of equipment and you’re not sure about how to work, it, that’s when you’ve got to get out and start networking with people who know what’s going on. There’s always somebody who will help you learn your equipment even if you have to pay them.

9. What Equipment Should Every Hip Hop Producer Have?
Buying equipment depends on one big thing. It all depends on your budget and how much you have to spend. If you’ve got the cash and resources then it’s best to have some hardware equipment and mix it with some software. The staple in Hip Hop for years has been the MPC drum machine series. A lot people are discovering Roland’s MV 8000 as being comparable to the MPC 4000. MPC drum machines start at $999.00 for the MPC 1000 laptop version and goes up to about $2500 for the MPC 4000. A lot of software users prefer software like Reason 3.0 for making beats and a program called FL studio but also known as Fruity Loops. When it comes to Keyboards I like the Triton and Motif, but if you want some pretty good sounds on a smaller budget maybe you can invest in a sound module. A sound module is a keyboard without the keys. All the sounds are there but you don’t have the keys. You will have to have a midi controller, a keyboard without sounds to control the sounds coming out of the module via MIDI.

10. Your Beat CD
When you make and produce beats and you need to send a beat CD to someone who is interested in purchasing your beats, don’t send a beat CD with more than 15 beats on it. A&R, Artist, managers and most people shutdown after listening to so many beats. You have to remember that they are not only listening to your beat CD but they could be listening to various other producers beat CD’s as well. Always put your hottest material first on your beat CD. I know this sound like common sense but if you produce hip hop beats don’t send your CD to a Country music publisher, save the postage. Don’t get stuck thinking that hip hop is just for rappers. You can sell your music to advertisers, web developers and others. I once sold beats to a woman who was putting together a workout DVD for children, so don’t just limit yourself to artists.

Beat Basics - Hip Hop Production Tips 101 Vol.#2
Written by: Kyle Van Deville

This section deals with various ideas to improve your production skills and the organization of your overall production business. Some of these tips may or may not apply to everybody but we hope you find these tips useful.

This is tricky question. If you produce beats, you probably don’t need a website to be successful in the production game. I will say this you at least need an email address and some business cards. I don’t take dudes serious if they don’t have an email address. Business cards are good also. If you meet someone, hand him/her a business card. It’s a lot better than writing your number on back of a McDonald’s napkin. As far as a website, go I think it’s important to have some kind of web presence, but it may not be mandatory. If you don’t have the cheese to build you own website there are good alternatives like where you can put your picture, music and info about what you’re up to. And there is good site for producers called I recommend that you at least use soundclick or myspace to build some type of web presence. Your competition may have something like this or their own website and this may be a vehicle for them to get their music to their clients a lot faster.

I knew two producers who were pretty hot with the beat game. They had been working together for a few years, but they also produced beats separately. They also had made a pact to never use the MPC drum machine series. They also despised Pro Tools. They both were anti Pro Tools and anti Akai MPC. Their reason was they felt the masses use these pieces and they felt that they had to be different from the crowd. So they swore off the MPC and Pro Tools. Don’t pigeon hole yourself into to stupid rules like this? You never know when something can be an improvement to your beat making success. There are pieces of equipment that I don’t like but, I’m not making any rules that I would never use them. I might end up liking something about that gear later on down the road. Some guys say stuff like, “I don’t use strings in my beats.” I think this kind of stuff is just plain stupid. You should never limit yourself in this universe. If it’s available, take advantage of it.

You want to make it in the beat game. You have to let people hear your music if your going to be successful. But who do you give your music to and who do you not give your music to? Who can you trust? I have a horror story for you. A friend of mine was a young up and coming producer. He had networked with a guy who was a manager, slash A&R guy out in LA. He would send the manager his beats on CD. The manager would go thru the beat CD and pick which beats he thought were hot, he would then ask the producer to send the MPC midi data on Floppy disk for the tracks he thought were hot. He told him he was going to have them mixed out in LA, to present to different clients.
To make a long story short, he found out that the manager was presenting those tracks as his own and selling them for $40,000 a pop. He would tell the producer he sold them for $2,000 and break him off about $800. This is an extreme case of being ripped off but it can happen. Don’t send anybody the raw data to your tracks until some paper work is signed and your being compensated appropriately. Don’t send any one your Pro Tools sessions without getting some paper work. It’s tough enough that a lot people will hire producers to mimic your beats. I’ve had this happen to me. I sent beats to a manager in LA that I later found out had no interest in signing me to her company, she just wanted ideas for her production staff. With all that said, you can’t be overly paranoid or you’ll never be successful, but you do have to be careful.

Sampling has always been a staple of hip hop production. Just think about it. Even though “Rappers Delight” (Sugarhill Gang, Sugarhill Records, First Rap song to be released on a national scale.) was not a sample of Good Times by Chic, it was played note for note by a studio band. This set the stage for Hip Hop and Rap to be built on the foundation of other people’s music. Sampling will always be apart of Hip Hop. I’m not one who thinks Hip Hop is better when you play all the instruments, nor do I believe that sampling is the best way to put rap beats, together. I think it all depends how it’s done.
If you’re sampling from vinyl, it’s always a good idea to clean the wax before you sample the part you’re trying to sample. When you do sample from records, try to make sure you get a good loud clear signal, but make sure you don’t distort the signal. I used to sample with the MPC 3000 and there was no WAV form to look at with this sampler. So when you sampled with the 3000, you had to rely on you’re ears to make sure your loop point was correct. Even if you can see the WAV’ it’s a good Idea to listen to your sample and rely lest on the WAV. I recommend that you don’t put a lot of effects on your samples. If you do want to put effects on your samples, do this during mixdown.

Midi is made to transmit data. Events, like notes, program changes and midi messages.
Midi is not audio, nor does it make sound. I run into a lot of new producers who get midi mixed up with an audio signal. Midi messages include controller data, timing information and internal parameters. A midi sequencer will record wyou midi data from a keyboard or sound module and play back the note data you played. It will play the notes back at the same note variation, duration, velocity, and volume you played them at. When the MIDI data is played back it will signal the keyboard or sound module to send an audio signal to the speakers. Midi consists of basically a couple of elements, you will have a MIDI IN port and a MIDI out Port. Each port can transmit sixteen MIDI channels. There are a lot of good books on MIDI. I suggest if you’re confused about MIDI, you should invest in a book and get the basics down. It will improve your knowledge and definitely help your production skills.

In the recording world the hardest thing to capture and record accurately are vocals. When you record vocals you want to do everything possible to get the best recording of the vocals. In most cases, the vocals are the most important part of the song, the vocals are the song. To capture vocals you need to invest in a good microphone and invest in some room acoustics and room treatment. There’s nothing worse than trying to record in a hollow room with no treatment. You want to try to deaden your room. You can deaden the room by adding carpet to the floor and acoustic panels to the wall. You want to create a proper acoustic environment for recording vocals. Your vocal room also needs to be a comfortable and clean environment so that your vocalist feels at ease and relaxed. When you record vocals you want to get a good level. The hardest thing to mix is a vocal track that is recorded way to low and muffled. When setting up your microphone it needs to be positioned so that it is about seven to twelve inches away from the singer/rapper’s mouth. If the microphone is too close it can cause the vocal to record muffled and muddy. It’s a good idea to use a compressor on the vocals to keep the dynamics of the recording at an even level without any peaks. It’s a good idea not to treat the vocals with any effects until mixdown.

The mistake a lot of young producers make is keeping their production to simple. They use one kick drum sound, one snare sound, one hi hat in their drum programming. It never dawns on them to layer drum sounds to create a thick dynamic sound. Layering different snares is a great way to create a hot snare that pops in your track. Using more than one Kick drum is a good idea also. You can have the Kick drum layered where it follows the same pattern as the other kick drum. But you can also have the 2nd kick drum do something a little different in the drum program to give the beat a different feel. Every beat doesn’t have to have a complex drum pattern, but it’s a good idea to have something that moves the crowd.

You should sample in stereo to get full sounding sample. Back in the day, people sampled in mono because of a lack of memory the samplers had, but now days that is usually not an issue. Don’t distort your sample by sampling them too hot. I think a good rule for sampling is if it was a hit back in the day, it will sound good today. Some people think they can find some obscure sample that was a dud in 1975 and make people like it in the 21st century. Music is universal, if wasn’t a hit then, it probably won’t work now. But hey, that’s not written in stone, if you can add something to it and flip it correctly maybe, just maybe, you can make a strong beat. Just because Kanye sampled it already, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. But if you use it, don’t do it the same way he did it. You’ve got to put a brand new twist on it.

Don’t get stuck using the same tempos on all your beats. Some guys use the same tempo on all their beats. Try to add some variety by using different tempos. If you use a sample, try speeding up or slowing down the sample from it’s original tempo. I had a girl call me one day who was using a MC-909 from Roland. I had sent her some samples and she couldn’t figure out the tempos. I told her that the MC-909 has what is called tap tempo on the front panel, which would allow her to tap along with the tempo of the sample to figure out what the tempo is. She argued and swore up and down that MC-909 didn’t have a tap tempo button. That made me realize that she didn’t know her equipment very well. Using different tempos is a good idea when selling beats, cause not every rapper sounds good on a beat at 107BPM, and some rappers sound better on slow beats around 76BPM. It really depends on the rapper.

I have had a lot of new producers ask me how do you start producing a beat. They asked “don’t you always start with the drums.” One guy said you always should start your beats with the melody. Generally there is no rule to how you start a beat. I have been setting at the keyboard and hit a note that inspires me to lay the melody first. Other times I start with the drum program. Sometimes I find a hot sample and go with the sample and build around it. I have also been inspired by somebody else’s music that they have composed and started with the same chords and built a totally different track around the same chords. There are no rules to how you start a beat, you might lay a cool Hi Hat track and build around that. The most important thing is that you enjoy making beats and that you are being your most creative.

Beat Basics - Understanding EQ
Written by: Kyle Van Deville

(EQ)Equalization is used to either amplify, brighten a signal by making it louder or attenuate, making the signal duller by making it quieter. To understand EQ, you must understand what frequencies that are involved in EQ. Frequency is measured in Hz (hertz) or KHz (Kilohertz), which refers to the number of complete sound waves – or cycles- that pass a certain point during one second. The greater the number of repeats produces a higher frequency and a higher pitch. The audible frequency spectrum is about 20Hz to about 20KHz (20,000Hz). A hertz is a unit of frequency that is used to measure the frequency rate of a sound wave. It is used universally as a standard for frequency levels. You also need to understand what a decibel is to have an understanding of EQ. A decibel is a measurement used to describe the sound pressure level or intensity of sound. (db) Decibel is the standard for determining the volume level of sounds.

There are two types of Equalization, parametric EQ and graphic EQ. Parametric equalization allows adjustment of any frequency in the sounds as well as its bandwidth. Graphic Equalization allows adjustment of limited number of frequencies like bass.

EQ can be broken down into hi and lows and mids. Low mid EQ can put warmth and body into vocals and instruments. If you cut the EQ, it can really improve the clarity of some sounds, by reducing harsh and booming tones. A good setting for vocals is 250 Hz. The HI EQ is used to raise the upper harmonics of a sound. It’s great for putting flare into acoustic guitar and piano tracks and putting steam in vocal tracks. (+3k +500Hz).

Lo EQ is great tool for bass control. It’s a low –frequency shelving to add or remove bass in a smooth way. It’s also good for working on Bass drums, Bass guitar, fattening up or thinning out a piano or forming the whole mix.

EQ should be used for sonic enhancement and sonic correction. If you would like to bring out the upper harmonics of an instrument you can boost the EQ between 250hz and 400hz. If you need to make you vocal track more distinguishable boost the track 3k to 5k. If you want that telephone effect on your vocals, remove all the bass, low –mids and highs from the track and boost the high-mid frequencies.

Using EQ on the overall sound can be tricky sometimes, less is better than more in this situation. When using EQ on bass guitar and drums and other instruments, balance and separation is the most important thing to consider. One thing you must determine is what sounds are going to be the deepest in the mix, the bass guitar or the bass kick drum sound. When you EQ the Bass drum try boosting the lows and cutting some of the low mids on the drum sound. This will leave room for the Bass Guitar sound in low–mid range. To keep everything sonically balanced, keep in mind the over all range of all your frequencies and where the instruments set in the mix.

EQ is an exceptional tool for shaping your sound and controlling the tones and sonic quality of your mix. So when your mix needs something that you can’t quite put a finger on, just remember it might need a little EQ.

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