As many of you know, I’ve been making rap beats & hip hop instrumentals for quite a while… going on 10 years now! My love for rap beats first started when I was in my early teens and heard Biggie & Big L on the radio and was captivated by the music. Unlike most of my friends, who would get into fights about who was the better rapper/lyricist, I was focused on the music. I loved how Biggie focused more on his rhyme scheme, which essentially turned his voice into another instrument. Layering his voice over the drums, keyboards, guitars, etc. was the cherry on top that made him one of the best artists in the hip hop genre.
I love looking back & analyzing the music behind the beats, listening to what the producer is doing to make it sound original. Some of my favorite rap producers are listed here, like Timbaland, Just Blaze, Scott Storch, 9th Wonder, and more. What I like about each of these cats is that they make their music unique, but they all flow. The drums lock in with the bass line, the bass line compliments the melody, and the melody compliments the lyrics. These elements all work together to make the track work, and it would be incomplete if any of them were missing. My favorite type of rap instrumentals use either live or sampled instruments, which give the tracks a visceral quality that’s hard to replicate with a machine.
So how do you make your tracks sound dope? A lot of the time, the secret is in the details… like reverb. Check out a few quick tips to make your reverb add a unique sound to your mix.
You can use any DAW that you like, but I prefer using Mixcraft because it comes with several reverbs included. You can off course add other reverb plugins if you want, but the ones already included with Mixcraft 6 will do the job fine. The following tips are general rules but it does not mean that you can’t break them.
Sometimes it can be just what you need to make you song special or fresh (depending on the style) so don’t be afraid to experiment.
So here are a few tips on using reverb, especially important if you’re a beginner.
1 – Less Is More
This applies pretty much to everything, but we often forget it. For clarity, don’t overuse reverb. Do not put reverb on every track thinking it will make everything sound good or improve your song, it will not. The reverb is effective if used sparingly, only on vocals or some specific part or instrument. The end result should sound natural, so don’t overdo it.
2 – Separate Dry and Wet Signals
For clarity again and flexibility, and especially for vocals to keep the words audible, send the reverb (wet) on a separate track. This allows you to pan the dry signal and the reverb to different panning positions. It also allows you to add other effects (delay for example) on the reverb only and not the dry signal for interesting effects. This also allows you to EQ the reverb separately.
3 – Use The Right Decay Time
It is usually better to keep the reverb decay shorter than the time for one measure. This is especially important for reverb on the snare drum. The tail of the reverb on a snare be dead before the bass drum kicks in.
4 – No Reverb On Bass
Unless it is really what you are looking for, do not use reverb on low frequencies such as bass or the bass drum, it just makes them sound muddy and you simply loose punch.
5 – Use Delay effects Instead Of Reverb
Often people will go to the reverb effect to add depth and space without thinking further. But if it does not sound right, try using a delay instead. You can get the space feeling without losing definition.
6 – Compare With Or Without Reverb
Always compare. Turn the reverb on and off while your track or mix is playing. If the effect on does not seem
right, then don’t use it! Keep it dry or consider something else (delay, eq, panning) to have the track find its place in the mix.
With practice you will learn how to use reverb properly, but it is not an easy thing. You can’t just tweak the parameters randomly and expect to find that killer reverb that just sounds right.
If you are a beginner, make sure you choose a reverb with plenty of good sounding presets. That will get you started on the right foot, but you will have to learn how to adjust the reverb parameters to get the sound right.
I like Loopmasters because they have a lot of sample collections, mostly in the electronic musical genres (house, hiphop, drum’n’bass, etc…), but also some acoustic, jazz or ethnic series. So lots of choices, and you can download a lot of samples for free too.
In their newsletter back in the spring they had a survey, to know better what their customers liked and wanted from Loopmasters. And as an incentive to participate, a draw for 10 Loopmasters sample and loop collections … and I won!
I got my prize through the mail, so actual DVDs, not just downloads. Here is a picture of my Loopmasters Prize (click on the picture to enlarge it):
A nice prize, as the total value is approximately $500. And I got some excellent libraries. Some from which I had downloaded the free samples before. But for most, I did not know them but now I am glad I own them.
So here are the 10 sample packs I won and their link to Loopmasters.com:
I must say I did not go through all of them yet, I really spent less time doing music and updating my blog this summer. But now that winter is coming, I will have more time to stay inside and play with Mixcraft 6 and these sample collections.
Coming soon: a post about The Nextmen HipHop and Electronica library, and more demo songs …
Prime Loops – Another great source for rap beat samples
Recently, I have been looking for more websites with quality samples and loops to download. I have already made several posts about Loopmasters in the past, but now I have found a few other sites that are worth mentioning. So today I will talk about Prime Loops. PrimeLoops.com is another UK based website specializing in electronic music. They provide royalty-free music loops and samples for musicians, DJs, producers, beat-makers and music lovers in general, in a variety of music styles. The sample collections are ready for download in various file formats.
PrimeLoops pros and cons
The Prime loops website is very well designed, easy to navigate. They offer over 200 sound libraries of various types (Bass samples, Drum Loops, Vocal Samples, Guitar Loops, Synth samples, Midi files, Artist Series, etc…) in various music genres (Drum’n’Bass, Dubstep, Electro, Glitch, Hip Hop, House, Pop, Rr&B, Trance, Classical, Ambient, etc…). They have also tutorials and tips, and they run competitions.
All products are exclusively available through downloads. So you cannot buy a physical copy (DVD) of a sample pack, which may or may not be a problem for you. Unfortunately, they don’t offer free loops and samples like Loopmasters do. Each product has a good demo song, but a few free samples to download would have been nice. Their price range is a little more affordable though compared to Loopmasters, I find.
According to their user testimonials, big names in the music industry use their sample libraries. If you’re interested in hip hop instrumental production, you should also check out: HipHopProduction.com
Prime Loops Download
So, like I said, unfortunately no free download of samples. But if electronic loop-based music is your thing, then Prime Loops is definitely a great source of top quality samples at affordable prices. So check it out.
The Nextmen are a duo composed of Brad Baloo and Dom Search, from Cambridge (UK).
I did not know about them. I am not sure how well they are known in North America but they seem to be pretty well known in the UK and Europe. They have released several albums and they are performing as DJs as well. Their style is a mix of HipHop, Electronica, Reggae, Funk and Club music, and once you will hear their stuff, I am sure you will become a fan like me.
The Nextmen Library Content
Their Hip Hop and Electronica collection is pretty varied, and I personally find the drum loops amazing.
Here is what’s included:
120 Instrument Sounds
120 Single Drum Samples
65 Drum Loops
65 Music Loops
46 Bass Sounds
12 Bass Pads
This library is available in many formats (Wav, Acid, Rex2, Reason Refill, GarageBand, …) as a download or as a DVD. It has a 5 stars rating with Loopmasters customers, and it received 10/10 from ComputerMusic magazine.
The Nextmen Free Samples And Demos
You want to try out a few samples? Download those free samples from The Nextmen Sample Pack (these free samples are for personal use only – you need to buy the library to use the samples commercially)
Listen to the official demo ….
Official Nextmen Hip Hop & Electronica Demo / Loopmasters (mp3)
And a little demo of mine …
My Nextmen Hip Hop & Electronica Demo – with Mixcraft (mp3)
Here is what Dom search has to say about their sample pack:
“We’ve put together a large selection of original loops, hits and phrases for you in this collection, all made The Nextmen way; that is to say with a whole load of lo-fi attitude, stellar processing and in-your-face mixing. Every element of this selection was created with one eye on the clubs. We’ve used vintage guitars, dirty old synths, mos-fet compressors, mellow EQs and a good few studio secrets to bring you ready-to-use parts that should slot nicely into your own productions. We’ve covered both retro and contemporary drum loops and hits, buzzing basslines made from layers of contrasting sounds, party-vibe lead lines and vocals, all spread over a nice range of useful tempos. We hope you enjoy using these parts as much as we did making them…”
So check out the details for The Nextmen HipHop & Electronica at Loopmasters.com. They also have a few Nextmen videos embedded on their page, worth to watch.
And finally check out this video, The Lion’s Den by The Nextmen featuring Ms Dynamite and Andy Cato …
… And don’t tell me you don’t like this beat! (great video too)
Are you wondering if you need a midi controller for Mixcraft or your preferred DAW?
Midi (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controllers do not produce any sounds. By using a communication standard, they serve 2 main purposes:
They allow you to control external midi sound modules, midi instruments or drum machines;
They let you control your music recording application: your transport controls, parameters for vst instruments and effect plugins, track automation, etc…
You don’t have to use a midi controller to make music. You can do everything using only your computer keyboard and mouse to control your DAW and play/record music. But it will be painful. Basic midi controllers cost less than a hundred dollars, so it’s a good investment if your are serious about making music.
How to choose a midi controller?
There are a lot of midi controllers available, in all price ranges and with very different features. So if you are new to making music and beats, here are a few pointers to help you choose your controller.
To select the proper midi controller for you and your home studio, you have to consider the following:
What is your music style?
Do you play any instrument?
Do you have any constraints on space and budget?
Do you need a portable controller?
What are your goals and preferences?
Will you use your midi controller on stage?
You will then be able to choose the features you need:
combination of keys, sliders, knobs, pads, buttons
number of keys: 0, 24, 49, 61, 76 or 88
keyboard with weighted, semi-weighted or synth action
audio interface included
Midi controllers are usually usb powered. Musicians into Rap/Hip Hop tend to favor midi controllers with pads (easier to program beats) and small or no keyboards. I personally went for a 49 keys midi controller keyboard.
I am not a piano player so I didn’t need 88 keys. 24 keys didn’t seem enough to me, but it might fit your needs and budget.
If you want to have a lot of control over the parameters of your DAW, you might prefer sliders or knobs, or both, and possibly a lot of them.
Some midi controllers also come with an audio interface. They are more expensive, but if you need both pieces of equipement, it could be less expensive for you than buying a controller and an audio interface separately.
Midi Controllers Suggestions
Here a few suggestions for midi controllers from reputable companies:
Pluginboutique.com, (another website from Loopmasters) is dedicated to selling virtual effects and instruments plugins online. It has now just released a new section with the best free plugins for musicians and producers all over the world!
This free custom area features all types of plugins. Effects including EQ , Distortion, Reverb, Flanger, Phaser, Chorus, Delay, Compressor, Gate, Limiter, Gain, Filter, Bit Crusher, Modulator, Randomizer, Mastering plugins, and also Synths, Drum Machines, Sequencers, Spectral Analyzers and Audio Editors.
You just need to signed up to be able to download the plugins you want. You will also be notified when the plugins you have downloaded are updated so you always have the most current version. You can sort the list of plugins by Top Downloads and Top Rated and you can rate a plugin to help other musicians/producers.
Currently the Plugin Boutique Free Area offers plugins from the a variety of companies, including Audacity, Vladgsound, Sys Audioresearch, Inear Display, Softrave, Flux, 7air Media, Sinevibes, Distorque, MeldaProduction, Blue Cat Audio, Variety of Sound, Minimal System Instruments, Syncersoft and many more.
So check out the PluginBoutique Free Plugins Area, an excellent selection of free virtual effects and instruments plugins. Download the best music production vst plugins now, at no cost.
The Electronic Musician Editors’ Choice Awards have been presented annually at NAMM for more than 20 years now. Their industry experts select the most innovative products in the field of digital audio recording and music production, and EM’s staff editors recognized Mixcraft 6 as most innovative in the DAW category, at the Winter NAMM 2013 held at the end of January in Anaheim, CA.
Also presented by Acoustica at Winter NAMM 2013, a new version of Mixcraft coming out soon: Mixcraft 6 Vocal Studio, that will be priced at $169.95. This package will include Mixcraft standard version, and the MVS USB Condenser Microphone by MXL (custom-designed for Mixcraft 6 Vocal Studio). Nothing yet about this brand new Mixcraft package on Acoustica’s website … I will keep you posted.
If you haven’t watched it yet, here is the Mixcraft 6 promo video from Acoustica:
And here is what Electronic Magazine had to say about Mixcraft version 6 at Winter NAMM 2013:
Mixcraft was always good for the price. But with Version 6, it became really good, and it’s still the same price. While it has fast, smooth workflow and tons of content, it’s set apart by video capabilities that beat any music DAW, regardless of price—including text and image inserts, clip crossfades, and automatable video processing. If anything ever qualified as the “direct-from-garage-to-YouTube” program, this is it—for less than $100.
I did a review on Sonic Producer a while back, feeling that it could be an easy way for complete newbies to start making their own beats. Well there is now a new “Beat Maker software” out on the Internet, and it’s called DubTurbo.
I bought it last week. Same price as Sonic Producer ($29.95) but it looks a lot better. I just toyed a bit with it. I will do a more in depth review later, but for today I will give you my first impressions and a quick Dub Turbo vs Sonic Producer comparison.
Online vs Download
Both are obviously targeted to the Rap and Hip Hop crowd, but Dub Turbo seems to be suited also for other electronic genres too. Sonic Producer is an online software, so no download, you have to login every time you want to use it. DubTurbo is an application that you have to download and install on your machine. The download took a while, but the installation was easy following the instructions.
Now the DubTurbo team warns you that you should adjust your computer for digital audio and you should. The program requires quite a lot of computer power because it is using (and loading) .wav files for all the samples.
And I must say that the samples library is impressive. More drum and percussions sounds that you will need, but also synths and special effects. The DubTurbo samples sound better (.wav vs .mp3) and the way you access them and choose them in the app is a lot easier than with Sonic Producer.
It is the same idea of 16 tracks for both softwares but you can add more measure with DubTurbo where it is fixed in SonicProducer. DubTurbo allows you also to load your own samples, not Sonic Producer. The pads and the standard grid is used in both to program your patterns but DubTurbo gives you also a real Piano Roll.
Where Sonic Producer took me only 5 minutes to figure out to be able to create a beat, Dub Turbo requires a bit more of effort to learn how to use it. You have to watch the videos. But it’s normal, DubTurbo offers a lot more than Sonic Producer.
I will get back with a more in depth review soon. Give Dub Turbo a try, you have a 60-day no questions asked 100% money back guarantee anyway, and make your own beats.