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’ve already mentioned in previous posts that I am a big fan of royalty free hip hop beats. I have also posted several Mixcraft demos I made with samples taken from Loopmasters libraries.
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:
- Drum & Bass Collective – Full Cycle
- Alternative House – Tim Healey & Marc Adamo
- Sound Science – Coldcut
- Deep House Producer – Harley & Muscle
- Jacked Out Future House – Joey Youngman
- Xfer – Deadmau5
- Drum & Bass Studio Technique – Drumsound & Bassline Smith
- House Generation – Marshall Jefferson
- Hip Hop & Electronica – The Nextmen
- Electro House & Breaks – Aquasky
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 …