Hey! Making Hip Hop beats is one of my favourite things to do. I love the energy of all sorts of ‘Hop’ related to Hip Hop; Glitch, Trippy, Jazzy, Bluesy, Dub and so on – so I decided to share some insights! How can you make your project groove the way you envision it? How can you keep it interesting and dynamic? Here are 7 Tips & Tricks for Producing Hip Hop Instrumentals!
Note: All these tips & tricks definitely apply to Hip Hop, but a lot of them generally apply as well!
1. Experiment with the bpm
Whenever you’re working on a project you start from a selected bpm. I advice you to – mid project – experiment with the bpm! Sometimes it’ll do wonders for the flow & groove! It’s very interesting to see how your mind will respond to bpm changes as well. If you get used to the lower bpm – for example – you may notice how the original bpm seems really fast! Funny thing about the brain.
2. Swing & Off-positioning
Look for a swing option in your DAW. What swing does is apply off-positioning to your samples (kicks, snares, hi-hats etc.) to the degree you set the swing to. Meaning; the normally perfectly symmetric placed drums now aren’t perfectly snapped any more. -> This will sometimes give your beat way more groove for a nice old fashioned headbang! It also makes your sequence come across more organic (drummers aren’t perfectly snapping every drum on beat). So even if you apply it slightly (barely noticable off-positioning) it will give your beat a more natural feel.
You can definitely do this manually if you feel the swing-option isn’t working for you. Oftenly I do it manually with specific samples and keep a lot of the basics snapped into perfect position. It all depends on your production and what kind of groove you’re looking for!
If you’re looking for a vintage, original feel to your Hip Hop beat, slightly deviate the volumes of – for example – your snares from your snare loop. See it like this; a drummer never has the same exact amount of impact when he hits the snare. That is what makes it natural. So applying some volume variations in static elements can give you just that edge you’re looking for!
4. Natural Reverbs
If you’re looking to give your beat an original or even vintage feel, look for natural reverberation! Lets take the drummer as an example again. When he plays in a smokey lounge setting – for example – his drums will sound differently from playing in a wide theater. So what effect are you looking for?
If you’re looking to gain some knowlegde about reverb, read our Basics of Reverb article!
Creating barely noticable layers in your track can enrich the experience as a listener! Experiment with ambiences for your track. Lets say you’re making a chill-hop track. You could try out sampling stuff like; vinyl-crackling, city-sounds, nature-sounds etc.
Not looking for that kind of feel? You can still work on your ambience! A neat trick is for example to take a lead of your song, clone it or bounce it to WAV, then approach the filtering differently. What you can then do is let it harmonize with the already existing lead. You can let it play along on a very soft volume. Maybe even on a slightly different timing. A different pan-position. A different pitch maybe? Different stereo-imaging? A lot of times you’ll even have succes when you simply change the octave.
You can do this with one sample but how about the whole instrumental? Import your instrumental as a wav and let it play along on a very gentle volume and different pitch. Who knows right?
This type of experimentation can give nice warm layers to your production! Of course it doesn’t stop at the above, try to apply crazy stuff to your project and just see what happens!
6. Building and Destroying
The following concept helped me out A LOT. We have a tendency to keep progressing and building. However, it doesn’t hurt to apply some degression or destruction. (This can ultimately be progression!). What I mean is, instead of constantly adding sounds and elements, take the time to see what happens with your track when you start muting stuff. Maybe your track will sound nicer without certain stuff! It could also create room for sicker stuff!
This method is worth to trying out. I’m very confident that if you aren’t already doing it, it will be a positive factor for your productions!
Sample the heck out of stuff! Like; sound from your environment, sounds from the web, old vintage records etc. Whenever you start to listen to éverything you hear with a double-ear – normal listening and analytical – you will notice how sounds all around you have so much potential musically! Next to that, it really stimulates your creativity and can give you ideas you’ve never thought of!
Also, a lot of old projects you might have, could have some very dope sounds to simply rip out of context and apply to a brand new project. Why not right! You’ve put effort into designing something so why not use it in new ways to see what happens!
I hope this article was helpful! For any comments on topic, feedback and so on, feel free to drop a comment below! Maybe even a request of some sorts?
Have a great day!