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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Apr-16 > Beats Special! Guides to beat building and genres

Beats Special! Guides to beat building and genres

At the core of any good tune is a good set of beats. Don’t worry if you have a limited knowledge of them, or no experience in creating them, because MusicTech is here to help deliver the perfect beats and rhythms for a wide variety of genres…

MT Beats Special!

Intro guides to beats and genres

To say that the beat is an important part of the song-building process is probably one of the biggest understatements ever made. If you are in any way involved in music production, you will almost definitely have to produce and program beats and rhythms at some point. Of course, that is a bold statement – but it is almost completely true. We say ‘almost’, as it does, of course, come with caveats. You might not need to program beats because you may know – or may even be – an excellent drummer, have excellent mics, an excellent interface and a stupendous recording knowledge, so are easily able to record yourself or your excellent drummer into your DAW for all of your beat requirements.

But if you are not a percussion expert and are using technology to make your beats, then you’ve come to the right place. Using software like Live, or studio hardware like Ableton’s Push or Novation’s Launchpad is a much easier and faster way to provide the rhythmic backbone to your productions than faffing around with an entire drum kit, a player, a bunch of expensive mics (you always need expensive mics to record proper drums, otherwise why lug them into the studio?) and a multi-connected interface.

For this tutorial, we’re going to keep it as simple as we can, for a variety of reasons. We are using the latest version of Ableton Live (9.6 at the time of writing, and very nice it is, too) and we will use several of its excellent beat-building features to come up with some basic block-rocking beats. Indeed, Live is probably the DAW for beat building, as it uses some superb looping features for production and these are obviously ideal for beat creation (see below).

It’s also clearly ideal to follow our tutorial if you are an Ableton user, although all of the principles – i.e. the main beats themselves, the tempos, the effects, the actual percussive hit sounds and the placements of all of these within our loops – can be applied to any DAW, any piece of grid-based hardware sequencer, any iOS grid-based sequencer or any other piece of tech not yet invented that has kicks, snares, loops and a speaker!

1. Housekeeping

We’ll be switching around some of the features within Live just to mix things up, but will keep to the Drum Rack and two- or four-bar loops. The programming within each will still be based around placing notes as MIDI notes with the pencil tool within the loops, or pasting in several according to the grid layout and resolution.

In this way, all of the beats we produce will be easily viewable on screen, and the entire loop visible within the screen shots of this tutorial. Should you wish, you can, of course, increase the duration of your looping (or even decrease it). We’re not saying one is better than another, merely using our loops as an illustrative example.

Similarly, we won’t veer away from one type of drum kit for all of the programming we do and all of the genres we cover. Of course, not every genre uses the same drum kit, but the 909 kit in our examples is the most widely available kit for every DAW user (not just Live) and also the kit that, along with the TR-808, made dance music what it is today. So while your dubstep might use deeper subs and your house might use crisper snares, we’ll stick to showing you where the constituent parts of the beats go with our 909, and you can then use whatever sounds you want to use from there. As ever, with MusicTech tutorials, we’ll supply as much of the groundwork as we can, and from there, it’s up to you to fly away and create! Let’s get going and start programming some popular genres…

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About MusicTech

The new issue of MusicTech is on sale Thursday, March 17th and this month we’re bringing you a 'Big Beats Special!'; we gathered together as many tutorials (for all levels) to help you provide that all-important backbone to your music productions. Or if you are some kind of ambient maestro, you’ll be pleased with a certain level of synthesis achieved over our 6 Of The Best, DIY Eurorack, Sound Design and Yamaha Montage features. As ever, enjoy the issue and send us some of the resulting beats. We like to Show Off Your Studios and we’ll soon be Showing Off Your Sounds, too, so keep it all coming.