by Anders Johanson January 09, 2021 12 min read
A beat maker is usually the person who comes up with melodies, drum patterns and loops. Beat makers don’t necessarily care about fleshing out the loop and making it into a full song. If they have 8 bars of a loop that sounds good, the beat maker’s job is done. The next step would be to send the loop to a producer or an artist who has a production team behind him. The producer’s job is to structure the loop and introduce different sections like verses, choruses, or even a bridge. A producer can also add new musical instruments to the loop to beef it up and add variation. However, the producer doesn’t have the full creative control because the artist’s input matters a lot as well. Typically, producers and artists work closely together. They strive to achieve a balance so that both the artist’s creative vision, as well as the producer’s input, is respected.
There’s often a debate about the importance of beat makers in the process of creating a song. Sometimes beat makers’ role is looked down upon because all they do is make loops. Producers, on the other hand, enjoy a lot more respect because they turn those loops into hits. For that reason, most beat makers don’t want to be labeled as such and often refer to themselves as producers, although they rarely step outside their house to work with artists in-person. Those who are ambitious enough do try to forge relationships within the music industry to make that step up and graduate to being a real producer. But the truth is, there’s no shame in being a beat maker. Without beat makers there would be no songs. It is the beat maker who provides the musical foundation, the proverbial fertile soil that allows for creativity to prosper. Without the beat maker’s skills to combine sounds tastefully, there would be no musical idea for the artists or producers to draw their inspiration from.
One of the most common questions asked today is, "how do I start producing music at home" or "how can I make my own beat?" To start making your own beats, you need some basic equipment. Don’t get discouraged when you see beat makers in fancy studios surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of hardware. You don’t need that kind of environment to get started. Your beginnings can be humble, and over time you can always add more equipment to your home studio as you become more and more serious about making music.
This question always comes up, the notorious "what is the best DAW" or FL Studio vs. Ableton As of now, we’ve spoken about beat makers in the context of different roles that participate in the creation process of songs. Sometimes DAWs are also referred to as beat makers. In short, the term beat maker can refer both to a person who makes beats as well as the software that was used. There is no definitive answer to the question of what is the best beat maker software on the market. Nowadays, the products have a lot of similarities, and the decision which DAW to use mostly comes down to personal preference. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular options available to help you make up your mind.
AKAI MPC Beats: Released this year by the company AKAI, MPC Beats is a beat-making digital audio workstation that is completely free, and easy to use. AKAI has long been one of the leading creators of MIDI keyboards and sampling hardware, but this year they decided to expand into the world of DAWs by offering a workstation aimed specifically at beat makers and hip hop producers. Downloading the workstation could not be easier, and there are plenty of resources available online teaching you how to use the software. If you want to make a beat, AKAI MPC Beats put itself at the top of the beat making software game. In a market where there was previously some steep competition, MPC Beats shines as a free option for beat making software, and I know we can all afford free. AKAI MPC Beats was designed to seamlessly integrate with any of the MIDI controllers in their line of products, so if you are looking for beat making software to help you produce your own tracks and sell beats online, you should already be downloading this.
If you are on Windows and don’t want to spend any money on a beat making software, check out Cakewalk by BandLab. This DAW used to be known as Cakewalk Sonar — a paid software that cost around $500, but it was discontinued in late 2017. The program became completely free after BandLab took over the intellectual property rights in 2018. So if you want to get your hands on a DAW that used to be expensive, was developed for many years but is now available at no cost, try it out. The only disadvantage of using it might be the fact that it has a low user base since many people switched to other products when the future of Cakewalk looked uncertain.
For all the Mac users, there’s one really good free beat maker, and that is GarageBand. You could describe it as the little brother of Logic Pro. The two programs are so similar that you can open your GarageBand projects in Logic. This is especially useful if you are just starting out and want to experiment with free software before moving on to something more professional. None of your GarageBand projects will get lost, and you can easily continue working on your best beats inside Logic Pro once you decide to make that upgrade. Another advantage is that GarageBand is available on all iOS devices. If you happen to be on the road and don’t have your laptop at hand, you can use your iPhone to capture those strokes of inspiration. You shouldn’t underestimate GarageBand just because it is free. In fact, whole albums have been recorded inside it. One such example is the New York rapper Prince Harvey who secretly recorded a full album using a display laptop in an Apple Store. This truly shows that not having access to a paid software shouldn’t be an obstacle for you to start making beats.
It would be naive to assume that professional beat makers have some magic secret software that allows them to produce hits consistently. The truth is, any popular beat making program is good enough to make a hit song. It’s not the software that is important but rather the creativity of the person who uses it. The more experience you have with making beats, the likelier it is that one day your beat will be picked up by a professional artist. So a word of advice: Don’t focus too much on the software. Stick to the one that appeals to you the most, master it and get as much practice making beats as you can. It doesn’t even matter whether you have the latest software. Some well-known producers stick to older versions of their favorite DAW simply because that is what they are used to working in. Even if a recent release of a particular DAW has more bells and whistles about it, your creativity and workflow will always be the most important elements.
To give you some real examples from the industry and prove the point above once and for all, let’s take a look at some of the biggest hip-hop hits of our recent times.
Comparing FL Studio to Ableton Live can feel like comparing Nike to Adidas. Both tools are exceptional, and your affinity towards one or the other will largely depend on subjective reasons such as: What does your favorite producer use? Which software did you discover and try out first? If you are still having a hard time choosing between FL Studio and Ableton Live, here’s a quick overview to help you decide.
FL Studio has a free demo version, and Ableton Live offers a free 90 days trial. If you are still undecided, try both of them out and see which one resonates more with you.
There are two types of equipment used to create beats and compose music: digital and analog. While both categories are constantly being innovated upon, the basics have stayed relatively constant. Analog equipment refers to the use of older mechanical and electrical parts, such as potentiometers, stylii, and tape. The benefit to this is its warmth; the sounds are less digitized and more fluid. The disadvantage is that because it uses mechanical parts, it can be more prone to breaking down. Digital equipment, on the other hand, uses integrated circuits and memory chips. While this makes it less "warm" sounding, it also makes it more reliable. Of course, the quality and brand of the equipment can make a difference in the sound as well. When producing music, the producer uses both of these to mix and create the song. You can find a wide selection of both types of equipment at a store like https://www.sweetwater.com/. While most of the producers mentioned above have their own professional recording studio to work out of, there are still ways to get a professional sound without all the cost.
Writer and musician based in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Hannah. Extensive career as both a writer and a musician previously working with brands such as Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, and Sports Illustrated. As a musician, Anders has played in several bands throughout the last decade, and has experience in touring, booking, band management, engineering, producing, mixing, and composing. Anders has recently composed music for short films and media presentations in universities, and has launched a podcast focusing on giving musicians and artists a place to talk about their work and the process behind their creation.
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