Method and Process is One Important Dimension, But a Notion of Feeling Is Also Crucial
|By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)|
As beatmaking goes, just as any other music tradition really, there are common successes, as well as common failures. And one of the great failings of many beatmakers is the inability to convey feeling in their beats.
I often stress that no matter the style or sound of beats that you prefer, the one quality that you should always strive for is “feeling” in your music. While this may seem obvious to some beatmakers, I fear that it’s often not necessarily a direct concern for many others. With the various misconceptions about the seriousness or ease of beatmaking (pushed forward by both well-known beat vets and newcomers alike), the rush to keep up with trends, and the general commercial forces surrounding hip hop/rap music, the "feeling" element often gets lost.
In hundreds of one on one conversations that I've had with beatmakers, from well-known, lesser-known, and “unknown” names, I’m always surprised whenever the notion of feeling does not enter into our discussion. I’m not sure if this is because the idea of feeling in one’s beats is overlooked or ignored by many, or perhaps just subconsciously implied. But when I consider all of the other characteristics of beatmaking that are routinely discussed (at times obsessed over), I can’t help but wonder how much the notion of feeling is fading into the background of many new beatmakers' minds.
I recently received an email question about a particular beatmaking process. As it turns out, and as I explained to the emailer, his question was actually less about process and more about the fact that he never even considered the notion of feeling when he was making beats! Specifically, his question, which was about sampling and using synths, was of the “Should I do this or that” variety. I asked him flat out: “What feeling are you trying to convey?” His reply, “What do you mean?” Clearly, he did not understand that the notion of feeling, or rather the feeling that you're trying convey is often what determines the effectiveness (success or failure) of a particular method or process, especially when it comes to sampling.
At that point in our email exchange, I explained to him that without feeling, any decision you make about process may ultimately result in a “lifeless” style and sound. Thing is, although there are many processes (some more complex/meticulous than others) in beatmaking, those individual processes/methods only account for one dimension in the overall music-making process. Another dimension, and a very important one at that, is the notion of feeling. In other words, a beat may be technically suitable, you know, drums out in front, clear bass line, etc. But a beat that's technically "correct," so to speak, is different from a beat that conveys feeling or mood. Feeling isn't something that's inherent to a given beat; it has to be thought of and cultivated. In this way, feeling is a personal extension of the individual beatmaker; it's the mood and feel that a beatmaker consciously captures.
Although I encourage every beatmaker to learn and master those processes/methods that they need in order to facilitate the kind of beats that they want to make, I’m even more concerned with encouraging beatmakers to focus more directly on injecting feeling into their beats (music). After all, the ability to convey feeling in one's beats is a key ingredient in creating emotional and intellectual responses from all listeners.