"Less is More" Rings True More Often than Not
|By James Halton (Uh-Oh)|
One thing I have noticed through the years with beatmakers of every level: they are trying to do too much. The phrase that always comes to mind for me is, "Less is more." It rings true in just about every art form, and making beats is no exception. Whether you are composing a non-sample-based beat or a sample-based one, it is very easy to "overdo it".
To avoid over doing it, the best thing to do is to try only use sounds and arrangements that work. Never add anything just for the sake of adding something. If an added element doesn’t compliment the music already there, don’t add it. And even if it technically works, a lot of the time you still don't need it. Less is more! For example, I have a very bad habit of overusing cymbals. Whether it’s a crash cymbal, reverse crash cymbals, or even rides, I tend to overdo it because I believing doing so gives my beats a more epic, full feel. Sometimes it’s needed and does help. But a lot of the time, I realize that the beat doesn’t suffer when I the added cymbals. So more often than not, the additional cymbals aren’t needed.
I see a lot of beatmakers who make keyboard type beats overdo it with instruments with, such as synths, strings and other sounds. There is a point where enough is enough. Just because you can layer in another sound on top, does not mean you should. But while both non-sample-based and sample-based beatmakers are guilty of overdoing it, my main emphasis is on sample-based beats.
A lot of beatmakers who are new to the art of sampling, will try to overdo it with the chops. In 2013, chances are if you are attempting to sample something, it’s sometimes safe to assume that plenty of others have tried sampling it themselves. This inspires a lot of creative competitiveness, but this also leads to many people getting carried away, especially with the number and type of chops. Sometimes a loop is going to be better than a sloppily thrown together sample arrangement of multiple chops that sort of works.
The key thing to remember in this regard is that you set the mood of the song as the producer of the music. You set the mood!. As a producer, your job is not to outshine the vocalist; you’re there to compliment them. You want to give them a soundscape they can easily express themselves on, without stepping on their toes. So for example, do you really need all of those kicks? Is it necessary for your groove? Same with snares, and hi-hats. Less is more! Just set the groove. Put yourself in the mind of the drummer. He has two sticks. Can he realistically use a crash cymbal, a hi hat, a snare drum, and a tom all at the same instant? It is good to work at keeping it as simple as possible. Sure, you can always add more. But when you’re hours into something with layers and tons of sounds, it’s a lot more difficult to go back, to the beginning and simplify it.
Editor’s note: For a deeper examination of this issue, see “Quality Parameters: Use the Right Ingredients, But Don’t Overcook the Beat,” located in Chapter 6 of The BeatTips Manual