2 posts categorized "Production Setup"

April 02, 2011

No Quick-Fix Core Setup

Building Out the Setup That’s Right for You, Means Taking No Shortcuts

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

When it comes to beatmaking setups, if there's almost one sure thing, it's the likelihood that you will, at some point, add and/or subtract something from your setup. Indeed, the right core setup is not something that most beatmakers obtain easily, or early. Although some beatmakers are still using the exact core setup that they began with, many more are using a core setup that is different from the one that they began with.

For years people have asked me one of the most deceptively simple questions, "What do I need to make beats?" Well, the truth is, what I need, what someone else needs, and what you need are three entirely different things. Because each of us are different—in terms of taste, creative style, and work ethic—it naturally follows that each beatmaker needs the music production tools that are best suited for them. Now, it's certainly understood that beatmaking requires specific electronic music production tools. However, although these tools may share some similarity in the functions that they embody, the ways in which these functions manifest themselves in an individual's own music-making style and workflow differs dramatically.

This brings me to the point of the article: No quick-fix core setup. I've received many questions about "how to make my drum sound like MPC drums," or "What's the best way to customize .wav file sounds?" Typically, these sort of questions are followed by, "Should I just get...?" Thing is, many beatmakers approach building a setup like they're trying patch multiple holes in a broken water pipe system. Sticking with this analogy, one must recognize when it's time to not merely add or replace a pipe here and there, but instead, to replace the system itself.

Thus, when building out your beatmaking (music production) setup, I strongly recommend that you do not take the "quick-fix" approach. That is to say, take no shortcuts! Whether you have the financial resources at the time or not, invest in the sort of music production tools that fit your personal approach to creativity and your preference for working within a hardware or software environment. And keep this in mind: More often than not, the beatmaking tools that are right for you are usually the tools that are perhaps most right for the sound and style that you're trying to achieve.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

March 24, 2011

Beatmakers and Trade Secrets

Shop-Talk Elevates the Beatmaking Art Form and Tradition

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Musicians have long shared tricks of their trade amongst each other. It's a tradition as old as popular music itself. However, for some reason, many beatmakers (producers) pride themselves upon keeping a vale of secrecy over their beatmaking methods. What gives?

I could speculate about the cultural undertones of this, but that's not what this piece is about. On the contrary, this article is about why the notion of secrecy (specifically among some well-known beatmakers {*producers*}) in beatmaking is ridiculous. As I told a fellow beatmaker the other day, "there are NO secrets between real musicians!" What I was saying (and he understood immediately) was that dedicated musicians share a common fundamental goal: to develop their skills and elevate their craft. Indeed, this is why we constantly seek out people and resources that we believe will help us reach that goal. In this regard, beatmakers should not view themselves any different. We are musicians, and as such, we stand to benefit a great deal from an exchange of information.

No Two Beatmakers Are One in the Same

Regardless of the method or technique used, no two beatmakers are the same. Given the same tools and the same understanding, each of us will inevitably develop our own approach. And I've found that it is within this approach that you find the most interesting "secrets." But instead of having an attitude that promotes the talking of shop (beat talk, if you will), when pressed for specific ideas, secrets, and the like, some beatmakers clam up, or offer the proverbial: "don't wanna' give the secrets away." Huh? What's that all about.

Listen, at face value, there are NO magic secrets that can instantly transform a beatmaker's skills. Secrets (or better yet, pointers, tips, hints, insights) are only as good as the beatmaker who understands them and can, in turn, incorporate them into what they're already doing. For example, DJ Premier is known for his drums, chops, and his ability to finesse the bass out of the breaks that he chooses to use. However, there is no doubt (and he has said as much), that he would not have been able to develop those skills, had it not been for Large Professor. As Premier told me (rather matter-factly), it was Large Professor—another beatmaking pioneer in his own right—who showed him how to filter bass sounds in samples, and also how to make the Akai S950 really work for him. In turn, Premier introduced Large Professor to a new way of diggin' in the crates and surveying music. And before that, another beatmaking pioneer, Showbiz, schooled Premier on diggin' in the crates and surveying music. Thus, these examples of sharing trade "secrets" demonstrates how, for each of the aforementioned beatmaking pioneers, the common goal was to get better and elevate the art form.

Needless to say, I've always been against the notion of not not sharing knowledge ("secrets"). In fact, those who know me, know very well that I consistently share as much as I can, whenever I'm asked by a fellow beatmaker. Likewise, some of the most well-known beatmakers have shared as much as they could with me. Also, consider this, even if one beatmaker breaks down their entire beatmaking process to another beatmaker, chances are, the latter beatmaker isn't going to utilize everything that he (or she) learns from the former. Not at all. The latter beatmaker is only going take what he needs and/or can use from the other beatmaker's process. It's this sort of exchange that each beatmaker can use to further develop their skills.

Final note, keep this in mind: the entire beatmaking (hip hop/rap production) tradition is only as good as its weakest beatmaker. Hence, there's merit in all of us trying to help each other step up our skills.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

Dedicated to exploring the art of beatmaking in all of its glory.

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