The History



Like RnB, beat making, specifically hip hop, was born out of poor communities.  The urban ghettos were the hub of hip hop in its infancy.  With little or no money to buy instruments, young people looked at other ways to make music.  And so, in the 1970s, the turntable became the new instrument creating scratches, loops, breaks and beats.  DJs, like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash in the Bronx, NY, exploited its uses frequently.

In 1979, the first digital sampler and drum machine was produced by Roger Linn, the Linn LM-1. The following year, the Roland TR-808 drum machine would become one of the most popular electronic instruments ever made, helping to produce more hit records than any other.  Although it lacked the sophistication of the Linn LM-1, it was about a quarter of the price, and therefore, attractive to young hip hop artists producing their own music.  It also had a certain crudeness and rawness to its beats and kicks that appealed.  And it had a great impact on the emergence of new genres like  “electro-funk”, considered to be fathered by Afrika Bambaataa.  The 808 was only manufactured for three years, but second hand 808s would be used in some of the most iconic hip hop music, such as the Beastie Boys’ album License to Ill.  They combined samples of rock classics with the 808 beats.

The technology advanced swiftly in the 1980s with the release of the E-mu SP-12, and soon after, the SP-1200 which now, for the first time, had the ability to build a song using just one portable device.  The MPC60 came out in 1988, a collaboration between manufacturer Akai and producer Roger Linn.  MIDI sequencing and audio sampling were now combined with a set of velocity/aftertouch-sensitive performance pads.  Complex and eclectic mixes of samples from several genres were being recorded by producers such as Dr. Dre, Prince Paul and the Dust Brothers.

In the 1990s, the Akai company continued to build on their early gear with machines that combined a sampling drum machine with an onboard MIDI sequencer.  A new style was brought to the forefront with the 1994 release of The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die where producer Sean Combs and his assisting producers sampled entire sections of records instead of short bits of songs.  In the 2000s, this type of sampling began to peak with producers Kanye West and Just Blaze sampling soul records for Jay-Z’s album The Blueprint.  However, in September 2004, a U.S. Court of Appeals in Nashville set a new precedent with musical copyright infringement by ruling that a license is needed in every case of sampling.  After the ruling, a shift towards live instrumentation began.


In the last 20 years, the cost effective digital audio workstations (DAWs) and software sequencers have been used in much of modern hip hop production. One of the earliest DAWs that is still in use today is Steinberg’s Cubase, originally released in 1989 for the Atari 520ST and 1040ST and MIDI only.  Since then, countless DAWs have entered the market, changing how music is made today. Despite some producers being against complete dependency on DAWs, debating their overall quality and lack of identity in computer-bred beats, the demand for DAWs and top-notch beat makers continues to grow as does the technology.
Source: Da History

The secret of the MPC Groove

MPC groove is kind of an urban legend. The real story is your cuts/edits are out of sync because there was no visual editor on the famed MPC3000 nor the MPC60. Even after you quantized, the samples were still off because of the splices. You can replicate this in your DAW software using the delay feature, adding or subtracting milliseconds to samples to add groove.

For example in Ableton Live, you can do the following to your samples:


The pad-based Akai MPC samplers were all the rage in the early hip-hop days and are still popular today, as they let producers tap out their own grooves. You don’t need an MPC to play your own groove – you could use any MIDI controller, or perhaps beatbox and use hitpoint editing.


Source: Tips & Tricks


So you wanna make beats?  Here is my top 10 list of things used to make a beat and notice I did not say top 10 things you need.  Everything in this list is not necessarily needed, but if you have or are able to possess some of these items, you will definitely be good to go.

This is a pretty important piece of equipment to have because it pretty much runs everything.
This item like others on this list will require you to make some make beatsdecisions.  Two of the biggest choices you have to make is whether you want a PC or MAC computer and the other choice lies between a laptop or desktop.  Everyone has their own opinion between MAC and PC, but I can tell you that PC will be the cheaper of the two.  A laptop will give you portabilty while a desktop will more likely have a greater performance when it comes to speed, memory, and storage.  I would encourage looking at the specs before purchasing.  A good rule of thumb is to have at least 4GB.


2. DAW (Software)
make beatsThis stands for Digital Audio Workstation which serves as your music software  installed to your computer.  In  order to edit and record your beat, you need some type of DAW to perform this.  Popular examples include Ableton Live, Logic, Protools, Reasons and Sonar.  If you are on a budget, Garageband comes with a Mac computer and a very nice demo version of FL Studio can be downloaded for free on a PC.  Even though these all basically work the same except for the learning curves,  I would recommend the last two for beginners since they are the easiest.

make beats       The audio interface is what connects your audio or sound source to your
       computer.  Your sound source could be an instrument or microphone which we will discuss later. This is a  must have if you are gonna use a computer!  The price range can start from $99 on up.  It’s important to note  that some  audio interfaces come with music production software such as the PreSonus AudioBox USB 2×2 USB Recording Interface which comes with Studio One Artist.


If your plan is to use computers, I also recommend the purchase of an external hard drive.  You need this to back up all the files you create for safe keeping.  Imake beats can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost music from not saving or backing up a session.  Also, this allows your computer to perform more efficiently if you record directly to your external hard drive instead of your internal drive which is the actual computer.  They can store anywhere from 500 GB on up at really affordable prices.


A Midi Controller allows you to play and records sounds into your computer.    The midi controller usually comes in the form of a keyboard and is used to make beats mpk minicommunicate with your computer through cable connections.  You will need either MIDI or USB cables in order to make the connections.  After you’ve done this you can press the keys to make your beats using the various sounds and virtual instruments coming from your DAW.  Believe it or not, its easy to find these for really cheap even if you have to go to a pawn shop.  Personally, I have the one you see to the left called the Akai Professional MPK Mini Keyboard Controller for less than $100.

Any keyboard that has MIDI will work by the way.


The best way to record vocals for your beat is to have a solid microphone. This is an example of a dynamic mic
piece of equipment that will connect to your audio interface.  I prefer using a condenser mic which needs phantom power provided by your audio interface via the 48 volt button.  However, if you wanted to you could use a dynamic mic such as a Nady PCM-200 Pro Classic Dynamic Mic
which doesn’t need phantom power.  A nice quality mic can run less than $100 so if you are just beginning, you don’t have to break your bank.


make beats headphones
Some use headphones and others use speakers to monitor what’s  being recorded.  If you have a computer then it should have speakers if you can’t afford to purchase studio monitors.  The other option is to go with headphones  that  preferably cover the ears so that it kills background noise while mixing and or recording. I would recommend the AKG K 240 Studio.


If you wanna make beats without a computer, this is the way to go.  The only catch is that make beats mpc2000xl
the drum sampler must be able to operate without a computer.  Many of the newer models have integrated with software meaning that a computer is required.  Im not referring to those, however I will list my all time favorite….  The Akai Professional MPC2000XL ! I’ve used this for years and don’t see myself getting rid of it anytime soon.

For beginners, I would proudly recommend the MPC 1000 for its ability to function with or without a computer and for the fact that it comes with sounds built in.  Drum machines/samplers can be found all the time on ebay which is where I got mine.


make beats
This item is usually used with the drum sampler because it plays the vinyl records that are being sampled.  This is probably the purest form of HipHop even though nowadays any form of media can be sampled.  This is very cost effective from the fact that you can find these at the Goodwill, pawn shop, online, or maybe your grandmother’s house.  All you have to do now is collect records and start sampling.


Without having the quality of being creative, a very sick beat cannot be made. I often make beatsshare with cats, that the equipment you use does not make the beat.  YOU DO!  The most horrible sounding beat can be made in a state of the art studio with top of line equipment and a timeless sounding classic beat can be made on a used piece of gear from a bedroom.  The difference is in the person making the beat and using their creativity.  Feel free to write any comments or thoughts on this list.  Thanks for taking the time to read this!

source: Useful equipment

How to make your drums sound “Live”

Nowadays it’s easy to create a quick drum loop with all the different programs available (Pro Tools, Logic, FL Studio etc). Within a few seconds you can click and drag any drum pattern you got in mind. The only “problem” is that most of the time the drums sound computerized and don’t got that human live feel/sound to it. Instead of having that bounce/groove it just sounds real static.

Fortunately there are a bunch of ways to (re-)create that feel/sound or at least make it sound as live as possible, just by using your ears and spending some extra time on your drum programming.

In this article I’m going to show you a bunch of techniques that will help elevate your drum patterns.

First of all you need to know “how” you want your drum pattern to sound. Do you want it to sound like a heavy Rock record? A smooth 70’s soul ballad? Or maybe a super grooving Funk track?
I always say that “the most important thing of making music is listening” so once you know exactly what drum sound you want for your track a great help is listening to some of your favorite tracks with that sound. If you chose for a smooth 70’s soul drum sound go and listen to some of your favorite Motown records for example. Just study every aspect of that drum sound; How does the kick sound? How does the snare hit? How hard does the drummer hit the cymbals? How does the reverb sound? Does it sound like the drummer is playing in a huge concert hall or just in a small garage? How loud does the drummer play? How is the timing of the drums? Is the snare coming slightly late or maybe he is trying to sound as tight on the click track as possible? Where does he place the fills? How are the dynamics? Is he constantly hitting every note as hard as possible? Or are some notes much softer than others? Etc etc.

Choosing drum sounds
Once you know exactly “how” you want your drums to sound it’s time to choose your drum samples/sounds.

Make sure you select your drum samples very carefully. If you’re going for a live sound use drum samples that already sound live or sample of a live drum recording. For example on Shroomadelic Drums Vol. 1 I sampled a lot of my own drum recordings I recorded in major studios over the years but I also sampled of existing drum recordings and tweaked them so they sound totally different than the original.

But sometimes if you want for example a Snare to sound exactly like the Snare on a specific record you love and there is a part in that record where you just hear the drums playing without any other sounds, it might be the best to just sample that Snare and leave it as is instead of spending hours to re-create that exact sound.

Also if you’re trying to get a live drum sound use a few sounds that sound slightly different from each other. For example use 4 different hihats instead of just one because when a drummer hits the hihats, not every time he hits it sounds exactly the same cause he might just hit it at a different spot. I hope you understand what I mean LOL.

If you’re going for a real tight computer sounding drum feel you can just program your drums on the “grid“. That’s pretty easy and you’re done pretty quick. But if you’re going for a more complex groove you’ll have to spend a little more time on your programming. One way to do it, especially when you’re not so experienced yet this is great way to “learn” grooves, is to start with a 4 bar or 8 bar loop of a great drum groove. Then study the wave forms and re-program this groove with your own drum samples. I will show you how cause that’s easier than just telling you.

Once you re-programmed the drum groove you’ll mute the sampled drum loop so you only got your own drum loop playing. Once you did this a couple of times you’ll start to understand better how drum notes are timed to get a certain groove/feel. Personally I like snares to be timed pretty tight on the 2 and 4 for Hip Hop. The kick I mostly program slightly “off grid” but rather a bit “late” than “early“. If you program drums “early” before the grid it doesn’t sound so good to me. It sound like the beat is “running” if you know what I mean. But in a few cases it works.

To me to biggest factor in making your drums groove is the way you program your hihats. Even if your kicks and snare are programmed “on-grid” you can create a groove by programming the hihats “off-grid“. I’ll show you an example.

A drummer never hits each note exactly at the same loudness/hardness. So even if you programmed a perfect groove in timing it still doesn’t sound right if all the notes are hitting at the same loudness. That’s why you need the play around with the “velocity” of the drums to make it sound more “live“. For example on a basic “boombap” drum pattern you probably want the kick drum your programmed on/around the 16th note before the 3 count to be less loud than the kick ON the 3 count.

Especially with hihats you probably want to create a lot of dynamics by playing around with the “velocity” to enhance the live feel/groove of your drums.

Ghost Notes
Ghost Notes are notes that are played real soft in volume that you barely don’t hear them. They are played to add feeling. By programming ghost notes you will improve the live feeling of your programmed drums. Ghost notes work really well with snares, especially when you are trying to create a “marching” feel.

Drum fills and Snare rolls
To even take your “live feel” another step further you might want to add drum fills and/or snare rolls every couple of bars. Or maybe towards the end of the song at the climax. You can either use sampled drum fills/snare rolls, program them yourself or even record a live drummer. You can also sample your own recordings of course.

For example for Shroomadelic Drums Vol. 1 I recorded a couple live drummers doing drum fills over my beats, I edited/engineered/mixed that and then sampled that so they can be re-used in other beats. So there are a lot of possibilities, just be creative!

One more thing. A drummer might be playing louder on the hook than in the verses or might go all out at the climax of the song. Or maybe he plays the rim shot instead of the snare on the intro or breakdown of the song. Keep all that in mind when programming drums. You might want to use different drum samples on different parts of the song. Like I said there are endless possibilities, be creative!