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24 Hip-hop Tips for Better Beats and Vocals

24 Hip-hop Tips for Better Beats and Vocals

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Published by: Artist Recording on Apr 04, 2012
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04/04/12 13.3024 hip-hop tips for better beats and vocals | MusicRadar.comPagina 1 di 6http://www.musicradar.com/tuition/tech/24-hip-hop-tips-for-better-beats-and-vocals-537314
You don't have to wear shades towork here, but it helps. (©Mika/Corbis)
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24 hip-hop tips for better beats and vocals
Hip-hop tracks are extremely diverse, but they're gener-ally characterised by repetitive beats with plenty ofbottom-end and rapping. Their extreme levels of subbass provided the blueprint for the mixdown style ofrave music and, more recently, drum 'n' bass anddubstep.
We've got tips that will help you to improve both the in-strumental and vocal elements of your hip-hop produc-tions (including advice on finding an MC), whetheryou're just starting out or a seasoned beat maker.
Beat making tipsSteal a groove
You can lift a groove from a recording by using hitpoint-based audio editing - mostDAWs come with this ability as standard these days. Even if you've decided not touse a particular drum loop, you can capture the essence of its funk by applying thegroove to your choice of sounds.
Create a groove
The pad-based Akai MPC samplers were all therage in the early hip-hop days andare still popular today, as they let producers tapout their own grooves. You don'tneed an MPC to play your own groove - you could use any MIDI controller, or per-haps beatbox and use hitpoint editing.
Building on simple chords
Chords might seem daunting at first, but they don't have to be. Learn the fundamen-tals of chord construction. Once you understand how to build the simple major andminor chords (Google 'music triads'), write a chord progression and experiment withadding another note to each chord.
 
04/04/12 13.3024 hip-hop tips for better beats and vocals | MusicRadar.comPagina 2 di 6http://www.musicradar.com/tuition/tech/24-hip-hop-tips-for-better-beats-and-vocals-537314
Addictive loops
Some tracks do the business just by looping a short piece of music that you can't getenough of. At the heart of these loops usually lies an exceptional groove. Tweak yourloops to make sure they flow nicely and feel satisfying at every stage."You don't need an MPC to play your own groove - you could use anyMIDI controller."
Music needs hooks too
Don't rely on lyrics alone to provide your production with a hook = every backingtrack should also have its quirks and highlights. Think of the instrumental as a beastall of its own and put yourself in the shoes of the MC - they want something to vibeoff and to inspire their verse.
Traditional structure
Verses are one thing, but don't forget that most hip-hop hits also have a chorus, andsome have a middle 8 as well. Traditional-style song structure is popular because itworks and is universally appreciated, so don't shy away from the winning formula,even when in pursuit of something fresh.
Make space for the vocal
Make space for your vocal parts by keeping the verse arrangement sparse. You canalso take an EQ to any competing sounds and attenuate the main frequencies of thevocal. If you continually find yourself turning the vocal up just to be able to hear it,then something is not right with your mix.
Use reverb on everything
You've probably been told not to use reverb on everything, but this is old-fashionedadvice. Every sound in the mix should have a sense of space, even if you're only gen-tly mixing in the subtlest of early reflections. Just don't go soaking every sound in hallreverb - that's not the idea at all!
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04/04/12 13.3024 hip-hop tips for better beats and vocals | MusicRadar.comPagina 3 di 6http://www.musicradar.com/tuition/tech/24-hip-hop-tips-for-better-beats-and-vocals-537314
You don't have to wear shades towork here, but it helps. (©Mika/Corbis)
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Hip-hop needs saturation
Without saturation, your mix will sound cold and clinical.Even the most modern, club-friendly records rely heavilyon a bit of drive here and there. Try iZotope's
Nectar
orits
Alloy
mixing plug-in - these let you tweak the saturat-ed sound and mix it with the dry signal to preservefidelity.
Help tell the story
Support the lyrics with your arrangement and mixing decisions. Everybody hasheard the obvious sound effects that correlate with the lyrical pictures being painted by the MC, but you might also think about how you might automate reverb sendswhen there's a verse about running through a tunnel, say.
Keep the mix modern
"Be aware of current mixing trends even if you're producing an old skool-influenced cut."Be aware of current mixing trends even if you're producing an old skool-influencedcut. Hi-hats seem to have fallen out of favour at the moment, for instance, being usedvery quietly and with as little dynamic range as possible. This sounds pleasant whenplayed extremely loud in a club.
Keep the mix tight
Use gates to minimise unwanted tails from the ends of sounds that don't need them.Use a high-quality limiter or saturation to absorb sharp peak transients that eat upheadroom and cut too far through the mix. Roll off high and low frequencies, or ifthat sounds bad, use shelving EQ instead.
Vocal tipsExpose your beats
Once you have your first batch of beats that you feel confident with, don't be too pre-

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