Today we will be focusing on 5 different elements of hip hop production that will transform your projects from good to great. These few pointers are key to catching the ear of an A&R or Label Executive. The areas we will be concentrating on are Rhythmic Groove, Musical Arrangement, Creating “Unique Moments”, Layering Sounds and Shaping your Hook.
Rhythmic Groove – This almost goes without saying, but great drums in hip hop separate industry-competitive production from mediocre production. Drum sequencers are a great place to start when you’re creating a beat, but if it is 100% quantized (beats locked in place on a grid) the whole track will feel lifeless and robotic. Instead, use sequencers to establish the drum patterns you want to use, then play them out manually! You need to incorporate that human touch to create a driving, rhythmic pulse in your production. Remember: Amateurs sequence, Pros play the parts out.
Musical Arrangement (Sections) – It is extremely important to create a song from start to finish, with clearly definable sections and moments that drive the feel and progression of the song and keep the attention of the listener from the moment it begins. Instead of just creating a 4 bar loop and throwing a lead synth over it to separate the verse from the chorus, you should create a map of where you want to take the listener section by section. This includes composing sections that are noticeably different from each other, but still maintain a logical flow and progression that ties the song together in a way that keeps you engaged. Once you have created a map of where you want to take the listener, your next focus will be on creating build-ups and unique moments that keep your listeners actively guessing what is coming next.
Unique Moments – Now that we have our sections clearly defined, we need to focus on creating unique moments in the production that help to maintain the pacing of the song. This includes strategic use of beat dropouts, tempo ramps or anything creative that will help in the transitions from section to section. You will be amazed at how much this alone will set your production apart from the competition.
Layering Sounds – While you are creating your track, you need to be conscientious of what sounds you are using, and how well they are interacting with each other. It can be very easy to find 2 great sounds that work separately but sound terrible together, and this can be a real problem in your production. Make sure to be selective in how much you layer sounds together, and keep it simple until you start to really master the art of layering.
Shaping your Hook – The hook (or chorus) is your time to let your production shine. However, a bad hook can quickly ruin a track, so it is crucial to take the time to develop a hook that works well with the track and brings everything together into a cohesive package. Sometimes I like to come up with a theme for a song and start my production process with the hook, because if you can come up with a catchy hook first, the rest of the pieces will start to fall in place around it.
Now’s the time to put it all into practice: start incorporating some of these elements into your production, and you will quickly see how a few key things can elevate your production to the next level. Feel free to show me some things you’ve been working on, and make sure to follow us @iamjambot and @_signaturesound to keep up with everything we are doing here at the studio. Seeya next week!