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The ultimate guide on how to get started with hip hop production

The ultimate guide on how to get started with hip hop production

Introduction

Recently the popularity and reputation of beatmakers and hip hop producers have increased dramatically. For this reason, the interest in beat production and making beats has also increased dramatically. If you also want to become a beatmaker and want to know how to create beats, you’ve come to the right place. In the following article, I will show you what you need to make beats.

We will have a look at which DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) you should use, which VST plugins make sense for different purposes, what equipment you might need, and even where you can upload your finished beats and what the best websites are to sell your beats.

I will edit the post continuously and keep it as up to date as possible so that you are always up to date. So, have fun reading.

If you want to start with hip hop production, there are a lot of things I want to share with you to have the best possible start while becoming a beatmaker.
You have probably wondered how to make a hip hop beat or trap beat.
If you have ever looked up the topic on YouTube, it all looks quite simple. But to be honest, there’s quite a lot behind making beats and especially those that are actually being sold and on which an artist wants to rap.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: making beats for beginners starts with the question of what equipment do you actually need? Actually, it’s not much more than a laptop, decent headphones, and a midi keyboard on the hardware side of things to get started making beats. Luckily I have prepared several posts on most of those topics already. So here are some links you might find useful:

Laptop vs Desktop PC for music production

Laptops for music production

Desktop PCs for music production

Headphones vs Studio Monitors for music production

Headphones for music production

Studio Monitors for music production

So let’s go directly to the next question: Which is the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for hip hop and making beats?

The DAW

There is basically no clear answer to what the best beat making software really is.

With all common DAWs available on the market, you can produce professional beats. That’s why, especially as a beginner in hip hop production, you can save yourself the whole Ableton vs FL Studio vs Logic Pro and so on.
In fact, I would only advise against choosing very uncommon DAWs. And not because you can’t produce beats with them, but because it’s useful if you can find a tutorial on YouTube for detailed information. So here’s a little tip: If you get one of the above mentioned DAWs, you’re on the right track.

So on to the next point: Which are the best VSTs/the best plugins for hip hop production? Because hip hop melodies often use similar instruments I have divided the best VST plugins for hip hop and trap into different categories.

VST plugins

The best piano VST plugin: Keyscape by Spectrasonics

Best piano VST plugin: Spectrasonics Keyscape
Best piano VST plugin: Spectrasonics Keyscape

Keyscape by Spectrasonics is an incredible plugin if you want to add keys to your beat in any shape or form. From realistic sounds to incredible effects, you will definitely find what you are looking for here. With Keyscape it is virtually impossible to have a creative block. Keyscape is like all VST plugins from Spectrasonics not cheap, but not only because of the seamless integration into Omnisphere worth every cent.

The best guitar VST plugin: Guitar plugins by Amplesound

Best guitar VST plugin: Amplesound acoustic guitar libraries
Best guitar VST plugin: Amplesound acoustic guitar libraries

Especially the acoustic line from amplesound is really amazing. Various settings will help you to hit exactly the sound you want. With a little practice, the sound is as realistic as if you were playing guitar yourself. Just add a few effects and you can create great guitar beats on your computer. In addition, the guitar plugins from amplesound are also quite affordable and thus particularly suitable for beginners.

The best autotune plugin: Antares Autotune

Best autotune VST plugin: Antares Autotune
Best autotune VST plugin: Antares Autotune

No surprises here. The original autotune plugins from Antares are simply the best VSTs available on the market in this direction. Since recently there is also a subscription plan for the plugins, which makes the whole thing even more affordable. So you can get the typical autotune sound in your home recording studio. If you are working with vocals you shouldn’t do without it.

The best drum VST: XO by XLN Audio

Best drum VST plugin: XLN Audio XO
Best drum VST plugin: XLN Audio XO

XO by XLN Audio is a plugin that is tailored to the needs of beatmakers and hip hop producers. It sorts all your one-shot samples by similarity so you can concentrate on the beat making. I also underestimated the VST plugin in the beginning, but I have to say that it makes the workflow much easier and better. XO is not cheap either, but it saves a lot of time and nerves when searching through the sounds. In addition, XO also works very well as a drum sequencer.

The best bass VST plugin: Trilian by Spectrasonics

Best bass VST plugin: Spectrasonics Trilian
Best bass VST plugin: Spectrasonics Trilian

The next plugin from Spectrasonics. Trilian delivers everything you could wish for in terms of bass sounds and has been the reference for years when it comes to low frequencies. Trilian has over 21.000 bass sounds built-in and can be seamlessly integrated into Omnisphere just like Keyscape. In addition, Trilian comes with countless effects already included. So you can build exactly the sound you want to achieve.

The best multifunctional VST plugins

Electra 2 by Tone2

Best VST plugins: Tone2 Electra 2
Best VST plugins: Tone2 Electra 2

Electra 2 from Tone2 has not been an insider tip for quite some time now. Especially in the hip hop production industry, the VST plugin has become a constant. For Electra 2, there are also countless preset banks, with which new sounds can be imported in no time at all. The sound is convincing and the VST synth offers quite a few amazing features. In addition, Tone2’s products are very affordable and suitable for beginners with a smaller budget who don’t want to sacrifice quality.

Nexus 3 by reFX

Best VST plugins: reFX Nexus 3
Best VST plugins: reFX Nexus 3

Nexus 2 was probably the most pirated plugin ever. And rightfully so. Not the piratization part of course. The successor Nexus 3 of reFX is about to start exactly where Nexus 2 stopped, producing hits on non-stop. Nexus 3 comes with all the features you’d expect from a modern VST plugin and is able to produce pretty much everything you need in terms of sounds and sound quality. Depending on your budget, you can buy more presets and expand your library as you like.

Omnisphere 2 by Spectrasonics

Best VST plugins: Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2
Best VST plugins: Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

The last heavyweight in this category is of course Omnisphere 2. The incredibly popular VST plugin from Spectrasonics has probably produced more hip hop hits than all other VST plugins on this list combined. The price is admittedly already really high. But the plugin is actually worth every cent. If Omnisphere is in your budget, you shouldn’t think twice about it, because the sheer amount of presets should provide enough inspiration for an infinite number of different beats.

The best 808 VST plugin: SubLab by Future Audio Workshop

Best 808 VST plugin: Future Audio Workshop SubLab
Best 808 VST plugin: Future Audio Workshop SubLab

Another plugin that was clearly made for beat makers. SubLab is a newer VST plugin that allows you to easily add 808s to your beats. Sublab already comes with many 808 presets. Many of the presets you will surely recognize from very well known tracks. With the SubLab plugin from Future Audio Workshop you can easily avoid endlessly searching for the right 808 in your sample folders. This in return will increase your productivity significantly.

The best free VST Instruments

Of course, there are also some free alternatives. But I have to say that in most cases they don’t come even close to the VST plugins listed here – neither in quality of sound nor in diversity. So if you can afford it and want to save quite a bit of experimentation, you should follow the recommendations above.

If you are looking for more VST plugins and recommendations you can read my post here.

Now that we’ve looked at all sorts of VST plugins, here are a few sentences about whether you should use melody loops, midi chords, and what kind of drum samples you should get.

Loops, Samples and MIDI

I myself am definitely in favor of using melody loops to ensure a faster workflow and be as productive as possible. However, I have to say that in the beginning, I built every melody myself.
I would actually recommend that to you as well. This way you get a better feeling for your style and also more confidence in using your DAW.
In addition, if you sell your first beats, you won’t have any problems with copyright issues when you build your own melodies. If you don’t know anything about music theory and have problems building melodies, there is still the possibility to get midi chord packs or midi chord progression packs. These midi files are a good shortcut and aid, especially at the beginning of your beat making career.

On the subject of drum samples: Do yourself a favor and buy some professional drum kits from your favorite producers. For example, I own just about every Internet money drum kit.
With the sound of your drums, every beat you produce will stand or fall. It would take you forever to recreate the drum sounds that are available online from professional producers, only to discover that your drums don’t “slap” like that after all. Please save yourself the hassle and put your energy into improving your workflow and becoming more efficient.

Uploading your beats

So now you’ve made your first beats and you’re pretty proud of yourself. And you should be. However, the beats are of very little use to you when they are just lying around on your hard drive. In order to be heard and maybe even bought one day (the beatmaking business is anything but a get-rich-quick-scheme), you have to upload your masterpieces somewhere.
There are special marketplaces that were created especially for this purpose. I would recommend one of the following:

beatstars.com
soundclick.com
tracktrain.com
airbit.com

Just choose one or a maximum two where you want to be present and start uploading your beats there. I wouldn’t recommend more for the beginning, because you have to pay for the usage and otherwise you are busier with uploading than actually making beats.

What now?

So now you have uploaded your first beats. What now? Wait? Far from it. Keep producing! Many beat makers literally produce hundreds of beats before they create the one that will bring them fame and glory. If you can, try to promote your beats on your social media channels and most importantly – networks with like-minded hip hop producers, artists, us, etc.
If I find the time, I will create another post in which I will discuss how to best promote your beats and take your first steps in the industry. In the meantime, feel free to write in the comments below how you liked the post and which other topics you would like to read from me.
Until then – happy creating.

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