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Letter to a Noob Beat Maker

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Someone asked me the other day what I would tell beginner beat makers to help them sound more experienced from the beginning. I wanted to take that a step further, and drop 5 PRODUCTION GODSENDS-

  1. Use good samples – I can’t stress this enough. Find some good samples online, whether from a free source, or from a producer who mixes drums the way you like, and start there. Yes, you should be able to polish up mediocre drum samples, I’m not disputing that. But if you’re a beginner and you want to sound like a pro, this is a must.
  2. Don’t clip your master fader! – The first thing I recommend that you do, before you drop any samples into your track, is to turn every track fader down about 6db. If you’ve got some crispy, mastered drum samples you’re dropping in, and you put an arrangement together with them, the combined output volume of all the combined samples will be above 0db (clipping).
  3. Simple but powerful master bus – punchy/dynamic compression (I like to fade mine to 30% wet/dry), and a limiter that preferably has a true peak function to catch inter-sample peaking. If you need more loudness, add another limiter in between, and pull down the threshold as much as you need.
  4. 500hz = glue – This is kind of a random tip, but it’s served me so well, I think it need mentioning. If something sounds too boxy, it’s probably 500hz. If something sounds too distant/weak, you might need to boost 500hz. If your vocals are too heavy in the low end, check 500hz. If your pianos are getting in the way of your vocals, it’s probably 500hz. If your bass isn’t cutting through the phone, it might need saturation up to 500hz. If your kick isn’t cutting through the mix…. consider a wide-band boost at 500hz.
  5. Parallel Effects – Parallel compression and parallel distortion/saturation are insanely important to master if you’re trying to make thick, loud, rich tracks. I’m hesitant to say put it on everything, but it does help create a strong foundation for a mix, and can be used on pretty much any sound. Try different compressors, saturators, and different amounts of blending to get great depth and power to your mixes.

If you adhere to these guidelines, you’ll be a MASTR producer in no time.