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How to start your track: Beat Making Basics #1

Getting started

When faced with an empty session, producing a beat can seem like climbing a mountain. We wanted to give you some tools, musical pickaxes if you will, to help you not only climb the mountain but conquer it and stake your flag firmly at the summit.

Here are three ways you can start your beat, and some insight as to how you can build the remaining elements around them.

Method 1: Starting with drums

Drums essentially set the stage for the kind of beat you’ll make. With drums comes tempo, a critical factor in determining whether your song has pace, is a bit more chill, or something in between. 

Start with selecting the BPM in the top left corner of Serato Studio. Anything below 110BPM is going to be a bit more relaxed, anything heading around 120BPM or upwards is going to bring faster energy. Neither is wrong or right – base it on how you’re feeling at the time.

Next comes drum kit selection – Serato Studio provides a whole host of full drum kits, all of which are unique and used for different genres. If you want to make something hard and on the intense side, use more aggressive sounding samples. Consider how loud the drums sounds are, how aggressive the ‘hit’ is, how long they last (the reverb). It’s all about using your ear – if the drums sound hard upfront, they will amongst the rest of your instruments in the finished beat. The same goes for softer drum sounds.

So – you’ve chosen your kit. You can make your drum sequence from your head, or use the ‘Make Beats’ feature in Serato Studio. This will give you a bunch of drum patterns by genre to get started and tweak to your liking.
From there you can layer the rest of your elements like bass, chords and melodies. If you want some answers to genre specific questions, we’ve created some tutorials on making house, hip hop, trap and EDM.

Method 2: Starting with an acapella

Starting with an acapella is a great option if you’re unsure what genre to make as the tone will help dictate the remaining elements of your track.

Firstly, let’s figure out what key you want to work in. Key refers to the usable note range (A through G, like the notes on a piano. For more in-depth info, read up on Understanding Key here). 

When you load an acapella into an empty Serato Studio session it will sync that acapella to your project key. From here, you can key-shift your whole project, or work with the original acapella key by turning key sync off.

From here you can start to build the drums around your acapella – your sample’s key and rhythm will naturally help dictate the tone of your chords and melodies, rather than doing this in reverse.

Choose instrument sounds that compliment the acapella and feel as though they go together – if the vocal is smooth and soft, don’t choose an aggressive, harsh-sounding synth, and vice versa.

Method 3: Starting with a sample

Much like starting with an acapella, beginning with a sample will give you a platform to launch off when you’re undecided what kind of music you want to make. 

First, choose your sample. You can either drag and drop in the audio, or use one of the many free built-in sounds in the ‘Audio Samples’ tab in your Serato Studio library.

Loading a sample into an empty Serato Studio session will automatically set your project key. But you can easily change this using key-shift functions in the top left corner of Studio.
Now it’s time to find a section of audio to use from your sample. You can use the entire sample from start to finish, cut it up and start from different areas, or repeat sections – it’s entirely up to you. Try and keep it simple, as this will make things easier when going to add the drums and melodics down the track.

Now it’s time to build your drums and melodies around your sample. You want to avoid ‘competing’ sounds, meaning that everything should fit nicely together like a puzzle and not feel as though they’re working against each other.

What we mean by that is, drums and melodies should follow the same rhythm as the sample. You should use the sample as a template to place your drums and melodies on top of to breathe some more life into it, giving it energy – but not just random patterns. Every time you add a new dynamic to your beat, think: how is this complementing what I’ve already got down? 

Now what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started.