Most musical artists these days don’t compose music from scratch, they rely on producers to come up with a beat to which they can then write music to.
This is common in the music industry these days and has pretty much been picked up as the norm. Which is all well and good and basically makes the job of the artist much simpler because they don’t have to come up with ideas from scratch.
In as much as writing to beats is a popular way of doing things, there are those that still prefer to work their way up by coming up with a song and then having a producer compose an instrumental to match.
This post will discuss how to come up with a beat for a song. I’ll discuss the various steps I take to ensure that I come up with the best possible music behind the lyrics.
Without further ado, let’s get into how to come up with a beat for a song.
Step 1: Listen To The Lyrics
The very first step in making a beat for a song is getting yourself familiar with it. I usually ask the artist to sing a part of their composition here, so I can basically get a sense of the overall record and how I can about implementing beat ideas.
Another great technique that you can effectively use here is have the artist record you a little voice clip of them singing the song they want you to build a beat around.
If you have a voice clip, you can easily replay it a million times without stressing the artist.
So lets proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Understand the concept of the song
Now that you have a good listen of the song, you can now categorize it and understand the genre. This is the whole purpose of the first step, it’s to give you an in depth idea of what is needed of you.
You should make sure the artist gives you enough information of the particular sound they are going for, so you can have a better idea of how to go about making the beat.
Your job as the producer is to bring the artists vision to light, which means their input should be front and center while you execute their idea in a manner you see fit.
Step 3: Get a feel of the overall song emotion
Music is all about capturing emotion and giving the listener a specific emotional response. Step 3 is where you get a feel of the overall emotion and do your best to use instrumentation to properly exhibit that emotion.
You’ll pretty much get a good idea of the emotion as you discuss the song with the artist.
Step 4: Figure out the tempo
Now that you have gathered enough information about the record, it’s time to initiate the production side of things.
Step 4 is essentially you figuring out the tempo of the song. You can do this by using the metronome feature in your preferred DAW. It should be your guiding principle as it will be the tool that will help you in figuring out the exact BPM of the record.
A good assessment of the song will also give you enough information to suggest the tempo and see what the artist thinks about your suggestion.
Step 5: Figure out the Key of the song
Now that you have your tempo and everything, you can get started with the composition.
This part is where you do your best to figure out the musical keys and notes that properly match the song.
Some people are good at catching the key right off the bat, others are not, therefore the processes will be different.
If you can’t figure out the key to the song by ear, you can basically use your DAW. Load up a piano plugin instrument and start playing note after note until you figure out the ones that make sense with the song.
The notes you end up will pretty much give you a good idea of the chord progression that will work with that particular song.
Step 6: Lay the Chords down
Now that you have the chords and notes all figured out, you can easily lay your chords down and play them for the artist while they sing their song.
This is the first test to figuring out whether you have chosen the correct notes or not.
If you do find a problem with the chords you chose, you can easily try other chords until you fully figure out which ones will work the best.
Step 7: Gather drum pattern ideas
When you finally get a chord progression going that properly is in key with the song, your job now is to start putting together drum pattern ideas.
Most of the times artists will have a general good idea of what they want for their drums, especially if they’ve been in the musician for a considerable amount of time.
Other times, it will all be up to you to figure out the drum pattern that will work with the kind of emotion that the song portrays.
Step 8: Confirm if the Keys and drums match the song
Figuring out the drums is a trial and error system that can help you get a good loop in for your song.
Once you figure out the drum loop, you should now play the chords and the drums together and have the artist sing so you can have a better understanding of whether what you have composed will work or not.
This is the second test.
Once you and the artist are comfortable with the composition you have so far, you can then go on to step 9.
Step 9: Compose and build out the beat
At this stage, you now have the chords and drums to match. So you can now go ahead and build out the beat fully or atleast get it to point where the artist will be happy with it.
Arrange the beat in accordance with what the artist wants and go ahead and export the beat.
Step 10: Record the song
Now that you have a beat, you can go ahead and open your DAW to record the song.
Be sure to implement the right techniques in order to have good vocals that can properly match the beat.
Step 11: Improve the beat to concisely match the vocal
Finally! you have a song. It is now your job as the producer to go ahead and improve the beat in full context of the vocals.
I usually like to do this because when you have the vocals, you can test out various instruments that can work with the song.
Working on the beat post production is a great way to properly match the beat and the vocals.
Once this is done, You can go ahead and export the final beat, load it in your session and go on to mix and master with vocals.