Genres always have distinct things that make them unique. It is for
this reason that we able to know what genre a record is, in the first minute of listening to it.
This is a great thing because genre identity is important and makes music a lot more enjoyable.
For example, a genre like EDM which is short for Electronic dance music is known for its use of heavy plucked instruments and drops which are simply the climax of the record.
This post will discuss a very specific genre …which is hiphop.
A recent question I got in my email is: “which is the most common instrument in hip-hop?”
I therefore wrote this article as a response to this question because I knew this would be something helpful for those people that may have had a similar question.
with that said, which is the most common instrument in hiphop?
Back in the day, the most common instrument in hip-hop was the drum machine. Today, the most commonly used instrument in hip-hop is the synthesizer. Its ability to provide the user with a variety of sounds is one of the reasons why it’s the most commonly used.
For many people, synthesizers can be divided into two categories: which are analog and digital.
There’s a lot of debate as to which is better, in terms of sound quality, reliability, portability, and other details.
However each does have its own advantages and disadvantages.
I’ll therefore discuss various synths and their advantages and disadvantages so you get better sense of these instruments.
The earliest synthesizers were obviously all analog, because they emerged before modern computers.
These devices use specially-designed circuits that combine specific and low-level electronic components like transistors, resistors, and capacitors to create and modify sound.
In analog synthesis, sound is produced with continuously fluctuating electrical voltages within the instrument.
These voltages emerge from a Voltage-Controllable Oscillator (VCO) or a Noise Generator, which together provide several core timbres that get combined and altered by additional analog circuits, like Voltage-Controllable Filters (VCFs) and Voltage-Controllable Amplifiers (VCAs), which allow the user to change the overall tone color and loudness of the sound.
1. They are known to be “warm”. This is due to all the circuitry within analog synths.
2. Sounds have infinite resolution which means there are no limitations based on sample rate or bit depth.
3. Controls often have infinite resolution as well…which means there’s no “zippering” noise.
3. Usually have one-knob-per-function control, so modifying sound is pretty straightforward.
1. Most analog synths are somewhat expensive compared to digital synths of similar functionality.
2. They can sometimes require larger form factor for advanced instruments, given that the number of components directly relates to sound production.
3. If there is no digital control implemented, then may not have any possibility for preset memory.
Digital synthesizers are basically specialized computers.
They rely on computer code in order to produce streams of data that reacts to user input and are eventually translated into sound.
The nature of the programs determines the range of possible sounds instead of the physical/electrical properties (like analog synths)of the components, meaning that in theory any type of sound can be possibly made.
1. One advantage that comes with digital synths is their capability of producing a much wider range of sonic techniques compared to analog synths.
2. Second advantage is the capability of preset memory. Which makes it easy for you to design sounds and save them.
3. Digital synths are a lot more affordable than analog synths.
1. The common disadvantage that most people speak of is that digital synth sound quality cannot be compared to that of analog.
2. Digital synths are more complex to repair when need arise.
Other instruments used in hiphop
Below are some other instruments commonly used in hiphop. Hiphop is a very distinct genre and you’ll notice this with some of the instruments I’ll mention below.
Turntables are popular tools in hiphop.. It’s perharps the most recognizable instrument used in this particular genre.
Seeing a music producer behind a set of decks working the turntables is associated with hip hop.
one of the reasons why it’s a popular instrument is because it allows the use to work with samples.
Turntables also enable you to create sounds that no other instrument could make, with effects such as scratching and skipping.
Samplers are a kind of synthesizer that is mainly for looping music.
It’s a popular tool in hiphop that allows music producers to create the same kinds of sound a DJ would behind the decks.
Drum loops, sample chops and hooks can be created using samplers.
A drum machine is essentially an electronic form of the instrument that helps to create multiple drum sounds that are able play at once.
Both DJs and music producers use these machines to create their own custom beats.
Producers of hip hop music use analog keyboards combined with digital synthesizers to make most music that you hear today.
One of the reasons why synthesizers haven’t completely replaced keyboards is that they provide a more old school sound, making the music more authentic.
Synthesizers simply imitate sounds, and this emulation takes the flavor out of the music for a lot of people that crave the feel of real sounds.