This is part two of the 10 Track Commandments. In part one we discussed things that pertained more to the business aspect of production. In part two we will focus more on the originality and how to create a name for yourself by making great tracks.
6. Know When It Needs More
I’ve read some producers say that they do 20 to 30 beats a day. Even if I worked for ten to 15 hours per day, I don’t think I’d be able to hammer out more than four or five beats per day. And those four or five would still need revisiting and tweaking. It’s important to have a vast number of tracks in your repertoire, however, if the quality suffers it could severely damage your longevity. Spend time on your tracks; flesh out what works and what doesn’t. Listen to each track at least ten times or more for different nuances that can be changed or enhanced. If you’re pumping out 20 joints daily, where is the time for detail, breaks, hooks, or bridges? Master one beat, make it ready for someone to add vocals to, then move on. If you can do that 20 to 30 times a day I have room for you in my studio.
7. Know When to Be Done With It
I heard somewhere that an artist’s work is never done, they just abandon it. Knowing when to stop is critical. As masterminds behind the boards, you may feel like an additional crash, hi-hat, or snare break can always be added. Layering or adding more instruments doesn’t always ensure a hot beat. Some of DJ Premier’s beats must have had no more than 8 tracks attached. Knowing when to stop working on a project, and send it in for mixing and mastering is critical in the overall scheme of things. Quality is important, but trusting your gut and instincts in music works well in this area.
8. Create Songs, Not Beats
This has been the hot topic in the world or production for the past year or so. Are you beat making or producing? Surprisingly, the line between beat making and producing is not as thin as people think. Basically, a producer is in control of the entire project, whether it’s a song or an album. A record can be produced without you ever physically touching a piece of equipment. Modern day producers seem more versatile in that most of them know how to use equipment, and in some cases do some minor league engineering. They may even play keys or some other instrument. The guidance is what earns the title of producer. The implementation of ideas on cadence, tone, flow, and sometimes concept actually drive the song. When producing for an artist, create a full song that they can insert their vocals into to complete your vision of the song. They can have ideas of their own, but the overseer of the project is the producer, and that person makes decisions that lead to the final say so. It’s a good idea to insert your own hooks and have the singer or rapper do them over in the studio. Changes, bridges, and breaks are essential to keeping the listener’s attention. Basic four and eight bar loops come a dime a dozen these days. Separate yourself from the “beat makers” and create a vision that the artist can latch onto.
9. Be Original and Prepared For Change
It’s always tempting to duplicate a sound on the radio when you know that’s hot right now. It happens all too often, where we hear two records that have the same distinct sound. It used to be the Timbaland drum patterns, or the sped up soul samples introduced by the RZA and carried further by Kanye West and Just Blaze. The duplicate producers are never known by name. They never stand out or build a name off of that track, even if it does hit. The best practice is to remain true to yourself and create your own style that’s different than anything that has already been done. There is nothing wrong with getting inspiration from others, as Kanye and Just Blaze credit the RZA for creating tracks that use samples from old soul singers. However, to blatantly reproduce a sound will not make your production stand out amongst all the other copycats. Once your sound becomes more popular, the biters will emerge, but true artist can switch when the wolves come out. For instance, the producers previously mentioned were talented enough to reinvent new forms of Hip Hop music and continue to evolve, even when the market became flooded with rip-off beats that imitated theirs.
10. Have Listening Sessions
Unless you truly know and trust an artist, handing out beat CDs is not the move to get your music heard. From most A & R’s desk, to the circular bin is where they will end up. Industry executives get flooded daily with music submissions from producers, signed acts, etc. Basically that means your chances of actually getting a fair listen are slim to none. Setting up listening sessions will grant you a fair listen as well as build a connection by meeting face to face. Submitting beat Cds also leaves you open to having your beat snatched. Listening sessions also serves the purpose of acquainting your peers, local Djs, and other artists with your music.