How To Select The Right Instruments To Make A Professional Beat
One of the most technical and difficult things to do when making a professional beat is choosing the right instruments to play. Most amateur producers crowd their beats with instruments, which makes their beats clumsy and rowdy. Knowing the right instruments to choose comes with experience and it takes time but I am going to give you four easy steps to help you choose your instruments.
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Select instruments based on the genre of music:
Each genre contains instruments that defines it. For example, you can tell an Afro beat song by the way a saxophone is been played on it, a juju or Fuji song with the talking drums and conga, classical music with grand piano and violins while an hip-hop song with its heavy base and drums. So, understand the genre of music you want to produce and then identify the various instruments that defines it. I do not imply that it is wrong to experiment, but if you intend to combine genres, for example, hip-hop and Fuji, find a balance between the two, you can play an hip-hop base with the conga and talking drums.
Select instruments based on the emotions behind the song:
Songs are perceived based on the motions behind them. Whether you want to be soft, calm or you want to go all aggressive, various instruments help you to achieve this. For instance, violins bring out the softer side of the instrumentals because of its solemn and calm timbre (tone), while a lead guitar with a distortion effect box can give you that rocky aggressive feel because of its harsh tone and dynamic range.
Select instruments that complement each other.
Certain instruments sound alike (meaning they have similar tone) while some instruments serve the same purpose on the instrumental. Making up your mind on which instrument to let go might be very difficult. Amateur beats have sounds competing with each other but professionals understand the basics of allowing their instrumentals to be well spaced to give enough room for the vocals. For example, I wanted to be more aggressive at the bridge of a pop/rock song I was working on, I was to choose whether to increase the volume of the rock guitar by automation or make the rock drum pattern heavier, on getting to the bridge I noticed the rock guitar was competing with the pop synth (which originally defines the pop genre), so I had to turn of the rock guitar and I became more aggressive on the drums to give me an energetic bridge with a clean sweet mix.
Consider the properties of the instruments:
This is the best part of choosing instruments, knowing the individual properties allow you to be flexible. These properties include:
- Pitches available
- Constraints of playing technique
- Tone quality and
- Dynamic range.
Pitches available: this is the range of tones available on all octaves on the instrument before it goes too low or too bright. It gives you room to experiment. Imagine you want to play two instruments that sounds alike, you can combine them by playing one on a lower octave and the other on a higher octave to give you a fuller sound rather than having to clash them both if played together on the same octave.
Constraints of playing technique: this is based on how easy it is to play the instruments. Some instruments can easily be given a repeated pattern while some sound better when they are sustained over a long time. A violin can easily give you a more repeated pattern than a trumpet due to the constraints of blowing air into it. This helps you to know which instrument to play when you want to add a bumpy or laid back feel to your beat.
Tone quality: this is how rich the middle C of the instruments sounds. Tone quality differentiates the instrument from others. This helps you to decide which instrument to
use as the hook when making your beat.
Dynamic range: this is the volume between the quietest and the loudest sound of the instrument. A rock guitar has an higher dynamic range than an E-piano. When trying to get loud or aggressive on your beat, select an instrument with a high dynamic range.
Selecting instruments to play might be pretty technical and confusing. It takes some time. Therefore, practice well enough with these steps and you are on your way to making those mad beats.