In the last post, we took a look at the steps to making a basic drum beat. We also went over what a drum loop and a drum kit are.
In part 1 of this post, we’ll go over melodic instruments and ways you can add a melodic element to your composition. In part 2 of this post we will pick up where we left off in the first tutorial with a tutorial on adding a melodic element to your beat.
But first, before we begin, let’s go over the basics of what a melodic element and instruments are.
There are two common approaches to composing a beat. We can either start with a percussive element (the drums), or we can start with a melodic element.
What are melodic elements?
Melodic elements are basically any instrument, sound or sample that can be use to create a melody or melodic phrase. This can be as simple as a 4 bar melody or a chord progression.
When you’re in the tracking (recording) phase of beat making, you can add a melodic element to your beat by sampling, using a loop, recording an electric or acoustic instrument, or recording a virtual instrument.
Which instruments are categorized as melodic instruments?
Melodic instruments are instruments capable of producing a melody. They can be grouped into primary categories of keys, strings, synths, mallets, winds, brass, bass and guitar.
Knowing what every instrument sounds like is not necessary to becoming a beat maker. However, if you’re looking to give your beats a little more flavor and diversity, exploring these instruments is highly recommended. I’ll be sure to go over my method for quickly familiarizing yourself with new instruments in another post.
Melodic instruments can be used to create a foundation or add things like emotion and gravity to a beat. They can be used to create a main melody or chord progression. This approach can easily help you get the ball rolling with your beat.
But for now, let’s take a look at melodic instruments.
What are the differences between acoustic, electric and virtual instruments?
This is a very good question because instrument selection is an art form in itself. Just like artists need to know the affect each color on their pallets has on their paintings, the same is true for beat makers, their beats, and instruments. You need to know what each instrument will add to or take away from your beat emotionally, technically and sonically.
Let’s have a look at what acoustic, electric, and virtual instruments are.
Acoustic instruments are basically instruments whose sound is produced without any electrical equipment. In beat making, these instruments would be recorded through a microphone, digital interface and a DAW. Once the instrument’s sound is recorded you would then be able to arrange and edit it into your beat.
Here is a list of commonly used acoustic instruments in beat making:
- Acoustic Guitar
- Acoustic Piano
- Strings (Violin, Viola, Cello)
- Acoustic Bass
- Brass (Horn, Trumpet, Trombone)
- Winds (Flute,
Electric instruments are powered by and make use of electronic devices which determines or affects the sound being made.
Here is a list of commonly used electric instruments in beat making:
- Electric Piano
- Electric Bass
- Electric Guiar
- Synth Keyboards
A virtual instrument or software instrument is a software application modeled after a real acoustic or electric instrument that enables the user to produce or play sounds on a computer.
Some of the popular virtual instrument formats include:
- Rack Extension
Some of the popular virtual instruments include:
- Spectrasonics Omnisphere
- Spectrasonics Trilian
- Native Instruments Komplete 10
- Propellerhead Thor
There is one last method I must mention before we move on to the tutorial, and that is sampling.
What is Sampling?
In addition to playable instruments you can also add a melodic element to your beat by sampling.
In beat making, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one a sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a sound recording in a different song or piece—or in this case a melodic element.
Sampling is a good approach for a person that prefers not to add a melodic element to their beat by playing acoustic, electric or virtual instruments. Sampling is a good approach to building a melodic foundation to a beat. It is probably the most creative and fun approach to adding a melodic element. I will go deeper into the world of sampling in another post.
Here are some basic things you need to begin experimenting with sampling: