How to Make Beats, The Melodic Element: Part 2

How to Make Beats, The Melodic Element: Part 2

In my last post we went over what a melodic element is and what melodic instruments are. In this post we will select a melodic instrument and combine a melodic element with our drum beat.

Here we go.

How to choose a Melodic Instrument

When choosing a melodic instrument, most of the time you will already have an idea of what you want to create playing in your head. I recommend using these ideas you hear as a guide for the instruments to experiment with. If you don’t already have an idea or you’re not hearing any particular sounds, you can also select an instrument by its feel or the way it makes you feel. More specifically, select your instrument by how inspiring it is. Instruments that are exciting and inspiring to use will instantly boost creativity and enable you to come up with better quality ideas quicker and easier.

The Experimenting Phase

The experimenting phase is where you try to come up with creative ideas through trial and error. In this case, you would experiment with an instrument until you come up with a melody that not only sounds good, but feels good too. The melody you decide to use should fit melodically as well as rhythmically with your drums.

To enter the experimenting phase, set a loop of 4-8 bars. When you press play you should hear the drum pattern you created in our drum tutorial. Listen to the pattern of the drums and play your instrument while trying to discover a melody that both fits rhythmically and melodically. Don’t be discouraged If you have a hard time coming up with something you want to keep. Coming up with a melody you love or simply want to keep can take ten minutes to one week even for a professional writer or beat maker. Just settle on coming up with ideas to get the ball rolling. You can always come back and improve or completely change the melody later.

More than an Accident

In beat making and music creation, mistakes and accidents can be your best allies. Some of the dopest beats or melodies have come from accidents and simple mistakes. The trick is to always be listening. One of the biggest mistakes I see beat makers make is not using their ears enough when creating their music. You have to be ready at all times for when those creative ideas drop on you. Believe it or not, it’s in the midst of accidents that our best ideas are born.

The 9 Steps to Creating a Melodic Element

Here are 9 steps you can use to guide you in adding a melodic element to your beat.

Step 1. Create a new instrument track by going to menu or using your DAW’s keyboard shortcut command.

Step 2. Browse and select a melodic instrument.

Step 3. Set the loop to a 4 or 8 bar loop and put the loop button in its on state.

Step 4. Make sure you drums are un-muted and ready for playback.

Step 5. Press Play and experiment with your melodic instrument to come up with a melody to add to your drum beat. (see above experimenting phase)

Step 6. Activate the pre-count or count in and select how long you want it to be (1 or 2 bars).

Step 7. Ensure your melodic instrument track is activated and ready to record.

Step 8. Record your melody by hitting the record button, which will activate the count-in. On the last click sound of the count-in, start playing the melody you’ve practiced during the experimenting phase.

Step 9. Playback and listen for timing issues and feel. Make sure everything sounds as tight and together as possible. Erase and re-record anything that does not sound or feel right.

Tip: First I listen with my ears, paying close attention to how things actually sound, and then I pay attention to the way they feel. Paying attention to the way something feels enables you to notice things that you did not pick up the first time around that are not working.

At this point you should have a melodic element (melody) and a basic drum beat that consists of a hi-hat, snare and kick drum patterns playing back in a 4 – 8 bar loop.

Creating Melody vs Melodic Loops

One of the most beneficial approaches when adding a melodic element to your beat is playing and recording an instrument. This approach not only allows you to be more hands on, but it gives you the opportunity to improve your skill at playing an instrument for the purpose of making beats.

However, there are times when you will be unable to play an instrument, either because you’re short on time, or need to compose a track in a specific genre outside of what you’re used to making; which may need a melody with a genre specific performance. In this case, we can use pre-recorded melodic loops as another approach to adding a melodic element to our beat.

Pre-recorded Melodic Loops

Pre-recorded melodic loops are audio files that contain pre-recorded melodic phrases or riffs that have been edited to repeat seamlessly indefinitely. Loops can range from few seconds to many minutes in length.

Like playing an instrument to add a melodic element to your beat, there are pros and cons to using melodic loops.

The Pros

  • Speeds up workflow
  • Induces inspiration
  • Injects new flavor into your beat
  • Gets Your Creative Juices Flowing

The Cons

  • No control of melody
  • Harder to combine with pre-existing melodies
  • Less control with pre-existing tempo

The Arpeggiator

An Arpeggiator is a function usually built into a hardware or software synthesizer, that will listen to the keys being held down (chords or single notes) and repeat all notes in a rhythmic loop pattern.

An arpeggiator allows us to turn simple chords into creative rhythmic melodic lines. It is also another approach to adding a melodic element to our beat. In a way, an arpeggiator can act as a semi-automatic melody generator.

When you play a chord, an arpeggiator will play (depending on the settings “ p” ,”down” , “ p/down”) each of the notes being pressed down beginning with the lowest one, after that it will play the next note. If the direction setting is set to down, it will of course, play the highest note first. Furthermore, If it is in random mode any of the held notes will be played in a random order.

Which method do you prefer for adding a melodic element to your beat?


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