We all get to that point where our beats sound dope but they’re just lacking some excitement. Most producers will immediately search for some sort of plug-in that will help solve the issue (an exciter, perhaps?), but sometimes all you need to do is to try a few things.
Let’s see what we can do...
1. Use a Breakbeat
After reviewing many beats on the Attack of the Beats! show, one thing that I have noticed many times are drum tracks that seem to not have much life to them.
This has happened to me numerous times and even though there are ways to make the drums more exciting, sometimes it just doesn’t work. You could try adding certain effects to your drums, but it could be that your drum sounds are just boring. If they’re boring, then your entire drum loop will be as well.
The solution? Use a breakbeat.
Breakbeats are great because it’s already done for you and it will immediately breathe life into your beat. You could use a breakbeat from a sample pack that was designed specifically for this, or you could do what a lot of Hip Hop producers do and take a break from a famous song.
One of the most recognizable ones is “Funky Drummer” by James Brown.
If you use that breakbeat as the backbone to your beat then you’re good to go. This is what has happened many times, where I hear a beat that is really good but the drums need to be re-done, or just replaced with a breakbeat. By putting a famous break in there instead of your own drum track, it will make everything so much easier.
2. Add Something to Your Drums
I’m guilty of pretty much always using a kick, snare, and hi-hat. That’s it.
I know it’s not much, but it works fine for the style of beats that I create, so I don’t see the need to add anything else. However, when my drums are kind of boring and if I don’t feel like using a breakbeat, then I’ll keep my drums and add in some percussion like cymbals, shakers and whatever else I can find.
The trick is to not over-do it. You want to add something that will compliment your drum track and give it a bit of life, because sometimes that’s all you need.
If you’re not sure what kind of sounds to add to your drum track, start with cymbals. The great thing with cymbals is you can have them drop in on the kick or even on the snare. You can even use it instead of a hi-hat, or you can have it follow the hi-hat as well. That will definitely spice up your drums.
3. Mix It Properly
Mixing is not difficult, but that’s if you’re keeping things simple. I always recommend that you mix with the bare essentials and only use effects as needed, but if your mix is on point and your beat still sounds dull, it’s time to add some effects.
It all depends on your beat and how it sounds. I can’t recommend that you use a certain type of effect to cure all your beat dullness, so that’s up to you.
Most people will probably think of compression, and it will definitely help keep everything nice and tight, but I’m leaning more towards other effects like delays and reverb.
Let’s say you add a delay on your snare track. I’m sure not many will think to do that, but it can definitely help bring life to your drums. The key is to make the delay very subtle so that you have your snare hit and just a quiet-sounding snare following it.
You can also use delay and reverb on something like piano or whatever other lead instrument you have, as it will give much more brightness to it. By doing just this, it will make your mix more exciting.
There’s also the entire mix itself. Often times I get my mix sounding tight but it’s still dull. This is where my mixing/mastering plug-ins come into play.
I like to use Izotope Ozone, as it has a bunch of presets that do a great job of bringing life to the mix. There are plenty of mastering plug-ins out there, so whichever one you use, try using the presets first and if you’re not satisfied then tweak them a bit. Either way, your mix will be much better.
4. Sample Something!
If you want your beat to be more exciting, then why not sample something that’s already exciting?
I know a lot of you probably don’t sample, or sample just a bit. Some of you might sample but you chop it up a lot. That’s fine, but whatever it is you sample, grab something popular.
For example, I recently sampled an 80’s Rock song (I’m not telling you what song! A good digger never reveals his secrets!), and it turned out great. I ended up looping the main part of the beginning of the song and then added a bit of the singing as my hook. I then added my own instruments on top and ended up with a really dope beat.
So, what does this mean?
As an experiment, after I finished that beat, I muted the tracks that contained samples and was left with just the drums and the instruments I added myself. It sounded good, but NOTHING compared to how exciting it sounds with the samples in there.
My advice to you is to sample something popular and do what you normally do when sampling. If you’re not into sampling then you can still just grab an entire loop from a song and loop it, then add your own instruments on top. I guarantee it will be dope.
5. Make a Busy Bassline
I’ve been focusing a lot on making a nice bassline for all my beats. There are times when a bassline isn’t necessary, but most of the time it is.
If I’m sampling then it can sometimes be difficult to add my own bassline on top of the sample because it can be hard to find the right note. When that happens, I will copy the sample that I’m looping, add a lo-pass filter to it and use that as my bassline.
But if I’m making my own bassline with a plug-in then that’s when I get creative. With certain beats the bassline just needs to be simple, but if you want your beat to sound more exciting, make your bassline sound busy.
What I like to do is just play two bass notes back and forth all throughout my loop. Just by doing that, it makes the beat sound busier.
1st bass note: RED
2nd bass note: BLUE
DO-DO-DO-DO (1 bar)
You can then add a few other notes in there for variety. The ultimate goal is to make the bass track sound busy and the best way is to not hold back!
These are only five examples of how you can spice up your beats and make them more exciting. I hope you learned a few things from this article or just got a few ideas on what to do from now on, rather than reaching for effects right away.
Sometimes it’s good to leave the effects aside and get creative first.
Further Reading About Beat Making