Producing Hip Hop beats is a very tricky business, mostly because you can use a wide array of tools to create your productions. Putting together a drum loop is simple enough, especially if you're using a breakbeat, but what about melodies and basslines? The melody of a beat doesn't have to be complex because you can get away with throwing in a few notes here and there, since it is Hip Hop, after all. But what if you want to play something, rather than put a few notes? Keyboard Whether it's a music keyboard or your computer keyboard, this is the preferred option because of how easy it is to play a melody. The way the keys are arranged (not so much for the computer keyboard), make it a breeze to construct a few chords. Even with the computer keyboard, you can pretty much come up with some really dope melodies, mostly because it's being recorded as MIDI notes in your DAW, to which you can easily correct them, if needed. The downside: Not everyone has a music keyboard, or is inclined to use their computer's keyboard to play music notes. There was a time when I didn't have a real keyboard, so I substituted it with my computer's and I had some great results. But it's not my preferred method. Pads I think that most Hip Hop producers are using pads. It's simple, really, because most of us have something like an MPC. It could be an MPC itself, or Maschine, or any other unit in between, so it's a no-brainer that we'll be using it to play melodies. Don't be mistaken though, because when I say melodies, I don't mean just triggering music samples from the pads. I mean having actual notes laid out across the pads and then playing them like that. It's simple to do because whichever gear you're using, they probably have a feature where you can load up one musical note onto a pad and then have it spread across the rest of the pads, with each pad going up a note in pitch. The downside: Not everyone has gear like this, or feels comfortable playing melodies this way. Some producers have a musical background with keyboards and pianos, so the thought of using pads is foreign to them. Pencil The pencil option is probably one of the most underrated features of a lot of software. I was actually never a big fan of the pencil until I started using Reason. The reason (pun intended) was that I was using Reason years ago to create full tracks, so after I would create my drum loop, I would then start adding bass. With no keyboard, and no pads, I decided that the next best option was to use the pencil feature. Even though the pencil doesn't give you a more fluid melody like you would if you were to play them by hand, it's still very practical. Just click where you want notes to appear, and that's it. Let the software play the musical notes for you. The downside: Most people probably won't even consider the pencil option because it may seem too "robotic", so to speak. I understand that kind of thinking, but let's face it - we're making beats here, not trying to orchestrate a 100 piece orchestra ensemble. Deciding When deciding what the best option is for you, consider a few things: What is more practical for you. What is more comfortable for you. What sounds best to you. I like all of them, but I prefer the pads, but that's because I use Maschine. When I was using Reason, I used the pencil, and when I'm in my Sonar DAW, I use a keyboard. I have seen people come up with some amazing beats with such minimal amount of equipment, and other people will full studios that have garbage beats. It really doesn't matter what you use for your melodies, but what you like the best for your needs. So, which method do you prefer, and why?