Making the Beat #6

She can have it all - Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2. Last time we already talked about song structures and natural reverb. This time we will talk specifically about how you can create your own unique sound.

1. Crafting your own sound
  1.1 Don’t imitate
  1.2 Experiment
  1.3 Evaluate
  1.4 Be patient

1. Crafting your own sound

The world’s most renowned (and best paid) producers all have their own sound. We can recognize almost any beat from Timbaland, Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Just Blaze or J Dilla more or less immediately when we hear it. This unique sound is what distinguishes them from the rest (and what earns them the big bucks).

Interestingly, for all these producers, it is mostly the drums samples and the particular drum sounds that are responsible for that unique sound. Timbaland is of course a great example. In this old video he plays some beats to Jay-Z who is looking for a new song (and in the end picks the beat from ‘Dirt off your shoulder’) The cool thing is that all the beats he showed have such a clear unique sound with distinctive drum samples.

However, having such a distinctive sound is even more important if you haven’t made it yet. Then you really need to stand out from the crowd in one way or another to get noticed by artists, publishers, labels and fans.

But the question is: How can you create your own sound?

1.1 Don’t Imitate

Becoming inspired by and learning from others is great. Moreover, thoroughly studying your role models can get your skills to the next level quickly. But the first and most important rule when you’re in the process (or struggle) of creating your own sound is: Don’t imitate.

Me and my production team learned this the hard way. At one point we had the chance to show some of our music to Dr. Dre’s Protégé, Bishop Lamont, quite early in our career, before we had ‘found’ our sound. Without hesitating we showed him some of our Dre-like type of beats. He responded saying: “Yes, sounds great, but it sounds like Dr. Dre. If I would want this kind of beat, I would go to Dr. Dre. Show me something that is really you.” From this wake-up call I learned that you should never set out to imitate a sound that already exists. Not only because it won’t be really ‘you’, but also because you will most probably never be better at making that sound than the originator will.

Bishop Lamont Dr. Dre

1.2 Experiment

It may sound too simple, but experimenting is the key to getting to your own unique sound. As mentioned before about song structures: don’t stick to the rules too much. Try out different rhythms. Listen to music you would normally never listen to for new inspiration. Mix different styles. Try out different instruments and sounds than the ones everyone is using in your genre.

This experimenting works the best if you have a wide variety of ‘strange’, unusual drum samples available that trigger your imagination and inspiration. That’s why my production team and me have put literally hundreds and hundreds of hours in creating the biggest, highest quality, and most diverse percussion sound library ever made. We named it the 'Ultimate Percussion Jungle’ because of its inexhaustible amount of incredible percussion samples from all over the world. And now we decided to put our treasure to use again and offer it to you for use in your own productions. If you decide to try it, you’ll save yourself all the hours of searching for great sounding drum samples and you’ll make your workflow so much faster, because you’ll just have all the percussion samples in one place. Endless inspiration guaranteed.

1.3 Evaluate

If your sound library is on point, the next step is to continually honestly evaluate yourself. One way to effectively do this is taking an hour or two to play all the songs you’ve ever made and try to listen to them as if they’re not yours and you’ve never heard them before. Then, find out what all (or most of) these songs have in common.

Next, split these beats into different groups based on their recurring themes. Make a 'great' and 'ok' group. If you have a lot of great ones, you might know in what direction you should look for your own unique sound. On the other hand, having a lot of ‘ok’ themes in your music means that you need to refresh your production skills on those aspects. In that case, when you’re creating a new track, try to catch yourself as soon as you fall back in the same loop, stop the production process for a little while and look for new inspiration before returning to your track. This should help you to slowly but steadily uplift your productions and get to your unique sound.

1.4 Be Patient

Lastly, be patient. Creating your own strong and distinctive sound does not happen overnight. In fact, it may take around 4-5 years before you get to that point. And if you rush it, chances are high it will not be of the highest quality, let alone it being a ‘timeless’ sound. Therefore, just stay calm and experiment with different instruments and different drum sounds!

- You can find all the drum sounds used in this beat in my Premium Drum Packs. -

Looking for more drums? Download my Free Drum Kit package!