She Can Have It All..
What distinguishes a fully fledged superstar producer from a regular beat-maker? And how can you create your own unique sound? That’s what we’re going to talk about in this Part 1 and the upcoming She Can Have It All… Part 2.
This is a song we did with one of Lyfe Jenning’s songwriters, intended for the new Tyrese, Ginuwine & Tank album. It didn’t make the final cut so we’re free to share all the details and secrets with you! Here’s a short overview of the topics of this ‘Part I’ article:
1. Song Structure:
If you want to become a super producer, just focusing on creating stand-alone banging loops of music is not enough. You have to become a true composer and be able to envision and create complete songs. One of the most vital aspects of a complete song is a well thought-out song structure.
Often, songwriters, rappers or vocalists take on the role of coming up with the structure when listening to a beat and then give directions to the beat-maker / producer to alter the beat according to their ideas. However, if you can train yourself to create solid structures in all your beats yourself, it will become at least ten times as easy for songwriters to become inspired and write something amazing to your beat.
This way, you can improve the workflow and make it easier for any artist to work with you. And thus, you will simply sell more beats (or even better: songs!) as you have just significantly raised the bar of your productions. But how do you get a strong song structure? For me, taking these four steps always works very well:
First of all, listen to songs that are in the same genre of what you’re producing and just write down the structures you hear. This will get you a general idea of what others are doing and can help you to get going. Especially if you don’t have so much experience with song structures yet. If you don’t want to spend so much time analysing songs, you can also just apply this simple but rock-solid structure that I’ve also used in She Can Have It All, and see how you like it. It is by far the most popular structure for Hip hop, Pop, and R&B songs:
INTRO – VERSE – CLIMB – HOOK – VERSE – CLIMB – HOOK – BRIDGE – HOOK – (HOOK) – OUTRO
The climb is also often called a pre-hook or build-up (in electronic music) and the hook is also often called a chorus or drop (in electronic music).
1.2 Create a Story
Now, try to view your song as a story you want to tell. And then think about how do you want to tell it? If you want to really affect people with a story, you don’t just tell them the climax right away right? Usually, you want an intro and perhaps some sort of tension building (climb) before the climax (hook). Try to apply this to your songs: try to take your listeners on a compelling journey. However, make sure you maintain some sort of regularity. If every part of your song is completely different and not one sequence is repeated throughout the song, your listeners and especially the songwriters will lose track. So it’s important that recognisable parts get repeated throughout the song, without boring your listeners.
1.3 Hooks, Hooks, Hooks!
The attention grabbing is the core task of any hook. Your hook should always be the most catchy part of the song; rock-solid hooks get stuck in people’s mind and make them want to listen to the song again and again. Often, ‘Melody is King’, which means that the melody is responsible for the catchiness of the song. So if you have a killer melody, make sure to put it in the Hook.
Also as a general rule of thumb, always drop your first hook before (or around) the first minute. Often, people’s attention spans are very short, so they should be lured in by your song as soon as possible. For that reason, starting with the hook might also be worthwhile trying! This song by Usher and Nicki Minaj is a good example of a song that starts off almost directly with a hook:
Lastly, don’t stick too much to what is ‘normal’. The tips that I give you are just to give you ideas: the most important thing is that you experiment and experience what works best for you. Deviating from the standard can sometimes lead to the greatest results. And if you only have a banging loop without any revolutionary ideas for the structure: Just create variations while maintaining a proper balance between regularity and irregularity: it’s up to you!
Song Structure Tip #1:
Make sure you always drop your first Hook before or around the first minute of your song. Otherwise, people’s attention span might cause them to switch to another song before you were able to show the best part of your song!.
2. Natural Reverb:
Reverb is simply the persistence of a sound after a sound. It is perhaps the most widely and often used effect of all (next to panning), because it so easy to make your mix sound bigger with it by adding depth and space. The problem is that it’s also easy to apply too much reverb, which mercilessly turns your mix into a ‘wall of mud’. As such an important, widely applicable, and sometimes tricky effect, you can imagine you’re never finished learning about it.
There’s one simple tip that I would like to give you that can help you straightaway to avoid the mud: Instead of applying just one effect to all your drums at the same or even to your complete mix at the same time, use sounds that already have the desired amount of reverb themselves. Or, if you have the right sounds but some of them lack reverb, add reverb only to those who need it in isolation. Then, if your drums already sound great, you can add a small reverb on the drums as a whole. This way, you can easily avoid adding reverb to sounds that don’t really need it, which leads to muddy mixes.
This is exactly what I did in She Can Have It All. The drums sound very big because some of the sounds I used (the cymbals, tambourines, steam sound, breath sound, and especially the claps) already contained a strong amount of reverb. ! I put these samples for you in the download link below, so you can try them out yourself directly, for free.
Natural Reverb Tip #1:
Instead of only putting one overall reverb effect on your drums when you create the final mix, first put individual reverb on some of your drum components or use sounds that already contain solid reverb. This way, it becomes easier to avoid muddy mixes.
3. Free Drum Samples
As you might have noticed, I split up the article about ‘She Can Have It All…’ into two articles, because there is just too much valuable stuff to put orderly in one article. For the same reason, I also split up the free drum sounds packages. So, below you can find the link to all the drum sounds I’ve used in and you will find all the percussion sounds in part 2.