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Rap Beats Article-Why don't my beats (or song) sound like a commercial CD?

Updated on September 3, 2013

Rap Beats Mixing 101

Why my rap beats, don't sound like a commercial CD.

Have you ever noticed when you buy a commercial compact disc of your favorate artist, you can hear ever instrument in the mix so clearly? Compression and EQ in the mix stage is the reason for this effect. Today, let's just look at some basic EQ tips.


Why dont my hip hop beats (or song) sound like a commercial CD?

Disclaimer #1-WARNING LABEL-This article is not meant to cure or diagnose any sonic problems of your hip hop instrumentals or rap beats masterpiece, but is intended to give you ideas of possible troubled areas to look at, and help you self diagnose things in the future from an engineering stand point. Whoa!

Usually, when an artist will come in to our room, they might bring in a demo groove or rap beats on CD, and the question will pop up time and time again, "Yo Home Skillet, why does my demo sound so muddy", or "How come it doesn't sound like a store bought CD?

Disclaimer #2 - This article is assuming that you are producing music in a nice room with maybe some treatments (i.e. foam) on your walls, using real studio monitors (no book shelf speakers), in other words my brothers and sisters, I'm assuming that you can trust the room and the monitors to tell you the truth. Nuff said! Moving on.

Are you with me so far?

When you're listening to your favorite rapper or hip hop artist on the radio, you can feel that kick, that pop of the claps or snare and, you are loving the bass drop, right? Folks, you hear those elements, and you think, "How do they get such a deep, deep bass and kick sound", "How do they juggle all the other frequencies so it doesn't so sound muddy." Read on friends.

Are you ready for this?

Are you ready for this.

Let's say you've got a simple kick and clap beat, with a tight hat, nice fat bass, and maybe some bell sounds in the background. Don't touch the EQ just yet.

1.I'll begin by setting my master fader to its detent spot.

2.Listening at 85db, or if you got neighbors to keep happy, just go for as loud as possible without damaging your ears or the monitors.

3.At your optimal level of volume, start adjusting the faders of the kicks, the snare or claps, add the hats. Go for a volume that makes those elements feel right. Very Important!

4.Slip the bass in under the kick drum, till it feels good. Hopefully it's starting to breathe at this point. It's that feel thing again.

5.Add your bells, keyboards sounds. Is it happening? It's gotta feel right at your optimal volume. If it doest feel right, something will have to change in the arrangement.

6.At this point I would take the master fader down to almost completely off just to listen at a quite level to see if you can still hear everything in the arrangement. Also listen for anything that might be jumping out of the mix. If it sounds good at this point Playa, your doing great.

7.Let's bring the master fader back to optimal position. In your workstation/mixer hopefully you'll have EQ available, so lets start with our bells. Now, your first thought might be that the bells are high pitched right, so let's add a ton of high end EQ. Big no no! Instead, lets remove some, or maybe all of the dirty, dirty low end off of those bells. On such a high pitched instrument like those bells, there isn't anything really going on below 150 hertz, so roll it out Man!

While your track is playing let's start by rolling off with your low cut filter or maybe your bass shelving knob till the bells start to clear up. You may not need anything below 150 hertz. You be the judge. Use you ears. If it sound good, it is good. I said you may not need anything below 150hertz, but go higher if you think it sounds good. If you were using a piano instead of bells, try the same. By removing the dirty mud, you are really cleaning up your sound. Can you dig it?

You know your ready for this!

You can try this with the kick and snare, claps, and hats as well, just use caution and don't take out to much or it will sound harsh, tinny and very painful to listen to. Can you dig that? As far as the bass, depending on the sound of the bass itself, try cutting some of the really low garbage at the bottom first, then if it needs a little help try boosting a little somewhere around 100 to 350 hertz start. Make these adjustments while the whole track is playing. Remember, when it feels right, then it is right.

I'm saving compression, panning, effects and limiting for a future article, meanwhile I hope this will help you get started in the right direction. Best of luck.

Our Channel on YouTube - Some of our latest beats.

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