Top 5 Production Tricks Every Trap/Hip-Hop Producer Should Know
Modern trap and hip-hop music is filled to the brim with cutting-edge production techniques. With so many trap and hip-hop producers releasing thousands of beats every single day, you need the best tips and techniques to give your beats a competitive edge.
Whether you’re taking your first steps into the world of music production or you consider yourself a seasoned pro who needs a simple refresher, here are our top 5 production tricks that every trap and hip-hop producer needs to know!
#1 Get the Kick and 808 To Play Nice
While many genres feature kick and bass sounds that are distinct from one another, trap and hip-hop producers often combine kicks and basses to create massive, low-frequency instruments, otherwise known as 808s.
Unfortunately, getting that rhythmic punch from the “beater” of your kick sound and the powerful, subsonic tail of the 808 can be challenging. While it’s possible to find samples that fulfill both of these roles, it can be helpful knowing how to layer different sounds to create a single, custom 808.
After all, we just talked about giving your beats the competitive edge, right?
And what better way to do that than with custom 808s!
To do so, you’ll want to get a kick sample with a punchy attack and short decay. You can then stack a sub sound underneath the kick with a slower transient and longer decay. Essentially, the kick fulfills the role of the punch while the sub fulfills the role of the sustain, all without competing.
While you can use a transient designer to adjust the attack and decay of your samples, an easier way to get these two sounds to play nice is with sidechain compression.
The idea here is you place a compressor on the 808 channel and link the sidechain to the kick. This way, every time the kick hits, the level of the 808 drops down for a split second to give the kick room to breathe. A free snippet from our Full Beginner Course show you How To Sidechain HERE.
PRO TIP: Make sure to toggle your attack and release settings as fast as possible so that this effect is barely noticeable when the rest of the track is playing, though not so fast that you’re creating unwanted distortion.
#2 Use Turnarounds
A “turnaround” is a fancy term that we use in place of “transition” when it comes to music. Turnarounds can help keep our beats moving forward, transitioning from a verse to a hook or vice versa.
For example, let’s take a look at the drop at 1:32 in “Blame” by Diplo and Zed’s Dead. You’ll notice that rather than keeping the beat going through the entire typical four or eight-count, they use a drum fill coupled with an aerospace-like effect to get us into the breakdown.
PRO TIP: Sometimes, using silence as a turnaround is a great way to surprise the listener and add depth to your track.
#3 Fill Dead Space With Pads
So many trap and hip-hop producers focus on three things:
Unfortunately, those same trap and hip-hop producers often forget about the space between those elements. Pads are excellent musical tools for creating ambiance and filling out space without life otherwise.
Pads also create depth, giving you a mix that feels like it’s moving from front to back, rather than sitting in a single, dimensionless space.
Note that pads should not take away or distract from the three main elements of a great beat but should support the three, acting as a floating nebula in which the beat lives.
PRO TIP: Does your pad sound boring? If so, spice it up with some production techniques! One of our favorites is using an auto-panner (e.g. Fruity PanOMatic) so that your pads move back and forth between your speakers.
#4 Pitching Your Snare Fills
One signature trap production technique involves pitching your 808 snare rolls to create unique fills.
To get started, load up your 808 snare sample and your piano roll, which should be routed to your snare. Next, find the root note of the snare sample (typically middle C). Then, start programming the pattern and the roll that you’re after.
Once you have your pattern and rolls in place, move down to your “Control” section. Click “Control” and select “Fine Pitch.” From there, click ‘P’ to pull up your pencil tool. From here, you can draw in pitch rises and falls at the ends of phrases to make your snare rolls more interesting!
PRO TIP: It’s good to make use of the Velocity
settings of each snare in the “Control” section
as well, as this helps add a
human aspect to your snare fills.
#5 Take Advantage of Automation
The beauty of digital production is that we have far more possibilities than ever before. Making intelligent mixes means taking advantage of some of the best mixing technology around — automation.
The ability to slowly adjust various parameters in your compressors, EQs, faders, and reverb plugins over time is what truly separates seasoned producers from amateurs.
You might consider automating the volume of an effect so that it rises sharply before the hook hits or automating reverb sends so only the snares on the 2 + 4 beats get drenched.
There are infinite possibilities with automation, so make sure that you always consider taking static parameters in your plugins and bringing them to life! Your mixes will thank you.
Should Kick Be Lower Than 808?
While the answer to this question depends completely on the mix in question and your personal preference, it is typically a good idea to have your kick slightly louder than your sub-laden 808. In doing so, you’ll avoid covering up the necessary punch that you want to get from your kick.
PRO TIP: If you can’t quite seem to get the level balance for your kick and 808 right, use a VU meter! (e.g FL Stock WaveCandy) Place a VU meter on your 808 track and get the reading. Next, place another VU meter on your kick track and adjust the volume of your kick until the reading is slightly above the one you got from your 808. You can also achieve similar result by marking 808 channel, reading the “Current” mixer channel volume and then marking Kick and repeat the process.
What Is the Best Scale for Trap Music?
While trap music comes in many forms, from Ghostmane to Lil Yachty, more often than not, the most common scales used in trap music include the minor scale and the harmonic minor scale.
Luckily, FL Studio has a feature where you can choose a scale, and the DAW will highlight the notes found in that scale. This way, you don’t have to remember what these scales look like! We made a tutorial about scales HERE
How Do You Add Saturation to 808?
While your 808s might sound great on studio monitors or in your car, you might completely lose them when you try and listen to your track on your laptop or through your phone speakers.
This is because your 808s probably lack the upper harmonics required to cut through on smaller speakers. Luckily, we have tools like saturation that can help.
Duplicate your 808 track and put a saturation or distortion plugin on it. Then, use an EQ to filter out the low frequencies up to around 200Hz. Then, while listening to your mix, slowly blend the saturated copy of your 808 with your clean, subby 808.
The saturated track should not be overpowering but just audible enough so that smaller speakers can recreate your 808s when your track gets played on them.
Take Advantage of Automation - Taking Your Trap and Hip-Hop Beats to the Next Level
Trap and hip-hop music has changed drastically over the past decade. Nowadays, it’s clear to see that it’s exploding with popularity.
As a producer, it’s important that you stay up to date with all of the top tips, tricks, and techniques to elevate your production value. Check out our in-depth FL Studio Courses to start putting these tricks and more into practice!