The code of the beat.

Beatmaking Skills Prior to DAWs


Taking Short Breaks from Computer; Self-Imposed Refresher Course Helps Rejuvenate and Improve My Creativity


Every other week or so, I work on making new beats without the use of my computer. That is to say, without tracking my beat into Pro Tools, my DAW of choice.

What brought about this decision? Two things. First, I like to revisit the mind frame that I was once in, when I didn’t have regular access to, or the convenience of, a computer. Second, and this is perhaps more important, I want my son, Amir Ali Said, to always view the computer as an aid, not necessarily a necessity, to his beatmaking skills.

My son, Amir (now 14), first began seriously watching me make beats when he was 4 years old. Back then, I didn’t have a computer…I didn’t even have a CD recorder. Nope. I had a cassette recorder, and that’s what I used to record my beats to.

Looking back on that time, I realize how much I adjusted my beatmaking style to accommodate how I would be recording my beats. In fact, every new piece of gear that I added to my setup—that was supposed to improve my tracking (recording) process—actually prompted me to change how I made my beats. When I first got a mixing console, a 16-channel Mackie board, I changed up how I modified my bass lines. When I got my first CD recorder, I doubled the time I usually spent on “mixing” my beats. And, finally, when I first got Pro Tools, I tripled the time (if not more) that I spent on “mixing” my beats.

In the past 10 years, I’ve probably acquired five different mixing consoles, three different versions of Pro Tools and its hardware interfaces, four different CD recorders, and no less than seven pairs of speakers and monitors. And with each of these new acquisitions, I increased the time I spent tracking (recording) my beats, while at the same time, I decreased the time I spent actually making my beats.

Lately, this dilemma has been resonating much more. Particularly, because my son’s understanding of, and interest in, beatmaking has grown dramatically—much more faster than it took me to understand certain things. So as Amir becomes more in tune with the art of beatmaking, I’m finding that some of the best things I have to teach him are the many things I learned prior to getting a mixing console, prior to getting a CD recorder, and prior to getting Pro Tools. And although I realize that’s it’s just plain practical to use a DAW, I specifically, think it’s important for him to learn how to protect the imagination and creativity of his musicianship from an over reliance on particular music production tool.

The BeatTips Manual by Sa’id.
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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual

  • Frost Gamble

    As a beatmaker and father, I love this post.
    True words and a great point.

  • Smerz

    I was thinking about doing the same thing. My beats were more grimy when I just used my MPC and didnt have a computer. I am switching back to that format and worry about tracking things out later.

  • Frost Gamble,
    Thanks, man. I’m glad you can relate. I’ve found that in teaching my son and encouraging his interests in music, I learn things that I might not have otherwise.

  • Smerz,
    Sounds like, you know *exactly* what I mean!!! That’s why now, I don’t even have Pro Tools up and running when I’m practicing/making beats. By do so, I’m now more focused on creating the music—specifically, the style and the raw sound that I want to convey. When I’m completely done with that process, then I track everything into Pro Tools. Once inside of Pro Tools, I quickly try to match the “sound” that I made before I dumped the tracks into Pro Tools. Result? I spend far less time in Pro Tools than I used to; and I spend most of my time the way I did prior to having a DAW..

  • Smerz

    Sa’id , you seem like a cool dude. If Im in NYC , I have to look you up. Im in Chicago

  • I found this article to be very interesting, and very true. I find myself spending more time trying to navigate the DAW these days than making/finishing beats. Sometimes going back to basics helps to gain better perspective on the bigger picture