The code of the beat.

Learn Your Room; It’s Not the Monitors

2

No Matter the Monitors, Your Unique Environment is the Key

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

Picture this.
You’re in your room, you’re cooking up a beat, it sounds great. The bass is tight, the treble is balanced right where you want it; everything sounds like a perfect audio collage. So now you save the beat. You track it out, burn it to disk, and make your way out of the lab with a copy for some trusted ears to listen. You meet up with a fellow beatmaker or a rapper, and you pop the CD in his player. You can’t wait until he hears the impact of the beat; then it begins to play…and hey, wait a minute. Where’s all the bangin’ bass? Where did the fresh clear highs and balanced mids go? After making excuses to your audience about why the beat doesn’t sound entirely dope, you vow to get some new monitors.

If you can relate, listen up: It’s not usually the monitors that’s the problem—monitors don’t lie! It’s your understanding of the acoustics of the room you make your beats in.

It’s most certainly the acoustics of the particular room you create your music in. “Better, more expensive monitors will not necessarily correct this problem. The real solution is to learn the unique room where you make your music in. Every room has its own unique dynamics: shape, width, length, height of the ceiling, wall density, furniture, etc. Therefore, no two rooms can ever sound exactly the same. Hence, rooms have to be learned. You have to learn how your room renders bass and treble. You have to learn where your room offers the best play back. You have to learn where your room puts out a lot of “slap-back.” Once you really learn your room, in tandem with whatever monitors you’re using, you’ll be good to go.

Here’s one way to learn your room. Take three different beats of yours that you know really well, and three different songs (mixed and mastered) from your favorite artist and put them on a CD. (I recommend using at least one Dr. Dre produced record, as he has some of the surest mixed and mastered music in hip hop/rap.) Inside of the room that’s giving you trouble, listen to each beat and song and take notes on what you hear. In particular, you want to pay attention to the low and high levels. Determine if the bass sounds lower or higher, thicker or flatter, distorted or not inside of your room. Then check the conditions of the highs. Are they screaming? Are they barely coming through? Are they just way too flat? Also, move around your room, learn its response, learn its “sweet spot,” where everything sounds as it should.

As you listen to the audible inconsistencies of each beat that appear inside of your room, make a note of what you need to do to hear things properly in that room. For example, through this cross reference process, you’ll know whether to increase or decrease the bass when you’re making a beat in that room. Likewise, you’ll know how to tweak the highs and mids.

I’ve recorded in several different rooms in my home before. Each room was WAY different. In some rooms, I had to really boost up everything, especially the bass because it barely registered on outside playback systems and environments that I trust. In other cases, I had to learn to minimize the low-end because it was distorting and too overbearing on outside playback systems and environments that I trust. In each case, it was never a problem with my studio monitors.

Bottom line: it’s not that one room is necessarily better or worse, it’s more about how well you know the manner in which a particular room renders sound.


The BeatTips Manual by Sa’id.
“The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education.”

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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

  • Great information! I’ve struggled a lot in the past to get my beats sounding right on all systems after I mix them down in my basement studio. I will definitely utilize this technique in the future.
    I am amazed at the amount of knowledge you’re giving out here on your blog and I am very appreciative of it. You write in a clear and easy to understand manner as well as maintaining a high level of articulation. Keep up the great work!

  • Mike “Illsonic” Wilson,
    In the past, I struggled a lot with this, too. Can’t tell you how many pairs of monitors and speakers I went through. Then I learned! I figured out how my sounds “referenced”, meaning I learned how the bass and hi levels in my environment would translate elsewhere. I spent time speaking and sitting with mix engineers and other recording professionals. Bottom line: Of course monitors matter, but your hear and your understanding of your recording/mixing environment matter more.
    Thanks for appreciating what I do here at BeatTips. I strive to provide as much knowledge as I can. And I try to add as much clarity as possible. Thanks for recognizing and appreciating that.
    —Sa’id