The code of the beat.

Convey Feeling in Your Beats, and You Win

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Method and Process is One Important Dimension, But the “Feeling” of Your Beats Should Always Be a Part of Your focus

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

As beatmaking goes, just as any other music tradition really, there are common successes as well as common failures. And one of the great failings of many beatmakers is the inability to convey feeling in their beats.

I often stress that no matter the style or sound of beats that you prefer, the one quality that you should always strive for is “feeling” in your music. While this may seem obvious to some beatmakers, I fear that it’s often not necessarily a direct concern for many others. With the various misconceptions about the seriousness or ease of beatmaking (pushed forward by both well-known beat vets and newcomers alike) and the commercial forces surrounding hip hop/rap music, it’s no wonder that the “feeling” element is often lost on many beatmakers.

In hundreds of formal interviews and one on one conversations with beatmakers (well-known, lesser-known, and “unknown”), I’m always surprised when the notion of feeling doesn’t enter into our discussions. I’m not sure if this is because the idea of feeling in one’s beats is overlooked or ignored by many, or perhaps just subconsciously implied. But when I consider all of the other characteristics of beatmaking that are routinely discussed—at times obsessed over—, I can’t help but wonder how much the notion of feeling is fading into the background of many beatmakers’ minds.

I recently received an email question about a particular beatmaking process. As it turns out, and as I explained to the questioner, his question was actually less about process and more about his failure to consider the notion of feeling when he was making beats. Specifically, his question, which was about sampling and using synths, was of the “Should I do this or that” variety. I asked him flat out, “What feeling are you trying to convey?” His reply, “What do you mean?” Clearly, he didn’t understand that the notion of feeling, or rather the feeling that you’re trying convey is often what determines a particular method or process, especially when it comes to sampling.

At that point in our exchange, I explained to him that without feeling, any decision you make about process may ultimately result in a “lifeless” style and sound. Thing is, although there are many processes (some more complex/meticulous than others) in beatmaking, those individual processes/methods only account for one dimension in the overall music-making process. Another dimension, and a very important one at that, is the notion of feeling. In other words, a beat may be technically suitable, you know, drums out in front, clear bass line, etc. But a beat that’s technically “correct,” so to speak, is different from a beat that conveys feeling or mood. Feeling isn’t something that’s inherent to a given beat. Feeling is a personal extension of the individual beatmaker; it’s the mood and feel that a beatmaker consciously captures.

I certainly encourage every beatmaker to learn and master those processes/methods that they need, especially as they relate to the kind of beats that they want to make. However, I’m more concerned with getting beatmakers to focus—more directly—on injecting feeling into their beats. After all, the ability to convey feeling in one’s beats is the key ingredient in creating emotional and intellectual responses from rappers in the market for beats and, ultimately, listeners who like your style and sound of beats. In other words, conveying feeling in your beats means that you’re more likely to win, both creatively and commercially.

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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

  • Man great article…..i try and tell people this all the time!!!!!the same folks that cant put feeling into a beat are the same ones wondering why they arent getting film or documentary work….i say with all my beats or music i create its “Emotions N Motion” great article…..this has been on my mind for the past 3 weeks…..

  • great read! keep it up!