Three Important Characteristics that Define and Distinguish the Art of Beatmaking and the Beatmaker
|By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)|
Beatmaking, the chief compositional process of hip hop/rap music, is a rich and very meticulous art-craft. It contains a number of unique methods, practices, and processes, each potentially more complex and challenging than the other. And among the various elements that have made the beatmaker a new kind of musician and the art of beatmaking a compositional process distinct from other traditional music processes, there are three major characteristics that most underscore its uniqueness.
The first characteristic that jumps out at every beatmaker is the meticulous nature of the various processes that beatmaking requires. Because beatmakers are one part musician and one part (computer) programmer, we have to control a number of different technological steps in the musical process that traditional musicians do not. For instance, prior to the compositional phase of the musical process, beatmakers are enjoined with the task of finding and/or making sounds to work with. And in beatmaking, after the compositional and arrangement processes (processes that may require any number of programming steps) are completed, most beatmakers (myself included) transform into defacto mix engineers, as they further lock in the sound and sonic impression that characterize their individual styles and sounds.
The second major characteristic that underscores beatmaking’s uniqueness and also helps define it is it’s deep reliance upon technology within the creative process. In beatmaking, the connection of creativity and technology is paramount. Not only does it serve as the junction at which beatmakers find their deepest exploration, it also represents one of the main forces that binds them to the perpetual pursuit of creating and manipulating sounds. Moreover, as witnessed by most beatmakers’ staunch product and brand loyalty to leading electronic music production instrument (EMPI) manufacturers, the connection of creativity and technology in beatmaking serves as a form of identity and, in many ways, a badge of musically creative honor.
Finally, the third and perhaps most important characteristic that most underscores beatmaking’s uniqueness is the type and depth of analytical study that it involves. Beatmakers engage in a diverse range of self-imposed study. We (beatmakers) necessarily study the fundamental techniques, methods, and practices of the beatmaking tradition as well its history, in particular the lineage of styles and sounds from beatmaking’s inception to the present. In addition to learning and studying the principles, tropes, philosophies, methods, and processes of the beatmaking tradition, beatmakers must also familiarize themselves with traditional music principles, methods, processes, and the like.
And while most traditional musicians will likely never study (or survey) the art of beatmaking or use any of its principles and nuances, most beatmakers routinely incorporate elements, principles, and processes of other music forms and traditions outside of hip hop/rap. In fact, for beatmakers, no music form is forbidden territory; wherever we find inspiration, we use the styles, techniques, methods, and practices of our tradition to convert such inspiration into hip hop/rap form. And thus, because beatmakers must move between the fundamental principles of hip hop/rap music and the fundamental principles of Western music in general, we’re not only unique, we also represent a new kind of musician, one that I describe and discuss in my book, The BeatTips Manual, as the common composer.Beatmaking, Beatmaking Education, Beatmaking Themes, Theories, and Concepts, Book on How to Make Beats, Editor's Choice, Features, Making Beats, Sa'id, The BeatTips Manual