Category Archives: hip-hop production
And, the best CHEAP ones…..
I hate and have hated looking for VST plugins. When I first discovered them in the early 2000s, I was addicted to finding the best free ones. Occasionally I get addicted still today, searching for newer stuff I may have missed. Let me give you a list of the absolute best… and, in the interest of saving time, I’m not going to include a screenshot of each. Just trust me when I say, these are the best free ones, and the best cheap ones. If I didn’t include a link, just google it, you’ll easily find where to download them.
FREE Grand Piano
PianoOne (by Yichi Wang). Download from http://www.supremepiano.com. It needs a little tweaking of the “release” fader (bump it up from minimum, just a little beyond it) and enjoy the wonderful (and quite realistic) piano sounds you get from it.
mda Piano (by Maxim Digital Audio). Extremely lightweight. Very nice. http://mda.smartelectronix.com/ Make sure you click the “VST Synths” link at the top (hard to read).
FREE Electric Piano (Rhodes and Wurlies)
Lazysnake (by Andreas Ersson). Destroys most others. Has wah, tremolo, overdrive, etc. Sick-sounding Rhodes and not-quite-Rhodes. They always sit in a mix perfectly. Extremely useful plugin.
Legacy Collection by GSi/Soundfonts.it. MrRay73 and MrRay73 version II are GREAT Rhodes emulators, as well as Mr Tramp, fur Wurlitzer 200 piano sounds. Also included in the collection is a great Hammond B3 emulator called Organized Trio. When you first insert the plugins, they nag you to donate, but there are no sound limitations. You just have to wait a few seconds to edit the parameters, but they work, and they work great. Download at http://www.genuinesoundware.com/?a=showproduct&b=37
Synth1 (by Ichiro Toda). This is one of the first, and the best. The presets and banks (made by users for over a decade) can be difficult to install/add, but this thing is so programmable and so damn good-sounding, it’s a shame to pass it up. Also has a step arpeggiator built-in. Sick. Gives Nord Leads a run for their money, no doubt. http://www.geocities.jp/daichi1969/softsynth/#down
ANYTHING and EVERYTHING from Togu Audio Line (TAL). Specifically the TAL UNO-62 (a perfect Juno-60), and Noizemaker, which is so insanely useful, I can’t even get into it. Plus, nearly all parameters are MIDI-learnable (if you have a nice midi controller with lots of knobs/faders). Download all their completely free plugins (for Mac AND PC!) here—- http://kunz.corrupt.ch/Products
Aethereal (by Psychic Modulation) – ambient/pad heaven. Gives Atmosphere a run for its money, and then some. The demo is limited to two notes polyphony, and one audio output, but it’s worth it, believe me. And the price is right for the full version. Lots of great presets. http://www.psychicmodulation.com/aethereal.html
Crystal (by Green Oak) – mentioned EVERYWHERE online. A must-download. http://www.greenoak.com/crystal/dnld.html
This is a tough one. There aren’t many good ones at all. I’d recommend using a free sampler such as ShortCircuit. You can load your own wav samples of drum one-shots, and it’s pretty easy to get the hang of, once you do. There are tutorials on YouTube on how to use it. Stick with version 1.1.1, and stay away from ShortCircuit2, as it’s very unstable and crashes constantly. http://www.vemberaudio.se/shortcircuit.php
Kirnu (by Arto Vaarala). This is one of the most easy-to-use, beautiful-looking, and powerful arpeggiators, PERIOD! Throw it before your favorite synth plugin in your DAW, and have tons of fun. http://www.kirnuarp.com/kirnu1/index.html
CHEAP, amazing stuff
For drums / sampling / hip-hop production
Poise (www.onesmallclue.com). Windows-only (but hopefully Mac, soon!) Who the hell needs an MPC anymore, or even Native Instruments’ Maschine? (I love Maschine, for the record)… but, if you’re on an insanely tight budget, all you need is Poise and an Akai MPD18. Poise is $49. The MPD18 is $99 new. Watch tutorial videos I made, on YouTube, to see how freakin’ awesome it is. I can never live without this amazing plugin.
CTHULHU by Xfer Records. It’s like Kirnu, but 1000 times more powerful, fun, and intuitive. If you like arpeggiators…. you NEED this. Comes with a shit-ton of classical chord sequences, that you can arpeggiate, or create your own (playing songs essentially with one key at a time). INSANELY awesome. Only $39. http://www.xferrecords.com/products/cthulhu
Also, when you subscribe to (or buy a physical copy of) Computer Music magazine, you get the “CM COLLECTION.” LOTS of great stuff, in there, too. That magazine introduced me to the absolute power of recording with a computer, when I first bought an issue in early 2000. The technology has moved so fast, though. So new issues can be intimidating… however, they always include a chapter (in EVERY ISSUE) called CM Basics or whatever, and they cover everything you need to know, if you’re new to this.
What are some of YOUR favorites?
As some people know, I’m a huge fan of good hip-hop. I’ve made instrumental hip-hop for over a decade, and I guess my biggest “claim to fame” is my trip-hop duo Beauty’s Confusion (active from 2001-2006), which had a huge hip-hop influence, beat-wise.
Just wanted to share some tips I’ve picked up along the way. This is for people who want to make some good stuff, like Premier, Q-Tip (Tribe Called Quest), Dilla, Pete Rock, Stoupe The Enemy of Mankind, and all that good stuff (the first four, which many call the “golden-era” of hip-hop… and all five who many consider as the top 5 hip-hop producers of the last 25 years… it’s tough to argue that).
1. Collect vinyl and/or jazz/soul/ambient/prog/funk music from the 50s to the early 80s! Whether it be actual vinyl from thrift stores or bargain bins of good record shops (50 cents to $1 per record), or if you like to “e-dig” (believe me, you can find vinyl rip blogs if you do no more than 30 minutes of searching)… it’s worth looking into. The art of sampling is exactly that: the art. Sure, many people might say “well, you didn’t write it, and that’s stupid.” For those people, maybe you can simply skim this post… or ignore it entirely. Sampling and “sample chopping” is what makes for the best hip-hop, in my (and MANY others’) opinion.
2. Collect hip-hop-related royalty-free sample libraries! These are great sources for sampling and chopping, and you never have to worry about legal trouble (well, most of the time. Some libraries contain uncleared samples, which you have to watch out for)… some great sites include http://www.bigfishaudio.com (look for their sales), http://www.soundsonline.com, and http://www.timespace.com. Another KILLER resource is http://www.rawcutz.com (Loopmasters / E-Lab/Equipped Music partnership). You can never, ever have too many samples.
3. Listen to GOOD hip-hop. the producers mentioned above, plus artists like Eric B and Rakim, Tribe Called Quest, Molemen, Buck 65, Boogie Down Productions / KRS-One, Geto Boys, Sage Francis, Aesop Rock, J-Live, Blueprint, Bluebird, Sole (and most of Anticon’s earlier output), Jedi Mind Tricks (could be the most underrated hip-hop group of all-time). You’ll be amazed at what you can learn, by simply listening.
4. Get a 4×4 drum pad controller (MIDI interface) — On the cheaper (but VERY useful) side: Akai MPD18, Akai MPD26, Akai MPD32, M-Audio Trigger Finger (get all of these used to save a good amount of dough), Korg Padkontrol (same– they average $100 used)…. or on the more expensive side– Native Instruments Maschine MK2 (Mikro or regular), or Maschine Studio. Stay away from the new Akai stuff– don’t believe the hype. It’s buggy and you can’t produce beats as fast as with Maschine, or with one of those controllers + a VST sampler such as Poise, Shortcircuit, or Motu BPM. A computer, plus a midi pad controller (and maybe a 49-key midi keyboard) is pretty much all you need to make good hip-hop (a little research goes a very long way).
5. Watch beat production videos on YouTube (especially beat production tutorials). Man, I love how people are so damn HELPFUL these days…. some of the tutorials might be on the boring side, but others are incredibly awesome. One of my favorites is Andrew Schellman’s tutorials with Maschine Mikro: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7ODfLapPcJt1Hjvbm_w0XD9u2mDKWKLF
This is just a simple tips list…. eventually I might do a “basics of hip-hop production” tutorial on YouTube… there are so many already, but I like to give people really affordable (CHEAP) options. When I was in highschool, none of this was possible for me financially…. 2013 offers a lot to the aspiring beatmaker/producer and all musicians/home recordists in general. You guys don’t know how lucky you have it. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. Information is everywhere…. it’s a shame if talented people don’t put all the good info to use.
Here are four tutorials I made about the Poise VST, which is the best MPC-style sampler out there, hands-down. It’s actually a million times easier to use than an MPC. Along with Native Instruments’ Maschine, Poise + Reaper is how I make a majority of my hip-hop tracks.
Check these videos out, and download the Poise demo. You’ll be extremely impressed.
Hey guys… in between naps as I am very ill today, I synced all three of my Akai MPD models (MPD18, MPD26, MPD32) to Reaper, perfectly… so Note Repeat works as it should.
Here’s how it’s done.
On the MPD26/32… go into Global settings… hit the right arrow a bunch of times until you reach MIDI CLOCK. Set it to EXTERNAL.
For the MPD18, you’ll need the MPD editing software, as that’s the only way to edit midi notes and the midi clock setting. Make sure it is set the same way.
Now go into Reaper’s Preferences.
Find the MIDI DEVICES tab, and enable MIDI output for your MPD by right-clicking the device name in the MIDI Output section (Windows XP users more than likely will see “USB Audio Device”, which is the generic name for the MPD series.) Now right-click the device name again, and select “Send clock/SPP to output”.
Note Repeat will not work unless Reaper is in Playback or Record mode (as in, the timeline/cursor is moving).
Assuming you set everything right, it works perfectly. I tested it on three different systems (Windows 7 x64, Windows XP SP3, and Windows 7 32-bit).
I’ve written about Poise several times in this blog. It still rules. Sadly, it’s still only available for Windows… but, luckily, a lot of Mac users can use Boot Camp, and have Windows on their Macs. Convenient for stuff like this…
I created a forum post at the Reaper Forum, showing exactly how I use Poise in my workflow, to produce hip-hop beats easily. I call it the “$200 MPC workflow”… because Reaper is a free download (though I highly recommend you buying a license if you use it regularly)… this is the absolute cheapest way to get an MPC-style workflow for hip-hop production:
Reaper (free, or $60)
an Akai MPD18 ($60-100, used to new)
Poise VST from http://www.onesmallclue.com ($49)
if there’s an ad below, ignore it as it has NOTHING to do with my blog. Just another website justifying its operation with ad revenue.
I realized I never finished the video for the previous post (when I initially wrote this post in November 2012)…. as of February 2013, I finished a video. Here’s a walkthrough for the setup, as I posted on the Reaper forums months ago:
And here is the 17-minute long overview/tutorial…