Yes, Trap is still the most popular Genre, period. No matter if you’re listening to Hip Hop, Pop or EDM, there’s literally no escape. Reading this tutorial, you’ll learn exactly how to make a trap beat – step by step. Let’s dive right in..
Step 1: Pick your tempo
Trap isn’t a genre defined by a fixed tempo. There are Trap beats in 90, 100, 140, or 150 BPM. There are no rules. However, for a lot of rappers, it’s the easiest to rap on 160 BPM beats so I’d recommend setting your BPM near to this range for now.
Step 2: Chords & Melodies
Next up, it’s time to write some atmospheric chords or catchy melodies. Listening to modern Hip Hop charts you’ll notice that there isn’t that one pattern or this one sound everyone is using. Therefore, I’d recommend trying to come up with your own ideas.
Nevertheless, here are some tips that should work most of the time.
1. If you aren’t familiar with music theory, write your melodic elements in A Minor. This way you can use all of the white keys, without having to worry about which keys you “can” or “can not” use. Later on, you can still transpose the MIDI clip up or down a few semitones.
2. Pick a cool sound. When it comes to music production, the sound selection is extremely important. If you don’t own a quality preset library yet, I’d highly recommend to download some decent xfer Serum banks.
3. Make it Lo-Fi. Yes, I know: you don’t want to produce Lo-Fi, you want to produce Trap, but trust me: a tiny bit of detuning, noise, or saturation can really help to bring your synths to life. That said, get yourself a LoFi plugin, if you don’t have one yet!
Beginner Tip: Just in case writing dope melodies is too hard for you at this point, you could also hook yourself up with a Trap melody MIDI pack.
Step 3: Kick & Snare
Once you’re happy with the melodic part of your beat it’s time to come up with a groovy kick and snare (or clap) pattern. However, before you start dragging random samples into your DAW, I want to point out the importance of sound selection one more time. If you don’t call a bunch of top-notch drum samples your own, make sure to take a sneak at the best free trap sample kits before moving on. If you’d, however, like to impart your beats with some harder, more unique drums, you should also take a look at these phonk samples.
Now that we got this out of the way, pick a perfect kick and a perfect snare or clap. Adjust the grid to 1/2 and draw a snare hit to every second block. In most cases that’s it, but in some occasions, you can add 2 additional hits in between, just like this:
In contrast to the snare pattern, you can be more creative with the kick. Just loop a section of your beat and use your MIDI controller, launchpad, or computer keyboard to jam around until you find a perfect flow. If you have no clue how to get started, just take a look at these 3 patterns below. They should be a great starting point.
Alternatively, you can recreate the kick patterns from your favorite Trap beats. After doing this for a while you get a feeling of where to place the notes.
Step 4: Closed Hats
Pick a closed hat of your choice, change the grid to 1/8, and fill out the whole MIDI clip with notes. Some producers don’t even refine their hat patterns any further, but I personally prefer to add some rolls and stutters here and there.
Change up your DAWs grid to 1/32 and draw some additional notes 1 or 2 semitones lower. Once you’re happy with the pattern, lower the velocity of those notes, so they don’t interrupt the 1/8 flow as much.
Instead of drawing those stutters into the MIDI clip of your main hat, you could also try to add the stutters’ MIDI information to a whole new track and replace the one-shot with another sample, which could for example be slightly turned to the left or right side.
Step 5: 808s
808s are those big, low basses you always hear in Trap beats. You can either pick a decent sample or try to make your own 808 preset using a synth of your choice. To ensure your 808 is hitting hard make them play at the exact moment the kick hits, just like in this example:
Since heavily distorted 808s are quite popular at the moment you could also try to add distortion. Some of my favorite plug-ins are FabFilter’s Saturn*, iZotope Trash*, or any hard clipper. Your DAW probably also comes with useful stock plugins you can play around with.
Step 6: Percussion
If your drum pattern still sounds empty, you should probably consider adding a bunch of percussion elements. For example: earlier in this post I showed a way to modify the basic snare pattern. Instead of adding those 2 extra snare hits, you could also choose a rimshot.
Another common thing in Trap is adding an open hat to the second quarter hit of every second or fourth bar. Anyway, there aren’t any rules in music, so feel free to experiment with any kind of percussion to make your beats unique and stand out from the rest.
Step 7: Arrangement
Whereas most pop songs had a fixed structure just about a decade ago, modern music gets wilder and wilder and some songs don’t even hit the 2 minutes mark. So instead of following a “fixed” arrangement formula, just make sure to prepare a few different parts: without drums, with drums (but no bass), everything together, etc. This way the rapper can decide about the parts’ order and lengths.
Step 8: Mixing
So you got a decent melody, snappy drums, and arranged different sections? Now there’s only one thing that could stop your beat from sounding dope as heck: your mixing skills.
The great part: Trap beats usually don’t need a lot of mixing, as long as your sound selection is on point. Just drag one or two well-mixed reference tracks into your DAW and compare the volume of each element to yours. Is your kick hitting hard enough? Is the bass too loud etc.
Once you leveled everything by ear you can use a tool like Tonal Balance Control*. First, drag it onto your reference track, let it play for a while, and analyze the frequency curve. Now add the plugin to your own master and let it play for a while to see if some of your frequency areas are still too loud or quiet.
Hint: It’s completely normal to have a frequency dip around 2-3kHz, since there aren’t vocals on the beat yet, which will fill out this area later on.