Hip hop production seems easy—just whip up some lyrics and find hip hop beats online to go with it. But those two steps are more complicated than they sound. Finding beats is especially challenging. Many people have a hip hop beat in mind but can’t quite find a sample to match it. Some just don’t have enough sources, while others don’t like having to pay to use them. Others lack the equipment. In any case, there are all sorts of hurdles to finding hip hop beats—and that’s just part of the whole picture.

One way around this is to use royalty-free tracks—pieces that are free for anyone to use, as opposed to exclusive tracks which can only be used once. An obvious drawback is that you’re probably not the only one using it, which can compromise originality. However, you can use editing software to tweak the sound, such as change the pitch or the tempo, so that it sounds more like your own. This is a popular solution for artists on a low budget, or those working on a demo.

Exclusive tracks give you the advantage of being the only one using the piece, which means you may not need as much editing. They cost a lot more, however, so they’re far more common among professionals. Also, if the track doesn’t quite match the song, a composer might run it through an editing program anyway.

If you have a good ear and the time to play around, you can also try making your own hip hop beats. Beat making software allows you to mix and match speeds, pitches, and other elements, as well as use a variety of simulated instruments. There are several free programs online, which can do the job if you don’t need that much functionality. If you plan on working on more projects and eventually making money off them, it might be a good idea to go for a more feature-packed paid program. Most of them offer 30-day trial versions so you can see which programs best suit your needs.

Finally, whatever your medium is, make sure you have a good set of speakers and other audio gear you might need (e.g. microphones). This ensures that you get accurate and consistent results—you don’t want your piece to sound differently from one computer to the next. When you go out and show your work to others—especially to potential partners or record labels—you want to make sure they hear it the way you intended.

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