Continuing on our theme for music production, specifically hip hop beat production software, I want to list and weigh the options that an aspiring hip hop producer has at his disposal.
I remember reading that Thom Yorke of Radiohead prefers music production on the computer than on actual instruments. And this is Thom Yorke, one of the most talented musicians of this generation. This idea is shared by everyone from Trevor Reznik of Nine Inch Nails, to the reigning king of music production, Timbaland (who is, in fact, coming up with his own music game for the PSP, called the Beatrator).
So when it comes to hip hop beat production software, you essentially have the following options available to you:
1. Pro Tools
This name has become synonymous with music production. Very powerful, very complicated, and unfortunately for you and me, very expensive.
I’ve used Pro Tools and let me tell you, it will help you do things with your music you didn’t think were possible.
The downside is that it is TOO powerful. If you are just a hip hop producer and don’t want something that includes everything PLUS the kitchen sink, Pro Tools will leave you confused and infuriated. With the number of effects and tools you have at your disposal, you will be spoiled for choice. And unless you are working in a fully fledged recording studio, there is little chance you will end up with something coherent.
As Uncle Parker said, “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility”. You’ll more than likely f**k up big time with something like Pro Tools. Stay clear.
Reason isn’t something I would recommend. The software is slow, complicated, obtuse, and very difficult to put to work correctly. The only time I used it in the past, I ended up getting frustrated (I was using a friend’s copy). You’re much better off sticking to the other options on this list.
3. Fruity Loops
Fruity Loops is pretty popular with dance and techno artists. Made by Belgian company, Image Line, Fruity Loops has a huge following in the dance/techno and lounge circles of Germany and Austria.
For electronic music, Fruity Loops is a pretty powerful piece of software that will help you arrange tracks and make the best of whatever limited instruments you might have at hand. For a hip hop producer, however, the kind of beats supplied by Fruity Loops are mediocre at best. The interface can get clunky if you want a no-frills beat producer that will do its job without pushing unwanted features in your face.
If you want to make dance/techno/electronic music, by all means, get Fruity Loops. If you are a hip hop artist/producer who wants something solely to make beats, you are better off with something like Sonic Producer, or even Pro Tools.
I was a long standing user of both Cubase and Nuendo – both made by the same company. I had copies of both, though I could never really understand the difference between the two; except for a few features, the programs were identical. They are recording tools and not exactly production tools, but I’ll throw them in the mix nonetheless.
I used Nuendo primarily to record my acoustic guitar through the microphone. It has a great interface and a ton of features for recording instrumentals, not so good at recording beats and drums. The vocals are pretty too, and you can play around a lot to get your desired vocals.
But since this article looks at the viable options for a hip hop beat producer, Nuendo would fail at this criteria. The support for beat production is mediocre and you have to resort to a ton of plugins to get any value out of your investment.
This is my current baby when it comes to beat production. Its cheap, geared specifically for producing beats, and has an interface that my 10 year old cousin could use effectively. More importantly, it has a s**t load of tutorials on music production that will make any idiot a hip hop rock star.
Since it was made by a prominent NY producer, it has features that will help you out a lot when you start producing your own beats. Its interface is clean and easy to use, and it already has a huge library of sounds built into it.
At $29.95, its only a fraction of the cost of the other production softwares listed here. Sure, it may not have the power of Pro Tools, but if you want to only make beats, I cannot help but seriously recommend Sonic Producer.