Whatever you call yourself these days, a producer, beatmaker, hobbyist, creative, instrumentalist, sound engineer, sound designer, or just simply a dude that just likes making music… there’s this underlying internal spiritual calling that is shared among the aforementioned. It’s not just a heightened sense of rhythm or emotion. It’s deeper than that…
Technology has made huge strides in developing hardware and software that allow us to create pretty much anywhere at any time. From the SP1200 to the latest MPC. From Cakewalk to Protools and everything in between. If you have some kind of technical savvy you could essentially make beats.
However, even with all the technology and youtube instructional videos available there’s still something that divides the good from the not so good. Organized Noize have it. The Bomb Squad have it. Just Blaze has it. The RZA has it. Dr. Dre has it! This indescribable spiritual syncopation that can artfully combine technology and emotion into something wonderful that knocks and makes people move.
Well, what the fuck is it? In short, it can’t be explained. End of post! But it can be analyzed into something that is tangible and attainable through practice.
Have you ever been tinkering with some sounds and rhythms then ALL OF A SUDDEN you feel something? That’s the moment when your brain, mind, and body fall in sync and your soul has become this beat making Voltron. Everyone’s awakening comes in different forms. A magic carpet ride, floating on water, riding race horses, exploding buildings, etc.. Usually something that takes you away. You get up out of your seat, take the headphones off, switch to your near fields, and push up the fader. YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING!
That “something” is the audible version of yourself in that moment. That “something” is the very thing that distinguishes a J Dilla beat over the millions of contributors on Soundcloud.
So How do I get there and on a regular basis??? Here’s my take on the spiritual approach to beat making:
1. Clear your head of all thoughts. Dig into yourself and find the things that emotionally marked your day, good or bad. Put those feelings into your beats. Release that creative energy in your sound banks and use them as fuel for whatever comes out creatively. Listeners need to be emotionally taunted and provoked, especially writers.
2. All your work should have nothing less than all of you in it. If its tainted by some outside influence people will notice it. It will sound like something else out there. The point is to make something new that invites listeners to nod to it. Understand that as humans we are starving for fresh air. NOTHING SHOULD BEG FOR AIRPLAY.
3. It ain’t for everyone so don’t get hot if someone doesn’t like it. Let your homies listen to it during chill sessions when everyone is laxin’ where there’s no pressure. Be open to their criticism because most likely these are the dudes that are gonna bust over it. Not only that, they are your immediate audience. They have an obliged duty to call your shit out because at the end of the day, your folks will ultimately be your best promoters.
4. It’s easy to get discouraged if you can’t create something that you can identify with. Finding self through music production isn’t the easiest thing to do. Accepting the growing process is as important as accepting your individual flavor on beats. It’s going to take at least 10,000 hours of practice to even begin to understand who you are in your music. What makes a Picasso a Picasso and not a Rembrandt?
5. Once you find that “thing” that moves you, seek it out in all things you do. Play ball with that same spirit. Cook in the kitchen with that same spirit. Listen to other music with the intent to identify another producer’s spirit in their work. This connectivity to all things is universal. Find yours, cultivate it and fine tune it. This is what makes your production stand out from others.
6. This is a superficial step but important none the less because the moral is to be sure that how you mix is just as spiritually involved as the process. Turn it up, it’s supposed to knock. If you don’t feel it and your picture frames are still on the wall, sit down and start over.
By no means is this meant to be the “end all” for anyone’s pursuit. If anything, a spark to a beginning. It’s a long road full of empty promises, fakes, gimmicks, and trends. If you have the tenacity to endure emotional hardship, embrace who you are wholeheartedly, and put in the work to find yourself through music you’ll be way ahead of the next dude that just likes to make beats.