The difference between an "okay" beat and a straight-up hit is often the sound selection.
Sound selection is largely impacted by the genre of music being composed.
For example, most country music contains at least one acoustic guitar, pop music often has an electric keyboard, grand-piano or synth, and all rock music contains electric guitar and bass 🎸
Sound selection is the foundation for every genre.
And in 2021, there’s no excuse for having bad sound selection!
Here are some thoughts on how to significantly improve your melody sound selection so that all of your beats sound polished and are more likely to get placed with the artists you're targeting 💯🙏
Familiarize yourself with different genres.
Sound selection is a crucial element in all music regardless genres (in fact, it often defines the genre).
If you’re making a Gunna or Lil Keed type beat, the melodies these rappers work off often include acoustic guitar playing a Spanish melody.
Another thing to remember is that sound selection is subjective because every producer and artist approaches their music differently.
In the song 'Ski' by Young Thug and Gunna you can hear the melody sound selection is made up of some staccato short strings, ensemble style legato strings, a koto, and a simple sine wave.
If we were to recreate this melody (which is a great learning exercise btw), we could either put little or a lot of thought into the sounds we choose.
Terrible sound selection:
Better sound selection:
Both versions use the exact same MIDI, but the second one is modeling the sound selection of the original song while the first one is just filled with random sounds that don’t complement each other 👎🏽
The point being, sound selection can make or break a record! If you’re trying to remake a song or produce for a specific artist, there are certain instruments and styles of sound selection that work better than others.
Making a certain style of beat or production requires you to familiarize yourself with the genre you’re intending to make before you actually try to make it 🤯💯
Open up Spotify or Apple Music and search up some genre-specific playlists. Spend a few hours just listening. Be proactive and take notes about what types of sounds you're hearing and how they are played.
Study a genre you want to produce.
If you listen to RnB music in 2021, you will hear that a lot of the melodies tend to have a lofi feel where the mid-range shines in the mix.
Comparatively, trap music contains a lot of high-end 🔊👂
If you’re trying to produce RnB / Trap Soul, then it’s important to study the genre and the top songs in the scene.
Instead of casual listening, put yourself into a student mentality. Open up your mind to hear everything rhythmically and sonically. This is called critical listening.
Listening to music critically allows yourself to dive deep into the psychology of the genre and learn to produce said genre, improving your sound selection in the process 🧠✅
Take Lil Uzi Vert's '20 Min'. The melody of this song is made up of two different triad chords repeating every two bars, along with a saw-wave lead repeating every two bars. That’s it! 💪😏
Here’s a quick remake of the melody:
Native Instruments' Massive was used to create the chords (two instances layered together). The first layer uses a preset called “Dreamizer” with a high-pass filter and some compression. The second layer uses a preset called “Lemming Keys” with a hard bandpass filter on top. The lead was created with Electra X with some added reverb and chorus.
Choose what you want to make.
If you mainly make Trap beats but want to get into Pop or RnB, then your sound selection is going to have to shift.
Sure, there’s a fair amount of Pop that’s heavily influenced by Trap, but when’s the last time you heard a Dua Lipa song with a Rod Wave melody and a Spinz 808? We’ll wait…😕
Your sound selection really depends on three things: 1) What you listen to regularly, 2) how often you listen to it, and 3) what YOU want to produce.
If you want to make a Dua Lipa type beat but you’ve only heard one of her songs and your playlist mainly consists of Young Thug and Gucci, then you might have a very hard time starting out 🤣😂
Next time you want to produce a genre that you have never made before, take a few days to dive into the genre and study it. This will allow you to emulate the melody styles commonly associated with it and pick the best possible sounds.
If you want to learn more about how to improve your melody sound selection, checkout TWiLL's full video on the subject 👈💣