Songwriting for Beatmakers: How to Turn Your Beats into Full Songs

beatmaking songwriting
Beatmaker arranging a beat into a full song

In today’s saturated music industry, it can be difficult for up-and-coming artists to stand out from the crowd. Aspiring electronic musicians and beatmakers should utilize every advantage they can find so that their beats don’t sound like everyone else’s. If you’re not familiar with the term, a beat is a musical template or grid through which rhythm section and melody instruments are sequenced. A beatmaker refines these templates and adds variation to them so that they become more interesting and compelling to hear. An expertly produced song takes advantage of multiple melodies and harmonies in order to make the listener subconsciously notice its presence. In this article, we will explore how you can use your knowledge of production techniques to improve your songwriting skills.



What’s the Difference Between Beats and Songs? 

Beats are instrumentals for rappers and songs are completed arrangements of melody, rhythm and lyrics. Beats are typically instrumental and create a pattern that rappers can use to tell their stories. A song is the combination of lyrics, melody, and rhythm. A song can have vocals or it can be instrumental. In order to write a good song, you have to combine your knowledge of production techniques with your commercial music skills and understanding of writing songs. One of the keys to writing better songs is proper song section sequencing. There needs to be a flow from beginning to end with no dead spots in between sections where there is nothing new happening for the listener.


Music Composition: Rhythm, Melody, and Lyrics

One of the most important elements of songwriting is music composition where you combine all the elements of a song.

Rhythm is what creates the beat or rhythm section at the base of your song. Rhythm consists primarily of drums, percussion and bass lines. The rhythm sets the tempo, pulse and time signature of a song.

Melody: is what most people think of as the music of a song. The melody is often the first part of a song that listeners hear, although it can be layered with other sounds later in the song. A melody can be made up of single notes or chords, and is made using various instruments like vocals, guitars, and pianos. 

Lyrics: are the words that tell the story that works with the melody to evoke feelings in the listener. The lyrics are usually written by the same person who sings or raps them but sometimes performance artists will collaborate with other songwriters to create their lyrics.


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Song Arrangement

Once the basic idea for the rhythm, melody and lyrics are formed the song arrangement will become the focus. If you have a cool arrangement with a catchy melody, it can elevate your song to the next level. Keep it simple: Don't spend too much time composing until you’ve focused on writing memorable melodies and lyrics first. Experiment with arrangements: Instrumentation and song structure. Then try experimenting with tempo changes or trying new ways to arrange your chord progressions.

Instrumentation: Song arrangement includes deciding what instrumentation you want to use in your song, which can be broadly defined as the instruments that will play the melody and rhythm parts. Here are some examples of instruments that can be used in a song: -Piano, -Guitar, -Bass, -Vocals, -Drums, -Bassoon, -Trumpet, -Clarinets, -Flute. Add variation to your music: Use different kinds of instruments and include different kinds of rhythms that complement your melodies and harmonies. 

Song Structure: One of the most common song structures is the verse/chorus format. The intro, which is sometimes referred to as a pre-chorus, leads into the chorus and then back into the intro again. In this structure, you have a "verse" and "chorus" that get repeated several times before coming back around to an "intro", or pre-chorus. Then you have a bridge which is where harmony vocals enter and an outro where it all wraps up. This structure isn't always ideal for songs with multiple melodies, so beatmakers will often use different variations of it to keep their songs interesting.



Instrument Parts

Once the instruments for your song have been chosen, the electronic producer or the live musicians will need to come up with the parts that each instrument will play. These parts will need to sound great together and benefit the song by playing in time and in key with each other. Learning the basics of music theory will help with this. Some parts like drums and percussion will be more focused on providing the rhythm, whereas others like guitar and synth chords will focus on melody. The bass guitar, bass synth or 808 bass line bridges the rhythmic and melodic elements and glues them together.

The Song Mix

A mix engineer is the person who balances all the track levels in a beat or song. Mixing also includes stereo panorama (panning) and signal processing (like EQ, compression, delay and reverb). The mix is an extension of the song arrangement and determines when and how each musical element is introduced. The beatmaker will typically mix the beat or song themselves but sometimes another person is hired to mix. The person who mixes has a lot of influence over how the song sounds and is perceived by the listeners. 


Conclusion: If you're a beatmaker, you know that creating great beats is only half the battle. The other half is turning those beats into full-fledged songs. After spending some time working on music theory, song structure, arrangement and mixing, you'll be able to take your beats to the next level and create songs that will resonate with your audience.


Futch - Music Production Coach, Ableton Certified Trainer

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