Tutorials / 2 September 2020

How to make a trap beat on BandLab

How to make a trap beat

With roots from Atlanta, Georgia, trap has come a long way since it served as the backdrop to rappers’ controversial lyrics. Today, you’ll hear the trap beat everywhere – from the music of Migos to Drake to Kendrick Lamar to Post Malone and you’ll even hear it on K-pop records.

Just what makes it so captivating to musicians and producers everywhere? Minimal, heavy and rolling, and that addictive and unique hi-hat. That short, aggressive, rapid-fire burst that came from the Roland TR-808 Drum Machine.

No one will blame you for wanting a trap beat in your repertoire, and the best part? It’s easy to create your own trap beat, from scratch. We’ll show how, using authentic TR- 808 drum sounds in BandLab‘s web Mix Editor, a free online digital audio workstation that allows you to share your beats with friends anywhere in the world. You can access BandLab as an app on both iOS and Android devices, or if you’re at home on your computer via the web browser, making it easy for collaborators to add vocals to your beats.

Here are eight quick steps that show you how to make a trap beat that will serve you as the faithful, hard-hitting foundation of your own track.

1. Setting up the project

The Trao Kit on the Mix Editor

Once you’ve created a BandLab account and logged in, you can use the + Create button to make a new project. You’ll be asked how you want to start your new track. Select the Instruments option, then set the instrument category to Drum Pads and the instrument to Trap Kit. Then, drag up on the project tempo to set it to 140BPM.

Setting up a project

2. Creating a four-bar clip to work with

Click View and make sure the Snap To Grid option is selected. Right-click on the instrument track and select Create Region.

Creating a four-bar clip to work with

3. Creating a rhythm with hi-hats

Set View > Grid Size to 1/8. Double-click the clip to enter the grid editor, then double click on each eighth note of the first bar in the closed hat lane. When you’re done hold [alt] on Windows or [option] on Mac and drag the notes over to fill the rest of the four bars.

Creating a rhythm with hi-hats

4. Adding kicks and claps

Double-click the clap lane on 1.3 and 2.3 to add claps, then add kicks on the first and last eighth notes of the first bar, and the third eighth note of the second bar. When you’re done, hold [alt] on Windows or [option] on Mac and drag the kicks and claps over to the third and fourth bars. 

Adding kicks and claps

5. Creating variation

Our trap beat is four bars long, but currently it’s just the same two bars repeating. Let’s add an extra drum hit to the second set of two bars to keep things interesting. Add a kick on the second eighth note of the fourth bar. 

Creating variation

6. Adding a snare fill

Snare fills are a common element of trap tracks, so let’s add a simple one to our beat. Change View > Grid Size to 1/16, and add the middle snare sound to the 11th, 12th, 13th and 15th sixteenth notes. This accents the end of the four bar section, giving the beat a kind of rhythmic hook that keeps it feeling fresh.

Adding a snare fill

7. Creating hat rolls

Hat rolls are another favourite of trap producers. These are typically at a 1/32 note resolution, so set View > Grid Size to 1/32. Delete the 2nd, 6th and 8th hats on bar two, and the 4th hat on bar four. Replace each one with four hats on 32nd notes.

Creating hat rolls

8. Adjusting hat velocity. 

To get smooth, natural-sounding hat rolls we can adjust the hats’ velocity, which tells BandLab how loudly to play them. Select the Edit Note Velocity tool, and turn down the velocity of the second and fourth note of each roll slightly.

Watch this space for more tips, tricks and tutorials on more beatmaking basics on BandLab. You’re going to need it because we’re dropping one of our biggest contests real soon!

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