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It’s not easy to make a great original rap beat, but if you can master the art, it’s a fun way to show your artistic side and even make some extra cash. Here’s a few tips for aspiring producers that want to make rap beats that really stand out.

1. Start with a simple drum and bass. You can add in synth lines and pads later, but none of that will matter if the core beat isn’t good. You can hammer out a drum beat on a MIDI keyboard and use most sequencing software such as FL Studio 7 to line up the beats to their appropriate areas, then plug in a decent bass line as the core of your song. You’ll usually want to create a few sections of a song, so that it doesn’t all sound the same, too–I’d recommend a minimum of four or five differentiations from your main beat line.

2. Give the rapper space. Rap works because the artists subdivide beats with their rhymes and come up with unique and unexpected rhythms. If you fill your beat to the brim, with every single measure completely packed with samples, drums, and synths, you’re not going to give the rapper much room to experiment or really do anything, and you might accidentally lock him in to a certain rhyme scheme, making the song boring. Give your song a lot of space and resist the urge to fill every section of the beat with something; remember that there’s actually going to be a rapper there. Sometimes it can help to download an a Capella version of a rap song and lay the lyrics over your beat (adjusting to make them in the proper time and meter), to give you an idea of how things will sound when the rhymes are in.

3. Accent the hottest parts of the rapper’s flow. Once you’re recording with the rapper, re-program parts of your beat to drop out during really hot sections to further emphasize the rapper’s skills. This leads to an awesome effect where the audience doesn’t know where the beat’s going next, and can add a lot of energy to a track.

4. Get the rights to any samples you use. You can get really burned by not getting the rights to samples, so either get the rights or recreate something that sounds close to the sample, but not close enough to infringe on its copyright. There would be nothing worse than making a great beat that gets a lot of hot press, only to get a cease and desist letter from a record label, so always plan for the best and sort out all of the legal stuff before having a rapper use your beat.

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