Some people will argue with me on this. The short answer is that a ‘beat maker’ is a person who makes ‘beats’. They are a composer. They use samples to ‘play’ lots of different instruments. They lay down sounds for drums, percussion, keyboards and other sampled sounds. It’s a serious skill, it takes a lot of pearning and practice to do it really well.
So if that’s making beats then what does a producer do? Well, a producer ‘produces’ music. They take raw components and put them together to create music. That could mean a guitar track recorded by a talented guitarist. Adding in a vocal track, drummer, bass, keyboard – an entire band or even an orchestra. They mix, edit and combine those tracks to create a polished finished ‘song’.
The confusion though is that in modern terms, as someone who is making beats – you effectively are a Producer too. Your raw components are slightly different, but you’re still building up layers in the same way. You’re still working through the same creative process to achieve the same end result.
What does it mean for someone to produce a song then?
Well in this more old fashioned tradition role, a producer was the ‘unknown hero’. They were the person who took some raw ideas and shaped them into a polished finished product that people wanted to buy. They had the commercial skill and knowledge to know how to create something that would sell. It’s a creative role with a lot of control – like being a movie director.
So the difference between a beat maker and a producer is actually pretty small. Some producers are not beat makers, but many beat makers would also consider themselves to be producers. It’s an ongoing argument that has less and less meaning as music has changed and developed.
Does that mean a producer is the same as a composer?
Not really. A composer writes lyrics or melodies. They may not necessarily actually create the music, compile or produce the actual music. Someone could of course do both jobs, but they are not the same thing.
What software program do most producers use?
The professionals mostly use Pro Tools for audio work. But also Cubase, Reason, Fruity Loops and Logic. These are pretty darn expensive though, with Pro Tools starting at about $600. You can get beat making tools that are almost as powerful that are ideal for starting out. All these tools work in the same basic ways so any experience with any of them will translate pretty well into the others if you decide to switch later. No experience is bad experience.
The main thing is to just get started. Learn by playing with a tool and seeing what it can do. Then follow some tutorials and learn how real tracks are put together. You’ll soon be putting your own mix onto someone elses basic idea. Then you’ll be well on your way to creating your own tracks from scratch.