Songs talk about The Beat all the time. There are so many references that I couldn’t fit them all here, but I’m sure you’ve heard a band or artist mention a beat at some point. This is occasionally a point of confusion for some writers or clients who aren’t terribly familiar with a song’s beat, so let’s talk about it a little bit.
The beat is also known as the pulse or rhythm of the song. You might think, “why is this something people get confused about?” but consider the many types of beat terms: Upbeat, Downbeat, Backbeat, Hyperbeat, and you find songwriters getting confused. After all, they just wanted to write a hit song, and now some jerk producer is asking them whether to accent the upbeat or downbeat. Who cares??
First, don’t let studio people intimidate you. A lot of them love to do that, and they shouldn’t. Find people to work with who make it simple and fun for you. If they ask questions you don’t understand, you should feel totally comfortable expressing that.
Back to the Beat: If you have a spare 16 minutes, here is a video explaining upbeat and downbeat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rESd_QiIY5E It’s actually a dance instructional video, so if you watch it you might acquire some additional skills to impress people! But maybe not because I am still a terrible dancer after having watched it.
So here’s what you need to know about the beat:
It’s important (duh) and it’s okay to not know what you want. If you do know what you want (or have a loose idea), you’re much better equipped than many others. Again, reference songs are super helpful to your producer! Find a song (or songs) with beats you do like and use those as examples.
A lot of studios I work with add the beat after everything else is done. They do everything to a click track and then shape the beat to enhance the song. Obviously, there are people who do it the opposite way and feel that the beat should come first. There is no “right way” to create your music! So if you really don’t know what you’re looking for, let your producer know. Play around with drum samples and loops (even if you’re hiring a real human drummer) and see what sounds best. This is a great way to learn about beats too and you’ll begin to notice how the beat can change the entire song. Also, pay attention to different genres and see if you can notice common beats within that genre. This will help you figure out your own beat based on the genre you’re creating!