Learn How to Mix Hip Hop Beats

Learn How to Mix Hip Hop Beats


SSI CHANNEL STRIPTo mix a hip hop beats you should understand the tools used to accomplish the task. First, we want to look at the virtual mixer channel strip signal flow: preamp, equalizer, compressor, pre and post fader.  The signal will flow in that order, unless you re-route it through an external insert or aux buss. Treat hip hop like you would any other style of music. 

Monitoring levels

When mixing hip hop, listen to the audio at a comfortable level. I know you want to hear the beat bang but in the mixing stage you really want to hear whats going on without the bass rumbling. 

If you have a subwoofer, turn it off for the moment, this will help you hear the true sound from your monitors. I'll assume you have acoustical treatment installed to cancel out unwanted sound reflections.

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Preamp for beat beat makers
The preamp over all goal is to boost audio levels coming in to the signal chain. XLR and 1/4 inputs are usually associated with this terminal. It's very critical to adjust the volume correctly so you don't clip the signal while recording. Recording samples should be treated the sample way.

Music Fader

fader for audioThe music fader controls the sound in two ways. In pre mode, it'll control the sound that is coming inside the beat program. For instants, a live sample recording.  It's important to have the fader set at 0 or unison and control the input level with the pre amp knob. 

Remember the first rule, garbage  in, garbage out. so its important to record samples in the green instead of the red. Post fader mode controls the sound volume after its been recorded. This mode is used predominately in mixing.  What I like to do is add dynamics processing first before I move the fader that way I can get a better feel on how much processing I need and afterwards.

Pan Knob

pan knob for beat makers
The pan knob directs the sound from right to left.  When mixing hip hop, I like to pan things out as much as possible to help widen the stereo effect. For example, I might spread the toms, hi hats and crashes out to resemble a actual drum set. Other instruments can be panned too, like horns, strings and sound effects.  The kick and snare drum should be panned in the middle but there's no rules. Heavy samples and bass should be in the middle as well. 

Insert Effects

insert effects
Insert pluggins effects the individual tracks. For example, the kick and snare drum you might want to insert a compressor on each track to tighten the sound and make it fatter.  Plugins will have templates to get you started. Other effects like reverbs, chorus, delays, tape modules can add flavor to your tracks. Don't be afraid to try different plugins!

Aux Buss

The aux buss groups sounds together, this usually happens during the mixing stage. For example, the drum signal is grouped together and moved to another fader, here you can add multi-band compression, reverb or other affects. Be aware that you'll affect the entire group of sounds instead of just the one. To get your hip hop beats sounding rich and silky, add two aux busses and insert a reverb on one and a delay on the other. 

Buss your individual tracks to them and adjust the faders accordingly. 
Aux busses have two types of faders, a send and a return. The send fader is how much signal the aux bus receives and the return is how much the aux sends to the master channel. Think of it as a wet and dry mix the more signal you send to the aux fader the stronger the sound will be. The more return signal, the wetter the reverb will sound. Try to strike a balance of send and return to get a rich, silky sound from your instruments.

 Master Effects

The master channel is for final processing such as equalization, multi-band compression and limiting. This shouldn't be done, unless you're making a beat album, a demo or selling tracks online. 

Most beat programs have preset mastering effects that you can apply to your master channel, if you've mixed every track correctly, at this point you should have no problem adding mastering effects. Make sure you convert down to 441. 24 or 16 bit wav files.


To recap on how to mix hip hop beats, the first thing you should do is adjust the monitoring levels to a comfortable level. Next you want to add compression to the individual drums and instruments and adjust the faders. Pan the tracks to the left or right signal to open the stereo image.  Keep the rhythm tracks such as the bass and kick and snare drum in the middle. 
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Next group them and other instruments to a separate group aux buss and apply multi-band compression and effects.  At this point, all you have to do is adjust the aux faders to a final position and add master a master effect template. Buss your beat down to two track stereo 16 bit 441. k. I hope this gave you some insight on how to mix hip hop beats, your comments are welcome below. Please share this article with your friends.