Throughout the past thirty years, almost all of music has moved towards hip hop inspired production techniques and at the centre of it all are the beatmakers. These are the musicians and the producers who sit in the studio, crafting the perfect beat on which the melody, rap, and song is set. In many cases, there ain’t no song without no beat.
Be it pop, rap, hip hop, country, or rock, beatmakers have been employed throughout all genres of music in the last two decades. Are beatmakers real musicians though – well, here’s what we think.
Why Beatmakers are not Musicians
Among instrumentalists, there’s this philosophy that beatmakers are not real musicians and in a sense, they may be right. Beatmakers do not necessarily sit down in front of an instrument, master it, create a unique artistic voice, and then bring that to market. They don’t do that. Beatmakers manipulate a beat. Now, this manipulation can be done with instruments though for the most part, it is done through a mix of keys and computers. In fact, some don’t even pick up keys and instead will use their computer keyboard to move beats into place.
Evidently, some might say that the act of creating a beat on a computer is no different than manipulating an image, posting a status update to Facebook, writing an email, or even doing online shopping. If you believe this then yes, of course, beatmakers are not technically musicians.
Why Beatmakers are Musicians
The flip side of the coin is that “musicians” are not necessarily those who play instruments but are instead, those who produce music. If one goes to the definition of “musician” in the dictionary, it says “a person who plays a musical instrument, or is musically talented”. There are plenty of bad beatmakers out there in the same way there are plenty of bad guitarists. When you look at some of the world’s best beats though, any musicians should be able to appreciate the work put in.
Beatmakers today are essentially beat composers, in the same way that melody and music would have been composed hundreds of years ago by Beethoven, Bach, and others. Even beatmakers who might operate exclusively through a computer still need to make choices on how to arrange a beat, what the most powerful way to present a beat is, and to fit a beat across the natural rhythm of a track. So yes, in this sense, beatmakers can be classified as musicians.
The Art of the Beat
Let’s be clear is saying that it’s perfectly ok for you to believe whatever you believe as it pertains to beatmakers. However one might define the job, the work speaks for itself. At the end of the day, they’re composing a beat. They may not be at a drum kit to smack it out themselves but they’re still making musical choices that some may define as musicianship and others may not. No matter what, minimum, you got to respect the work. Beatmaking is an art – no question about it.