EDM Trap – 6 Quick Steps to Making Better Trap Music Now
EDM Trap rocked the festival circuit in the early 2010’s with artists like Baauer, Flosstradamus, UZ, Carnage and many others serving up EDM classics with hip-hop infused elements to create something brand new and exciting. The genre typically consists of hip hop elements like 8o8 kicks and hip hop percussion and combining that with the energetic build up and drop leads found in popular EDM tracks. The virality of festival trap – taking popular festival tracks, EQing out the low/mid end and adding huge 808 kicks and hip hop percussion patterns – caused a massive surge in the genre and producers began flooding to produce the genre.
So we know what EDM Trap and Festival Trap are. How do we produce it?
This goes without saying, but we’ll mention it anyway- There is no correct or incorrect way to produce any genre of music. No style of music is tied exclusively to 1 BPM, key or way of producing. Take these guidelines for just that – guidelines. Learn the basics and then get creative to develop your sound!
Some basic principles of the genre:
Tip 1 – BPM
You’ll find most Tap tracks from artists you like will be in the BPM ranges from 140-160, or 90-100. These are the ranges that have worked well for other artists and will be consistent with tracks you want to reference. Again, no hard rule here as you can certainly experiment with other bpms, however, it is important to keep in mind that if you want to have other artists support your tracks or you want to release your track on a label, you want to make it easy by sticking to traditional BPMs. If you try something outside of these norms, you’ll eliminate a lot of live support as your track will not fit as cleanly in live sets for most trap EDM artists.
Tip 2 – Key
Try and select a key somewhere in the range between D and A.
If you select a key outside of this range, you’ll notice your 808 being either too high or too low to really fill out your drop which will be especially apparent on monitor speakers. This is the same for all genres that rely on a heavy sub-bass like Big Room House or Dubstep which is why you will find that most EDM producers stick in those keys. You can work with sub bass outside of this range by applying distortion and various other techniques, but for the purposes of starting out, its best to stick in the D to A range for your key
Tip 3 – Sample Selection
You’ll need some samples to help get you started. Of course, you can create your own relatively easily, but there are so many great samples out there that are 100% royalty-free to use, so why not use them to get your ideas down. You can always create your own 808 later.
Sample selection is absolutely critical when producing any genre. Trap generally uses short, punchy kicks, light, snappy snares, and bright, sharp hi-hats.
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Generally speaking, you want to grab some brass shots, high hats, claps, snares, 808s and some genre FX sounds like risers, sweeps, crash sounds.
If you are using the EDM Ghost Producer Trap Samples, you’ll find construction kits so you can drag the full arrangement of the track into your DAW. From here, you can analyze patterns for how percussion and FX are used throughout the track. You can also look at how the track is mixed together and how the elements are balanced. You’ll find this tremendously helpful when you are getting started.
Tip 4 – Using 808’s and 1-Shot Subs
The Trap genre generally uses 1-shot sub basses, colloquially mentioned as “808”s. These can be samples, or generated from a synth. As opposed to a proper bassline that follows the song’s chord progression, 808’s usually will follow the kick pattern, ringing out until the next kick hits. If the higher melodic material is a simple ostinato, the actual note of the 808 could stay the same the whole time, or create its own counter-melody by moving up or down in pitch. Conversely, if there is an actual melodic progression on top, the 808 should follow that.
For more flavor, producers will often vary the octave at which the 808 is played. Playing it at a higher octave can help create tension within a phrase, which gets relieved when the 808 goes back down to the fuller, low octave.
Because the sub range is what creates the impactful nature that we all know and love about Trap, it becomes all the more important to make sure it is mixed properly. You can give mid-high range presence to it by adding distortion, either directly on it, or in parallel to preserve the clean low end. This helps give presence when listening on a phone, laptop speakers, etc, where the sub range is often inaudible.
Within the mix, it’s also very important to ensure that the 808 sits well with the kick. Without proper care, it’s possible to actually lose impact in the low end by simply layering the 808 under the kick. An easy way to combat this is to either (A) use a short sidechain on the 808 from the kick; adjust the sidechain release or envelope to taste so that the kick and 808 sound more or less like 1 sound; or (B), when using audio, you can manually fade the start of the 808 to allow the attack of the kick through (see below). This too should be adjusted to taste; the point where both the kick and 808 sound the fullest is where you want to end up.
Tip 5 – Hi-Hats & Percussion
Because of the half-time nature of Trap, along with a slower, sustained low end, it’s often typical to incorporate hi-hats and percussion that have quicker patterns. Using quick hi-hat rolls, 1/16th notes, 1/32th notes, or triplet variations of those, in conjunction with a simpler driving 1/4 note or 1/8th note pattern, is very common. You can also adjust the pitch of the hi-hats to add more variation to the pattern.
The same is true for percussion; using 1/16th note patterns, or patterns that fall on the “and” or “uh” of a measure will help ensure that the overall beat maintains a driving nature. It can also help create more impact from the drums.