Last week, Zaytoven sat down with Sway to chop it up about his catalog and Atlanta music scene. In a very insightful conversation, Zaytoven made a revelation that some already knew, if you been following Zay’s career, that he typically doesn’t spend more than 15 minutes on a beat. This quote caught traction through the week and I wanted to delve deeper into this topic to highlight the positives and negatives of this technique of making beats and my thoughts whether you as a producer should practice this technique.
Before we go into detail about the positives and negatives, I think it’s important to highlight Zaytoven’s well-rounded skillset not just as a producer but overall as a musician as part of this piece. The origins of Zay’s skills as a musician started when he was younger when he took part in church with his family. According to Zay’s interview with HotNewHipHop, Zay explained he learned by watching older organists play and further influenced his development as a producer later:
“I’d go home and work my keyboard and try to learn the stuff that they showed me,” he explains. “I’d practice it over and over again, then I’d start playing for groups that go out and sing. I constantly had to learn songs, so that’s what start making me better. When you’re in church, a musician’s job is to set an atmosphere,” he says. “When I’m playing the keys, when I’m making the beats, it’s like I’m trying to create a mood or create some soul or add a feeling to it, when people hear it they like ‘Oh, I feel something about this beat.’ It’s not just a drum. It sound like people put their heart and soul into the beat.
Through this process, learning these skills as a youth, to now as a star producer, it highly benefits his workflow when it comes to making beats in such short amount of time. Not including elements such as sound selection, structure, mixing and etc, it makes it easier for someone like Zay to come up with chords and melodies (which is the main elements important in constructing beats) efficiently based on the feeling or vibe. This is a major difference to majority of today’s producers (not only in hip hop but music in general), where the improvement of technology removes the need to acquire those types of skills to create music, which may some producers somewhat longer to come up with chords or melodies to create a beat.
This development over time, along with what Zay said in around the same time frame in the interview, enables him to work faster and crank out more beats efficiently without sounding repetitive (for the most part).
*Sidenote: I didn’t include drums or bass because, for even intermediate-level producers, it’s pretty simple concept to get if you’re using DAW.
The first benefit of this type of workflow, enables you to have more beats available to an artist you’re working within a session. Traditionally, the typical session of an artist or songwriter of past would spend hour(s) writing to a beat for a rapper or singer to come up with the best possible song. Now, having the skill set to produce faster, you can have more available beats in a session to offer to an artist like Gucci Mane or Future who could match your workflow as he does with Zay.
The other benefit is being able to have a wider inventory of beats to sell to potential customers. Whether you’re a producer with an online business, leasing/selling beats or a producer that regularly working within the music industry, having sounds readily available to the potential artist, label or licensing company can increase the likelihood of getting placements and earn more business.
The other negative is with other aspiring producers (as one myself), in the aim to try to establish a name and business for themselves, tend to try to emulate what is hot and working for other artists and producers. There are benefits and downsides to this practice but if you’re not skilled or musically adept as Zay to work as fast, the end result will tend to end up as what I’m going to break down in the next section:
When creating beats for the primary purpose of having more quantity music to put out, there’s a tendency of repetition as a result. The beat you just made sounds similar to another beat you did couple hours ago or earlier in the day. This leads to lesser quality output if you don’t have the skillset necessary as previously mentioned to consistently create music that would be unique and stand apart from a beat you’ve recently done. This repetition also fuels the recurring problem amongst the trap subgenre of rap whether it be major producers or aspiring producers creating a secondary market. The final product you tends to sound alike from the 808 being used, similar drum pattern, choirs, arps and so forth that you’ve previously heard about a day earlier.
Metro Boomin also spoke on this similar trend from an artist perspective, dropping multiple projects as Future back in 2015.
Is It A Good or Bad Thing?
Personally, to me, I think it is a bad trend to emulate if you don’t have the necessary musical experience to be able to produce at such a rate of Zaytoven. Developing experience in musical instruments first to me is important as it can add more tools to your arsenal creatively when you’re going about making beats at such fast pace and be able to do it efficently without repetition. But at the end of the day, it is the music business:
Everyday I wake up, new mixtapes are falling out of the sky.. I think we all know where the trend came from lol 🐸☕️ pic.twitter.com/dytHN7fubs
— Metro Boomin (@MetroBoomin) November 9, 2015