I see the question come up a lot. People want to know how to make their beats sound big. They’re looking for that commercial production sound that they just can’t seem to achieve. Often, they get bad information and start acting like a mad scientist with an EQ plugin or Reverb. Leaving their beats sounding thin, with a heavy dose of cathedral reverb :).
Choosing The Right Samples And Sounds
Most of it starts at the composition stage. It depends on the samples that you use and how you layer them or fill the mix. This means that you need to start with a great source and pick good samples. I hate to say it but quality productions start with quality sounds. You can always make something sound better in the mix but nothing can compete with high quality samples and sounds.
Samples can also be enhanced by using a technique called stacking. This means layering and stacking samples together. For instance, you might use two different kick samples. Each time the kick is played there will be two samples instead of the traditional 1. This is often used to give your kick a punchy attack while also giving it hard hitting low end. This is achieved by stacking a normal kick with one that is clicky, punchy, and includes more high end.
Another example is layering a clap and snare together. A clap can give you depth and body while the snare gives you that snap sound you are looking for. So even if you don’t have the greatest sample sources you can combine samples together to get big sounds.
Filling The Spectrum
There is a reason behind instruments having low and high notes, drums having different pitched drums, and bands with bass, guitar, drums, vocals, etc. Focus on filling the spectrum with different instruments. A Full mix of instruments can sound great together. It can give that huge sound we are looking for. When you are making beats you have to think the same way. We want to create something big. To achieve this we will need to fill the spectrum with quality sounds. This means you will need to have lows, mids, highs, and the right amount of all of them. This can be achieved by using different types of instruments that live in different parts of the spectrum.
For example: Kick, Sub Bass, Bass are going to reside in the low end while a lot of your synth parts will be mid heavy. You have to have a good balance of instrumentation that fills the spectrum and makes your beats sound big.
Panning And Reverb On Your Beats
Make your mix come alive with panning and slight reverb. Think of your beats as you would a live band or orchestra. Where would the individual elements be located in the mix? Bass would most likely be right in the center along with your kick while your snare might be put slightly to the side. Certain synth parts could be panned wider to avoid clashing with other elements in the mix. The key here is to make sure that everything is not right in the middle. Widen some things out a bit. Experiment with your mix and see what works best.
Reverb is one of those tools that can add a nice sense of depth when used properly. Unfortunately most people slam a large sounding cathedral reverb on and destroy their mix. I like to use reverb in moderation on certain elements such as a clap. Experiment with reverb on different elements and see how it impacts your mix.
Note: when using reverb make sure you listen to it in the mix, not soloed. Sometimes soloed you can get a false representation of what it will sound like in the mix. Soloed it might sound great but ruins your mix.
Big sounding beats will come with time as you get better as a producer. The better you get at composing and mixing a beat the bigger your beats will sound. I encourage you to put some of these techniques to use and see what you come up with in your next production.