Trap Techniques in Live - Essential Tips


Admiral Ackbar reps his favorite music

In the past decade, Trap has exploded worldwide, and its influence has spread further into numerous other hip hop and electronic sub-genres. We’re going to take a deeper look at producing Trap in Live - including some advice for getting started, critical tips for the mix, and some further resources to get you on your way. We spoke to Certified Trainer and Trap producer Ian Gallagher about some of the finer technical and stylistic points of the genre.

“Reverse” by Gold Bikini, Ian Gallagher’s group with MC Mono Diamonds.

“The main thrust of Trap is about being as sonically creative as possible,” says Ian. “Record your neighbor’s dog barking, your washing machine, your mail lady saying ‘hello’… practically anything can be made into a dope instrument in Ableton.” Ian demonstrates this in a free template set – including drums, bass, melodic instruments, and plenty of off-beat samples:

Download the template from Warp Academy. Whether you use Ian’s template or one of your own, you can benefit from having one ready before you start writing a track. “Create a sonic template before you start programming MIDI,” suggest Ian. “Don’t program any MIDI until you’ve decided on, for example, one Drum Rack, one sub-bass, three synths, and three vocal samples that you love.”

“Technique-wise, one of the most important aspects of Trap (and lots of current hip hop) is the use of reverb to create the sonic landscape,” explains Ian. “It’s critical to put sounds in the correct place, like objects in a painting. For this, Pre-delay, Decay Time, and EQ are mostly what helps me find that sweet spot. There are so many great reverbs on the market, but Ableton’s stock reverb is great! Put the ‘stereo’ knob at 0 to make the reverb mono – or put it at 120 to only here the reverbs on the sides. Brilliant.” Ian cautions not to overdo it with reverb on all parts, however: “I recommend, by and large, keeping your drums dry and crunching them through various distortion or saturation devices. I’m not the first to say this, but Live’s ‘Saturator’ device is so underrated. It really slams. Put your drums (either as a Group or individually) through Saturator, crank the Drive and stand back.”

Last but not least, hi-hat trills are a staple of Trap – it’s an element of your percussion setup that you’ll want to make sure you have tight. “If hi-hat tails are too long they can obscure the groove,” cautions Ian. “Often, the best way to get your own super tight hihat sound, is to put a sample in Arrangement, and then use fades to get the perfect decay. Then, bounce it down and bring it into a Drum Rack, Simpler, etc.”


More Resources

The tips above are just a small selection of what’s out there – and what you’ll want to learn. Check out these communities for resources on producing hip hop for all skill levels:
Future Producers
Gearslutz Hip Hop Production