5 Things You Didn’t Know about Trap Music
If you’re a frequent club goer, you’ve probably noticed the evolution of the music you and your friends dance to. From the noble court dances, to the disco, to the widely varied electronic dance music we commonly hear today.
Among the plethora of EDM that’s recently been gaining popularity is trap music. Who would ever forget Baauer’s Harlem Shake that made even NBA’s Miami Heat dance?
But what is trap music?
5 Things You Probably Didn't Know about Trap Music.
1./ Trap Music was Not a Genre
In case you don’t know, trap is a name used to call a place where stones and other legally questionable substances are sold and bought. In other words, a drug den.
It is no wonder then that original trap songs talked about life in trap houses, particularly how difficult it is to escape drug dealing.
Hence, when trap music first came into the picture, it wasn't really a genre so to speak. It was merely songs or music about trap houses. It was not until the latest modifications that slowly made trap music a different genre on its own.
2./ Trap Music is Not a Recent Subgenre
Although trap music gained popularity ~5 years ago, with Harlem Shake becoming number 1 in Billboard Hot 100 in 2013, it has been existent long before the term “trap music” was coined.
Three 6 Mafia’s “Mask and Da Glock” released in 1999 features trap music beats.
3./ Trap Music is Not an All-Original Genre
1/3 hip-hop, 1/3 dance music, and 1/3 dub—that’s what make up trap music; hence it is not a genre that was created from original rhythm and beats.
Instead, trap music is a mixture of three different genres, reconstituted to produce its own distinct sound that we college partygoers enjoy today.
4./ Trap Music Wants You to Feel “The Trap”
Trap music has a distinct sound using 808-style sub-bass kick drums, hi-hats, strings, and tom fills.
All of which are played in a way that feels hypnotizing. Like you were in a dark dungeon. In a dirty, gangsta club. In the trap.
5./ Trap Music is Making a Good Amount of Money
As illustrated by the YouTube channel TrapMusicHDTV, trap music is raking probably millions of dollars every single year. And it doesn’t stop there.
In a statistics published online, TrapMusicHDTV is gaining more and more subscribers and viewers almost every day. At the time of writing, it has about 2 million subscribers and nearly half a million views.
Critics are quick to say that trap music is not going anywhere, but with these stats, it sure is making more money that these negatrons do.
What is the Difference Between Trap Music and Other Music?
Dubstep and trance are two of the most common subgenres that are associated with trap music. But unlike the more common genres such as rock and hip-hop that are distinguished by how they sound, these EDM subgenres are identified based on their structure.
How do you know which is which? Here are their characteristics.
- 140 BPM. Although a dubstep may range from 135 to 150 beats per minute, most music in this subgenre is approx. 140 BPM.
- Half-time drums. The second identifier of dubstep is that it has a kick on the every first beat and snare or clap on every third beat.
- Sub-bass. The sub-bass in dubstep is not heard; it’s felt. With a frequency of typically below 100 Hz, it’s no wonder you feel some shaking coming off your subs when you listen to it.
- Hip-hop tempo. In general, trap music has a tempo of hip-hop songs at 70 to 130 beats per minute although there are some that can go as high as 150 BPM.
- Dance music. Synthesizers, high-pitched ones, and hardstyle sampling along with common builds and drops in the sound are the elements of a dance music incorporated in trap.
- Dub. Heavy bass lines with emphasis on repetitiveness throughout the song make up trap.
- Aggressive lyrics. Because this is basically music about life in the trap, the words to these songs usually focus on drugs, poverty, and crime. It also has seemingly threatening and repetitive whats and yeahs in the song.
- 125 to 150 BPM. Just like the other subgenres of EDM, trance music has a tempo ranging from 125 to 150 BPM.
- Hypnotic melody. Unlike Trap that intends to give the chills, trance gives you that ethereal and uplifting feeling.
- 4/4 bass kick drum. Unlike dubstep that has kick on every first beat, trance has 4/4 kick.
How to Make Trap Music
Because there seems to be a pot of gold in trap music, it seems just right to learn how to make one. Who knows, your creation might be the next internet meme.
Here’s What You Need:
- Audio editing software such as FL Studio
- Working knowledge of music
- A whole bunch of time and patience
1./ Create a Melody
In composing one, start with a note that somehow portrays sadness such as E minor. Make sure to include half steps.
You can be as creative as you want here. You’re totally in control of how you want it to sound although, in general, trap music uses short melodic notes.
Also, you can add effects such as decay time and reverb and adjust volume as you please.
2./ Include a High-Pitched Synth
In FL Studio, you need to open a plugin to be able to create a high-pitched synth.
Again, you are in total control of how you want this to sound, just make sure that it blends with the melody you created in step 1.
You can turn up detunes and stereo width, lower sustain, increase release, adjust the high-pass filter, then add it to the melody created earlier.
Add reverb as needed.
3./ Add 808 Drums
Just like the preceding steps, you may freely choose which of the 808 drum style options would match the melody in Step 1 and the synth in Step 2.
Once you have picked your choice, tune it, so it matches the note in step 1. Also, make sure the last 808 drum note is high up.
4./ Add the Snare, Kicks, and Hi-Hats
Again, find ones that meet your preference and blends with the created sound thus far.
Remember to put the snare on the 3rd and 7th beats while the kick and hi-hats should have that triple bump that goes doo-doo-doo.
5./ Don’t Forget the Bass
Include a big, fat bass, one that can almost blast your subs.
6./ Add Vocal Chops
Vocal chops can be anything from repetitive “what?”, “yeah!”, or “ahh.” Or basically anything that sounds masculine and threatening. Or any vocal chop you can think of.
7./ Insert Occasional “Trap” Sounds
Anything that can make the listener feel the trap environment such as siren sound, gun click, and gunshots is welcome in this creation.
And, oh, don’t forget “Damn, son, where did you find this?”
8./ Listen, Add, Effects and Finalize
No explanation necessary.
The Best Trap Music
Now that you have learned how to compose the basic trap music, it’s time to know the best trap music you can look up to. (Note: these are my personal favorites. No judging!)
Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” I guess making the world dance to this song is enough proof that this is the best trap music ever. No contentions.
Major Lazer’s “Lean on” I like this song not only because of its sound and rhythm but also because of its lyrics. The chorus, especially, tells the reality that whether one would blow a kiss or fire a gun for us, we still need someone to lean on.
Major Lazer’s “Original Don” This music had me saying “Damn, son, where did you find this?” over and over again. Also, the hi-hats, snares, and kicks in this song are just awesome I can imagine me DJ-ing to it all day. And did I mention the drop?
DJ Snake’s “Let Me Love You” I don’t like this because of JB, no. But just like Lean On, I like the words and how they perfectly fit the beat and rhythm.
Chainsmoker’s “Don’t Let Me Down” I like this song because it gets me excited without me knowing it.
The mellow sound at the beginning followed by the higher pitch in the next section then faster tempo in the chorus all add to the anticipation of what’s going to come next.
This is I think is what makes the rhythm and tempo exciting. The first time you hear it, you don’t know what’s about to come down the track.
Trap music may be controversial as it is ear-catching, but one thing is certain as of the moment: it's getting bigger, and it's making money.
So while it is, perhaps it’s a good time to jump on the bandwagon and get your fair share of the dollar and fame it has given to those who succeeded.