Best DAWs for Hip-hop

What’s the best DAW for beat making? Check out these six examples of the best hip-hop producer software available in 2021.

To get started making hip-hop beats, you need a Digital Audio Workstation for creating backing tracks and recording rap verses. The problem is, there’s lots of DAWs for hip-hop producers to choose from, all promising different things. Which DAW is best for creating and recording rap music?

When inspiration strikes, you want a smooth workflow so you can get your bars down before they disappear from your mind. Which DAW is best for hip-hip for you as a producer will depend on your workflow and budget. Here are six DAWs to consider to get you started.

Image Credit: Reason

Reason Studios has an analog feel that connects you to the beatmaking process. It’s got a big sound bank and great drum designer, loop editing and mixing capabilities. Drop samples right into audio tracks for super-fast manipulation.

Reason can be used as a plugin in other DAWs, to bring its sound packs and effects to a workflow you prefer. Available for a $19.99 a month subscription, it’s an affordable option for beginner hip-hop producers.

bandlab free DAW
Image Credit: BandLab

Brilliant for beginners, BandLab has a super-simple interface but also a huge library of royalty-free sounds and a great easy sampler. The cloud-based setup means there’s nothing to download – and everything is completely free. Share your beats instantly to the platform for feedback and encouragement from the community, as well as collaboration opportunities.

BandLab also make CakeWalk, a DAW with really impressive capabilities considering it’s also available for free.

Ableton Live
Image Credit: Ableton Live

Designed for electronic music, Ableton Live’s clip view means you can get ideas and loops down fast and swap ideas around. Due to its origins as an instrument, Ableton is highly intuitive for performing at live shows. Its powerful features let you flip samples and make drum racks quickly.

Accessing full features will set you back $449, although you can grab the stripped back Intro version for $99.

FL Studio
FL Studio 20
Image Credit: Image-Line

Once you’re up to speed with the layout and keyboard shortcuts of FL Studio, beats can be assembled in a flash. The step sequencer channel rack allows you to get stuck in stacking up beats right away. The vocal recording takes a little getting used to, but the FL Studio piano roll is one of the best, so even if you have no music theory background you can get to work editing and arranging virtual instrumental parts by clicking in MIDI notes with your mouse.

FL was built for electronic music, affordable at $99 for the light version, and its popularity means there’s hundreds – if not thousands – of tutorials out there.

Bitwig Studio
Image Credit: Bitwig Studio

An intuitive visually pleasing DAW with easy drag-and-drop abilities and easy to move between arranging, editing and mixing your project. Quick sampling abilities and renowned audio editing capabilities make for a streamlined experience.

Bitwig starts at $99 for the entry version – and you can try in Demo mode without a time limit.

Logic Pro
Mac mini Logic Pro
Image Credit: Apple

Logic’s Live Loops let you arrange loops and samples in an accessible grid for swift beatmaking. The Apple-only DAW also makes vocal comping easy, and the step sequencer lets you build beats and bassline patterns in an intuitive way.

At $199, Logic is the grown-up version of GarageBand. On that note – there’s nothing wrong with GarageBand if you’re an Apple user who wants to practice recording your flow and have a go at making your own rap beats.

Most modern DAWs can be used to make hip-hop music – so it comes down to which you feel most at home working in. Happily, you can download all the DAWs on this list for a free trial before you commit to any music software.

There’s more out there to discover, too. Do you want to buy and master a professional DAW like Pro Tools, or explore a free DAW like Tracktion Waveform first?

Which DAW do you recommend for making beats? Let us know what you use in the comments.

Already recorded your first hip-hop track, and proud of it? Have you thought about releasing your song to Spotify? Using RouteNote’s free distribution you can upload your track to all the big streaming services for FREE. You keep all the rights to your music, and make money every time your track gets played. Find out more and sign up today here.

How to get on Spotify playlists

Releasing your song on Spotify? Check out our advice for how to get music on Spotify playlists.

Just put out a release, and wondering how to get your song on Spotify playlists? It’s a great way to break through the noise – getting onto Spotify playlists is a sure-fire way to secure more plays and a host of new followers.

At RouteNote we put your music on Spotify for free and give you the tools you need to get your track on playlists.

Here are some of the best routes you can take to get on Spotify playlists.

Spotify for Artists

When you release a track to Spotify you can pitch the song to Spotify’s editors for it to be considered for their massively popular playlists. To do this, you’ll be pitching from your Spotify for Artists dashboard. You can claim your artist profile here.

Once you’ve uploaded your music to a distributor like RouteNote, set a release date in the future so Spotify have a chance to consider it for their major playlists – you need to pitch at least a week before the release. Only one track can be considered from each release, so choose carefully.

Independent curators

There’s not only official playlists available on Spotify. Thousands of independent playlist curators – the tastemakers of Spotify – are always on the lookout for the freshest new tracks to add to their playlists. They’re unlikely to find you, so you’ll need to go looking for them instead to get in contact and pitch your tracks. Personalise each message you send, explaining why you think your music is a good fit for the playlist.

A nicely put together Spotify artist profile makes it more likely for playlist curators to take you seriously. Check out more advice on playlist etiquette here.

Make your own

You don’t have to sit around and wait for your music to be added to playlists – why not make your own, and add your tracks. A playlist could be made up of tracks in the same genre as your music, or with a similar emotional theme as your songs. Be sure to add the playlist to your artist profile.

Creating playlists that include songs by artists of a similar level to you is a great way to make connections, and might encourage them to add your music to their playlists, too.

Personalised playlists

Discover Weekly and Release Radar are Spotify’s algorithmic playlists that are unique to each Spotify user. When you release new music through a distributor like RouteNote, Spotify adds your new track to the Release Radar playlist of users who follow you or listen to your music a lot.

Discover Weekly meanwhile goes out every Monday and is made up of songs that the user hasn’t yet heard on Spotify but are similar to songs they’ve streamed before. If your track is often featured alongside similar songs, you’re more likely to show up on someone’s Discover Weekly, as they’re fed by other playlist adds.

Spotify also watches the web for conversations about your music, and notices when you share your artist page. Increase your chances of getting added to Spotify playlists by pushing your music on social media, to gain more followers, plays and better exposure. The more followers you have and the bigger a buzz around your artist name you can create, the more playlist curators will take notice.

Playlists are an invaluable marketing source, helping you to get your music in front of new potential fans helped by Spotify’s intuitive algorithm. With a bit of forethought and promotional work behind the scenes, you can harness the power of playlists and hopefully start seeing the results in Spotify plays and follows.

Fender launches the ‘Artist Playbook’ to help independent artists navigate the music industry

Image credit: Fender (Alexa Viscius)

Fender releases ‘Artist Playbook’ – a guide to navigating the music industry as an independent artist.

Fender recently launched their ‘Artist Playbook’, a step-by-step guide for emerging and independent artists to help them navigate their way through the music industry. It covers a variety of subjects from music releases, NFT’s, Digital marketing tips, and much more. The document’s focal points as a whole are social media, livestreaming, release strategy, and digital marketing. It’s essentially a toolkit to help you make a success out of the tools available to you in today’s world. 

The Fender ‘Artist Playbook’ was created in conjunction with professional musician, artist, best-selling author, and host of the New Music Business podcast, Ari Herstand. In addition to this Fender has also released an article on their website that breaks down the playbook and gives a checklist that independent and emerging artists should be following. 

You can view the article here and download and read the ‘Artist Playbook’ here. 

High quality free stock images for artists

Get the lowdown on the world of stock images, and exactly where you can find beautiful free stock images to call your own!

When you’re a musician, you often end up referring to yourself as an artist. Why is that? I have a theory; of course, music is an art, so that would be the simple explanation. But, being a musician means having a handle on so many other creative areas. It’s quicker to simply refer to yourself as an artist, rather than list everything else. Composer, musician, producer, photographer, video editor, marketing and PR whizz… Phew!

To help you tick off one of the responsibilities on your long list a little quicker, we’re going to let you in on a tip. Read on to find out where you can find the best free stock images for all uses. Whether it’s artwork for album covers, pictures for promo campaigns, or snaps for commercials, you won’t be disappointed.

What are Stock Images?

As an artist, you’re probably well aware that the shadowy realm of copyright can be a confusing one. You may have pulled a cool image from a website, or found a nice shot by a photographer you want to use for your album artwork. But, if you don’t own the image, or you haven’t licensed it, you could run into trouble.

This is where stock images come in. Don’t panic, you don’t have to become a photography or graphics genius to sort your artwork out. Stock images are photographs that have been licensed for specific uses. They can be available for free or at a price, it depends on where you get them from.

What Uses Do Stock Images Have?

You think of a potential use for an image, and I’ll tell you if you can use a stock image for that. Go! …Yes, you can.

In all seriousness, the beauty of stock images is that you can, more often than not, use them for pretty much anything you like. Whack an image on the cover of your latest album, EP or single, or splice them into your new promo video. Since you’re hoping to make some money from your music, these all count as commercial uses. But, stock images can be used for commercial uses, giving you that all important freedom. We love freedom as independent artists, don’t we?

Benefits of Using Free Stock Images

Why should you opt for stock images, instead of just cherry-picking the best of Google? Well, the main reason is that legally, that just won’t fly. And, when it comes to RouteNote’s image upload requirements, your artwork won’t make it past moderation.

Using stock images in order to avoid delays in getting your music to the public seems like a pretty attractive benefit all by itself.

You may have noticed the frequent use of the “F” word in this article. That’s right, free. It’s certainly no dirty word, and as an independent artist, what’s better than a bit of money saving?

Your music sounds great. You spend painstaking hours on your vocal production, obsessively tweaking the EQ. Why, then, would you let the quality slip when it comes to the images you use? Opting for stock images from a reputable source means automatic quality assurance. No matter what image you go for, you know the quality is going to match that of your sounds. That’s the kind of peace of mind everybody can get behind.

Finally, it takes a whole lot of precious time to produce awesome music whilst building a following, and juggling everything else that comes with being an artist. This is another huge benefit of sticking with stock images for any visual assets you need on a project. When you know the licensing side of things has been taken care of, you can spend more time on your tracks and less time worrying about copyright.

But, where to find a reputable source that offers high quality free stock images for these purposes, you ask?

Synchedin, Baby
Screenshot example of home page

No longer just royalty free music and creative commons sound effects, Synchedin has branched out into the world of stock images!

An extensive and ever-growing catalogue of images geared towards creative types like yourselves, Synchedin will soon be your go-to choice for all your image needs. Choose from a range of CC0 (creative commons) images for free, or subscribe to get access to the entire catalogue for just $3.99 per month.

As an official partner of RouteNote, Synchedin is sort of like family. It’s important to look out for family, which is why all RouteNote users can get 10% off when they sign up to Synchedin! Simply use the code 10SYNC, and the discount will be applied to whichever subscription package you pick.

How to set up a music livestream

Need some livestreaming tips? Check out our advice for how to do a livestream performance successfully.

Thinking of going live and playing some music online to a virtual audience? Luckily, you don’t need complicated equipment to perform a livestream gig.

To set up a music livestream, at the very basic level all you need is a device to stream from like a smartphone or a computer. Find a place to set up free from outside distractions, where you’ll get the clearest sound and video quality possible.

Whether you’re playing a live producer set to a ticketed audience or just going live on Instagram at home for some on-the-fly publicity, aim for as professional a performance as possible. Even though you might feel like you’re just playing to your own reflection, it’s still a public gig. Think about how your surroundings will appear to viewers onscreen – things like lighting and backdrop are more important than you’d think.

Look into using some free broadcast software, like OBS Studio, which will help you get organised and set up easily and let you stream on social media in high quality. That’ll help you beat the inevitable lag in streaming, because even if you have the speediest connection going, there’s inevitably going to be some technical hiccups – try and embrace them as part of the intimate experience for your watching audience.

Playing to a livestream audience as a substitute for a live gig? If you plan on playing a lot more live streams in the future, it’s worth investing in some decent kit – a microphone and audio interface, and a good webcam.

Don’t forget to promote your music live stream before the event, just as you would an in-person gig, so you have a guaranteed audience. Post across your social media platforms in the run up to the stream, but try not to stress too much about how many people will tune in.

Check out 10 more tips for livestreaming your gig here.

What is the YouTube Shorts aspect ratio?

Image credit: Social Media Today

If you want to upload top quality Shorts then you need to know youtube shorts resolution.

Recently, YouTube released ‘Shorts’ to its platform in order to combat the rising popularity of TikTok, as well as give creators a new tool to create with. Shorts allows users to create 60-second clips, similar to TikTok and is now available in 100 countries.

Like it or not, short form-video content is here to stay and is going to be integral to your content creation within the social media sphere. To ensure you have to best quality content you’re going to want to know the youtube shorts dimensions. As is the same with Instagram you want to have an aspect ratio of 9:16 with a minimum resolution of 600 x 600 and a maximum of 1080 x1080.

With the increasing popularity of short-form video, especially amongst Gen Z, it’s likely that ‘Shorts’ will be a permanent and ever-growing feature of YouTube. Be sure to jump in and make use of this tool to help grow your YouTube channel and social media presence.

How to fix audio clipping

Why does digital clipping happen in music production? Let’s explore the different scenarios of clipped audio and how to avoid hard clipping ruining your tracks.

Even as a beginner producer, you’ll know audio clipping once you hear it. Just one clip or pop and you feel like you’ve ruined a whole mix.

To release your track with a digital distributor like RouteNote your release needs to be as high quality as possible, free of digital hard clipping and uncontrolled distortion. So how can you prevent audio clipping from happening in the first place?

What is clipping?

Clipping happens when an audio signal goes past the maximum limit that the system can handle. The signal gets too close to the “ceiling” of 0dBFS, causing distortion. A meter going into the red can happen when a pre-amp is overridden, or a vocalist is too close to the mic.  

Whether you’re working in a digital or analogue music production setting, audio clipping causes distortion.  

Soft clipping takes on the characteristics of the gear, which can be used to creative effect – think guitar distortion. In digital systems however, hard clipping squares off the top of the sound wave with abrupt, harsh results.

How to avoid clipping

Lower the levels

Preventing clipping is sometimes simply fixed by lowering your audio volume. Clipping can happen when your levels are set too high, not leaving enough headroom when you record. By lowering the audio input levels in recording, you can avoid this problem altogether.

Gain staging

When recording each stage of the signal chain – the path the sound takes from instrument to the recorder – make sure your gain levels are correct. Too little gain at one point can mean that you add too much at the next stage, which causes distortion. Always keep the signal chain in mind when you’re recording.


Make sure your microphone position is correct for what you’re recording. If you’re recording rap vocals, for example, a forceful tone of voice may cause more transients.  

Spending a little time getting the position of both the performer and the microphone right will save you the heartache of recording a fire verse that turns out to be unusable.

Fixing clipped audio

Limiters and compressors

Use compression to lower high and low peaks and reduce clipping. Compression reduces the dynamic range of the recording, making clipping less pronounced.

You can combine a compressor with a limiter to tame peaks. Limiters prevent audio exceeding a certain threshold, applying a more abrupt gain reduction than compression.

Audio editing

Just a couple of distorted moments in your recording? Most DAWs have editing abilities powerful enough to single out a pesky clipped note for correction.

Zoom in and lower the volume of that one clipped waveform to hide the distortion. If that’s not possible, try replacing the section with another of a lower level.

Find a De-clipper plugin

Plugins can fix clipped audio, for example iZotope’s Repair Assistant. Depending on your DAW, a de-clipper might do the job nicely.

Use EQ

Take a look at the EQ settings of your track. EQ can be used to reduce whichever frequencies are dominating the mix and causing clipping. Try reducing low frequencies or high frequencies to remove the clipping.

Fixed the audio clipping and loving how your track sounds? Why not release your song so the world can hear it. RouteNote distributes music for free to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music and social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. You can upload your music for free and make money every time someone streams your track. Find out more and sign up here today.

What is Playlist Push? A review of the music promotion platform

Image credit: Cofohint Esin

Connecting musicians with playlist curators, Playlist Push offers huge potential for artists to reach millions of listeners through some of the top playlists online.

Playlists have transformed how many of us listen to music in recent years. Like the most powerful possible evolution of mix tapes on cassette, they offer a refined selection of tracks collected into one stream-able list based on mood, genre, themes, or whatever takes the playlist creator’s fancy. They have become so influential in the new age of music streaming that they have been described as replacing the album in terms of how people listen to music most commonly.

With potentially millions of listeners on a single playlist, returning every week to hear which new tracks have been added, the potential for discovery within playlists cannot be understated. A single placement can make an artist’s career, giving them a huge, brand new audience the likes of which only radio stations have been able to offer before. If even a minority save the track – and perhaps even become real fans – it’s an incredible opportunity for artists.

How to feature your music on playlists

With such a huge potential, it’s obviously not as simple as just releasing music and finding yourself on a playlist. There are various ways in which artists can put themselves in front of the right people to get featured in a playlist, beyond the hope that you’ll just be discovered and added.

Artists who distribute their own music to Spotify are able to use the service’s own artist platform – Spotify for Artists – to send upcoming releases to their in-house curators for potential to feature on Spotify’s huge playlists. Going direct to the source like this is a powerful potential to be picked up by some of the most influential new taste-makers in the world, but streaming service’s own playlists are just the tip of the iceberg – there are millions more powered by individuals and brands who aren’t affiliated with the brand.

How can artists reach independent playlist curators?

This is where platforms like Playlist Push come in. Playlist Push allows creators and curators to connect and share in their mutual love of music to bring it to fresh ears across the globe. They provide a direct route for artists to discover the taste-makers that are most suited to their style, whilst for curators they offer a steady stream of fresh, new, and often undiscovered music to find.

Playlist Push allows artists to pay to send their tracks to curators, choosing from all of the playlist makers they’re partnered with to find the ones most suited to their sound. This ensures a direct route to their peers in whatever genre and music community artists exist, meaning that every penny counts in finding the right audience. The curators will then review the songs they’re sent and a report will show artists how their music has been featured and where.

With almost 1,000 curators on Playlist Push, they have a combined potential reach of 23 million listeners across their Spotify playlists. They’ve worked with over 3,400 artists and bands on more than 5,500 successful campaigns to get heard in the broad potential reach of these popular playlists, putting tracks in front of the audiences most attuned to their styles of music.

Can you trust Playlist Push?

Playlist Push has hundreds of reviews online from artists who have used the platform to feature in front of thousands of new listeners on playlists. Many of them also cite that the playlist placement has helped their overall performance, opening them up to potential new long-term fans and for additions in more playlists.

The service also monitors all curators to ensure that they are legitimate and there is no suspicious activity or any changes made to their playlists that would make them ineligible for what they were originally offering artists when they sent their music. All feedback from curators on the platform is written uniquely to ensure authenticity.

Of course, when using Playlist Push it is important to remember that there is no guarantee that curators will feature your music when hearing it. It’s not a guarantee that your music will be featured, instead it is a chance to be discovered if you’re confident that your music would be liked given the chance to find the correct audiences.

How much does Playlist Push cost?

The price for a Spotify campaign starts at $300 and depending on your budget and the reach you’re aiming to get, you can spend more than $1,000 on Playlist Push to be put in front of more curators. The average cost for a Spotify campaign on Playlist Push is $450.

The minimum cost for a TikTok campaign on Playlist Push is 500. It is not a cheap solution to music discovery and the price can easily put off artists who aren’t confident in the potential of the platform.

Should I use Playlist Push?

If you have a decent marketing budget for your new release and are confident in your music – but feel it needs a push to reach its potential audience – then Playlist Push can be a great resource to find new listeners. However, any artist signing up to the service needs to be aware that they are taking a risk and spending money does not guarantee features and that even then, a feature does not guarantee fans.

How to upload a song to Spotify

Getting your music onto Spotify is super easy with RouteNote and more importantly FREE!

Okay, so you’ve done the hard part and created your new track, EP, or album and want to get it out into the big wide streaming world. It can seem a little daunting on how to get this done or even feel perhaps unrealistic for DIY/independent artists, well think again.

RouteNote is a totally free service (with paid options available) designed to help you distribute your music to services such as Spotify. With RouteNote free you will keep 85% of your royalties with no extra or hidden costs. There is also a paid version that sees you keep 100% of your royalties for a small upfront fee and subscription. 

To distribute your music to Spotify you will need to do the following:

  • Select the type of release you want to get on Spotify (EP, LP, or Single)
  • Upload your music with cover art
  • If applicable add contributors so they are credited 
  • Await approval by our moderation team, this usually takes a week, then a week later it will be released. 
  • View your statistics and cash out once you reach over $50 in royalties

It’s a simple process with no hidden fees that comes with a dedicated moderation team who are always willing to help you through the process or answer any questions you may have. Distributing your music with RouteNote is a service designed with musicians in mind and we look forward to welcoming you to our ever-growing roster of artists.