Producing for Kehlani
In this tutorial, we produce a beat for an R&B singer like Kehlani. Having listened to her album, “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t”, all week, I felt inspired.
The beat starts with a popular R&B chord progression used in “Say My Name”, produced by Dark Child (Rodney Jerkins); vi – IV – ii – V – ♯V. This chord progression instantly transports us back to the late 90s, early 00s and thus served as a great foundation.
Real Vs Fake (VST) Guitars
Guitar as the main melodic and harmonic instrument is a popular choice in R&B. With more soulful R&B it’s definitely important to go the authentic route and record live guitars, be it acoustic or electric. However, with more “mainstream R&B”, it’s argued that you can get away with Guitar VSTs, even if they don’t sound that real. Many R&B classics use Guitar VSTs. Nevertheless, I think the Electric Sunburst sounds pretty good. It can sound pretty authentic when you take your time and use all it has to offer; articulations, patterns and anatomy.
Finally, Electric Sunburst has a number of built-in effects, which I’ve utilised here as part of the preset I used, with a few tweaks. I also ran it through some tape via U-he’s (Satin), giving the loop warmth and through a Phaser via Native Instruments’ Phasis, adding more character.
Sometimes one instrument isn’t enough so I like to add subtle elements in the background. As mentioned in the video, I often head to Splice and look for loops with melodies that I can filter, reverse and or slow down. This fills up some of the empty space but also adds a bit of interest. Other times I’ll add atmospheric samples, like the sound of the ocean or a forest for example.
Drum & Bass – “It’s All About Bounce”
For the drums, I used a culmination of samples from Pvlace’s “Michelangelo Of Melodies” kit, WondaGurl’s sample pack and various samples and loops from Julez Jadon kits. Although Kehlani’s songs use modern samples like the ones just mentioned, they’re very much inspired by the drum patterns of old. Think Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins and Jermaine Dupree. I tried to capture that essence with my drums, particularly in the kick placements.
The element of bounce is further captured in the bass line I use. When producing this type of R&B I like to be all over the keyboard, jumping around octaves.