Essential Steps to Compose Hip-Hop Song in Cubase
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Set up your Cubase project
  2. Create a basic beat
  3. Lay down your bass line
  4. Add melodic elements
  5. Write your lyrics
  6. Record the vocals
  7. Mix the track
  8. Master the final product

Composing a hip-hop song can seem like a daunting task, especially when you're working with sophisticated software like Cubase. But don't sweat it—by breaking down the process into manageable steps, you'll soon be crafting your own beats and rhymes. This guide will walk you through exactly how to compose a hip-hop song using Cubase, from setting up your project to mastering the final product. So grab your headphones, fire up Cubase, and let's get started!

Set up your Cubase project

Before you can start laying down beats and spitting bars, you'll need to set up your Cubase project. This is the foundation upon which you'll build your hip-hop masterpiece. Here's how to get it done:

  • Launch Cubase: Open up Cubase on your computer. You're welcomed by a startup screen. Click on 'Create Empty' to start a new project from scratch.
  • Select Project Location: Cubase will ask you where to save your project. Choose a folder where you want your project files to be stored. Remember, it's always a good idea to keep your music projects organized in dedicated folders.
  • Set Project Template: Cubase offers a range of project templates to choose from, each tailored for different styles of music. But since we're learning how to compose a hip-hop song using Cubase, select 'No template'. We'll be constructing our track from the ground up.
  • Set up your Tracks: Now it's time to set up your tracks. For a basic hip-hop song, you'll need at least four tracks: one for your beat, one for your bass line, one for your melodic elements, and one for your vocals. To create a new track, click on 'Project' in the menu bar, then 'Add Track' and select the type of track you want to add.

Alright, your Cubase project is all set up and ready to go! Next up, we'll dive into creating a basic beat.

Create a basic beat

Every hip-hop song needs a solid beat—it's the heart of the track that gets your listeners nodding their heads. But how can you create a basic beat in Cubase? Let's break it down:

  • Open the Beat Designer: Beat Designer is a MIDI plug-in that allows you to craft complex drum patterns. To open it, click on 'Devices' in the menu bar, then 'MIDI Plug-ins', and select 'Beat Designer'.
  • Select a Drum Kit: Beat Designer comes with a variety of drum kits. Choose one that suits the style of your hip-hop song. Remember, the right drum sound can make or break your beat.
  • Create a Drum Pattern: Now for the fun part—creating your drum pattern! In the Beat Designer, you'll see a grid representing different drum sounds and beats. Click on the grid to add or remove beats. Try to create a pattern that's both rhythmically interesting and suits the vibe of your song.
  • Adjust the Tempo: Hip-hop beats typically range from 70 to 100 beats per minute (BPM). Adjust the tempo to match the pace of your song. You can change the tempo in Cubase by clicking on the 'Tempo' box in the transport panel and typing in your desired BPM.

And just like that, you've created a basic beat in Cubase! But a beat alone doesn't make a hip-hop song, so let's move on to the next step: laying down your bass line.

Lay down your bass line

Now that you have your beat, it's time to lay down the bass line. The bass line adds depth to your song and helps to drive the rhythm. But how do you create a bass line in Cubase? Here's a simple guide:

  • Add a new track: Firstly, you'll need to add a new instrument track for your bass line. Click on 'Project' in the menu bar, select 'Add Track', and then 'Instrument'.
  • Select a bass sound: Cubase comes with a variety of bass sounds. Navigate to 'Media' in the menu bar, then 'VST Sound', and select a bass sound that fits your song. Remember, the bass should complement your beat, not overpower it.
  • Create a bass pattern: With your bass sound selected, it's time to create a bass pattern. As with the beat, you can click on the grid in the MIDI editor to add or remove notes. Consider the rhythm and key of your song when creating your bass line.
  • Adjust the volume: Finally, adjust the volume of your bass line so that it blends well with your beat. You can do this in the MixConsole, located under 'Devices' in the menu bar.

Voila! You've created a bass line. But don't stop there—next up, we'll add melodic elements to give your song some flavor.

Add melodic elements

With the rhythm section of your hip-hop song in place, it's time to add some melody. This is where your song starts to come alive. So, how can you add melodic elements in Cubase? Fear not, we've got you covered.

  • Add a new track: As we did with the bass line, the first step to adding melodic elements is to create a new instrument track. Again, you can do this by clicking on 'Project', then 'Add Track', and 'Instrument'.
  • Select a melodic instrument: What kind of melodies do you have in mind? Piano? Strings? Synths? Cubase has a vast library of sounds. Go to 'Media' in the menu bar, then 'VST Sound', and choose an instrument that fits your vision.
  • Create your melody: Now comes the fun part: composing your melody. Use the MIDI editor to create a melody that complements your beat and bass line. Don't worry about getting it perfect the first time—part of the creative process is experimenting and tweaking until it feels right.
  • Adjust the volume: As with your bass line, you'll want to adjust the volume of your melodic elements so they blend seamlessly with the rest of your track. Head to the MixConsole to do this.

And there you have it! You've added melodic elements to your hip-hop song. Up next, we'll dive into the world of lyric writing.

Write your lyrics

Great job on adding those catchy melodic elements! Now, let's get into the heart of your hip-hop song: the lyrics. Wondering how to write hip-hop lyrics that resonate? You're about to learn.

  • Find your theme: Every hip-hop song tells a story. What story do you want to tell? It can be about your personal experiences, social issues, or even a fictional narrative. Choose a theme that you're passionate about.
  • Write your hook: The hook is the most memorable part of your song — it's what sticks in people's minds long after the song is over. So, make it catchy! Try to encapsulate the theme of your song in a few meaningful, rhythmically pleasing lines.
  • Compose your verses: Now it's time to flesh out your theme in the verses. Remember to keep it real and stay true to your voice. Authenticity is key in hip-hop.
  • Revise and refine: Don't expect your lyrics to be perfect straight away. Writing is rewriting. So, take your time to revise, refine, and polish your lyrics until they shine.

Boom! You've written your hip-hop lyrics. Coming up next, we put those lyrics into action and record the vocals.

Record the vocals

Now that you have your lyrics ready, it's time to bring them to life. Here's how you can record your vocals using Cubase to create the hip-hop song you've been dreaming of.

  • Set up your mic: Before you start, make sure your microphone is properly set up. A good quality microphone can make a big difference to the sound quality.
  • Find your rhythm: Hip-hop is all about rhythm and flow. Practice your lyrics until you can deliver them smoothly and confidently, in time with the beat.
  • Record multiple takes: It's rare to nail a perfect vocal performance in one take. Don't be afraid to record multiple takes and choose the best one later.
  • Experiment with styles: Hip-hop is a genre that encourages creativity. Feel free to play around with your vocal delivery, adding elements like rap ad-libs or changing your inflection to add interest to your performance.

Once you've recorded your vocals, you're well on your way to knowing how to compose a hip-hop song using Cubase. But we're not finished yet! Next, we'll mix the track to make sure every element is balanced and sounds great.

Mix the track

Mixing is like the magic wand that polishes your track and makes it shine. Let's dive into how you can mix your hip-hop song using Cubase.

  • Balance the Levels: Start by adjusting the volume of each track. You want to make sure that no element is overpowering the others. Typically, the vocals should be front and center, with the beat and bass line providing a solid foundation.
  • Apply EQ: Equalization, or EQ for short, is a tool that lets you boost or cut specific frequencies. For a hip-hop song, you might want to emphasize the bass and treble frequencies while reducing the mids slightly for a more balanced and vibrant sound.
  • Add Effects: Cubase comes with a range of effects that you can add to your tracks. Reverb can help to give your vocals a sense of space, while compression can help to make your mix sound more consistent.
  • Pan Your Tracks: Panning allows you to position your tracks in the stereo field. This can create a more immersive listening experience. For example, you might want to pan the hi-hats slightly to the left or right to give a sense of width.

With your track mixed, you're one step closer to having a fully composed hip-hop song in Cubase. There's just one more step to go—mastering the final product. Ready? Let's do this!

Master the final product

Mastering is the final touch in the process of creating a hip-hop song using Cubase. It's like the cherry on top of your musical sundae. Let’s jump into the specifics:

  • Limiter: The first thing you want to do is to add a limiter to your master bus. This will ensure that your track doesn't clip and distort when it's played at high volumes. Cubase has a built-in limiter that you can use for this.
  • Equalization: Next, use an equalizer to balance out the frequency content of your track. This is done to give your track a final polish and ensure it plays well on all systems. Remember, subtlety is key here.
  • Maximize Loudness: The aim of mastering is to make your track as loud as possible without distorting the sound. You can use a loudness maximizer to achieve this. Cubase has a built-in loudness maximizer tool that you can use.
  • Export Your Song: Finally, once you're happy with your mastered track, it's time to export it. Cubase allows you to export your track in various formats, including WAV and MP3. Choose the format that best suits your needs.

And there you have it — you've just composed and produced a hip-hop song using Cubase. Pat yourself on the back, you've done an amazing job!

If you enjoyed learning about composing hip-hop songs in Cubase and want to expand your music production skills, check out the workshop 'Turn Your Ideas Into A Finished Song in Ableton Live' by Tom Glendinning. Although focused on Ableton Live, this workshop offers valuable insights and techniques that can be applied to other Digital Audio Workstations, helping you turn your ideas into polished, finished songs.