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How To Create Lush Hip Hop Horns

How to Record Drums Author: David Hogan
Published: June 2011

If you are an aspiring hip-hop producer you definitely need to be on point with your horn production! 


The problem for most of us is that we don’t have the resources to record live horns and the resampled horns in most DAW’s and plug-ins don’t sound that great without some detailed work, so today we take a step by step look at how we can overcome these challenges.


Step 1

Horn Samples

In your DAW, go to the acoustic horn section in your favorite sound library and load up a decent horn ensemble.  I will be using a sound library within Kontakt 3 for this demonstration. 

Record a simple 4 bar loop in your DAW using the horn ensemble you’ve chosen.

Here is the loop I’ve recorded.

You can download the midi information for this loop here:

Download the MIDI fie here

Right now it sounds kind of thin so lets beef it up and layer it with 2 more horns that have slightly different tonal characteristics.

Step 2

Load up 2 more horn sections on new tracks in your DAW and copy the midi info you just recorded to those tracks.

Here is what my second and third horn sound like.


Now listen to what all three horns sound like layered together.

The resulting sound is much bigger and has a cool 'in-your-face' vibe. 

Now, that we have the melody and the sounds picked out all we need to do is mix and polish it off.

Step 3

Pan your second and third horns a little to the left and right so they occupy their own sonic space creating more stereo width.  Drop their volumes slightly so they sit just behind your lead horn.

Step 4

Bus all three horn instruments to an auxiliary track and load up some EQ and compression.  Now, brighten up some the high frequencies and roll off some of the low-end frequencies that will muddy up your track.  Add some mild to moderate compression and reverb to beef it up and give it more depth.

Now lets listen to our horn loop.

Nice!  Throw in some drums, a bassline, some sort of scorching lead and you’re well on your way to making a certified Hip Hop banger!

Get good at this layering technique!  It was used to create a lot of our Hip Hop, RnB, and Pop Sample Packs and it’s effective on just about any instrument you can think of.  I use it all the time on strings, horns, and drums.

When you learn to do this with ease a whole new world of sound design will open up to you and your production will rise to new heights.  The possibilities become limitless as there is no end to the types of instruments you can combine or layer.

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