A beat maker these days usually requires a download that you then install on your computer. The internet has made it very easy to download a beat maker and try it out on your computer. This means that you can essentially try out as many beat makers as you like before you purchase one. This is a nice change from the old days when you had to purchase the software and try it out while you crossed your fingers and hoped you didn't waist your hard earned money.
A beat maker will usually provide 16 tracks which can allow a song writer to layer their beat or song. This layering effect provides the different sounds you might hear including the drum, sneer, hi-hat etc. You can also take these 16 tracks, and depending on the beat maker, bounce those onto one of the tracks leaving you with 15 more tracks to work with and so-on and so-forth. However, just because you use more tracks there is no guarantee the song your are writing will sound better. In fact sometimes a simple beat is all you need.
Obviously each track is going to have a volume control slider so you can adjust the mix to meet your needs. There is also going to be a tempo setting for the entire song as well. This will work with something called 'beats per minute' or BPM. So if you have a song at 120 BPM this means that every minute 120 beats will be played (of course they don't all have to be used.). Along with that feature, there might be a measure setting, meaning 4/4 time or 3/4 time etc (which has to do with the beats per measure).
Virtual beat makers allow you to add the sounds by assigning a sound to a specific beat. Typically, a measure will loop round-and-round and you can assign a sneer drum to every other beat for instance, and then when it loops around again you will hear the sneer on every other beat. Then you can add other sounds using the other tracks at your disposal. This makes it very easy to create a beat in a very short amount of time. The newer beat makers will have a piano key-set as well so you can add piano sounds, bass-lines, guitar parts or vocal samples etc. (without having to buy any hardware). This is nice if you want to make the entire song from start to finish using an inexpensive virtual music beat maker.
One of the most important things to look for in a beat maker is the quality of the sound library you have access to. If the sound of the samples is poor, then no matter how good your beat, you will be frustrated with the final product.
Once you have produced your hip-hop or rap beat you can usually convert this to an mp3 with the click of a button. This is a feature you should definitely look for in a beat maker and the more exporting options available, the better. Many people will make a quick loop in the beat maker and then transfer the mp3 to a more sophisticated multi-track sequencer for further polishing.
So to re-cap, you should look for at least a 16 track sequencer, individual controls for the volume, tempo control, and high quality samples as well as an easy-to-use export option. Other than that, it is important to shop around and try out as many beat makers as possible so you know what you like and don't like about the different software interfaces.
Piper Washington is Webmaster of SoftwareBeatMaker.Com. If you want to find out more about beat maker software along with additional information about drum machines go to SoftwareBeatMaker.Com