The Secrets To Making a Successful Beat Tape - Part 3: Ol’ Burger Beats​

Making a beat tape is every producer's dream; but navigating the territory can be tricky and knowing how to give it the momentum it deserves can make all the difference. In this series of articles, we speak to producers who have had incredible success with their beat tapes and ask them to share their insights into the process, from concept realization, visual worlds, right down to promotion.

In this part of the series, we spoke with Ol’ Burger Beats​

By Eimear O SullivanMusicngear Editor
Article photo - The Secrets To Making a Successful Beat Tape - Part 3: Ol’ Burger Beats​
Photo by Lisana Preteni 

Beat tape definition: Instrumental productions created by a producer/beat maker, which are compiled into an album.

Musicngear: What are some important things to keep in mind when creating a beat-tape? 

I think having a clear concept could be one way to get started. 

Something like ‘I’m only using these instruments or these kinds of samples’. Some limitations and boundaries for what this beat tape is going to sound like are also good. 

For example, my first album, the High Rhodes LP, was defined by mostly sampling Fender Rhodes-sounding electric piano samples. It could also be a concept around when the beats were created, if the tracks you made in a certain timeframe all sound related, or based around emotions that you went through at a time. Or only sampling music from a certain place or a certain year, or in a certain tempo. 

My albums often start by making one track that I think sounds like my best work so far, or a track that feels like the next step. And then I try to make a full album sound similar to that. There’s hundreds of ways to conceptualize it, and I think that a special concept could separate a good album from a decent beat tape. I believe the concept to be important when you’re marketing the album and explaining to your audience why they should check it out, but it’s not necessarily important for the listening experience. You could have the best batch of 20 beats on a cassette, with no artwork or title at all, and it could still be an incredible listen.  

Musicngear: What does your overall creative process look like for creating a beat tape?

It differs from project to project. 

Right now I’m promoting my upcoming album called Loft. That’s based on me playing some short improvisations and exploring some chord progressions on my Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos in my parents’ loft in Vatne, where I grew up. I decided to record some of these piano improvisations to cassette, and really loved the sound and texture of the pianos captured on tape. Each time I visited Vatne, I recorded a couple tape sides of music, and brought them back to my studio in Oslo to sample the cassettes and base the album on that sound. So I took a different approach when recording this album, playing only analog vintage instruments from the 70s mostly.

The Loft process differs a lot from my previous work, as that is usually based more on vinyl sampling. Then the process starts in a record store or by browsing for vinyl online, and finding samples that fit the project I’m working on. I love when the samples listed tell a story on their own, like on Dilla’s Donuts, or me and Vuyo’s Dialogue album. Either way, when a beat tape is starting to take shape, I’m often contacting vocalists or instrumentalists that I would like to work with, musicians who will make it a more interesting listen, and who can also strengthen the concept of the album.

My studio setup is based around two vinyl turntables (I use the Technics 1210), a DJ mixer (right now I’m using the Alpha Recording System Model 9000), a few samplers (Roland SP-555, Akai MPC 2000, SP12), a Macbook Pro with music editing software, and some analog synthesizers, electric pianos, and keyboards. 

I’ve also been using more outboard rack gear the last few years, analog EQs and hardware compressors, and things like that, but that’s not really necessary, it’s just more fun. The most important part of my studio is all the vinyl records I guess.

Musicngear: For producers who are interested in creating a beat tape, what are some strong beat tapes you recommend they listen to? 

Some obvious choices are: 

J Dilla - Welcome To Detroit. A brilliant summary of the music that inspired Jay Dee and his city of Detroit, ranging from gangster rap to techno to bossa nova to jazz fusion. There are some vocals on there, so maybe it’s not a beat tape per se. If so, you can listen to the instrumental version. 

Madlib’s Beat Konducta-series. All of them are great. Volume 3 and 4 focus on samples from India and does that really well. Volume 5 and 6 are dedicated to Dilla, sort of as a reference to his Donuts album. 

Karriem Riggins’ Alone Together. Two separate LPs that form one unity, where Karriem mixes live drum recordings and vinyl samples, touching everything from synthesizer library records to brilliant Brazilian jazz. One of my favorite beat tapes, I never get tired of this one. 

There’s a lot of great Norwegian beat tapes too. Check out this playlist featuring many of the beat makers.

Musicngear: Do you create a beat-tape around a certain theme/concept?

Yes, I always work like that, just because it’s very inspiring to me. It’s either a full concept or a really defined sound that shapes the album. 

You could have a lot of tools to translate that concept to the listeners, all the way from your artist name, the album title, and song titles, the artwork, and packaging, the music videos/canvas videos, interludes, the intro and outro, which artists you collaborate with, the lyrics, which samples you choose, how you form your live shows, etc. The possibilities are endless, and I’ve only engaged in a few of these factors, but still believe my albums to be pretty conceptual. 

Musicngear: What is your process for promoting a beat-tape once completed? 

I put a lot of work into making a nice physical product if it’s on tape, CD, or vinyl, and I try to make artwork that complements the music and the overall concept.

I love the do-it-yourself aesthetics of fanzines and private vinyl pressings, so anything that I can print, copy or design from home always attracts me. That physical product works really well for promoting the music, I think vinyl records are the best business cards, haha. So I often send some copies to writers and radio hosts and curators that I like, as well as writing some good press emails that I ship out to my favorite music blogs and magazines. I really appreciate when the record labels take much of that responsibility, but no matter how much work the label puts in, I’ll still send out a lot of emails and visit the post office every other day when I’m releasing new music. 

Connect with Ol’ Burger Beats
Bandcamp / Spotify / Instagram / Twitter

Pre-order Ol’ Burger Beats’ upcoming album Loft here. Loft is an instrumental hip-hop album inspired by the free and spiritual jazz played by the New York loft movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

In this series: Part 1: The Secrets To Making a Successful Beat Tape: City Girl & Part 2: The Secrets To Making a Successful Beat Tape: chordandjocks

About Eimear O Sullivan

Eimear Ann O Sullivan is a multi-genre music producer, audio engineer and vocalist. After receiving a Masters in Music Technology from the CIT Cork School of Music, she went on to operate as a producer under the name Blakkheart. Her releases have received critical acclaim from Ireland's biggest music publications, such as District Magazine and Nialler9, alongside receiving heavy commercial radio airplay. She currently works in Cork recording studio Flashpoint CC. Previous clients of hers include the likes of Comedy Central’s Dragony Aunt star Candy Warhol, rapper Darce and Outsider YP. (Photo credit @Fabian Boros)

Contact Eimear O Sullivan at

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