I present to you my guide to beat mapping for Beat Saber! Based on the positive responses I’ve received to my beat maps, I wanted to share with you the process I typically use when creating a beat map. While this guide may not be the best for everyone, I hope that you can at least take some useful information from it and create something amazing.
I have always felt a desire to move, and as a gamer, competitive swing dancer, musician, tennis player, and fencer, I tend to move a lot. My love affair with rhythm-based video games can be traced back to Dance Dance Revolution, but my passion bloomed with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. After their hayday, I felt a void in my rhythm-based heart. Until Beat Saber. I immediately bought an HTC Vive in anticipation, and I am certainly not disappointed.
My method of beat mapping is built on moving with the rhythm and flowing into the next beat, which you can apply to any difficulty. The full process breaks down into five parts: song choice, preparation, mapping, lighting, and playtesting.
Song Choice (5%)
You should choose a song that you’re going to have fun with. I recommend starting with your favorite song or current ear candy—the song you always choose first on your playlist or the one you play to get pumped up. I like songs with a strong, definitive rhythm section with beats that have a lot of punch or power from bass, synth, guitar, etc. I stay away from anything acoustic.
Most importantly for me, if the song makes me bob my head (which is essentially the roots for dancing), then I know I’m going to have fun playing it. After that, all you need is a solid beat map, and you’ll get people dancing and having fun!
Once you’ve got your song, you’ll need to prepare yourself to edit. I use a 3D editor created by Ikeiwa, but there is also a 2D editor by Megalon. You can find these on the Modding Discord—make sure to get the most updated version.
You’ll also need a song editor. Audacity is my best friend here, and I use it to export to the .ogg file that is needed.
One tricky piece of preparation I like to perfect is lining up the waveform with the map. The counts for each beat are shown on the right side of the map, and when you pause the editor, your placement position generally snaps to the beat.
Nudge the song forwards or backwards in small movements in Audacity. If you’re moving it backwards, add Silence to the gap at the start of the track. Once you think it’s in position, export it to the 3D Editor.
Now look at the waveform on the side of the map, and see if it aligns with a bold bar, at least 8, which leaves an 8 count of space from the start. This takes several attempts to get right. Play test a few beats to make sure the waveform lines up correctly. It will make mapping your song much easier. Now you’re ready to start mapping!
Beat Mapping (65%)
This is the good stuff! Start planning out beat placement by listening to the song and pretending to play along to it. When I feel as though I’ve found a cool new way to swing the swords, I’ll start placing beats and playtesting them to see how the pattern feels. Tweak the blocks until the swings feel perfect and fluid—this may feel tedious, but it’s crucial for a great flow. You’ll know the moment you find a good pattern when you get lost dancing to the music and the beat pattern becomes muscle memory.
When figuring out the patterns, focus on smooth, natural movement and stay away from jerky redirects with the sabers. Allow for the arms to follow through on a note, and then place your next note so your saber meets it comfortably. Some beat mappers tend to use quick redirects which make the track more difficult, but a few too many make you lose the flow. It’s preferable to use these mainly for a drum fill or in the upbeat.
Avoid a lot of repeated down hits, which are basically like drumming. When there’s too many, these types of patterns hurt my wrists especially due to the weight of the Vive controllers.
When placing beats, focus on the bottom row, and almost always avoid the two center positions at eye level. Generally only place beats here for a high energy slash, but do not follow it up immediately by another note. This gives players time to regain their bearings.
And for goodness sake please don’t note spam to the point you can’t hear the song over the saber cuts. Listen to the song and add a new rhythm or play along with an instrument.
When building the song, take note of the sections. Songs generally have an intro, verses, choruses, and a bridge. Take a note from the song’s musicians—when they repeat sections, you repeat patterns (especially in the verses and choruses). Take the intro nice and slow and warm up into the song.
Go big in the choruses. Use dual saber hits more often to emphasize the energy. You can even go for two to three blocks in a row to cut. The more blocks, the more powerful the swing and the more energy put forth. This will make the swing and the movement feel energized and grand.
It’s important to ask yourself, “who am I creating this beat map for and why?”
Do you want to make a song that has a groove and makes you feel like dancing? Aim to get lost in the rhythm and pattern so much that you feel like you’re part of the song.
Do you want to make it challenging for people who love the effort? Some people love to grit their teeth and bust their ass to complete an epic track. It feels glorious to complete it—like climbing the leaderboards.
A Final Note on Mapping
You should build a beat map for you. That’s what makes this game fun. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself 100%, and sharing my beat maps with everyone is just the icing on the cake. This game is seriously amazing.
Light Show (3%+)
As most performers know, a good light technician can enhance an show’s experience that will leave the audience breathless. This will take some play testing to learn what looks good, and you should put down your controllers and watch OST songs on no fail for ideas.
Change the rotation of rings every 8 beats, and when a fast section comes along, set the rotating lights to max and change the colors enough to notice a difference. Here’s an example.
Focus on dynamics. When the song has a lot of loud hits, flash the lights. When the rhythm section in a song fades, lower the speed of rotating lasers or remove some lights completely. Nothing feels better than a drop with the lights going out, and when the music comes back, exploding with lights everywhere.
Playtest, Playtest, Playtest (25%)
It totally sucks going back and forth between VR and the computer to edit, but this part is incredibly important. Ensure all the notes are in the correct place, the patterns flow and are uninterrupted, the lights look decent, and the difficult parts are spaced out enough that players aren’t too exhausted to finish. Get these down, and your song will feel complete.
Record a video of the song so people know what they’re getting into. Without a video or prior knowledge of the creator, players won’t know if they’re going to play a random mess or the best beat map they never knew existed. If you or another player can record it at full combo, it is far more enticing to watch than missed notes.
Remember to be proud of your work and always strive to improve!
Thanks for reading my guide! I hope you enjoy creating your own beat maps as much as I do. Shout out to Reddit u/Freeek323 for his video guides that helped me get started.