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Some Tips for Better Loop-based Music

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People nowadays associate loop music with DJs and new artists, however, this is far from the truth. I've used loops for multiple movies, industrial video soundtracks, a radio commercial, and several remixes. The majority of my rock tunes were created using acoustic drum loops. loops are an easy and neat way to get into music as an artist is not required to possess complex technical skills, just strong musical sagacity for arranging distinct musical elements into a delightful experience.

An artist needs to start with a knowledgeable source guide, that consists of samples and loop libraries. They maybe extension packages for existing instruments, for instance, IK Multimedia's Sample Tank and Native Instruments' Kontakt. Companies make extension packages for Kontakt, for example; Best Service and Big Fish (provide an urban workstation Kontakt expansion pack for hip-hop). However, an artist needs to conform to the idea that making music should not be limited to a narrow set of methods. The guidelines in this article and with a tidbit of patience will propel an artist's goal in creating slick loop-based music.

1. Slicing and Dicing

A fine line must exist between consistency and variety to hypnotize the audience. A productive method is to slice the loops into varying pieces based on the length, and subsequently realign them to add diversity. In the examples below, the Unedited Loop (clip 1) is a 4-bar loop which has been repeated two times. The Edited Loop plays the same 4-bar loop, however, the last two measures are sliced and elements in it are rearranged to add diversity.

The segment encircled in red portrays how three loops have expanded the eighth note to add downbeat to start with a break. The encircled segment in blue features a hi-hat loop diced into chunks, to add tone.

The segment in yellow displays loops in track 1, 2, and 4 have been set backward for two beats, giving a breakbeat that's carried by the snare loop in track 3. The loop starting at measure 57 in track 1 has had the first 1/16th note cut, copied twice, then placed as two successive 16th notes leading into measure 57 (colored white for clearness).

Track 5, 6, and 7 uses segments of the original loops (encircled in purple), however, in track 5, one of the loops is sliced into a segment that is a single beat long.

2. Don’t Overlook the One-shots

Multiple libraries, especially for drums, include a one-shot sample of the sounds that can be used to append off-beat hits and accents. Furthermore, supplementing different drum sounds in the loop to keep the audience in a groove. Even more fitting, one can utilize them to modify new loops and fill them with the same sound so that it all combines properly. Either drag these one-shots into audio loops or either load up a sampler or drum module with them (e.g., Ableton Live Simpler, Native Instruments Battery, Studio One Presence XT, Reason NN-XT, etc.) and activate the 1-shots with MIDI records.

3. Detuning

Let’s assume, a drum loop is played during the introduction before and the verse. Detune the section before the verse by 1/4th to ½ a step or so; this timbre difference will hold the change in the song from introduction to verse. One can detune the loop without changing the length; however, use the host program DSP to take the loop back to its original length while maintaining the adjusted pitch.

Detuning works great with cymbals because a single cymbal can be turned into a family. If you establish the cymbal as a one-shot instead of a loop, altering the tune will also increase or decrease the duration. You can create a gong-like effect by layering two cymbal sounds. This can be done by detuning one by about a half-dozen semitones; while the other by a much larger amount, like 20 or so.

4. Key Changes

Key change (modulation) was a technique used back in the days and maybe it’s time for a comeback. It is quite simple with MIDI loops — either by using an edit function which performs transposition (figure 3), or just drag the MIDI loops up or down in the piano roll view. With audio, acidized files response to pitch is spontaneous if the host (for instance, Magix Acid Pro 7) has a method to enter pitch markers. Otherwise, transpose manually using a host’s DSP.

Final Thoughts

Given that loops are easy to conform, however, one must keep in mind, they are not synonymous with music, but components to be exact.