Manipulating the Amen Break in Cubase/Nuendo

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With the recent revival of Jungle, Future Jungle and Jungle breaks I thought it would be nice to put together a tutorial on how to manipulate that most seminal of drum loops – the Amen break. This tutorial will outline many of the techniques you can use to transform a simple one-bar drum loop into a frenzy of percussive production wizardry.

I have used Nuendo 3 for this but the techniques will work the same for anybody using any version of Cubase SX or Nuendo right up to the most recent versions. Here is an example of the kind of results you can expect from using these techniques:

Step 1: Load in the Sample

For premium users there is a version of the Amen break included in this tutorial pack, for other users the Amen break is available for free download from many websites - just google it. For anyone interested in learning about the history of the Amen break there is a great video up on YouTube.

Open a new project and import the drum loop. The loop in the tutorial pack is at 150 bpm but the first thing we need to do is to choose a tempo for our track and stretch our loop to fit it. For this example I am going to use a healthy 170 bpm, for a classic jungle track. For Future Jungle/Jungle Breaks somewhere around 140 would be more suitable.

The loop will now stretch over our bar dividers because it lasts for longer than the duration of 1 bar so we need to time stretch it to fit our new tempo. By clicking the pointer icon in the toolbar at the top of the screen we can turn on "sizing applies timestretch" - this helpful function automatically timestretches an audio region to any size you like, so you can easily match it to your tempo by making sure the snapping is turned on.

Step 2: Slice the Sample

Now turn the pointer tool back to its default setting and set the snapping to 1/8. We can now use the scissors tool (or alt and click with the pointer tool) to slice the sample into 8 sections. To help keep things clear in this tutorial I have colored the sections differently.

Technique 1: Rearranging the Slices

The fundamental technique in manipulating drum breaks like the Amen is to rearrange the slices to get new patterns from the drum loop - below are a series of screenshots with audio examples to show how rearranging the slices can work.