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Create a Drum Loop From Found Sounds

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Despite the countless libraries of drum loops available on the market, many of them sound the same, become overused and lack any personal style. This tutorial will show you a quick and fun way to add a personal touch to your music by creating your own loops.

Step 1: Choose a Palette

Although you could make a drum loop from just about anything, I find it particularly fun to build something from a common set of sounds. Perhaps your sound palette could be all items you find in your kitchen or garden shed. My friend David Bowick produced a song by Lucas Carpenter called "Dreamers Working 9 to 5" where the kit was created entirely from items sitting in his office like staplers, scissors and pencils. You don't have to go as extreme as pulling a theme out of your lyrics, but restricting yourself to a specific sound set can actually force you to be more creative with what you're limited to.

Step 2: Decide On Your Core Sounds

We're going to be creating drum loops from unique sounds, but we're not trying to revolutionize the way rhythm is used in music. Relying on the basic structure of kick, snare and hi-hat will give us a good foundation for adding our own spin.

For this example I've decided to go with all body sounds, such as thumping my chest and beat boxing. I've next decided that I'm going to need something to represent a kick drum, a snare, a hi-hat and also an open hi-hat.

Step 3: Turn on the Mic and Start Recording

Here comes the experimentation part. The idea here is to just play. Bang on those pots and pans, punch your first on the desk, do whatever it takes to discover what interesting rhythmic sounds exist in the items around you. It can take a lot of different tries before you find something that is "just right" for what you need.

In my case I settled on thumping on my chest for a kick drum, speaking a sharp "K" sound for a snare, speaking a softer "ts" for a hi-hat, and taking a deep breath for the open hi-hat.

4. Pick Out Your Sounds

Now go through your recorded takes and find the strongest of each element. Snip out the best performance of each sound. I find it very helpful to label and color code the individual elements, as this makes it a lot easier to move things around and try new rhythms without losing track of which sound is which.

Here's a rundown of the sounds I chose:

5. Clean Them Up

Because these sounds need to be rhythmically precise, we're going to cut the audio file to the very beginning of the sound's attack. We'll also trim the end off so we have a nice short and clean sound.

6. Spice Them Up

I'm happy with the kick, drum, and breathe sounds, but I think the hi-hat could use a little work. First I'm going to use an EQ to roll off most of the low end, leaving just the high end of the sound for us to hear. This will make the hi-hat sharper and brighter. By using a send to an aux track, I'll also add a touch of delay to the sound to give it a repeating effect.

7. Create a Beat

Next arrange the sounds into a beat. I'm going with something pretty traditional here: hi-hat on every beat with a breathe pickup into the next bar, snare on beats 2 & 4, and a simple kick drum pattern.

8. Use Your Loops!

Having your own drum loop doesn't do you much good until you use it! Here's an example of a commercial demo I did using this loop. The product was a bodywash and the concept was fresh and hip, hence the use of body elements for that subtle extra touch.

Come up with your own loops from found sounds? Share links to your loops, beats and ideas in the comments!

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