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How to Create and Organize Your Own Apple Loops

This post is part of a series called Creative Session: Productivity for Music Producers.
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If you use Logic Pro, Soundtrack Pro or Final Cut Pro it's highly likely that you'll be familiar with Apple loops. These applications come with a pretty massive collection of sounds in this format but it's much more satisfying to build your own custom loops and have them stored alongside the library sounds.

This tutorial will show you how to turn your raw samples into Apple loops and tag them with the appropriate data so that they show up in your searches. These loops can then be used in any of your project, regardless of their tempo.

Step 1 - The Apple Loops Utility

To start of lets locate the file that you want to convert into an Apple loop. This can be in AIF or WAV format and should preferably be in a high resolution, 24 bit / 44.1 Hz seems to be the acceptable standard amongst many. Also try to use relatively dry material here, remember the effects and processing can always be added later, too much at this point will only close doors for you later.

With your loop selected you will need to locate the Apple loops utility. As log as your Logic Pro installation was executed by the book it should reside in Hard drive > Applications > Utilities. If you plan to create a few of your Apple loops it probably worth giving the app a permanent home in your dock at this point.

Now open the loops utility and open the file you have selected for editing. We are now ready to start looking at how we go about converting the file into the Apple loop format.

The Apple loops utility should be in your Utlities folder.

Step 2 - Adding Tags to Your File

The first page that you will see in the loops utility contains the files properties and tags. This page really performs a few purposes. Firstly the current info and properties of the file loaded are deployed in the top right hand area of the page. Here you can see the format, length, location and resolution of your file. The rest of the page is dedicated to the process of adding new data to the file.

The main Loops utility interface.

This new data comes in the form of Property tags, Search tags and Descriptors. This sound as if they may be very different but they are just ways to make your file easier and quicker to find once it becomes part of a large collection of loops.

The property tags section gives you a chance to enter the basic info about your sound, such whether it's looping or non looping, what key it's in and how many beats it contains. There is also space to enter author and copyright material information. Obviously some parts are more important than others, for example the amount of beats in your loop is essential to it playing back in time with your project, whereas extra text comments obviously aren't.

Property tags set.

The search tags section below is similar to the property tags area but allows you to enter specific attributes that will only show up when searching for your file. This can be really useful and give you lightning fast access to any group of sounds and in some cases even the exact file your are looking for.

Finally we have the descriptors section on the right hand side of the page. This area is a little more abstract and is really about the feel or style of the sound. This system is used when employing the media browsers filtering system, which we'll look at in a later stage of this tutorial.

The descriptors.

Step 3 - Editing Transients

The thing that really makes Apple Loops useful is their ability to be played back at any tempo. This is achieved by sound being sliced into many sections. These 'slices' are then either stretched or overlapped to allow the loop to be changed in tempo. Due to Apple loops using this technique the artifacts induced during tempo change are negligible when compared to traditional time stretching.

Of course all the Apple loops in our library already have this info entered and are ready to use but when building our own custom loops we have to edit the transients ourselves. To start editing your loop hit the 'Transients' tab at the top of the utility window.

In this new window you should see a graphical overview of you file. At first this will look the same as any other sampler editor, with no slicing visible. At this point ensure that your sound is set as a loop in the previous page and the correct number of bars are entered.

With this all important info entered you should see your first slices appear, above the waveform display the transient division and sensitivity controls should now also be highlighted and available.

The Transient editor.

You'll notice that some markers are automatically placed at this point and if you have chosen a simple file these may be placed at ideal points, leaving you little work to do. In a lot of cases though you may need to play with the sensitivity and division controls to get things working correctly.

If any of you have used ReCycle before then this process might seem very familiar. The technique to master is getting a marker at every major dynamic event. This may sound easy but in a more complex loop it can actually involve a fair amount of work. It's well worth spending the time here though as once you have completed the job it never has to be done again.

Step 4 - Saving and Organising Your Loops

With markers in the right place and all your attributes set you are ready to save your file and store it in your Apple loops library. There are a few ways to do this but first we'll make sure the loop is saved correctly in the Loops utility.

If your loop was made from a sound in AIFF format its simply a case of hitting the save button and the original file will be replaced in the same format but now it will contain the data you entered in the utility. If your file was in WAV format it will need to be converted into AIFF. This is a straight forward process and you will be asked if you wish to go ahead with the conversion. This prompt can also be turned off in preferences, so the process is automatic.

Now your loop is saved you can go ahead and place it in the Apple loops library. This can be done at a file / folder level or from within Logic itself. If you have converted several sounds into the Apple loop format you may want to add them by dragging them to Hard disk > User > Library > Audio > Apple Loops > User Loops > Single files.

Filing loops at a system level.

Alternatively if you have just been working with one loop you plan to use in your active project, it can be imported into the Logic in the same as any other sound. Then using the region sub menu you can select add to Apple loops library. You will then be presented with some options for importing.

Filing loops in Logic.

Step 5 - Using the Logic Loop Browser

When you have added your loops to the library you can use Logic's built in loop browser to find exactly the sound you are looking for. You can do this by using search by category style, filtered search function or the straight text entry search for more exact results.

The Logic loop browser.

Of course the results that are returned here really depend on how much time you spent tagging your loops in the Loops utility. If you entered little to no information you may be better off using a text based search. A quick way to find all your loops is to add a key word or your name in the author section and search for them that way.

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