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How to Create Grooves with Edited Drum Loops

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It's often pretty straight forward to create and program a basic beat. The real challenge comes when we try to introduce a groove that gives our track soul and character.

There are a few ways to do this of course and useful methods include using recorded performances, MIDI sequencing and even entire drum loops. All of these techniques can really add to simple beat, but if you are a fan of getting things down quickly and producing really satisfying results, then you may want to try a different approach.

This tutorial looks at how we can build a groove using existing loops in our library without using them in their entirety. The result is an original groove that often feel as if they have been 'played'.

Step 1 - The Basic Drum Track

For the purposes of this tutorial and to keep things nice and tight, I'm assuming you have already programmed a basic drum loop. This could be a collection of samples, raw audio or MIDI data triggering synths and drum machines. It really doesn't matter which method you've used, as long as the groove is very simple.

The original drum track.

As you can see I have used Cubase 5 and a beat that is constructed mainly of raw audio samples. It is basically mixed and contains very little in the way of groove. The overall feel is solid but some more decorative parts will certainly help make things more interesting.

The untouched mix.

This is often the point when people come unstuck and any extra parts may sound disconnected or forced. It's important to choose the right sounds and place them carefully. You may have to put more work in here than you have on all the drums so far.

The original, untouched drum track:

Step 2 - Choosing the First Loop to Edit

When we think about injecting a groove into an existing drum track, the use of loops may not be the most obvious route, but bear with me as everything should become clear!

Start by adding a few extra blank tracks to your project, you're going to need them. With your new tracks in place start to browse the loops you have in your library or on sample CDs. The trick here is to pick out loops that contain areas that you would like in your track. You don't really have to like the whole loop, as we will cut out any slices we don't need.

Adding new tracks.

In this instance I have used a drum loop that contains some percussive bongo sounds. I particularly liked these and thought they would work well as decorative elements in the existing drum loop. I have Rex files here so they are locked to the projects tempo but you can quite easily use raw wav or aif files, you just may need to perform some time stretching.

The first loop ready to edit.

The first loop to edit:

Step 3 - Making the First Edits

With the first loop in place we are ready to start editing it and cutting out the sections we want to use. At this point your should make sure your snap values are correct. I tend to find that setting them to 1/16th is a good starting point and allows a good balance between accuracy and flexibility.

The snap settings.

Now identify the sections of the loop that you really like and that you think will work well as percussion sounds. These sections by no means need to be single hits, in fact small sections of the performance or loop can work very well.

Cutting out the parts needed.

With these sections cut out we can start to construct the new groove. Start by creating a loop that is around 4-8 bars in length, this will give you a good space to work in and hear the results quickly. Now start moving the remaining sections of the loop around until they fall into places that work with the current drum track.

Changing the loop length.

It shouldn't be long before you are starting to build up a nice pattern and really adding some funk to your original drums. I find that once you get started the parts tend to fall in to place depending on what they are. This is usually the fun part of the process. If things dont seem to be working at this point you may want to try another loop and repeat the last section.

The new groove emerges.

Step 4 - Fine Tuning

You may find that the sequence you have made now needs some light processing. In this case all I needed to do was cut some low frequencies with a high pass filter but you may feel that some further EQ or even compression is required.

Some light filtering.

I also copied the sequence I made with the edits so the loop was twice as long. This simply gives you more space to work in if you plan to add another loop.

The groove is copied.

The first groove in place:

Step 5 - Adding Further Parts

To add a second groove I introduced another loop and cut out some more percussive effects. There were some rough edges that were introducing clicks anfd pops straight after the edit, so I exported the sections and introduced some quick fades at the very end of each sample.

The second loop ready to edit:

A new loop is edited in the same way.

The second group of edits untreated:

This is known as 'bouncing in place' and is very easily achieved. Simply select the part you want to edit and go to the 'Audio' menu. You should see 'bounce selection' in there. This is essential for working with Rex files as Cubase and other apps may not let you perform full edits on these files unless they are bounced to a raw format.

The bounce in place function.

The second edit in the mix:

Step 6 - And Some FX...

To finish things off I added a few effects. Delay was added to the second loop to give it some space and make the whole thing a little bit trippy.

Some delay is added for space.

I then took part of the first groove and moved it to a new track, this was then treated with reverb to push the sound back and separate it from the rest of the loop. Putting seperate parts of the groove on individual tracks and treating with their own process can really open the sequence up and add a new dimension to the whole process.

And finally some reverb.

Both edits with all effects applied in the mix:

Download the Play Pack for this tutorial (9.8 MB)


  • Drum Loop Audio Files
  • Cubase Source File
  • Cubase Waveform Images
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