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Music

How to Process Loops Using Multiple Tracks

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:

Using loops in productions is great but sometimes they can become a little static in nature. You can perform cuts, edits and even use automation to spice things up but occasionally I like to spread the loops across multiple tracks to make things more interesting.

Essentially you could complete this technique in any DAW or using any sampler that has multiple outputs. In this instance I am using Logic Pro 9 but using similar effects and routing you should be able to follow in your application of choice.


Step 1 - The Basic Loop

So you could be using a drum loop, an instrument loop or just something you have recorded. As long as it is perfectly looped and in time these techniques will work just fine. I am using a groove based instrumental loop here.

I have looped the groove and left the tempo at the default 120bpm. I have also applied some gentle EQ to brighten things up and passed the whole thing through a limiter to ensure any peaks are ironed out and there are no overs or clipping.

Our groove with some basic processing applied

With all the basics in place we are ready to start on some initial editing and routing. These first few steps are extremely simple, the more complex moves come later!

The basic un-edited loop plays back


Step 2 - Some Initial Editing And Routing

The first thing to do here is to cut the loop up into slices. Now these don’t have to be uniform slices in any way they simply have to be parts of the loop or groove that sound interesting to you. So the key here is to use your eyes and ears to pick out useable exerpts.

I find that it does work well to pick out sections with defined transients and clear dynamic signatures. This will give at least some of your edits real impact. You can see from my screenshot below which bits I went for in my loop. A real mixture of snares, fills and instrumentation. Don’t worry too much about getting this part ‘right’ it really is all about experimentation.

The slicing begins

With your loop cut up into some choice slices you can now start to set up the multiple tracks we’ll use to apply our processing. I decided to create a total of three more audio tracks. One for our instrumental cuts, one for the snare and finally one for the fill.

The edits are moved to new tracks

With the tracks created you can start to populate them with you newly created slices. This will leave the original ‘core’ of the loop on it’s original track. The tracks are then fed through a group channel and the processors that were on the original track (EQ and Limiter) are applied to the group. This will save CPU and also keep things simple.

And the new tracks are routed and mixed


Step 3 - Treating Your First ‘Layer’

We are now ready to apply some processing to our first new track or ‘layer’ of slices. My first track contains slices of the instrumental sections of the loop. I wanted to increase the contrast between these new slices and the rest of the original loop.

To create this contrast I started by applying a simple low cut (or high pass) filter. By removing all of the low frequency these sections immediately stood out and transformed the feel of the loop.

A simple low cut is applied to the first edits

The high pass / low cut filter is applied

To enhance this contrast even further I applied a phaser to this track. This imparted a dynamic feel to the instrumental slices and also added space and depth to the part. Any modulation effect will work well here but I particularly like the intense feedback that can only be achieved with a phaser.

A phaser is then applied

And finally a touch of tape delay

The phaser and tape delay are added


Step 4 - Applying Further Processing To The Remaining Parts

I continued to process the other tracks/layers in the same way, ensuring that I used different effects and processes. It’s all about creating variety and contrast here. The more variation you can introduce the richer the sound scape should be.

The snares were next on my list and these simply got a dose of Logic’s envelope based reverb to make them sound much larger than their dry counterparts. I then moved on to the fill at the end of the loop.

Envelope based reverb is applied to the snare parts

I actually applied two effects to the fill section… Logic’s excellent Ringshifter, which is essentially a ring modulator and the whole thing was finished off with a healthy dose of stereo delay. This made the final section sound very metallic and almost robotic in nature.

The Ringshifter and delay used for the fill section.

The Ringshifter processed fill in isolation


Step 5 - Tweaks And The Final Result

At this point our loop was more or less finished. I was happy with the way it was sounding and felt that my processing had really added something to proceedings. It would certainly stand out more in the mix and now had its own identity.

The automation used to add interest to the Ringshifter effect

You might be wondering how I achieved the sweeping effect on the final fill. This was simply a case of adding a small amount of automation. The main Ringshifter frequency know was swept right throughout the part and this was recorded. Small touches like this can make a big difference here. Now go ahead and mangle some of your own loops using this method!

The final loop is mixed

The final loop in action!

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