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Programming Tips Part 1: Reverse and Repeat

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I get asked about programming patterns and sequences all the time—how to make things interesting and how add groove and pace. I thought about tackling this subject in one tutorial but it's a pretty wide subject, so for that reason I've split it in into a few parts.

In this first installment we'll look at a trick I often use to spice things up, using repeated and reversed parts of audio. This will also help you with the basics of editing audio to create new grooves. I'll also demonstrate some use of FX here. It's worth noting that although I've used Logic for this tutorial you can produce the same effects in any DAW, with any audio content.

Step 1: Select Your Original Audio for Editing

Select the audio you want to create your parts with, this can be just about any part you can think of. In this example I gone for two parts to demonstrate a few different techniques. I've used a drum loop and a musical groove but this works especially well with synth lines, vocals, FX and guitar samples.

Our two audio parts begging to be cut up

The two loops in their original form

Step 2: Perform Some Basic Cuts

Our first step is to cut the groove base sample up so that we have more of a 'sequence'. This essentially gives us two things: The start of our new pattern and some 'spare' audio slices to manipulate. Place these extra slices on a new track for now and keep it muted, we'll return to them later.

Step 3: Build a Groove

Now alter the order of some of your original parts and move the sequence around. This should give your new loop a completely different feel. Remember you can do this with your own parts that have been exported so it's a great way to rearrange parts from other projects.

I find it useful to keep any drums or percussion you have running here, so that you have a good point of reference.

The loop has been cut up and parts removed to a muted track

Our basic groove after some initial cuts and edits.

Step 4: Add Some Repeated Parts

Now it's time to spice things up a bit and we'll start with some looped duplicate parts. Go through your sequence and choose a couple of sections that need a little extra and cut out some small sections of audio. These small clips can now be looped a few times using Logic's simple loop function.

Some repeats are added.

Experiment with different lengths of audio clip and different amounts of repetition. You should soon get a feel for what worse and what doesn't. You might want to try using some automation to induce a few volume fades and stereo sweeps.

Some volume automation is added to create fades.

... and some pan automation

The sequence with the repeats and some automation.

Step 5: Add Some Reversed Parts

To enhance things further we can introduce a few reversed sections of audio. I have used some of the extra sections we removed earlier int he tutorial here. I tend to use these to lead into different sections of the sequence and add emphasis where needed.

Reverse parts tend to work very well with drums and percussion and can add huge amount of energy to even simple parts.

A few basic reverse parts are added in key areas

The reversed audio is created

Step 6: Finally... Add Some Effects

Now split your new parts onto fresh tracks in your DAW (if they haven't been already) and add some effects to your reversed and repeated sections. Delays and reverbs are obvious choices here but modulation based effects such as phasers, flangers and ring modulators can work very well too.

A delay effect is added to a repeated section

.. And a reverb is used to enhance our reverse audio

The final result with effects and a quick mix

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