Making loops is a useful skill for musicians, whether for practising, making demos or producing. The basics are easy, but here are some handy extra techniques I’ve picked up.
Often, I’m sampling a repeated riff from a live performance. As it’s repetitive, I can usually see a resemblance between the start and end points. In this example, I visually identify the equivalent point (before the three large oscillations) on the kick drum hits at the start and end.
Sometimes I can get a nicer loop by not matching equivalent hits. In this example, the beat has a heavy laid-back feel.
I can add to that by ending of my loop some milliseconds later (I could also put the start point early). This delays the start of the loop every time it cycles around, adding to the drama the drummer creates there.
There are no rules about whether to add or remove time, it’s personal taste. Here, the expressive grooving/microtiming allows space for interpretations.
There’s one technique that gives a lot of extra options: sample a segment but start and end on a different beat than beat 1. (Even though the finished loop will start on beat 1). This is useful e.g. when an unwanted noise from the bar before spills over beat 1 of the groove.
In this example, I played a wrong note at the very end of the two-bar pattern.
The answer is to shift my loop points a half-beat earlier, so I miss out on the mistake and replace it with the equivalent half-beat of material from before my original loop.
The final step would be to cut and paste so that what should be beat 1 comes at the start of the loop.
In the example above, I was careless and left a click at the end of the loop. After checking back, I saw that I had caught the start of a snare hit by accident – fixable by shifting my end point. But these glitches can also come from mismatches in sound pressure level – where the loop ends at a different volume to its beginning.
The solution is to fade in the first few milliseconds and fade out the last few milliseconds.
Any techniques of your own? Problems you’re trying to solve? Or better ways to do what I’m doing? Please comment!
[All music examples by permission of Dylan Lynch and Max Zaska, with whom I’ve been jamming to brainstorm a brand-new recording project.]