How to make loops
sound more original
Loops don't have to sound like loops
August 18, 2019
If you're a producer who gets inspired using loops, but want your music to sound like you, these are the tips and tricks you need to know to make loops sound more original
Odds are, if you're a music producer or artist in 2019, you've used a loop in a song or beat at some point. Loops used to be a thing mainly for DJ's and beat makers, but now they're an integral part of the music production process for nearly any genre.
When I started out with music production, a big part of my first few beats were Apple Loops in GarageBand. They were a great way to learn and an even better way to see and hear what was possible.
The only potential drawback with a loop is that thousands of producers and artists have access to the same loops you do. That's why it's important that you flip them, tweak them, and make them your own.
A Quick History of Loops In Music
Loops have a long and influential history in music. They are a part of hit songs, both current and old. The first use of loops can be traced back to early Hip Hop—producers would sample sections of songs to use in their beats. People realized that producers would buy royalty free loops that didn't need to be cleared with a label, and thus the loop/sound kit industry was born.
With the surge in Mac popularity and the advent of GarageBand, Apple Loops became a huge part of a lot of hit songs in the early and mid 2000's. The Grammy-winning song "Umbrella" by Rihanna uses an Apple Loop—the entire drum beat that you hear is called Vintage Funk Kit 03. Another hit song born from Apple Loops is Usher's "Love In This Club." The polyphonic chord and the lead synth are both Apple Loops.
Flash forward to today, and now there are numerous large companies selling loops and samples that have spawned tons of hits.
Illenium actually used one of our guitar loops from our Illenium inspired sample pack Ashes in his song "God Damnit."
Types Of Loops
Loops come in a wide variety of formats. A loop is simply a pre-made file that plays back a melody or drum groove. Some popular loop formats include:
WAV/AIFF Loop - Compatible in any DAW, easy to chop up.
REX2 Loop - Proprietary loop format created by Propellerhead Reason
MIDI Loop - Requires an instrument to generate sound. Compatible with all DAWs
Apple Loop - Proprietary loop format created by Apple
Simple Ways To Make Loops More Original
Here are 5 simple yet effective techniques you can use to make loops sound more original. If you want your loops to sound completely unique to you, I'd suggest using at least 2-3 of these techniques on each one. Make sure you watch the video tutorial above to see these in action and see a crazy bonus tip that uses Melodyne!
1. ) Slicing & Chopping
You can take any loop, melodic or rhythmic, and create a new loop by simply chopping it up and rearranging it. Most DAWs can also shorten and lengthen slices and chops with a simple click, which gives you one more tool to change up a loop.
2.) Changing the Key
Changing the key or transposing a loop is a pretty obvious way to make a loop sound more original. You don't have to just stop at changing the key in terms of chromatic transposition. You can mess around with other pitch related processes like formant and frequency shifters.
3.) Changing the Tempo
Changing the tempo will obviously help make any loop sound different. I've found that when I tweak the tempo, I get new ideas from hearing a melody at half time or double speed.
You can take this a step further by changing the rhythm as well.
You can really change up a loop by taking notes or chord hits that are quarter notes, for example, and chopping them to fit an eight note pattern.
4.) Layering Sounds With The Loop
I use this trick all the time to spice up loops. Just recently I was working with a synth pluck loop and I layered in a really unique marimba patch from our Serum soundset Sphere. It immediately changed the whole vibe and character of the loop. I then changed the key and tempo, and no one would ever be able to tell that sound came from the original loop.
5.) Processing the loop until it doesn't sound similar
This is a fun one. You'd be surprised just how much adding a few effect plugins can change a loop. There are no rules here! This is a perfect time to open up that effect plugin you bought and only used once.
Wrapping Things Up
Loops don't have to sound or feel like loops. I am a professional sound designer who makes loops for other producers and artists daily, and when I produce, I still look to loops when I need to learn a new style, kick start an idea, or add a new flavor to an established track. The key is to make the loop sound like you.