Using loops to help you write songs can be seen as a controversial move and perhaps considered a tad unoriginal, but many artists and entire genres are built on doing that very thing.
Look at artists such as Daft Punk who base some of their songs around a sampled loop, and Hip-hop was born from using other songs to create a backing track for rappers. The Amen break is the most sampled drum loop of all time and has been used on literally hundreds, if not thousands of tracks.
As well as drum loops, instrument loops and vocal samples that are used in the correct way can give your music the hook or texture it was missing and turn an average song into a chart buster. Here are some useful ways for you to try using them.
How to use loops & samples creatively
Don’t use them exclusively
The key is to try and be creative with your loops and samples. Just to dragging and drop them into a session, using nothing but loops and expecting to end up with something good is probably not going to happen. It probably won’t be the most original or inspiring piece you’ve heard either and being creative is the reason you’re writing music in the first place. So be picky, take your time and find the right one, or two, to get the musical juices flowing.
Many producers use loops as a layer, particularly drums. Dubstep and Drum & Bass are two common styles that use loops as an extra layer to help the groove of a song or beat as they sit underneath the main drum hits. By hi-passing a loop, it can be used as more of a percussive element behind the main kick and snare. If you have a great drum loop as the main body of your drum track, then adding a percussion loop (or even parts of) can give some great energy to the rhythm.
Similarly, by adding rhythmical elements (spliced up) from an instrument or vocal sample you can create a more aesthetically interesting groove.
Don’t just use one loop
Don’t be confused, I’m not talking about layering up again, but why use just one drum loop to create your beat, or one vocal loop from the same voice to create your hook. After all, it's often said “there are no actual rules in producing music”.
If you were to find several drum loops at the same tempo (or stretch them to the same tempo), then you could splice them into chunks and use little bits from each one in a linear fashion, then glue them together. This can create something very unique and interesting, both in terms of the actual sound and the groove you end up with.
Manipulate your loops
There are lots of great loops out there and sometimes putting them in your track exactly how you found them can work, but personally I find that not to be the case. Whether it’s EQ, Modulation, Reverb or distortion that helps you fit them into your mix, try playing around with the sound of them even if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. This can often be the process that develops the most inspiring ideas.
Also, by cutting your guitar or vocal (or any instrument) loops up into chunks and reversing them, or pitch shifting them up or down, adding filters and crunch, using only small parts of them. You can make something that has absolutely no resemblance to the original sample you started with. I find this to be just as creative and original as somebody actually composing a hook, riff or melody on an instrument.
There are lots of vocal hooks in songs around at the moment that are spliced, chopped and pitched all over the place to make them more interesting to the ear. Think of it as a musical collage, and why stop at the obvious? Try lead synths, pads and bass lines, anything with contrasting tones. Why not sample a building site or a football ground?
Be creative and different but remember to choose wisely and take your time. Rome wasn’t built in a day!
This guest blog was written by Track Spark, a company who provide a monthly digital goody bag for a producers and composers, containing plugins, VST’s, high quality live recorded music loops & programmed loops, sample packs and tutorials.