Is it okay to use Loops?
Posted by James Cullen on
This is a question we see posted across Music Production forums all over the web, from Reddit to Facebook, to the comment sections of music based articles. It seems like every producer alive has had this thought process and question.
The short answer is; it doesn’t really matter.
But here at Top Music Arts, we aren’t about short answers. Let’s explore this issue; some of the hurdles that crop up when using Loops, and some creative ways you can incorporate Loops into your productions while thinking outside of the box.
Knowing your Purpose
The first thing to think about if you’re coming across this question is the varying ways in which Loops can be used in a production. You may be a producer who makes killer melodies and basslines, but you can’t program drums to save your life. So maybe in this instance you’d turn to a Drum Loop for inspiration?
The thought going through many producers’ heads at this point is ‘is this cheating?’. Would using a pre-made Loop somehow lessen the impact or quality of your music?
Well, the answer to those questions is largely subjective; only you can decide if using a Loop cheapens your music. And sure, if you use a well known Loop from a popular sample pack, people might recognise it, but the mindset you should get yourself into is that it’s the final product that counts. If a Loop is royalty free, there’s no reason not to use it!
But what if it’s still bothering you?
Here are some things you can do if you’re not keen on the idea of using a raw Loop.
Consider cutting the Loop up, and rearranging it. This works especially well if it’s a drum Loop. Zoom right in and identify the individual hits, and slice them up so you can rearrange them to create your own pattern from the Loop. This is a great way to take an easily identifiable Loop and give it your own flavour.
Alternatively, you could blend a Loop in with some of your own parts. Take a drum phrase Loop and apply some EQ cutting off the low end, removing the kick pattern, and then write in your own kick pattern underneath. You’re using the higher frequency percussive parts, but adding in your own kick drum, which is the driving rhythmic force in your track.
Another idea is applying effects to a Loop in order to ‘disguise’ it. There are a number of things you can do, such as adjusting the pitch of the Loop, as well as reversing it, or throwing it through effects such as a Saturator, or a Delay or Reverb. These techniques can help you include the characteristics of the Loop while hiding it’s recognisability, if that’s a concern for you.
So let’s say you’re thinking of using Loops in ways other than those mentioned above.
A great technique is to allow Loops to inspire you to create something new. Maybe you’re stuck for a chord progression or a melody. Browse through your Loops collection, or even check out Loops and Sample packs online, as this can be a great way to get out of your own head and find inspiration in other places.
Maybe you find a lead phrase you really like, or a chord pattern or bass line. You can then use this to inform a part of your own composition; taking influence and reference from the Loop without using the Loop itself.
By using this method, you’re incorporating fresh ideas into your music but avoiding the potential stigma of using a pre-made Loop.
A more advanced technique you can incorporate while using Loops is to use them ‘invisibly’ in your music.
You can drop an audio Loop with an interesting rhythmic pattern onto a track, and then apply either a Compressor or a Noise Gate to another one of your instrument tracks, say a Synth Pad for example.
Mute the Loop track, and turn on the side chain of your Compressor or Noise Gate, whichever one you’ve decided to use. Using the input of the Loop to trigger a side chain creates a rhythmic ducking pattern in the Synth Pad. This can create a really interesting pattern, and the Loop isn’t actually sonically present in your track, so in a sense it becomes ‘invisible’ but its effect is heard and felt.
Kind of like a Black Hole.
Remember, that Ableton is a DAW built with Loops in mind. Clips are - by their very nature- Loops of varying lengths which you set yourself. You can record and play things in, or drag Loops onto Clips and create music by live jamming a track. That’s what the essence of Ableton is all about, and what makes it unique and stand out from other DAWs.
Sure, Logic is famous for its huge collection of in-built Loops, so this is another example that using Loops in your music is okay.
The thing to remember about using Loops is that it’s largely up to you whether it’s acceptable or not, and the degree to which you hide or disguise the Loops can help alleviate any quilt you might feel about using them. It’s an issue brought up often and with strong opinions on both sides, but the main thing to remember is if you’re making good music, it doesn’t really matter how it’s made!
Thanks for checking in with us here at Top Music Arts, as always. Make sure you stick around and check out the rest of our site for all of your production resources!
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