How To Use Loops – Music Producer’s Guide

How to use loops and samples

Overview

When it comes to using audio loops, the opinions on their usefulness or integrity in the studio will vary from producer to producer. Some believe that keeping it organic is the only way to keep a real sound, while others may believe that the inspiration you get from using a loop to build more sounds can help get a song going in the first place.

There’s a ton of different samplers for loops out there, and each digital audio workstation has their own emulation of one or another in their workflow. As an individual artist, it is completely up to your discretion and interpretation on how loops can be used to benefit, or possibly limit your output as a creative. This (very) brief guide is more or less a tool to help you think differently, and refresh yours on methods of looping that go beyond pressing play & repeat.

The Foundation

For some of the most classic hip-hop tracks, even more classic funk breaks and beats were looped by dj’s to provide the backdrop for a complimentary emcee’s lyricism. Some may argue that it’s a lost art, but it’s a tool in which when used correctly, a familiar sound can be introduced into a very new soundscape.

For example, Lorde’s recent single “Team” uses Billy Squire’s “Big Beat” as the foundation for a much more fantastical take on the commonly used loop in past hip-hop offerings.

This can also can be seen in genre-specific sounds as well; sounds like Baltimore or Jersey club can revolve around a percussion loop carrying the rest of the drums through the tracks. Using loops as a foundation to build new songs is never a bad idea, because if it sounds good on a classic foundation it may quite possibly sound good anywhere.

A Human Groove

Along with providing a solid backbeat to a fresh song, loops taken from, or even recorded by some sort of source audio may give your tracks that more “human” feel you’re looking for.

Producing in a digital audio workstation can sometimes be limiting unless you have a corresponding MIDI controller / Drum Machine combination, so recording a short tambourine loop and then using that for percussion can serve better than what you would be programming into the audio workstation, and make your life a lot easier when it comes to getting the right feel for a sound you’re looking for.

Artists like Teebs & Flying Lotus are known for using field recordings to build complete worlds of sound within what they’ve already built.

Bringing It Into Outer Space

Now we’ve covered using loops as the foundation, and using them to assist you in giving a more human feel to your production; with all that into consideration?

Get your mad scientist on and take those loops into outer space! Cutting in and out specific frequencies of field recordings and looping them together can yield some interesting, albeit amazing results.

Along with that, using additive and subtractive mixing to take sounds in the foreground or background of the track can make it so even the subtlest loops add the most life to the instrumentation of the track.

Sometimes, the best results are from happy accidents, in the words of the amazing Bob Ross. Go ahead and start twisting knobs and pressing buttons once you find a good foundation and just see what happens!

Conclusion

Loops can be a very beautiful thing, if they are used to construct complete pieces of work rather than using them as a crutch for creative limitation.

The most important part when it comes to producing though is to remember your creative process is your creative process. There is no right or wrong way to make things happen, so if you want to take your loops and run go for it; if you want to compose your masterpieces on your lonesome that’s fine too.

As long as we keep creating though, the inspiration will be looping forever.

For some of the best loops and samples we recommend you to check our store: Hex Loops