Tips and Tricks to Set Your Loops Apart.
One potential downside to using loops is that other people may be using the exact same loops as well. That does not have to be a downside however. I’m going to suggest some ways in which you can work with or even “treat” your loops to make them have differences that will keep them from sounding similar to those same loops used by others.
There are many effects you can add, and I won’t cover them all here, but instead I will give you a few to get your wheels turning. From there, you can use your own creativity to come up with additional ideas.
Keep in mind, some loops come with effects already added and some don’t. I prefer the latter, that is, to have the loops dry. That way I can eq and color the loops with effects in the way I want to make them fit my production. For example, if loops already have reverb, there is nothing you can do to remove it.
This is the first to mention, because you can make your loops sound different simply by changing the eq. You can add bass or make them brighter. You can take away frequencies as well. Take a little off the top or bottom or make them thinner. You can go extreme with thinning for a Lo-Fi effect.
Get Edgy with Distortion
Distortion doesn’t have to be dirty, although it can be and very effective too. Distortion is a great tool for giving something presence, definition, edge and warmth. In small doses, it is unlikely to be perceived as distortion.
There are many tools you can use to apply it. You can use audio plugins, of course, such as distortion, noise, guitar amps or analog simulating devices. You can also use real-world devices such as guitar pedals, pre-amps or amps and send the signal to them from your digital audio device and then back into your recording software.
Drums sound especially great with a touch of distortion. Guitars are a given. Bass, vocals and acoustic instruments also can take on some “character” with a touch of distortion.
Finally, as an extra touch, you can also put an eq after the distortion to remove any unwanted frequencies that may be making the sound harsher than you’d like—or to do the opposite—really make the distortion noticeable. The call is yours to make.
Adding a chorus effect to your loops can add instant widening and make your loops sound “bigger.” You can go a little bigger or huge. Season to taste.
Have loops that were recorded dry? Wet ’em. Use reverb to create a sense of space. Perhaps it was recorded in a room and you want it to sound like it was recorded in a hall. Add a hall reverb.
A reverb tip: You can also use reverb to create separation. If you want your loops to sound like everyone was playing in the same room together–use the same room reverb for everything. But you can also use reverb size to create distance, and thus, separation. Maybe you want the electric guitar gritty and the bass in your face. Don’t use any reverb on those. You want the drums to have some space, so a room or hall reverb may be the ticket there depending on how big you want it. Vocals, a plate reverb is usually a good fit. Maybe with keyboards, you want a medium or chamber reverb there. Acoustic guitar, maybe you want a smaller degree of room reverb there. The outcome is, because each reverb has a different depth, it creates a different perception to the ear of space, which in turn suggests distance. This gives your overall mix a degree of separation.
There are different types of delay you can use. Slap-back. Or a short-delay of say 80 milliseconds panned to one side can also create chorusing. Or longer delays to create a real sense of depth and space. Triplet delays can be used to create repeated rhythms. This is an excellent technique for using with drum or percussion loops. You can use delay to create a polyrhythm. The combination of distortion and delay on drums is a great combo, too.
Compression can be used to achieve a variety of things. A common usage is a more consistent volume. You can make the peaks and valleys of the dynamics more even. This is good when say, you have a note or some notes in a loop that pop out too much—using compression can tame those peaks. Oppositely, you can bring a softer part up to be more even with louder parts.
Another usage may be for getting more attack from bass or percussive parts without overload or distortion. You can push the track (loop) more and make it thicker / fatter or make it slam.
If you really want to try something more “out there” you can literally take your loops out of the box completely. Run your loops out of your digital audio workstation (DAW) and run them into an amp or P.A., then mic and record the sound back into your DAW and make them into a new loop. This can really give your loops a different color. This technique can give your loops some analog warmth or what ever effects you want to add along the way with your amp and / or on the floor processing pedals (stomp boxes) or analog rack effects.
The key here is to give your loops a new tonal quality and you’ll instantly have something that separates them from others using the exact same loops. With some experimentation, you may find something truly unique and sonically exciting. You may just come up with a fresh, new sound.
In part 2, we’ll go over editing tricks to set your loops apart.