3 sound design techniques for making loops your own

Unfortunately, some people attach a negative connotation to using loops.

The common argument is that it’s ‘cheating,’ since the core musical idea is already there. In this tutorial, we counter this perspective by exploring three creative sound design techniques for making loops your own. We’ll be using Ableton Live and FL Studio to demonstrate each technique. That said, they can be easily replicated in most DAWs.

We’ve summarized the key techniques from the video below.

1. Chopping, pitching, and reversing

This technique involves slicing the loop into smaller pieces and pitch shifting / reversing the individual segments to create variation. FL Studio’s Slice tool (accessible by hitting ‘C’ on your keyboard) in combination with the Make Unique feature allows for some rapid editing. In Ableton, shortcuts for Slice at Locator (command + E) and Reverse Audio  (‘R’) are helpful for chopping, pitching, and reversing.

To hear these tricks and more in action, check out 0:18 of the video for the FL Studio demo and 4:34 for the Ableton demo.

2. Slicing loops to a sampler

Samplers allow us to use MIDI to reimagine our loops in new and interesting ways. In FL Studio, Slicex is an indispensable plugin that allows us to fine tune chop region lengths using intelligent markers. Ableton can also map our slices automatically via the Slice to New MIDI Track feature; the Simpler device is another neat option that allows us to customize the Sensitivity for what transients get sliced.

To hear these tricks and more in action, check out 6:42 of the video for the FL Studio demo and 9:05 for the Ableton demo.

3. Using plugins

While there’s plenty you can do using just native plugins and features, there are also many specialized plugins out there that can drastically transform the sonic characteristics of your loop. Audiare’s Nuxx is great for adding rhythmic effects to your loop, thanks to its sequencer-based workflow. Sugar Bytes’ Effectrix and Turnado are also great for making loops your own.

Hear our demo of Nuxx at 11:33 of the video, our demo of Effectrix at 13:30, and our demo of Turnado at 14:47.

Despite what some people say, loops offer endless opportunities for creativity — it’s less about the loop itself and all about how you give it your own touch. Do you have a favorite sound design technique for manipulating loops? Let us know in the comments below.

November 9, 2019

Nick Chen Content Marketing @ Splice. Nick Chen is a producer, performer, and educator under the aliases "nickthechen" and "Enix."