Why I don't use loops, and you shouldn't either.

2008-12-23 20:44:32 by DonaldFletcher

Aside from the obvious intuitive answer that you're just cutting and pasting someone else's work. But hell, at least you [hopefully] paid them for it. If you make your own loops like I used to, then kudos to you for the effort.
That being said, I've got nothing fundamentally against including them in your work as an artist. There's my preface.

So as some of you might know, I've been away from this scene for a little while, in between computer crashes and getting hammered (by higher education this time - alcohol, unfortunately, was only a small factor there)

But now that I'm getting back up to speed here, I'm noticing endless amounts of repetition inside a lot of the top tracks. I.e. it's obvious that the common misconception here is that original music constitutes nothing more than an intuitive arrangement, rearrangement, and repetition of loops. While some of you do a great job with this, others need to rethink their approach a bit.

First off, I'm gonna state the obvious good things about loops.
#1. They prevent you from having to go out and buy, say, a drum set or a guitar, or any number of other pieces of hardware few of us can afford. (Not to mention the time it takes to learn how to play an instrument, or the time it takes to get good at it.)
#2. They save a hell of a lot of time. Face it, engineering your own sounds and FX can be time consuming. And being able to stretch a simple wave file through the length of your song is sure easier than placing any number of sounds yourself. Same with writing your own notes.

Sure as hell is a convincing argument for using loops, ain't it? Truth is, the biggest problems I have with loops come right out of the second element listed above. Let me state it another way:
#2. Engineering your own sounds and FX is an important part of the creative process, and the temptation to fill up a ton of space with a handful of really cool loops should be the 8th Deadly Sin because you're cheating yourself by cheapening your song by leaving little room for appropriate adjustments.

How man times have I been listening to a track I thought had enormous potential, and just when a well executed key change or sharp note would have absolutely made the song, I'm let down by, guess what, another, another, and another repetition of the same damn loop. Whether it was cool the first time I heard it or not, it's lost me by the 8th repetition. Using loops, especially complicated ones including a number of instruments and sounds which can't be modified independently result in this almost every time.

In addition, the fallacy behind the tendency to overuse loops that seems obvious to me is overwhelmingly pervasive. The apparent quality of a cool loop leads artists here to believe that there's no need to alter the clip at all throughout the song, whether for a key change or a shift in your equalizer. Either one of these changes placed appropriately would work wonders. Yet almost no one's doing it.

And philosophically, I believe that there's no beat in a track that can't be made better in some way. Maybe that's why I take so long to release material. I don't know. Sometimes it's something as simple as strumming a different part of the guitar string. Or changing the volume of a snare by a decibel or two on certain beats. Everything should be intentional, and everything in your track should be there to help support the concept behind it. This is something you'll have trouble doing with a loop.

And if anywhere in your mind you're intending to make your track sound "real," remember that real instruments don't play the same every time you use them. A guitar note can be played a million times, and like snowflakes the waves produced are not once repeated precisely. Also, a number of identical repetitions cues any listener to know you're stuff is just mixed, not recorded, i.e fake and not real, whether the loops are of your own creation or not.

Finally, if you're still going to use loops (which, if you spent a bunch of money on some libraries, and you really, really like them, you probably should), remember that if you found a loop you want to base a new track on because it speaks to you, or it's just cool as hell, you're cheating that piece of sound out of it's potential through not pushing it to new levels with your own improvements, or using it in conjunction with a variety of accompaniment that varies at least subtly through your track. Not doing so crosses the line between taking advantage of all that potential, and simply cutting and pasting, rearranging and repeating. Whatever you're trying to say with your music, then, will be lost to what amounts to laziness, intentional or not.


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2008-12-23 22:47:46

Well software such as Ejay and others as long as you buy the software you are allowed to use them and claim the mix you make as your own it says so in the back of the box and on the license in the software

(Updated ) DonaldFletcher responds:

I know dude. Thanks for commenting by the way. The point I was making wasn't on legality. I'm speaking on the assumption that everyone is going as much by the book as we are. The drum samples I use all the time were purchased under the same sort of license.

So of course we're allowed to use loops. My main point is that so many artists on here are falling short because they're restricting themselves to using loops and loops alone, fresh right off the CD or download, and thus selling themselves short by limiting their creative potential. As a result many tracks can sound boring, uninteresting, or ear-bleedingly repetitive.

The latter is especially true in the more electronic genres like ours, where a hard bass or similar forceful effect used like a hammer on the same part of the stereo is going to be like Chinese water torture of the ear. Something as simple as panning to the effect or periodically adjusting the EQ eliminates this problem, and most of the time when you're using loops this can be a little difficult and, if nothing else, a lot less clean than rearranging samples of a single beat. But even with loops minor adjustments work wonders.
Hope that clears things up!



2008-12-27 03:41:21

I wouldn't use loops if I had a bass and a drum. Sasly, I only have a guitar. In my opinion, loops can help, just like taking the same recording and using it every time the chorus comes up, but I have to agree that loops will never do as much for you as a real instrument will. I've almost abandoned loops completely, and switched to synthesizers. Not keyboard ones, the ones where you basically write the notes down and it plays them for you. I like them because they let me write my own songs and then bring them to life.

I personally write my songs in a tab editor called 'Tuxguitar.' Think Guitar Pro without the RSE and some of the effects working. I then export every track as a MIDI and then import them into Magix and use the appropriate synthesizer.

Sometimes I just use some weird synthesizers, like Robota, a drum thing that allows the use of 4 parts on a weird thing where you basically click what 1/16 note you want in 4 bar editor, or Drum and Bass, basically a hybrid of a mutant drum thing that you have a bunch of blocks for the drums where you select what pattern/sound to play, along with the background pattern that always plays, and a filter/volume thing that allows the volume to change throughout the beat or a filter to effect the drum, and a bass not thing that you pick which note plays where and if it's natural, flat, or sharp.

Woah... This was supposed to be a short comment... Anyways, what do you think of synthesizers?

DonaldFletcher responds:

Definitely, soft synths are awesome. I used to work with plain old MIDI and tweak it with a few basic effects, which sounded acceptable, but a good soft synth blows that away. Without a doubt, VST is the best thing to happen to home-brewed music since the personal computer.
I also use a program called SawCutter, which is in a world of its own. If you just have to make a sound that behaves a certain way, or you need to make your own specialized instruments, sometimes you have to do it from scratch and that's what SawCutter's about. It's deep, but it's one of my favorite programs of all time.
I used to use a great drum machine clone called Hammerhead Rhythm Station, but lately I've just been mixing recorded one-shot samples together in Acid Pro. It's not as neat and clean as a single loop or a tight little synth, but it gives me the on-the-fly flexibility I need to get things just right.

That's how I do it. In condensed form, obviously!

Thanks for the great comment. It's great that someone on NG actually agrees with me, haha


2008-12-27 16:55:46

Did you drink your bleach... er juice today?

Loops do have their place in music, but overuse definitely can ruin the potential of a piece of music.

DonaldFletcher responds:

So that's what I mixed up with my rum... damn, that explains the white hair I saw in the mirror this morning. And I was blaming that on The Call of Cthulhu.

But yeah, I totally agree. Whenever possible they should be avoided though. Like this effect I'm using in the song I'm writing now could never be as useful if I hadn't created the instrument in SawCutter. This industrial library I bought from Sony has a lot of similar effects in loop form, but I've got no real control over the notes in them, except for basically shifting the pitch, which is a bitch. I don't know why I went out of my way to rhyme that, but in any regard it's true. Pitch shifting not only shifts the notes but also the reverb, noise, and everything else.. which sounds like a dry asshole with diarrhea.
End tangent.

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