Working predominantly with audio loops and samples is a popular way to produce a song, as loops often provide speedy creative workflows which are particularly useful when ideas need to develop quickly in the early stages of building a beat or full production. Drawbacks can arise when using loops. You may want to change a small musical element within a loop, or change the overall presentation of the sound. Such challenges can leave you wondering how to make these changes in your DAW.
Luckily, several third party plug-in developers have recognised a range of loop based production workflow issues and have provided smart solutions in their plug-ins which make it possible for us to easily reshape a range of elements within audio loops and mixed music. In this article we feature these plug-ins categorised below into three typical loop based production issues that remix artists and loop based engineers typically face in their workflows.
How To Change The Sound, Level Or Groove Of Drum And Percussive Loops
Drum loops play an important role in loop based music production as often they are one of the first elements to be thrown into project’s timeline. More often than not, drum loops sound perfect out of the box but what if you wanted to change the level of the kick hit? Retune the pitch of a snare? Change the groove altogether? The following plug-ins make all that possible.
Regroover effortlessly separates summed parts from within drum loops out to individual tracks within its DAW-like UI making it possible to isolate or rebalance the levels of drum hits, reposition the pan position of sounds, EQ and, as the name suggests, regroove the entire performance. Consider Regroover a virtual instrument and a mixing plug-in as you can either create brand new beats from existing loops or alter elements within pre-existing patterns.
If you have a drum loop you want to use but the kick sound and pattern are both not suitable then use Regroover to not only remove the original kick sound but also perform a new kick hit and performance in it’s place.
Watch our video below that shows you how to use Regroover. If you use drum loops regularly in your workflow then Accusonus’s Regroover deserves to be on radar.
Accusonus offer two editions, Regroover Essential ($99) and Regroover Pro ($219). Visit the Accusonus website to compare the differences in features between these two editions of Regroover.
Sound Radix Drum Leveler
DRUM LEVELER does what it says on the tin and is described by Sound Radix as a beat detection-based downward and upward compressor/expander and gate. It’s very clever, it detects and treats each instrument hit or transient as a completely separate process which aids transparent sounding results. It's a must-have plug-in for those who predominantly work with drum loops in their music as it enables users to quickly rebalance individual hits within drum loops. If you have a loop that you feel sounds suitable except the snare is too loud then use DRUM LEVELER to push that snare down without the results affecting the levels and characteristics of the other hits within the loop being hi hats and kicks.
Watch the Sound Radix video below to understand how DRUM LEVELER can help you in your beat and loop based production.
Waves Smack Torque
So far we’ve looked at a couple of plug-ins you can use to rebalance drum loops, what about retuning? Waves Torque is a useful plug-in to employ in a mix if you feel certain hits within a drum loop need a different pitch. To setup Torque you first need to set the Focus control in the top display to the fundamental of the hit within the loop you want to adjust followed by an appropriate Threshold value. The main Torque dial in the centre of Torque’s UI can then be set to taste either pitching up or down the sound around the Focus point. If you need to change the pitch of a snare drum within a loop on the fly then Waves Torque is a quick and easy tool for getting the job done.
Zynaptiq UNMIX DRUMS
But what if you have a song and need to adjust the overall level of the drums within that mix? UNMIX::DRUMS by Zynaptiq has the answer as it gives users the option to change the level of drums in a mixed song in real-time. Out of the box this does a very good job of enhancing the overall impact of drums by increasing the level of the main central Drum Level dial. Slight levels of attenuation also work very well, though if you plan to completely remove the sound of drums from a mix using this you will certainly introduce some audible artefacts to the sound of your music, but that’s a typical trade off you should expect from this style of plug-in.
Watch our video below that shows you around the UNMIX:DRUMS interface.
How To Rebalance Or Reduce The Level Of Elements In A Finished Mix
DJs and remix artist often produce using finished mixes and masters that they use to cut, chop and mash together to produce their projects. They also often work with stems but what can you do if you don’t have any stems available to use? The following products make, to some degree, extracting, rebalancing and working with musical components within mastered mixes possible.
Audionamix XTrax Stems 2
XTrax Stems 2 by Audionamix isn’t a DAW plug-in, it’s a standalone cloud application that you can use to separate the drum, main music and main vocal components out into 3 stems within the UI. These stems can then be rebalanced, muted, soloed or exported as WAVs for editing in a DAW. It’s provides a simple enough approach to unpicking a mix but the process takes time as the number crunching is done in the cloud which also means you need an active internet connection to use this.
The quality of each stem in isolation pretty decent out of the box but we recommend that you experiment with the Separation Options and Separation Balance controls in order to get the best sounding results.
Sadly Audionamix don’t provide a demo of XTrax Stems 2. To get a sense of what this is capable of watch our video below to hear the separation in action.
Music Rebalance is a module first introduced in both iZotope’s RX 7 Standard and RX 7 Advanced audio restoration suites. It enables users to, as the name suggests, rebalance main musical elements within mixed music by use of four main faders.
Like XTrax Stem 2, iZotopes Music Rebalance also provides the ability to rebalance a mix on the fly but both of these products fall a bit short of being the golden bullet for removing main elements such as vocals, which people generally expect these products to be capable of. For now, these tools shine if small level adjustments are all that’s needed. For hardcore separation or total isolation of stems in mixed music it’s not unfair for us to feel that these technologies still have a way to go.
Watch our show and tell video below of iZotope RX7 to hear the Music Rebalance module in action - Scroll to 2:10 to hear the example.
Zynaptiq MORPH II
So far we’ve looked at two products that make it possible to separate stems in mixed music but what about blending stems and loops together? MORPH 2 is different from what we’ve already highlighted as it has an ace up it’s sleeve that those who work regularly with audio loops need to know about. MORPH 2 is a unique plug-in that can be used to blend two different sounding instruments together, described by Zynaptiq as “the sonic equivalent of one object slowly changing its shape to become a different object - for example, one face becoming another.”
MORPH provides 5 morphing algorithms, a clean formant shifter and reverb module which together provide a sweet set of tools for producing new sounds from pre-existing loops and samples. Watch our video below to learn how to set this up in a DAW and to hear how MORPH 2 can create a unique sounding instrument by combining two very different characters of sample together.
How To Adjust The Pitch And Tempo Of Loops
So far we’ve highlighted a number of plug-ins which provide a range of solutions for a number of issues that can crop up in both loop based and remix production. The most common of issues when working with loops is getting pitch and tempo to match between samples. Some DAWs have the power to sort these out automatically for us including some loop engine applications such as Loopcloud. The plug-ins below you can use for a variety of pitch and tempo tasks such as rearranging individual notes within mixed music and samples as well change the key or speed of samples.
Celemony Melodyne DNA
Celemony’s Melodyne is considered to be one of the best pitch and time correction applications around. Beside it’s intuitive approach to tuning monophonic audio tracks, such as vocals, it’s other main feature is DNA short for Direct Note Access. This technology makes it possible to revoice notes in chords played by instruments such as pianos or guitars. Both the monophonic and polyphonic tuning capabilities of Melodyne makes it a very handy tool to use if you need to adjust a melody or chord structure in a loop you wish to use in your productions. It’s a simple environment to work in which will help you work quickly and creativity. DNA is only available in the higher spec versions of Melodyne being Editor and Studio.
zplane reTune is a cross-platform plug-in for real-time multi-pitch modiﬁcations which gives you full access to the pitch content of your audio samples and enables you to map each input pitch to any other pitch of the chromatic scale, all in real-time. This allows you to re-tune your audio to any target key (e.g. from D major to C# minor), or to use it as a creative tool to modify the pitch content in any way you like. If you are unsure about the key of your input audio, you can let reTune estimate the key for you. It’s a very intuitive plug-in, watch our video below to see it in action.
So far we’ve shown you a couple of solutions that you can use to quickly retune loops and samples but what can you use if you wanted to retune an entire song? PITCHMAP by Zynaptiq has the answer and is in a league of its own. You can use it to change not only the key of a mixed song but also change the chord structure in real-time during playback using a MIDI keyboard. The cool part of this is that it doesn’t mess with the sound of the drum elements in the music.
Listen to the example in our video below to hear this in action for yourself
We intend to keep this article updated regularly. If you know of or use any plug-ins that you feel are also very handy in loop based music production and remixing that are not included in this article then please add them in the comments below.