Create Your Own Guitar Loops

The basics on how to create your own loops.
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Why create your own guitar loops? Because sometimes you nail a part and want to repeat it—or, especially, modify it (create variations, transpose pitch, layer with another part, etc.). My favorite use is songwriting. I’ll riff into a DAW, and when I find a section that would make a good hook, I’ll write a song around it. Here are the basics on how to create your own loops.

• There are three common ways to convert standard audio files into time/pitch stretchable formats: Apple Loops (see More Online), Acidized (which you can edit in Sony Acid) or any version of Cakewalk Sonar, and REX files (requires Propellerheads ReCycle). Cubase can create and edit loops in its own format. Almost all Windows DAWs read Acidized and REX files, and many Mac programs can read all three formats.

• Acidized/Apple Loops files work well with percussive or sustained audio, but usually can’t slow the tempo by more than 10 percent or so without artifacts. REX files can slow down more elegantly, but are much better with percussive riffs. Both follow tempo changes in a DAW.

• Because all formats speed up better than they slow down, record at a fairly slow tempo. If you can avoid rushing the tempo, this also lets you play more precisely.

• L oops stretch tempo better than pitch. Sometimes, it’s worth recording in different keys so you don’t have to stretch pitch too far.

• Record to a click track, because consistent loop tempos make it easier to play well with other audio. Although many programs can quantize audio, this isn’t always effective, and it may degrade the sound quality. Most modern programs let you overlay a “groove” on loops, so you’re not necessarily stuck with a metronomic vibe.

• Record without any time-based effects—only a dry or distorted sound—as it’s difficult to loop varying audio.

• Once you’ve isolated some candidate parts, the fun begins. Start on a different downbeat, cut and paste (or transpose) chords to create different progressions, or chop the part into pieces. The sky’s the limit.

• If a loop’s timing is off on a note or two, split the clip just before the note begins, then snap the note’s beginning to the rhythmic grid. If you move it earlier, trim the preceding clip’s length. If later, you may need to time-stretch the note preceding it, or add a fadeout to prevent a click.

Does this sound too much like work? Granted, it’s a skill that takes some time to master. But once you start to extract really cool song ideas and leads from free-form riffing, you’ll discover the benefits.

Craig Anderton has played on or produced more than 20 major label releases, mastered hundreds of tracks, and written dozens of books. Check out some of his latest music at youtube.com/thecraiganderton.

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