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Help! I can’t make myself use loops!

Polkasound

Senior Member
What is the difference between that and an audio loop in terms of it being created by someone else?
Two identical MIDI patterns, regardless of who created them, are going to lead to the same exact results when run through the same library. Since I am fully capable of making patterns from scratch, I may choose to build off of existing patterns as nothing more than a time saver. Plus, MIDI patterns still require plenty of creative prowess -- library integration, mixing, processing, etc.

When it comes to audio loops, however, I do not know what sounds/synths/libraries were used to create them. To me, the choosing and mixing of the individual instruments, and the ability to edit them down to the single note level, is a fundamental aspect of music creation. So while my heart will not allow me to use audio loops, I can still be inspired by them no differently than I am inspired by listening to music in any form.
 

jtnyc

Senior Member
Two identical MIDI patterns, regardless of who created them, are going to lead to the same exact results when run through the same library. Since I am fully capable of making patterns from scratch, I may choose to build off of existing patterns as nothing more than a time saver. Plus, MIDI patterns still require plenty of creative prowess -- library integration, mixing, processing, etc.

When it comes to audio loops, however, I do not know what sounds/synths/libraries were used to create them. To me, the choosing and mixing of the individual instruments, and the ability to edit them down to the single note level, is a fundamental aspect of music creation. So while my heart will not allow me to use audio loops, I can still be inspired by them no differently than I am inspired by listening to music in any form.
Understood, I just thought the point being made was using a pattern, rhythm or phrase that someone else created vs something you create yourself. I’m not judging one way or the other. I’ll use an occasional loop as a texture or layer, but for drum parts, I just can’t use midi loops. I’ve tried, but it’s always better when I program them from scratch. Same with melodic stuff.
 

GtrString

Active Member
Take it for what it is.
I see loops as an example of how defined sounds can be ordered in a repeated sequence.

That can inspire you in ways you may not have thought of (like a rhythm or a sequence), so you can use the loop as a starting point. A “temp” track for inspiration/ kick start, that you may keep or loose, once you have written something on top of it. You may just use the sequence or rhythm to create your own, and then lose the loop after that. Its not that different than hiring a musician you know, that then plays the same old four on the floor, everybody else does. You might also chop up that recording, layer it, or rearrange it so it fits the music.

Another way is to grab the loop and splice it into seperate sounds, that can be playable. In Studio One 4, you can just drag and drop a loop into the pad, and you have each sound componant in the loop mapped out. So you dont need to rely on the example of the repeated sequence, and can easily reorder the loop and make it your own.

There is also sound design in loops, which can be very helpful to nail a vibe or the sound of a certain genre. In that case it is really not the repeated sequence that is useable, but the choice of sounds and production. You may use a small snippet of a loop, the whole loop, or chop it up, but it is the sound signature itself that is the point of using it. Also here you can try using the loop as a “temp”, and lose it once you have copped the vibe you were looking for. That way loops are tools for learning.

Due to the nature of loops, there is also a risk that they will ruin your music, if you work without purpose, and just rely on loops as a foundation for tracks and songs, imo. That way you risk sounding generic, cliche, pastiche, robotic, flat and utterly rubbish. Some loops have been overused to the point where a&r, directors, editors and music supers can hear the exact sample package where it is coming from. If that happens, you can be identified as a hack and will get a shoemark on your pants, that is hard to remove. The definition of a bad trip, for sure!

So like others also have stated, loops are not just fastfood for composers, but can be sound-designed sources of inspiration. If you mindfully use loops with a purpose, it often is the opposite of a timesaver, but it can trigger your creativity, imo.
 
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The first music app I tried, about 20 years ago, was Magix Music Maker, and I was pretty soon turned off by the idea of "making music" by putting together loops instead of channeling my own music (as well as having to buy soundpools to expand the palette/spicerack/scrapbasket).

But I have just recently bought Acid Pro 9 (now owned by Magix) and a subscription to Noiiz.com for loops, and I like it.

Maybe the difference is that I have keyboards, a microphone and VST instruments now, so can make my own scribbles on the collage, or drop my tones and gestures and speak my words into the stew. Or would now be happy to just make a collage "without" all those "personal" additions, as one does anyway when writing a poem or lyrics with inherited and borrowed words and rhythms.

I can totally see someone using loops as the most efficient/cost-effective way to do some of the tracks in a piece, or to use them "backstage" for inspiration or as something to play against or in response to, even if the loops aren't included in the final output.
 
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Polkasound

Senior Member
Since this post was resurrected, I'll share some insight I gained recently while hiring talent. I typically hire vocalists who travel to my studio to record, or else I travel to a studio in their area, but for song I recently produced, I used a talent service and hired a session vocalist from Nashville to record remotely. While using this service, I came across an industry term I had never heard before: toplining.

Toplining is a recent form of songwriting that emerged from the popularity of loop-produced music. Traditionally, entire songs (music, melody and lyrics) were presented to the vocalist. In pop music today, however, producers often create music beds from beats and loops, and then farm the melody writing, lyric writing, and singing out to singer/songwriters.

I was like... what?!? But sure enough, after looking around, I see that many session vocalists list topline songwriting as a service for an extra fee, and it comprises a large percentage of their income. Producers send them beats/loops and basically say "sing something", and this is how pop songs are made.

If good loops and professional singers are used, the end result of these collaborative efforts can sound great. But, as a traditional songwriter/producer, I could never work this way. I understand that beats/loops are everything in today's pop music, but the concept of creating a song with literally no interest in the melody or lyrics is completely absurd to me.
 

dflood

Active Member
While using this service, I came across an industry term I had never heard before: toplining.

Toplining is a recent form of songwriting that emerged from the popularity of loop-produced music. Traditionally, entire songs (music, melody and lyrics) were presented to the vocalist. In pop music today, however, producers often create music beds from beats and loops, and then farm the melody writing, lyric writing, and singing out to singer/songwriters.
Wow! I guess I could see how that could work if you sent your bed track to David Byrne, but to just have some random vocalist wing it? I’m so old school I still try to understand the lyrics and live in hope of sometimes even being surprised.
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
Wow! I guess I could see how that could work if you sent your bed track to David Byrne, but to just have some random vocalist wing it?
Well, the vocalists aren't quite random; you can pretty much shop for them online and find the one you want. But still, it's rolling the dice.

I have mixed feelings about loop + topline method of music production. I'm all for collaboration, and that's essentially what it is; it's two different people doing what they do best. But the concept of "start with the beat, and the rest will follow" is so backwards compared to sitting down at the piano and creating a song with a melody and lyrics. So many young music producers today aren't doing that. Instead, they're buying beats/loops and stringing them together to create vocal-less, non-melodic beds, and then farming out the melody and lyrics. It guess it just goes to show how much emphasis is placed on beats and sounds in today's pop music.
 
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