Drum loops and sample loops are a great starting point for building a song. Whether it’s on a computer and loop editing software, or just simply playing an audio sample loop on repeat on your CD player, having ‘someone else in the room’ is a great buzz. And it’s that buzz that gives rise to wonderful new ideas and leads when making up new songs.
USING DRUM LOOPS AND SAMPLE LOOPS ON A COMPUTER
When songwriting with a computer and audio software you can lay out your structure and feel quickly. But there are dangers. You can find yourself with a very under-developed idea becoming a producer all too soon; finding drum patterns and string arrangements and harmonies – all over 8 bars! (I also use this method and will talk about it in another article. It requires a very strong time management muscle and I don’t recommend this for newbies to songwriting. The world is dotted with computers in home studios FULL of brilliant 8 bar arrangements loosely referred to as songs).
Load Drum Loops and Sample Loops into Your Computer Library
After loading a library of loops into your onboard sampler you can simply trigger one groove after another – each to a separate track. It is a straight forward process to add samples to your sequencing rig.
Buy a CD of AIFF/WAV samples and load it up. You will be guided by a wizard to load it correctly. You, however, must choose the destination of your new loops library. Go to any existing loop libraries on your computer and read the whole name. In that name will be where those samples/loops are held. For instance
The Program Files is where you want the new sounds to be held when asked to select a destination in the upload process.
ASSIGNING SOUNDS LIBRARIES TO TRACKS
For happy, healthy songwriting you need to have your basic rig organised so you can hop in fast and get going. I have a songwriting template in my Audio Logic. I load this up and it has in it a preset of instruments I mostly use for composing: audio 1 for voice mike in, audio 2 for guitar line in, Audio Instrument tracks for piano, bass, drums and organ etc…
By playing with a preset songwriting template I can always begin with a known combination and work quickly. As ideas flow I may make a few alterations to the instruments. But I don’t focus on too many changes when I’m first creating a song. My main concern/focus at this stage is to get the whole damned mess out. I don’t get into producing at this writing stage. It’s distracting and addictive. I work horizontally – getting as much of the story and the different tunes laid out across the page.
For me, much of producing music is a vertical process – drilling and dusting down to give underlay and dynamic to a song. In this process producing comes later.
BEGINNING YOUR SONGWRITING WITH AN 8 – BAR LOOP
When using a new sample library start at sample #1 and go through it systematically. Don’t just skip and pick the ones you like or the ones that ‘make sense’ to you. To do this defeats the purpose of using drumloops and samples as starters for songwriting; that is, to go into unfamiliar territory. You’ll be amazed what can come out of creating songs over loops you’ve never heard before. Don’t be too choosey. Give each one a go.
So let’s say we begin with sample loop 1. Open up your songwriting template, assign the drums to your new sample and load sample 1 into your drum track. Select a tempo. What will it be this time – a walk (80bpm), a jog (120bpm) or a dance(160bpm)? This is a rough start point and is all that is needed at this stage.
Trigger the loop for eight bars then LOOP that track so it continues for around 15 minutes. Why 15? I’ll tell you soon. For now simply set the length of your ‘song’ by placing the end tab on your screen template at that many bars. Look at the time clock on your software to see how many mnutes it is.
SET THE DRUM LOOP OR SAMPLE LOOP FOR 15 MINUTES – WHY?
I recommend about 15 minutes because the most surprising events and insights happen in songwriting when you keep going. Don’t stop. Even when you feel like it’s ‘all wrong’ and ‘nothing’s happening’.
I can guarantee you that at some point in there will be a gift in the mish mash. And what point is that? When you surrender. When you stop conversing about what the piece is not. Give in. Lean over your instrument and breathe deeply. Even say to the music ‘OK. I’m here. I’m listening.’
Once you begin go right to the end of your 15 minute sequence. Then, and only then, stop. Walk away from the machine and water the plants or clean the toilet. Doesn’t everybody clean and cook when they’re creating? Then return and listen through. I often do my listening through while I’m doing the dishes (in the sink across from my computer). What I’m listening for is something that sparks my attention whilst my focus is elsewhere. (I’ve got to admit I think it’s also an Aquarian thing that I’ve got to get into water often – even if it’s elbow deep in dishwater!)
BRING ON THE DEVELOPMENT MUSCLE
Once you have spilled the beans across 15 minutes of sample loop it’s then time to select the point of interest in the mish mash and start to tease it out gently so the new brilliant song can emerge.
Select the section that grabs you. That is your starting point for your new song. Begin there and start the above process all over again. You might even want to copy and paste this segment into another new songwriting start up template and work from there.
WOULD YOU LIKE A FANTASTIC SELECTION OF SAMPLES TO TAKE YOUR SONGWRITING TO NEW HEIGHTS?
I have compiled the most fantastic selection of Sample and Drum Loop CDs [http://tinyurl.com/9zynq]
I highly recommend that you begin with a basic drumming one and then be more adventurous in the selection of a style that is COMPLETELY different to yours. It’ll shake things up. And get you writing songs with a slightly different twist to your usual fare.
WON’T I JUST SOUND LIKE EVERYONE ELSE?
Don’t panic about originality! You can produce or play the song live in any way you want to. Later. Using sample loops and drum loops is a starting point to give you energy and support in creating new songs. You can choose to leave the samples in the final mix or replace it with something more simple.
But I promise, you’ll be really excited to hear the fresh little kicks in your songs that have been created over a bed of luscious rhythm and sound.
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