Using Loops to Create Original Music

Whether you want to build themes and variations for large-scale productions or as signature music for your promotional videos, make catchy music beds for 30-second spots or produce ambient music with subtle mood-fitting changes for wedding videos, the following looping music production tutorial gives you the basic tools to get you started.

Read the article Using Loops to Create Original Music.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Jeff Sengstack. This Videomaker tutorial is to accompany the article I wrote for Videomaker magazine on using music loops to create a music soundtrack or a sound bed for your video productions. The software that I'm gonna use in this demonstration is Adobe Audition, that's the professional level audio product from Adobe that can not only make music from music loops but can also serve as a recording studio, a multi-track mixer and an audio editor.

This is Adobe Audition. If you don't have a copy of Audition, you can download a free trial version from the website. There are two basic areas that you work in in Audition, one is the mixer area, and this is the track view of the mixer area, then this is the more traditional mixer view that you would see, let's say, in a recording studio. And then – we'll work only in the track view. And then the other view is the edit view, where you can work on individual audio clips to add effects to them, trim them, make some other adjustments. We'll basically stick with the multi-track view.

As I mentioned in the article, there are about 5,000 loops that ship with Adobe Audition, but to make it a little bit easier for you to get into the loop mode, Adobe ships along some sessions as well, to give you an idea of what a session looks like. So I'm gonna open up a session, a looped session that's provided with the Loopology content. You get a chance to see the basic structure for a Loopology session. Each track is an individual set of loops, usually set to a particular instrument, although you can put any kind of instrument on any track, if you care to. Each of these clips is a loop that was taken from the Loopology content. And then each of these dotted lines is a measure, so this is one measure here and this is another measure and another measure.

So to sort of get a sense of how this works, I'll play this again from the beginning and I'll just solo some of the tracks, adding one track at a time so you can get a sense of how this thing all works together. [Music playing.] There was one track, I'll add another one now. [Music playing.] Add another one. [Music playing.] Add a bass guitar now. [Music playing.] Another guitar on here. [Music playing.]

I didn't play the cymbal here in the middle because you can barely tell it's there, it's just one little cymbal hit there and one larger cymbal hit here. I'll just show you how that works, though, here is the – still solo, the – just the cymbal track, and we'll go over here and we'll just play that one. [Cymbal sound.] So the producer who created this session just wanted that one little cymbal crash and kick at the same time at that one spot. So you can add little highlights like that, as well as adding entire segments where you have a loop of maybe a guitar player playing a couple chords back and forth over and over again. So that's basically how a Loopology session works. Now we're going to start from scratch.

Before you get started, you typically want to check the timeline down here to see that it's set to bars and beats. So to do that, you right click and click display time format and see that it's set to bars and beats, that way it's easier to see each measure as you lay in the Loopology measures.

The next thing you do is you import loops, and that really is probably the toughest part of the whole thing because you need to select loops that you think will work together in a song that you want to create. So right off the bat you want to decide what your basic genre is that you're going to use. The way you kind of narrow that down is by looking at the various genres that Adobe makes available through it's Loopology content, and you do that by going File, Import. Then the Loopology content is where you'd expect to find it, typically on your C drive, under Program Files, and then c Audition and then Content, and then you got Loopology beds and sessions. And Loopology, you notice, has all these different genres. For our purposes, we're gonna use the same genre that I used inside the tutorial that appeared in Videomaker magazine. I'm going to go to funk and rock. And you can download this content from the website, and I gave you the URL for that inside the article.

So let's start with Funk and Rock 1 here, within the funk and rock category, there is this thick and vintage rock subcategory, and the 110 to 120 is beats per minute, but you can adjust the tempo if you care to, but that's what they're set at at the beginning. So I'll go to thick and vintage rock, and then here are the various instruments under thick and vintage rock, and just to get started, we'll start with the drums. So we're gonna go to thick and easy drums, and then these are various wav files that have certain characteristics in the headers that allow them to be used as loops. And you can preview them by just clicking on one. [Music playing.] Have the auto play set here and it'll play that. [Music playing.] So you'd click through, each one's a loop. Typically lasts for two and a half seconds or so in this case. [Music playing.]

So what I look for when I do something like this is I look for a drum cadence that starts things, another one that might finish, and then some basic rhythm that you would want to have consistently going throughout the piece, and then maybe a couple of little drum patterns that would serve as transitions from one place to another. For my purposes, I want to get a few here. You can select whichever ones you want, but those are ones that I have tested and I think they'll work for this particular project.

I think a good beginning drum sound would be this one here. [Music playing.] I think that's a good way to start a piece off. So I'm going to add this to this multi-track session by simply dragging it to a track and letting go, and now I have to right click and drag it to the beginning. It's kind of a two-step process whenever you add a clip to an Audition multi-track session. So if you want to repeat that, you just hover your cursor over the right-hand side and notice that you have a little double arrow cursor with a circular arrow next to it. That means this is a loop and you can extend it out one more measure and it snaps to the measure. Notice the white line that appears when you get to the second measure. So we can play two measures now. [Music playing.]

What I want to do is drag another drum loop there to the track, slide it over with the right drag, and I want to extend this, let's say, two, three, four measures. Now we got a six measure piece. [Music playing.] Now might be a good time to add some bass. Let's go get some bass. Double click inside the File area, the same as clicking File, Import, so we'll back up here and look for amped vintage bass, take a look at that, and we'll put the auto play on and see what that sounds like. [Music playing.]

So notice, this is a G, [music playing] and this is an F, one step below that, [music playing]. The letters here indicate basically the root note of each snippet, each little loop. So you need to select some things that may fit the key changes that we want to have inside the piece, and if you're working in C major, you might want to go to C, F, G, because that's like a one, four, five chord structure that's kind of a typical chord structure for rock-and-roll music or blues, one, four, five. So we're gonna go for C, F and G. Let's see what we get when we grab a – turn off the auto play for now. Here's a G, a G, an F, and they don't have too many Cs, so the thing is you have to take like a D, for example, and then transpose it down. So I like starting ____ here. [Music playing.]

So I drag it to the track and use the right mouse button to drag the clip over, and I want the beginning of the clip to line up with the beginning of the third measure, one, two, three, this is the beginning of the third measure. So if we play this piece now. [Music playing.] Sounds pretty good so far, we're laying down the rhythm section. And I probably want to have him play that G for a while and then maybe now go down to a C, so I'm gonna drag the D over, and it won't probably quite sound the way I want it to. I'm gonna drag the D over and make it two measures long by extending it out. If I display it like so, let's see how that sounds. [Music playing.]

I mean it doesn't sound bad, but if I wanted it to be in the same kind of one, four, five chord changes, starting on the five chord, I want to go down to a C now, so let's just transpose this guy. You can right click on any clip and go to loop properties, and down here it will say transpose pitch. Well, we're starting with a D, so we want to go down to C. Well, to get down to C, you go down two half-steps, C sharp to C or D flat to C, however you want to look at it. So we're gonna go down two half-steps, minus two, and we'll say okay. Now let's see if that sounds like a C this time. [Music playing.] So that sounds pretty good.

We'll go back to the G now, we'll bring this – another example of the first G, we'll bring that one back down to the track, we'll go back to it. It's kind of a typical pattern for a bass to kinda just change the basic pattern from a G to a C and back to the G again, kind of looping the pattern. And then we're gonna take the drums that we've got here, maybe even try a different one than the 04, we'll take the 09 here and drag that over, knowing that it's gonna match the tempo of the whole piece. I'll extend it out another measure and we'll see how this thing sounds now. [Music playing.] Beautiful.

We have our rhythm section, we've got the bass and the drums. We've got a pretty good pattern going here. Maybe we'll take this guy out and extend him two more measures, extend this guy two more measures. Now we've got, what, four, eight, ten measure piece. So now might be a good time to put a transition in, a little drum transition, and you can then change to let's say a different style of bass at that particular moment or just to give it kind of a – just break up the piece a little bit to make it more interesting. [Music playing.] That would be the kind of thing you would have to get from one place to another inside your piece, so I'm gonna drag that over to the drum line.

I could put it on a different track but we'll just keep it on the same track, and let's see, should that be one measure or two? I'll bring the current time indicator over here and see who that goes. [Music playing.] Yeah, maybe make it two measures, just to sort of to match the way the piece began. So now we have two measures, and we can also put a different kind of a riff in for the bass now. We've gone from G to C, but maybe now we can go to an F. So now that we've laid down the first two parts of the rhythm section, let's go for the rhythm guitar, and you can get there by going File, Import, or by just simply double clicking in the file section here to open up the import window.

We'll back up from where we were before and now go to something like let's say straight-ahead guitar. Let's just sample a couple of things here, you get a sense of what this is like. [Music playing.] So I'm gonna pick, let's say, this one, here is an A. To me that sounds like a pretty good way to get a piece rolling. Okay, I'm gonna turn off the auto play and pick a bunch like 5, 7, 13 is a B, which is can change to a C if I want to. We'll open those guys.

So now we want to try to pick some way to begin, and this is a G, and we picked it before, this is an amped vintage bass G, so we want to have a G root note for the guitar as well, so straight-ahead guitar, there are no Gs here, so there is an A, we'll drag that down the track, drag it over, have it go for, let's say, those two measures. Now, I'm gonna transpose this guy from an A to a G, so back again, right click, loop properties, I'm gonna transpose from A to a G, that's again, down two half-steps, minus two, and now let's see how that sounds relative to the bass and the drum intro here. [Music playing.] Very good.

So here we go with the D, which I have transposed to a C, and we'll see how that sounds. [Music playing.] So now I need to go back to the G again, so we can take this loop, we can copy it and we can roll this guy over a little ways, and go paste. So now we're taking that exact same loop that we transposed so it'll match the beginning loop. So now we've laid down the rhythm section, and obviously, this could go on forever. You can make the piece as long as you want.

Now that we've laid it down, though, I do want to show you how you can change the tempo. Right now the tempo is 111.6, but I can change the tempo to something else, let's change it to 130 beats per minute. So now the tempo will be faster but the timber, the quality of the sound will not change. [Music playing.] It's a phenomenally cool thing that Audition does, but I really don't particularly like that speed, so I'm gonna go back to the original speed of about 110, and now that I'm gonna go back it doesn't mind reverting. [Music playing.] The audio quality stays the same but just slows back down. That truly is a great feature and allows you to make some fine-tuned adjustments to the length of your piece if you need to slow it down or speed it up slightly to get it to fit.

I want to show you one more thing about this before we go forward, all of these tracks are in stereo, so let's see how this works. I'll take this doubled-guitar and add it to the track. [Music playing.] I think you can hear the kind of thump, thump, thump on one speaker and then the chords on the other one. For example, for the rhythm guitar here, the straight-ahead guitar, you might want to pan that a little bit left perhaps or a little bit right. So you can grab this pattern and just drag left or right. And then for the doubled one, you don't want to pan that one because it's already a full stereo sound.

So to wrap things up, I went out and got a couple of guitar licks and then one chord to finish it all off. [Music playing.] Then we can take a fade at the end. This little box here is a fader, you just drag it over and have that fade out. [Music playing.]

To finish things off, I added one more drum riff that kind of had a concluding feel to it and then I extended the bass and rhythm guitars and then faded all those tracks right at the end. So when you're done laying down all the clips and adjusting the panning and the volume levels, it's time to mix this multi-track session down to a stereo file. You do that by selecting Edit, mix down to new file, master output in session stereo. It mixes it down and when it does that it creates a file that opens up inside the Edit view of Audition. Once it's here, you then say File, Save As, and then you can select from all these different audio file types. The typical one you want to select at this point is wav because that preserves the original audio quality of your product, and then later if you want to compress it you can use something like MP3.

And once you save this, the most likely use for this file is to put it inside your video projects. So for example, you might have Premier and then add this file to Premier and then you can add the file to a timeline in Premier and give –. [Music playing.] So that basically wraps up this tutorial. Just keeping in mind that you have thousands of loops in many different genres and you can create basically any kind of musical style that you want to to fit the mood of your piece.

I'm Jeff Sengstack for Videomaker.

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