When you don’t have access to a real drummer or percussionist and you need some hot rhythms, many of us turn to loops for our productions. Available in every shape and style, they form an integral addition to my TV composing arsenal. But sometimes you need to shake things up sonically and add something a little different to them. Let's take a look at four unique plug ins that I use often to add creative flavor to an ordinary loop.
When I start with loop productions, I like to see how they fit initially in the context of the underlying rhythm section. So for the sake of this article, we’ll use a bass and some percussion with the main loop, which helps set the foundation for the rest of the track.
One of my main go-to plugins to quickly and easily change up a loop is the Sonnox Oxford Envolution. I use it in two primary ways - to either push the transients and sustain of the waveform, or pull them back. With that in mind, I primarily use only two functions on this plug in - the Transients and Sustain knobs (thought there are more controls available). To keep rhythms tight and clean, I will slightly push up the transient to make the initial hit of the waveform more impactful, then pull the sustain back, which gates the sound off in a musical way. By doing so, the overall rhythm can fit like a glove. From there, I can add my own taste of reverb, delay or room effect.
The drum leveler from Sound Radix lets you process each drum hit individually, even within a loop. Using compression and expansion, you could for example find only the kick in a loop, and add punch to just that element. But that's not how I tend to use it. I’ve found a unique sound can be had by activating the sidechain filter and leaving it on.
Saturn is a unique plug in for multiband saturation, filtering, modulation, distortion and even amp modeling. It’s got some great presets that immediately let you take a loop and get something totally different out of it, but I like to start by creating a few bands to push or pull depending on the needs of the production. With the multiband display, it's easy to see where your audio is hitting and select accordingly.
While you might think using the Waves GTR-3 Stomp is just for guitars, it’s actually quite useful on a variety of instruments, including loops. You simply click on the dropdown arrow in each slot to select a stomp pedal, and dial it in to your liking. In this example I used a Spring for some ambient verb, with the Mix set to around 12 o’clock, a touch of pre-delay and just a second or two of time. Next, I used the Tone pedal to push up some Low and Mid frequencies, then the Vibrolux to add shimmer to the overall sound. You can get super creative with the GTR3 Stomp and loops, because there are 26 pedal options including Fuzz, Delays, Flangers, Doublers and more.