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How to customise sample-pack loops with your own processing

Hear about a producer using a ready-rolled loop from a sample pack, and you’ll probably emit a disapproving groan. Admittedly, it isn’t that creative, but there are many ways to use and customise stock loops.

Often, it can be especially time-consuming to create organic-sounding percussion loops from individual hits - after all, that’s precious time you could be using to push the overall track forward. So by using a loop from a pack, then customising it to suit a different context, you’ll create something you may not have thought of using one-shots.

Here, we'll show you one form that customisation  might take: sequencer-driven effects processing. For more on getting the most out of synth presets and sampled loops, check out the September 2018 edition of Computer Music.

Step 1: Sequencer-driven effects processors like Logic Pro X’s Step FX can easily transform boring drum loops. Place your loop on a new track, then load Step FX onto its channel. Using Step Modulator, apply a step-sequenced effect. The default preset’s reverb modulation is a nice starting point.

Step 2: Next, we turn on Gate Mix. Using this, we can sequence volume by either turning down steps, turning them off, or shortening them. Try different values until you create a rhythm you like - maybe by shortening a few steps. Turn on Step FX’s Delay to add stereo movement.

Step 3: Turn on Distortion, then select Distortion Dirt from the third step’s modulation slot. Then select the Rolling 01 Step Modulator preset, adding saturation. For even more movement, turn on the X and Y sections, directing these to Delay, Filter and Resonance controls.