Loops can be an amazing tool to create music in a very fun and fast way. They allow us to combine lots of different elements and build beats and cues in a blazing fast way. The problem comes when we want to make our loop based tracks evolve through longer spans of time. In order to do this in a consistent manner, we can’t simply chain totally unrelated loops in a succession and hope for the best; we need to create variations on the loops in order to maintain a consistent thread throughout. DAWs are not always the perfect tool to create these variations though; they allow for very precise audio editing, but the type of workflow that they lend themselves to can be very tedious and devoid of life. Fortunately, there’s a growing range of plugins that allow to create loop variations in a much more creative way. Here’s a list of our top five of these plugins.
Rolodecks is an impressive Reaktor ensemble that can be used as either a sampler or as an effects processor and perform all kinds of rhythmical and timbrical variations on a loop.
At its core, Rolodecks features a slicer module capable of chopping a loop up into a set of four to sixteen subdivisions in order to perform a wide range of mangling operations on a per slice basis, including rearrangement, amplitude, decay and pitch variations, repetitions and reverse.
Ultraloop is another one-of-a-kind Reaktor ensemble capable of some outstanding feats when it comes to working with loops. Apart from being able to slice and rearrange single loops and alter sample properties such as amplitude, length, pan, cutoff, resonance, and envelope points on a per slice basis, where this plugin really shines is in its ability to do all of this simultaneously on eight individual tracks where the slices from all the different loops can be stacked as well as concatenated. This feature turns Ultraloop into a multitimbral loop mangling beast capable of some heavy duty remixing and sound design tasks with the added incentive of a blazing fast real-time oriented workflow facilitated by an instrument-like interface loaded with quick prototyping features like parameter randomization and snapshots sequencing.
Rhythmiq is a VST plugin that offers a truly fresh take on loops processing with some advanced features such as automatic slicing and rearranging, reverse and silence insertion, speed controls, and quantization. The loops can be triggered with a sync to host function as well as with MIDI notes automatically assigned to each loop slice. To top it off, Rhythmiq features three independent channels controlled by a Master Beat assistant with Evolve, Arrange and Reverse group controls and eight snapshots per preset destined to store eight different variations for each preset.
ShaperBox is a multi-effect plugin built around a highly advanced automation curves editor that allows you to sculpt your loops with unparalleled precision. There are five effects including Time, Filter, Pan, Volume, and Width that can be stacked together and automated with five independent shapes. Each effect provides several categories of predefined shapes designed for multiple purposes like Side-Chaining, Trimming, Stuttering, Scratching, Reversing, Sweeping, and more.
The speed of each effect shape can be adjusted with three LFO modes that include: Beat, which adjusts the speed of the shapes in musical figures synced to the host, Hertz, which sets the speed of the shapes in cycles per second, and Pitch, which uses incoming MIDI notes to set the speed of the shapes. The length of each shape can also be set with a broad range of predefined lengths that go from 1/128 all the way up to 32 bars.
ShaperBox allows you to store nine different snapshots of your automation shapes for each type of effect. These snapshots can then be triggered via MIDI, which allows for a much more dynamic use of the effects.
Tantra is a sequenced multi-effect plugin capable of applying several creative effects that can be triggered through a dual step/curve sequencer with two editing modes and eight sockets to store eight different snapshots.
Tantra features nine different effects including Filter, Distortion, Delay, Lo-Fi, Flanger, Glitch, EQ, Reverb, and Tremolo. The order of the main effects can be rearranged, and their parameters can be modulated through a modulation matrix and randomized at both effect and preset level.
Each preset features two identical and independent channels that can be mixed with Level and Pan parameters as well as routed both in serial and in parallel. The sequencer provides two different modes: Step for rhythmical sequences synced to the host, and Curve for more organic and loose modulations.
In this post, we’ve learnt about five excellent plugins to create rhythmical and timbrical variations on loops. These plugins can modify lots of different attributes of a loop including Placement, Length, Amplitude, Starting Point, Silence, Pan And Pitch, as well as apply many effects to specifically targeted sections of the loop such as Repetitions, Reverse, Filtering, Envelopes, Time Speed, Stereo Width, and the more traditional Distortion, Delay, Lo-Fi, Flanger, Glitch, EQ, and Reverb.
With these plugins at your disposal and your favourite sample packs from Producer Loops, you can create loads of loop variations that will breath new life into your compositions, allowing you to add an extra layer of excitement and interest to otherwise static elements.