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Loops & Machines

Develop a groove - Remix, Hip Hop and electronic song writing
- loops & machines

The use of sampled drum loops in the composition of music (in many genres) has become common practice. A hip-hop DJ will use breakbeats fused together for the backing track of a rap record, while an electronic composer may use them as a rhythmical component in a dance track.

Composers rely on the exclusivity of the samples to establish their individuality as composers. This exclusivity can be achieved in two ways - the composer can search for previously unused samples, or they can manipulate readily accessible samples so they become something new and individual. Manipulation may take the form of combining a sampled drum loop with single-hit samples (e.g. kick, snare, high hat). Single-hit samples can be triggered or generated from a drum machine or an audio and/or midi sequencer.

  In this example I have used a one-bar sampled drum loop and combined it with single-hit samples generated in Hammerhead (a software drum machine).

  The single hits have been used to 
  • reinforce the main snare beats on two and four
  • reinforce the kick drum on beat one 
  • add an additional kick beat on the second 16th of beat three
  • create a syncopated high hat pattern

One of the key compositional elements of sample-based composition is timbre. Countless variations of a sampled drum loop can be made by using different triggered single samples - with a dramatic effect on the resulting cumulative groove.

In addition to adding slight rhythmical variations to a sampled part, it is possible to simply reinforce the sounds that are there. This enables the rhythmical phrasing to be maintained, yet allows the composer to adjust the sonic quality of the sampled loop. The importance of this becomes apparent when one considers the way in which production techniques and trends are in a constant state of development. Sonic trends are as common as rhythmic and harmonic ones, and a doubling of sounds can modernise existing drum loop samples while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the piece.

Although it is possible to reinforce parts, the original sample will normally still be clearly-audible in the cumulative groove. The original sample gives the triggered sounds some amount of continuity and realism (in a sonic sense). The process is similar to recording a drum kit, each individual drum will have its own microphone, but in addition to these microphones, room microphones maybe used to capture the ambience of the whole kit and these give a sense of dimension to the recording. In the combining of drum loops and single hit samples, the individual sample acts as the individual drum microphones and the sampled drum loop plays the role of the room microphone adding an extra dimension to the final cumulative groove.