Creating a beat and an effect from a drum loop

A sound design tutorial on how to create a drum beat and an effect from a single drum loop and combining them to create new textures.

Beat Construction


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As a sound designer and beat producer I am always looking for ways to create interesting new textures from existing content. Using drum loops and samples and mashing them into new beats is one of many innovative techniques which I have covered extensively in my book Beat Construction and in video tutorials here. However, sometimes the simplest approaches can yield the most powerful results and a technique I often use for sound design purposes is to take an existing drum loop and turn it into a backdrop effect and add a kick drum to it resulting in a completely new drum beat.

As producers we have access to tons of extremely good mix processing plugins and we have no problems in using them for production chores but quite often these same tools can be effectively used for sound design purposes. One such processor is Crystallizer by Soundtoys which uses granular synthesis/effect.

Granular synthesis is a powerful time based process that allows sound designers to create incredible textures using an existing sound. This form of synthesis is now available in effects processors and it is this area we are going to explore in detail.

However, let us get our heads around how granular synthesis works before we jump in and get creative.

Granular synthesis

Granular synthesis is a method by which sounds are broken into tiny segments (grains/slices) which are then redistributed and reorganised to form other sounds. The process is quite simple: incoming audio is spliced into grains (slices) which can then be processed independently of each other. All the major parameters can be manipulated: speed, pitch, direction (forward and reverse) and slice density. However, some granular processes will house even more detailed control and can come supplied with time-stretching tools, gating and ducking.

There are many plugins out there in the marketplace that provide some form of granular re-synthesis but, for me, the ability to have it as bespoke effects processor is what attracted me to Soundtoys Crystallizer and it is this plugin that I am using for this specific tutorial.

Soundtoys Crystallizer

Billed as a ‘granular echo synthesizer’ Crystallizer uses the famous Eventide H3000 ‘Crystal Echoes’ and ‘Reverse Shift’ algorithms to create a wide variety of sonic textures based on granular re-synthesis principles. The modulation matrix on this processor is both detailed and fun to use. The sheer range of distinct textures that can be created with this plugin is nothing short of astounding. Creating reverse echoes, floaty shimmering effects, pitch shifted chorus effects or any number of time based effects is a doddle thanks to the power of the supplied modulation matrix. Maybe you want to create glitch effects or maul and degrade a sound – it can all be done with this powerful plugin.

In the video I use 2 urban drum loops and process each and mash them up to create a new drum break. I use Voxengo’s MSED mid/side plugin to separate the mid from the sides. I then show you how to process both the mid and sides separately. I then use Soundtoys Crystallizer to warp one drum loop into a backdrop type of effect that then sits under the second drum loop. I show you how to process the second drum loop using Steinberg’s Quadrafuzz 2 distortion plugin. I explain how Quadrafuzz 2 works and how to use it to achieve different distortion effects. I then show you how to mash or marry the two new sounds together to form a driving new urban drum break.

Plugins used in this video:

Steinberg Quadrafuzz 2

Soundtoys Crystallizer

Eventide UltraChannel

Voxengo MSED

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Using a Drum Loop for Sound Design Tasks
  • Chopping
  • Understanding the Effects Signal Path
  • Order of Dynamics
  • Using Middle and Side to extract Drum and Effect Elements
  • Using Delays
  • Saturation, Distortion and Tape Saturation
  • Layering and Nudge
  • Understanding Timeline and Grid
  • Multiband EQ
  • Multiband Compression
  • Filtering
  • Transient Shaping