May 20, 2004

Beat Slicing  [ Edit ] 

Victor Stone has just released his new record, Chronic Dreams, on Magnatune. Magnatune is a label that describes itself thusly: “We are not evil”. Nice.

Just before he released the album, Victor had to drop one of the tracks and substitute a new one, and he wanted help with the drums. In his sketch of the track, he had a one-bar drum loop. The sounds were good, but it was static and boring. He asked me to beat slice it for him. The results are on Art Vs. Process.

Beat slicing, I hear you cry. What is beat slicing? I sort of knew, but now that I’ve actually done it, I can give a more cogent explanation.

Beat slicing is a process in which you take a drum loop, or general rhythmic loop of something, and you cut it up into separate pieces of sound, each one a subdivision of a measure. Basically, you just split the beat up into its individual parts in time. There are many pieces of software that can do this: Live, ACID (Windows-only, but one of the first), Apple’s Soundtrack Loop Utility, Phatmatik Pro, and others.

Once you have the loop sliced up, the fun part begins. With the loop sliced, you can do lots of things:

  • Speed up the loop, or slow it down, without affecting the quality a great deal. This works very well for speed loops up, and within 10 or 20 bpm or so for slowing down before you start to notice problems.
  • Rearrange the slices within the loop to get more interesting, or bizarre, loops.
  • Take copies of slices and move them around within the loop, keeping some or all of the original.

Since Victor was using a loop that started at the same tempo as his song, I did a little bit of the second two. I split the loop up into sixteenth note slices (there was nothing any faster, so that was enough to get me all the bits), and went nuts for an hour. I sent Victor eight new loops of one or two measures each. He took those, did his sonic magic on them, arranged them how he wanted in the song, and that was it.

Here’s the original loop. Listen to that, then check out a variation I made after beat-slicing.

One mistake that I made while producing my loops was trying too hard to reduce background noise. If you listen to this example, you can hear the hi-hat noise (the choofa choofa sound in the background). I thought it sounded crappy, so I tried to minimize it by fading the end of the slice.

Listen to an exagerrated example of what I did.

Victor told me, after he was finished, that the silence at the end of the samples is detrimental to the track. He ended up adding the noise I had taken out, back into the loops, as well as doing the other treatments he would have done anyway.

Beat slicing is a pretty useful tool, and one that is used in electronica All The Time. Thanks to VS for asking me to do this in the first place.

Posted by Joe | TrackBack

I've used (the Windows version) of phatMatik. It's pretty deep, although the literature implies you can isolate drum kit parts and that's just not true. If every bass drum hit has an accompanying hi-hat tick then they can't do anything about that.

Posted by: victor at May 21, 2004 2:14 PM

Yo i use recycle 2.1 and it cuts up loops better than any other software.

goto to see it.

Posted by: djhaze at June 7, 2004 5:33 AM

Yeah, I do know about Recycle, and it is the standard for this sort of thing, I expect. I apologize for the omission.

Posted by: Joe at June 7, 2004 10:12 AM

Check out devine machine, it's the ultimate beat slicer - chop your loop into 16 or 32 pieces with individul control of ADSR, cutoff, resonance, distortion, and a whole lotta other stuff - makes every other method look a little prehistoric!

Posted by: djdope at July 26, 2005 1:48 PM

How do you slice in Apple Soundtrack Loop utility? You can Isolate the beats, but its unclear how you can then re-arrange the sample. A few words of explanation would be much appreciated.

Posted by: tw at November 4, 2005 3:51 AM

Actually, the Apple Loop Utility doesn't really provide the ability to rearrange the parts, that was a mistake. At least, not right in the application. I wonder if there's a way to do that with Apple Loops. Hm, maybe I'll look into that.

Posted by: Joe at November 6, 2005 12:22 PM

If you want to just beat slice really quickly and do the rearranging in something else like a DAW, you should check out BeatCleaver:

Posted by: David at August 2, 2012 8:32 AM
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