February 25, 2005

Creating Apple Loops  [ Edit ] 

Update 4/12/8 - Please see the new article on making the green kind of Apple Loops (the ones with MIDI data included) if you’re interested.

I want to make some serious effort to figure out just what I can do drum-wise with all this software I have. It’s overwhelming when I take the time to stop and think about it. Tonight I sat down to figure out how to make my own Apple Loops. Like Recycle files, Apple Loops let you create self-contained loops that can be stretched in time or pitch independently in Logic, GarageBand, or other Apple software (and others in the future I’m sure). It’s nifty, and potentially useful for composing drum parts, so I wanted to learn how.

Here’s one way to make a loop of a stereo drum track using Logic Express 7 and the Soundtrack/Apple Loop Utility.

  1. Set an arrange track to be stereo (that’s the little button that looks like “o” or “oo” at the bottom of the channel strip on the left). Drag your drum track onto the arrange window.

    The stereo button and the drum track in place

  2. Play through the track until you find the section you’re interested in. This could be done in the Arrange window or in the Sample Editor — I prefer the Arrange window right now.

  3. Once you find the section you like, set the beginning and end of the audio region (that’s the section of your drum track that’s visible in the arrange window) roughly to the beginning and end of the section you’re using. I suspect there’s a really easy way to do this in Logic Pro involving the cycle locators, but in Logic Express, you have to do it with the mouse, moving the left and right sides of the region so they outline the thing. Not so bad really.

    Arrange window with region endpoints set roughly

    UPDATE: Thanks to Julien (see his comment below) for pointing out an easier way. Select the audio region in the Arrange window, set your cycle locators to the beginning and end of the area of interest in the region, and command-click the cycle locator, holding your click a little bit. When you release the mouse button, the region is cut at the beginning and end where the locators are. Slick!

  4. Double-click the region to open it in the Sample Editor. Now set the S and E (start and end) locators precisely so your loop cycles smoothly. Click the Cycle Playback button so it lights up green, then click the loudspeaker button below it. The region will play over and over, looping from the end to the beginning again each time. To prevent clicks or pops at the beginning of the loop, make sure you’ve turned on “Search Zero Crossings” in the local Edit menu. (Note: local menus are those smaller menus we Mac users aren’t used to seeing, the ones that are attached to the windows). When you’ve set the endpoints well, the loop should play without seeming to skip at the beginning or end.

    Sample editor, with buttons labeled

  5. You’ve done most of the work. Now it’s time to package it up. Switch back to the Arrange window and choose “Open in Apple Loop Utility” from the local Audio menu. You will (probably — I have been each time I’ve done this so far) be prompted for the number of bars the loop is. Enter that number and click “Use set length”.

  6. The Apple Loop Utility opens. I’m not sure if it’s because I had this utility installed already, but it’s called Soundtrack Loop Utility on my machine. Anyway, the utility opens in the Tags view, which allows you to set all the relevant metadata for the processed Apple Loop. Note that the tempo has been preset (under File Info on the right) — you didn’t have to do anything to get that. The Logic manual explains what all the various settings mean in there, but for drum loops you can set the key to None, scale type to Neither, and the time signature as appropriate. So far Apple doesn’t support many odd time signatures. That may change in the future, but I expect people composing in 19/16 probably aren’t going to be using loops often anyway.

    Loop Utility, with tempo setting marked

  7. You can check the Transients tab to make sure the loop’s beats have been appropriately guessed. In my experience the utility does a splendid job. The only problem you might face is the tempo for a fast drum & bass beat being guessed at half what it really is. To fix that, change the Number of Beats in the Tags view. Double it, and the tempo will go up accordingly. You can check that it’s set correctly using the Play button at the bottom of the window. You can also mess with the pitch and tempo used for playback with the key popup menu and the tempo slider. Those only affect current playback, not the stored internal tempo for the Apple Loop.

  8. You’re done. Click Save in the lower right corner. Logic noted the change in the region from regular audio region to Apple Loop region (the little icon changes to show you it knows it’s an Apple Loop) without any further intervention. Now as you change the tempo of the song, the loop maintains its length (i.e. if it’s a four bar loop, the length will stay four bars even as you change the song’s tempo). You can transpose the key of the loop and its pitch will change, but the beats will stay in time with the tempo.

    Logic Loop icon

Loops could also be used for composition of beats in pieces, just grab bits of a loop and shuffling them around. I might try that next.

Here are two loops in 4/4 that I made tonight. Feel free to use them (let me know if you do). They’re both from the same tune, at 77 BPM.

Adding your loops to your Loop Browser is pretty easy (just drag the new file from the Finder into the Loop Browser), but I haven’t yet figured out how to change the names of loops and make them get reindexed correctly after adding them. Next time.

Update 4/7/5 - Following email from a reader, I fixed the bit about how to add files to the Loop Browser. Incredibly, Apple doesn’t seem to offer any way (through Logic or the Loop Utility at least) to add created loops directly to the browser. The newly announced upgrade, Logic 7.1, allegedly enhances Apple Loops authoring, and I’m hoping this issue is addressed somehow.

Posted by Joe
Comments

For step 3, the "really easy way" is a long Command+click on the locator section with the region selected. And it works with Express too... ;-) Nice site anyway.
Julien

Posted by: JulienGB at April 19, 2005 9:27 PM

Thanks, Julien. I've updated step 3 to include that easier way. It didn't work quite like I expected at first, but it works great.

Posted by: Joe at April 19, 2005 10:01 PM

Thanks for the info - dig the website. There have been some interesting improvements in the 7.1 update to Logic. You can now select any region and convert it to an apple loop from the local region menu/convert to apple loop. No need for the Loop Utility anymore.

Posted by: Mark at June 11, 2005 12:36 AM

Hey Mark. Yeah, I just (literally, today) got 7.1. The changes for Apple Loops are nice. I don't use them much right now, but I'm glad they've made the changes they've made. Things seem to be moving in a pretty positive direction for Logic right now.

Now all I need is to get my computer back.

Posted by: Joe at June 11, 2005 12:53 AM

now that 7.1 is out has anyone figured out how to sort out user appleloops in the browser...?
i can see my folders,and can bring up loops by serching ,but cant see them in a list form....
any ideas?
many thanks
morgan

Posted by: Morgan at August 3, 2005 7:24 PM

Thanks for your insight, I was also wondering how to import new loops into the browser library. You clarified me about making your own audio regions into apple loops. It would be convenient if these loops could be stored with the factory loops that come with Logic. The manual is rather lame in explaining the saving and storing procedure.
Metaray

Posted by: Metaray at August 24, 2005 9:38 AM

Glad to help, Metaray. You could actually store your loops with the factory ones, if you quit Logic, move your loops, and delete the index files so they're forced to rebuild. But doing that isn't a terribly good idea because the contents of the factory loop directories are subject to change (read: deletion) when you upgrade between different versions.

Posted by: Joe at August 24, 2005 10:28 AM

Hey Joe
Thanks for your suggestion. I think I will just upgrade Logic to 7.1 and see if all of this becomes more smooth. It would really be cool to get the browser index sorted so all the loops (factory & my new ones) are all together, organised, 'on tap' as it were. R u on 7.1 yet ? It must be better ?

Posted by: Metaray at August 24, 2005 9:45 PM

I don't use Apple Loops enough to be able to tell you for sure if things are considerably smoother. You do have the option of displaying all loops together, as well as limiting the display of loops to just certain jam packs, only your own, and other various selections. If that would be helpful, then upgrading to 7.1 would be worth it. If you already have 7, it's only $20, so that's pretty doable.

Posted by: Joe at August 24, 2005 10:09 PM

Yea I will get onto the upgrade. Fiddling around with a drum loop I made from my Korg Electribe drum machine, I realise it is critical to get the beginning of the loops exact on the beat and tight at the beginning of the bar. I was using it to make a groove template as a guide for other parts in my song. The timining was still slightly out looking at my quantize grid. I have now hooked the drum machine up using midi, and recorded the beats/notes into the arrange pg. I can get other instruments in Logic (ie Ultrabeat) to play those patterns. It makes more sense, the timing is much more precise. Loops are cool, because you can stretch them around, but can be limiting if you start changing things with your midi parts & especially tunings & keys later. Would b cool to learn of any other interesting tricks with loops, they're certainly handy & quick for getting a vibe going, to jam new riffs, parts on top of, even if you dump the loop later in your composition. ...regards Ray

Posted by: Metaray at August 30, 2005 9:08 PM

2 questions:

1. i am using logic to make alot of loops - however, i am stumped everytime i try to change the KEY of a loop. for example, i make my loop like described above. i can change the tempo, but i cannot change the KEY. when i use the tempo/pitch option in logic, i cannot PRELISTEN. so it's anyone's guess how to use it.

2. sometimes an AIFF sample that i make does not change with the tempo change (in logic or garage band). it is extremely frustrating. i can resave it and then it's ok. can someone point me in the right direction on how to understand the difference/ i know i'm missing it by a hair.

in the meantime, i am using a separate audio sample editor to change the key of my loop which is extremely not convenient...

thank you for your help :)
jess

Posted by: jess at February 20, 2006 2:42 AM

Hi Jess,

1. In Logic, at least, you can transpose a loop to a different key using the paramater box in the upper-left corner of the arrange window. Just click the loop you want in a different key, and transpose it.

I was going to say that Apple Loops should follow key changes that you set in Logic's key signature track, but that seems not to be the case, which is weird.

2. Apple Loops do follow the tempo in Logic when I insert them. Is that what's not working for you? I'm using 7.1.

Posted by: Joe at February 21, 2006 5:43 PM

It's nice to find your site Joe.

Here's I've been working on.

I've been trying to make a loop or two using the apple loops utility. The apple loops utility assigns transient markers on the division of the beat (by default ever 16th note or 1/16).

Ok
I've noticed with Apple's loops, the transient markers are assigned more "stratigically". Not so much STRICTLY at every 16th note the way mine always are, but more as the loop needs them. As we all know, Sometimes a note is longer than one 16th of a beat. Longer more sustained notes in a loop tend to not have a transient marker.
OK

Transient markers give the loop a "wrobble" sound, almost like a bad tremelo kind of sound. Maybe my imput levels aren't strong enough for the transient markers to be correctly set by the loops utility or something, but my transient markers never work like apples do. I have to go in and delete some of transient markers placed over long notes in order to get rid of that wrobble sound the markers create. I know I can change the default setting of the markers to longer notes (quarter or half notes), but that doesn't seem right.

Has anyone else noticed the sound caused by the transient markers?

I guess I can always add and delete the markers manually as needed but that is:
A. a pain, it never sounds as clean as I feel it could,
B. it sure would be nice if the program would do that for me:) Apple's loops are always cleaner than mine. I know they're Apple and all, but maybe there's something I haven't discovered yet.

Thanks for the help

David

Posted by: David at March 7, 2006 1:05 AM

Hi David,

I haven't noticed the sound you're describing, but that's mostly because I haven't made that many of my own Apple Loops.

I would certainly guess that Apple's people hand-tool all their loops to make them sound the best they can. I really doubt there's anything else that can be done about it, unfortunately.

Posted by: Joe at March 7, 2006 2:18 PM

That's kind of what I figured. I guess that's the way loops are made.They must be hand edited in order to get the right sound. It would be nice to have that "magic button" that would assign the transient markers perfectly.

I've also noticed when recording with garageband, you must select the correct key when setting up the tracks in order for the apple loops utility to correctly playback the loop. It doesn't seem to guess what key you're in rather it uses the information from the aif and assigns playback based on that.

Thanks for the help

David

Posted by: David at March 7, 2006 4:59 PM

Excellent tutorial!

I am using your procedure to convert 2 CD's worth of sound files into Apple Loops, and it has held up well. I spend most of the time in the "Sample Editor" setting the End Point (the start point is pretty simple). I have found that the fastest method is to set the End Point by ear using the Sample-Editor Cycle-button as you suggest, then preview it at a slower speed in the Loop utility.

I have just started working on 6/8 and 12/8 loops, but the Apple Loop Utility seems to get really confused when it is not 4/4 resulting in a bad loop. Are there any recommendations for odd time signatures?

Posted by: Joe Baldwin at July 4, 2006 6:00 PM

Hi Joe, I'm glad this has been helpful.

I hadn't really tried making Apple Loops in 12/8 or 6/8, because I just don't make Apple Loops very much these days. However, I did give it a shot now, and I have to agree, it's a pain.

I was able to do this without too much hassle when I created a loop from my own stuff. I played a 12/8 drum beat in with the EXSP24, bounced it, then imported it back in as an AIFF and opened it in the Soundtrack Loop Utility. If I set the tempo to 4/4 (even though Logic was set to 12/8) and set the transients to quarter notes, it seemed to give me a good loop.

I tried quickly with other audio, and it was definitely not as easy. I understand that the newer versions of the loop utility that come with 7.2 might do a better job, but I don't have it right now, so I can't speculate on that.

If I'm able to find out something more helpful, I'll report back.

Posted by: Joe at July 16, 2006 7:26 PM

does soundtrack (apple loops utility) not come included with logic?
i think you may have to purchase it, which is a complete bitch, since i already payed $300 for logic, and it's another $200 for soundtrack...

so if anyone knows any loopholes, please tell me

thanks

Posted by: bryce at October 24, 2006 8:33 PM

It does come with Logic, yes. You do not have to purchase it separately. Even if it didn't come with Logic, you can download it with the Apple Loops SDK:

http://developer.apple.com/audio/download/

Posted by: Joe at October 25, 2006 12:28 AM

i am trying to make my own loop for a website but when i bounce my file as an mp3 it wont loop in any other player ie: quicktime
if i import the mp3 back into logic express it seem as though the bounce process has added a tiny bit to the start of the wave so it cant loop properly
any suggestions

Posted by: markoid at May 10, 2007 9:38 PM

Mark,

I'm not an MP3 expert, but I think there might be something in the file format that prevents frame-exactness such as you might need for a loop. I'd try exporting an AIFF or WAVE file and see if that loops properly. If it does, then you can try making an MP3 from that, and seeing if it works any better.

Posted by: Joe at May 11, 2007 8:46 PM

Greetings!

Great info, thanks! I am thinking of trying some loops but I specifically hope to make them in the software instrument format (or green loops) as opposed to the blue. Which type did your method produce?

Posted by: chordam7 at September 13, 2007 7:56 PM

Christopher,

This method makes the blue ones.

Posted by: Joe Chellman at September 17, 2007 12:57 PM

Where would we find information on creating the green type of Apple loop?

Thanks,
Shaun

Posted by: Shaun McArthur at April 11, 2008 7:50 PM

Green apple loops are now covered in a new article, with exciting New Video Technologies.

http://www.chellman.org/audio/how_to_make_green_apple_loops.html

Posted by: Joe Chellman at April 12, 2008 12:27 AM

I'm a new Logic 8 user, after many years with Cubase and Reason. I've been playing around with the new Apple Loops, but I can't figure out how to actually edit them. When I use recycled loops in Dr Rex (in Reason), I generally end up changing the triggering or removing sounds within the loop in order to create my own patterns, or at least variations - as the sound of a repeating loop I find pretty annoying and not particularly creative. Can this be done easily? Or are we stuck with a basic loop that just follows the tempo?

Posted by: Steve at October 19, 2008 5:28 AM

Steve,

The kind of editing you're talking about, where you're retriggering sounds from within the loop, isn't included in Logic in a form like Dr. Rex provides. You can chop up a loop manually and build a new EXS24 instrument out of its pieces, but I doubt that's what you're looking for.

If you want something like that, you should look into a plugin like Guru from fxpansion, or maybe LiveCut from smartelectronix.

As far as what Logic has built-in that's easy, yes, it's just the loop following the tempo and key as far as I know.

Posted by: Joe Chellman at October 19, 2008 6:31 PM
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