We'll show you how to slice pre-made sampled drum loops to help you re-arrange them, create variations as well as totally new new drum grooves.
To aid us we'll be using Propellerhead Software 'Recycle!' software to aid the slicing of your drum loops since this easily creates a MIDI file representing each beat slice of the loop. This enables you to load the resulting Recycle! file (REX) into your sampler software for easy arranging. An alternative for both PC & OS X is iZotope's Phatmatik Pro, a VST & Audio Unit plugin that'll work from within your sequencer. They've recently added Recycle loops support too so this one's a definite contender for slicing drum loops. FL Studio also has it's own built in beat Slicer tool.
We'll be using Recycle & Apple Logic for this tutorial so lets start off by choosing a sampled drum loop to manipulate. We've loaded up our loop in Recycle! and ramped up the sensitivity slider to highlight each beat as a 'slice'. We're assuming here that your loop is a precise amount of bars, which will almost certainly be the case for samples from CD's and sample download sites. Recycle! offers you the chance to enter the correct amount of bars and beats for your loop - this will make sure that your import into your DAW software goes smoothly. Now that we've got our loop defined into slices we can save the chopped sample as a recycle drum loop or REX2 file. To do this choose 'Save As' from the File menu and save the file into you 'Logic' -> 'Sampler Instruments' folder. Equally if you'd just like separate the drum slices and a MIDI file the 'Export' command from the File menu will do this for you.
Now we'll start the fun and get re-arranging our loop. Load up Logic and insert an EXS24 sampler (if Logic's already running hit 'Refresh Menu' from the EXS24 front panel - this will reveal your newly exported Recycle file in your sampler instrument list).
Choose your loop from the EXS24 menu - this will automatically import your sliced drum loop and create a sampler instrument for it, as well as import the corresponding MIDI file into Logic's timeline for editing (click OK to the 2 dialogue boxes that pop up).
Now that we've got our loop imported run your cycle points around the drum loop MIDI region. Double click to open Logic's piano roll editor and you'll see the slices of your loop represented as notes in the roll. This is where we can create some variation or even spawn an entirely new loop using the beat's individual components.
We've decided we like the kick drum in our loop and want to use it to drive our new track's percussion section. To achieve this we're going to split the loop into two tracks, one will deal just with the kick drum slice, the other with the rest of the loop parts. Hit Logic's 'duplicate track' button and copy the loop's MIDI region to the newly created duplicate track.
On the original track cycle through your loop's slices (you can do this using the horizontal cursor keys) and delete all the slices except the four kick drums in the bar.
Open up your duplicate MIDI region and remove the kick drums from your loop. Now we've got our two sections separated (we'll refer to them as the kick drum and loop components from now on) we can experiment with editing and effecting them.
We've opened the EXS24 amp envelope's release control up to full to allow each sample to be played in full. Try a little EQ or compression on your kick drum this can really help to give it added impact in your mix.
Tip: don't always quantize everything! this may kill the 'groove' feel of your loop, experiment with different quantize settings. Logic provides several different grooves in it's Quantize menu, we settled for the 16 a setting in this case for our loop component. Your kick drum should of course be quantized dead on 1/4 of a bar timing.
Listening to the loop component we can hear that there's way too much bass, so a hefty low-cut is needed. We've chosen Logic's built in channel EQ and cut the bass below 230 Hz by the maximum -24dB.
We've also applied a little attack to our EXS24 sampler amp controls and had a slight re-arrange of the loop slices to help it slow.
At this point we're going to add some effects to our loop component - we'd recommend a little delay or sort drum reverb. For livening up sampled loops is Logic's 'Ringshifter' plugin is a great tool - experiment by inserting it over your loop component channel and flicking through the presets, you can then refine your sound using the plugin's varied controls.
Now we're happy with our loop component we can make our 4/4 kick drum pattern a bit more full-on with some fills, generally these would be used at 4 or 8 bar intervals to keep the track interesting.
To complete our drum groove we've added a clap and high hat tracks...
So there you go, a quick and dirty guide to editing sampled drums. As always experimentation is the key so don't expect your efforts to be rewarded instantly - if it's not working out trash the loop and grab another!