Sound advice for Soundtrap is a blog series designed to get you using Soundtrap. I am hoping that the ideas I share will help you to use the software. Looping with Loops is aimed at focussing on how we can use loops to teach as well as compose. Most DAWs come with a loop library and Soundtrap is no exception. So let’s see how we can approach the use of loops in our classrooms.
What is a Loop?
A loop is a short segment of music that can be used over and over again. It is often associated with more modern EDM music, but links to dozens of styles and genres. A loop is like an ostinato, a repeating pattern in music. We find rhythmic & melodic loops in minimalist music, cinematic music and even the symphonic repertoire.
So now imagine capturing these and storing them in a library – that is what we have available to us in Soundtrap
The great thing about loops in Soundtrap is that they are pre-made segments of music that our students can quickly and easily interact with. But how can we fully utilise the loop library and get our students learning more about composition and music in general?
Playing with Loops
The beauty of a DAW is that students can play around with sounds. Listening to loops is the starting point. Then they can select the ones they like and even edit them. Let’s say you want to get students started on something new in Soundtrap using loops. Well, a great place to start is to let them just listen and play around with the loop library.
As students explore the library they are becoming more aware of the kinds of sounds that they can use in their piece (see below). It is also good to move from this initial stage to a more organised approach. Starting here gives them the knowledge of what there is in the loop library.
One idea is to ask students to find an interesting idea on 5 different instruments. Ask them to listen out for sounds, shapes and motifs that interest them. Also challenge them to find different instrumental techniques. They might discover a chord progression on a piano, some pizzicato strings and a distorted guitar motif. Ask them what they have found and what drew them to the loop.
If you are wanting to explore structure with your students then loops are perfect. Students are not having to worry about creating ideas, but instead they are auditioning, selecting & organising the loops. All you need to do is give them some parameters in terms of structure and time. You might ask them to create a Ternary Form piece that lasts for no longer than 2 minutes. Similarly you might ask them to come up with a 30 second segment of music that would be suitable for a TV commercial about a car.
What you are aiming to do is show your students the importance of organisation and structure in music. They can’t simply pick sounds at random and put them together in the studio. When they click and drag a loop into the main sequencer area, they need to know how, where & why it is being used. And let’s face it, creating a really solid Ternary Form piece isn’t as easy as it sounds. The focus on structure will help students to think about what they need in their piece and how they are going to stick to the rules.
One idea is to get them to create something themselves and a great place to start might be to ask them to create their own beat for their Ternary piece. They can then add harmonic and melodic loops to this. See mu
How to use loops
I realise I haven’t actually said how to get a loop from the library into the main studio window. Well that is quite simple, and in fact I did mention it above. You simply click on the loop and then drag it into position. Simple as that. Each loop will then form a new track and they can be edited from there. A loop might be just one bar long, but this can easily be copied and repeated.
At this stage it is worth pointing out the two different types of Loops – MIDI & Audio. Hopefully you are aware of the difference, but here’s goes for a quick explanation. MIDI means Musical Instrument Digital Interface and the XX-Beat 1 (Hihat) in the image above is a MIDI Loop. This is a loop made up of MIDI signals that can be quickly edited in the MIDI editor.
An audio look is shown above this – see Murmur in the image above. An audio loop has been recorded or captured and then turned into a loop. Now whilst this can be edited, it is different to MIDI because it comes from a live source. The notes cannot really be changed, but the sound can be digitally manipulated. The loop can also be chopped up and changed – but this is very different to editing a MIDI loop.
Back to the ways we can use loops. Atmosphere in music is a fantastic area to explore. Why not consider giving your students a particular atmosphere that you want them to create in music. You might be quite clear with them and provide an example such as joyful, menacing or melancholic. Or you might choose to give them a section of film, a photo or some other image to use as a stimulus. They can then go through the loop library to try and find loops that will fit the atmosphere.
This approach will get students really thinking about sounds and how they can be used. In future blogs I will be looking at ways of enhancing this, but for now, focussing on getting them using loops.
5 Quick Ideas
- Use loops to explore instrumental techniques & styles. This might be some different approaches to playing chords on piano – block chords, arpeggios and patterns.
- Using only 3 loops can you create a mood, atmosphere or image?
- Pick a loop and create a beat to go with it.
- Can you represent a country using loops? There are some great loops that can help with this, students just need to find them.
- Can SFX be useful and/or used musically? Create a short piece that utilises SFX as well as more traditional music ideas.
Looping with Loops
Starting with loops is a great way to introduce the Soundtrap platform. But it is also a way in to really considering sounds, structures and composition in general. If we can make our students aware of how music is organised then we are really embedding some key understanding. Loops can also teach students to really think about sounds, techniques and the instruments they have available to them. Taking away the need to write a melody or create a chord sequence can be useful for thinning about texture, build-up and how drama can be created with music.
I hope that you enjoy looping with loops and that your students continue to enjoy using Soundtrap both in class and at home. Do subscribe to this blog to stay up to date with future posts.
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