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TUTORIAL: Creating Loop-Based Soundtracks in Adobe Audition
Posted Mar 2, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Loop-based music creation is a technique that is being used in a lot of the programs that you see (and hear) on broadcast television today. Loop music is created when repetitive parts of a piece of music are made into single pieces that the editor/composer can elongate (repeat) for as long or short a period as he or she needs for the purposes at hand. That said, loops usually contain one or two bars of music.

Adobe Audition 2.0 ships with many loops that can be used for productions, and it even comes with pre-made examples of what loop-based music can sound like. Some of these are truly fantastic, and I wouldn't hesitate to use them in any of my productions.

Another point is that anything that we make with these loops is copyright-free—we do not need to pay royalties or worry about copyright violation when we incorporate them into our work. Variety, quality, control, and freedom from copyright concerns are four of the main advantages to creating your own music beds by using the looping properties of Adobe Audition.

Let's get started! The first thing that you need to do is start a new Multitrack session—I called mine "Looping music."

figure 1Step 1
Now you can open some of the loops that Audition already includes. First, double-click on the Files panel. The Import File panel opens, and there you can navigate to your Audition Loop files.

My loop files are under C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Audition 2.0\Content\Loopology, as shown in Figure 1 (left). For the example used in this tutorial I chose selections from the Lounge & Latin files. The exact path to my files is as follows:

C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Audition 2.0\Content\Loopology\Lounge&Latin2\Heavy_Bossa_Nova_77BPM\Uptempo_Bossa_Drum 1 and 08

Step 2
Choose the drums first. It is easier to create a rhythm bed first and then add the other components on top of that. You can always come back and re-adjust the rhythm track if necessary.

Place the first drum on Track 1 of the multitrack, as shown in Figure 2 (below), and now listen to it. I like it! I even like the tempo (77 bpm, or beats per minute).
figure 1

Step 3
I will now drag the end to make it loop—in other words, to make it repeat over and over. Stretch it to eight bars (or measures). You can see the bars, represented as vertical lines in Figure 3 (below).
If you do not see the bar lines, choose View > Display Time Format > Bars and Beats.

figure 1

Step 4
Another element you'll need to consider is tempo, which is the speed at which the music plays. If you wish to change the tempo at which this session plays, you can do so in the Session Properties Panel. If you do not see it in your current configuration, choose Window > Workspace > Multitrack View (Default), and you'll find the Session Properties Panel will be at the bottom right-hand side of the screen.

figure 1Change the tempo so that it reads 60bpm. The session now plays a little bit slower. Choosing a tempo is a subjective thing, and in your productions it will usually be dictated by the nature of the project and your editing pace and style. Just use your best judgment. Listen to the music, and if it sounds too slow for you, it probably is. Again, your tempo is measured in beats per minute, so if you need your music to be faster, type a higher number into the Tempo box in the Session Properties Panel (Figure 4, left).

Step 5
Now it is time to add the second drum to the second track (Track 2), so that both drums play at the same time in some spots. I will add it at the second bar, and I will have it playing for 2 bars (Figure 5, below). You might notice that when you stretch the file, the stretching snaps to the bars—this makes it really easy!
figure 1

If for any reason, your clips aren't snapping, you may want to choose Edit > Snapping, and select one of the following:
Snap To Clips—causes clips to snap to the beginning or end of other clips.
Snap To Loop Endpoints—causes clips to snap to the beginning or end of loops.

Step 6
I would like for this loop to play again on measures six and seven, so instead of dragging it from the File panel, I can select and right-click the clip (make sure that the Move tool is the one selected—use the keyboard shortcut V). This makes a copy of the loop that you can drag it to the desired point (Figure 6, below). When I release it, Audition asks me if I would like to copy the reference clip in here, and I indicate Yes. Done!
figure 1

Step 7

Now I would like to add some bass to this piece. Every loop has a filename, and the letter included in the name indicates its original key. You may already know that every piece of music is written in a "key." This key determines how high (or low) the notes will fall in the musical scale, which consists of the first seven letters of the alphabet (A to G). Each of the notes of the musical scale can become the key of the piece, and this key then becomes the first chord (typically referred to with the Roman numeral "I").

I like this file:
C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Audition 2.0\Content\Loopology\Lounge&Latin2\Heavy_Bossa_Nova_77BPM\ TubeSambaBass08-D.wav [03, 04, 08 ]

The last letter (before ".wav") determines key . . . and now what? The next step is to choose a chord progression, based on that key. The best-known chord progression is I-IV-V-I. The musical scale consists of the first seven letters of the alphabet. The musical alphabet is also a loop—it keeps on repeating itself. Since we're in the key of D, counting D as I, go up 4 letters to G, and then G becomes your IV chord (the second chord in the I-IV-V-I progression). Go up one more to A, and this now becomes V (third chord in the I-IV-V-I progression). To finish up the chord progression, go back to I, which is D.
figure 1
Any key can be used, but in order to see how you can use additional keys (and the impact on your chord progression), please refer to Figure 7 (above).

Once you have determined the key of the piece, and therefore the chords that will be IV and V, you need to look for those chords in the files; they will be identified by the letter that exists after the file name. We'll now add the clips TubeAmpBass 08 and 09, with the chords as shown in Figure 6 (Step 6, above). I will have my D (I) chord play from the beginning until measure two. After that, my IV chord (G) will take over, and it will play for two measures. Then two different V chords (A and A7; more on that in Step 8) will play for one measure each, and finally, back to I (D).

In the final section of this tutorial (see "Coda"), I show how to make chords work well together and in what order. This chart shows the basic chord progression used in most popular tunes, but if you feel adventurous or have musical knowledge, you can place chords wherever you like. However, if you are a beginner, stick with the I-IV-V-I progression—it never fails!

Step 8
Now you have your rhythm and your bass, and you want to add some guitar files to that. For this example, navigate to the Lounge & Latin2 folder, and you will see another folder named Ultimate Acoustic Guitar, and inside it a sub-folder named Acoustic_Chords. This is the folder that contains the chords that we will use. You will notice that there is a "7" after the chord name in some of the files (A7, D7, etc.). Don't let that scare you; this is a way of adding harmony and more color to your loop. This is still the V chord that should go back to I. Do not use any of the "7" chords as a I chord; the "7"s have to be V chords, at least until you become more familiar with the musical language. At first, please stick to the basics, and do not venture outside of the I-IV-V-I realm.

figure 1From the selections in this folder, I chose the D chord (I), also the G chord (IV), and the A (V) and A7 (V) chords.

You will also notice that some of the loops also contain "min" after the name of the chord. This signifies that this is a minor chord. The same format applies—you still count to the fourth and to the fifth, but now everything has to have the "min" written after the name of the chord. So "mins" go with "mins," and Dmin, Gmin, Amin, Dmin would be an acceptable I-IV-V-I progression.

I can preview my chord selections by playing the timeline, then clicking on the desired clip in the file window. Audition will play the clips at the session's beat per minute speed.

I would like to place the D chord for two measures, then the G chord for two more, followed by the A and A7 chords for one measure each, and finally, back to D again, as shown in Figure 8 (left).

figure 1Step 9
Preview your file at this point; as you can see this is fun and easy to do. If you do not like the key, you can always change it by selecting the clips and then choosing the desired key in the Session Properties panel (in Figure 9, left, I've changed the key to C). Based on the I-IV-V-I progression you've created, Audition will adjust your chords accordingly. Of course, you can still make tempo and other adjustments in this dialog as well.

After you're satisfied, just export it, and that's it. Make it, use it, change it—it's that easy with loops!

figure 1Coda
The best way to understand chord progressions, and which IV and V chords correspond to which I chords, is to look at the way the notes are arranged on a piano, as shown in Figure 10, left.

Start your piece in any key. This key will become your I chord. Count up five half-steps, and the note you land on will become your IV chord. Two half steps above that, you'll find your V chord. If you start a piece in D, for example, D will be your I chord. Count five half-steps above D (Eb, E, F, Gb, G), and G will be your IV chord. Two more half-steps (Ab, A) is A, and that's your V chord. So D-G-A-D will give you the familiar I-IV-V-I chord progression.

By the same token, if you start a piece in E, then E becomes your I chord. Count five half-steps above E, and that is A. Two more half-steps and that is B. So the I-IV-V-I progression in the key of E would be E-A-B-E.

Luisa Winters, a certified instructor for Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Encore DVD, and Audition, has been a videographer for more than 15 years, winning numerous awards. An active musician in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area, she is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music (Johns Hopkins University) and an award-winning violinist.

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