Staying in rhythm when creating loops, editing

Thank you Trebor, just what the doctor ordered!

Vote added.
The number of votes is not really an accurate representation of how useful, or even how popular a feature would be. Out of all of the millions of Audacity users, even the most popular feature request (Allow real-time effects) has less than a hundred votes.

Also, the feature request “Let the Timeline display the detected time signature and bars” is a relatively new feature request (June 2011). Previously it was “bundled” in with the “BPM and beat timecode detection with automatic beat matching” feature request. I argued that “While the TimeLine displaying bars and beats is related to BPM detection, it is not dependent on it. Time displayed in bars and beats is a useful feature in its own right. See also: “Snap To: Beats””

I have had difficulty in getting across to any of the developers how useful bars and beats on the timeline would be. If you would like to make the case for this feature please do so - this feature could be escalated to a “proposal” page on the wiki, but that is only really worthwhile if a feature has the support of real Audacity users.

Let’s see how you get on with the plug-in first. How close does that get to fulfilling the functionality that you’re looking for?

I would certainly put in my two cents worth on the issue if I knew how/where to do it as it is something I feel strongly about and am fairly knowledgeable about (being a musician as well as a techie). But of course I cannot say that such a feature would be of interest to the majority of the Audacity user base.

In fact, I doubt it. One of the reasons I liked Audacity from the get-go was its simplicity and ease of use as well as its powerful editing possibilities.

Of course if Audacity were to try to be ‘all things to all people’ then that simplicity would be compromised.

I have had difficulty in getting across to any of the developers you say. This seems to me typically an issue where you necessarily have to be musically inclined to some degree to understand it fully. Like I said before, it makes the skin crawl if the track is even a fraction of a second out of rhythm. Brrr!

Reversely, a well-timed, tasteful DJ remix can add a whole new dimension to music that was good to begin with. Fatboy Slim is a great example.

As for your plug-in it has installed fine and shows up in the Generate menu but with the holiday to-do/hysteria I haven’t got any further as yet.

When I do I am sure I will have occasion to come back at you with further questions :slight_smile:

Ah dude,
You need to figure out things like the BPM of the loop.
Then you use that information to figure out how many measures are in the loop.
Then you divide by 16 to get the “button length”.
After that, you place labels at each button length.
You got to think of how it was composed, 16 buttons = 1 measure
Every button might have a sample/samples that play.

For instance, I have a loop that is: 5.818118 seconds long.
Now, I keep a spreadsheet of BPM to loop lengths…you can see
a pic of it at:

I look it up, and that matches around 165 bpm for 4 measures.
I divide by 4 and get a 1 measure length of: 1.454530 seconds
I divide that by 16 and get a button length of: 0.090908 seconds
Now I know exactly where to cut to keep the loop in-time with the original sequence.

Kind of tough to think about, but you get the hang of it eventually.
BTW-I have some label making Nyquist plug-in tools that I just posted in the Nyquist
section you might could use. Not sure if/when they might be “approved” by the
Kominzars though. :angry:

Also, check out this loop “calculator” I just made:
It calculates loop lengths and button lengths. The idea is to keep the window small
while you’re working. I use the Spread32 spreadsheet program, so it might look bad
in Excel. It’s also in a beta untested version, but maybe you could get some ideas?

BTW: End button times = beginning button times of new measure in the xls program, so if the time
says 5.818118, then you enter 5 below it as this is the time of the START of measure 5, not the
END of measure of 4. Ha ha…gangsta CJ!

I just love making spreadsheet programs these days…
LoOp LeNgTh CaLC2.xls (33 KB)

Hey, they posted my plug-ins so maybe you can check them out.
That’s cool. Hopefully yer on the same network, huh?

Anyways, ANOTHER looping technique (which is similar to yours) has to do with actually just
listening to the loop play and trying to find a good “stopping”/looping point.

I used this recently (a few months ago) when I was doing an early 1990s techno remix project.
You see, I got all these early 1990s techno tunes from mix CDs (such as Zoo Rave 1) and
wasn’t really liking the tunes on them.

However, some DID have some pretty keen segments, but (after deleting the crap) I usually
was left with a bit over a minute of audio to work with. So, the solution was to loop the
cool audio by finding where a “segment” of music would logically end.

It’s usually all trial and error at that point as finding the bpm of composed pieces is usually
pretty difficult. You select, fade in/out both ends then paste, and hopefully the tune
still sounds good. Works well for deleting “crap” in cool segments as well. Cut out the
affected audio, loop over it.

That and slowing down early 1990s tracks that have been sped up.

But for loops, I definitely use some math…

Hello loopman,

thanks for your reply. You’ve really got this looping business down to a science! I am reminded of the story about the teacher saying to his class: “this may seem like a simple and straightforward proposition, but just let me explain it”. :slight_smile:

Seriously though; how explain a complex issue in a few words that, say, a fourth-grader could understand? It is not doable, as the pol’s say.

I think, at first glance, that your approach is just the thing for getting it exactly right. Not sorta, kinda, but exactly and that’s the only way to go. The musical ear is very unforgiving of anything short of perfect time and perfect pitch.

(Yet a drummer who plays exactly on time sounds very square, sort of. You have to so to speak hang on the beat - just a tiny fraction of an instant to make it groove, swing or whatever you want to call it thus creating a delightful tension.

It’s the difference between a rubber band and a piece of string. Musically it’s the difference between a musician and a player.

In hopes of not getting into some copyright-infringment-issue I’ll attach to this post a 13 second clip from an instrumental break out of the Earth Wind & Fire song ‘Serpentine Fire’ which could be used as an example of what I mean by ‘hanging on the beat’ for want of an exact vocabulary.

Listen to Fred Whites bass drum - it is not exactly dead-on the beats, rather there is an infinitesimal latency giving the tension I mention above. This is a masterful drummer who provides a rock-solid foundation for the others to play on.

It’s such great playing, it’s as relaxing to listen to as sitting down in a comfortable armchair. This passage still raises goose-bumps on my skin after these 34 years.)

Getting back to loop editing, If one doesn’t take your scientific approach to creating loops running simultaneously to the same basic beat but ‘play it by ear’, you just might get it right but it will then have been a fluke or else will have taken an inordinate amount of time and patience.

As for your calculator - I have only recently rid myself of Microdorks suffocating grip as far as spreadsheets and word processing and now use SoftMaker Pro, a great, German-written Office clone and the calculator looks fine.

Thanks for the calculator (you are obviously a competent coder as well as musical); nice knowing ya loopman!

can you spot the join ?..

Nope, not a chance. I know where it must be, being familiar with the tune, but from listening to it no. It sounds really great, would you tell me how you did it?
I have sometimes (rarely) achieved such a smooth edit but only with sheer luck or elese after so much trial-and-error I’ve lost all interest.

Please wise me up Trebor - do you use the scientific approach or ‘play it by ear’?

I’ll surely check your plug-ins loopman. Btw: how do you mean ‘on the same network’? Anyhoo, loop editing by trial-and-error is of course only an option when working with one snippet of music and repeating that, not if you have several such snippets looping in parallell to the same basic beat. That is definitely where you have to somehow automate things and get scientific about it.

I could never swing that by trial-and-error. Indeed, even when clipping some bars of music and pasting them end-to-end is something I either have to get right almost at once or I will ‘wear out’ the clip, i.e. get tired of the whole thing and having to abandon the project or else let it lie for some time and return with a ‘fresh ear’.

User Trebor posted a good example of repeating a single clip pasting them end-to-end a couple of hours ago made from an Earth Wind & Fire clip I had previously upped. I still don’t know how he did it but I think he is so good at it he just found the right point with a minimum of trying and pasted the resulting clip end-to-end. It’s absolutely seamless and the kind of thing I was thinking of in my first post although I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it in a few words, that’s one reason I get so long-winded.

Roughly by ear then precisely by eye: zooming in on the waveform until I can see the sample points.

A tiny bit of cross-fade , close to a zero-crossing-point.

Tip: once you have looped the sample apply some reverb: it helps hide the join.

Right, thanks for cluing me in Trebor. I always wondered what ‘cross-fade’ stood for, now I’ll find out. It is such a boon to be a part of this community and be able to volley ideas and questions back and forth with knowledgeable, well-spoken people like your estimable self, steve and the loopman.

Not only is Audacity great software to begin with (and the price sure is right) but this way I feel involved, if only on the sidelines, in its development.
Great! :smiley:

Just remembered this plug-in:
It’s a “Quick conversion calculator” that is available from the Audacity Generate menu.
Although it does not actually “generate” anything, I made it as a Generate type plug-in so that it does not require an audio selection, though if there is no audio selection when the plug-in is run, a new audio track will be created as a by-product.
Currently supported functions:

  • dB to linear
  • dB to percent
  • percent to dB
  • BPM to beat length
  • Beat length to BPM
  • Midi note number to Frequency (Hz)
  • Frequency to Midi note number
  • Frequency (Hz) to cycle period (seconds)
  • Cycle period (seconds) to Frequency (Hz)
  • Frequency (Hz) to cycle length (samples)
  • cycle length (samples) to Frequency (Hz)
  • Degrees to Radians
  • Radians to Degrees
  • Addition
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Nyquist script

Nice tune VAM,
Ya know, when I was real young (late 1970s), I really thought Earth, Wind, and Fire were satanic.
That probably sounds weird, but I think it was just “in the air” or something. Like, everyone
kept saying that The Eagles were satanic, and every time I saw that Eagles cover with the
stick sticking out of the water, I just knew it was satanic. I got that same feeling with EW&F
album covers.

Listening to their music later, I realize that I must have been making that up in my brain or
something. Friday the 13th society and all, jeez mister Kotta

Anyways, I downloaded your audio and made a loop. From what I can tell its somewhere in
the realm of 73-75 bpm, but that’s difficult to say given that it’s live.

My cut was based on the rhythm (by ear) method. Also, looking at the waveform, you can
see “sets” of waveforms, and when they start over again. You then pick the waveform at
the end of the set, and cut before the start of the next waveform.

Also, had some inspiration last night and updated my LLC chart program to include Sub-Buttons.
I’ve noticed as I’ve been (trying) to learn DnB sequencing that sometimes the beats are before
and after the starting point of normal sequencer buttons. I suppose this is to create a less “perfectly”
timed track…a more realistic track.

Anyway, this gave me the inspiration for dividing each sequencer button by 16. Probably useless
information most of the time, that’s why it’s at the back…
LoOp LeNgTh CaLC3.xls (38 KB)

loopman, Nice tune VAM you say, what does VAM mean?

I think you’re right that any satanistic associations in connection with EW&F were all in your mind. I have always thoght of them as mildly religious (though not in an off-putting way) the way Maurice Whites’ lyrics speak of ‘master’, ‘higher purpose’ and such. A few lines from the song ‘Keep Your Head To The Sky’ here:

Master told me one day
I’d find peace in every way

He gave me the will to be free
Purpose to live His reality
Hey, and I found myself never alone
Chances came to make me strong

To step right up and be a man
'Cause you need faith to understand
So we’re saying for you to hear
Keep your head in faith’s atmosphere

No satanism there, I don’t think. Your loop, just like Trebors, sounds great. I would just like to have the complete two bar bass drum figure (as in the clip attached to this post) and loop that but the singing unfortunately gets in the way.

When this song first came out in '77 there was a 45 rpm single version that had a considerably longer instrumental break in the middle where they somehow managed to keep the singer quiet for upwards of eight bars (they probably snuck up behind him and gagged him) and I used to have that single but no more.

It would have been perfect for cutting loops out of as the beat is so rock solid.

Awww, I’m not saying that EW&F were satanic (or the Eagles either).
It’s just that every time I saw an EW&F album cover, I’d think it was satanic.
I was very young then, and constanly on the look-out for being abducted by
satantic cultists.
I think I worried more about cultists back then than Nuclear war. Never really
listened to the music as I was, like 6 or something, just things I thought about…

As for the loop, why not just use (roughly):
It seems to me that that segment of audio just repeats and the dude sings over
the last part. There might be an additional beat at 2.793875, but that’s just the

Also, you should check out the first beat of your mp3 loop, it’s got:

  1. Bass Drum
  2. Cowbell
  3. Some vocal remenant.

Man, I’d use that sample in HammerHead, crank it up to 160 bpm and throw
down some serious techno…

Later VAM (venus and mars) dude…

Allright, I was rounding off my House music collection today, adding a new 1979 tune by Shalamar
called “Right in the Socket” (that will add to my Disco House collection well).

Anyways, I decided to see if I could make a loop of some of the audio, hopefully this can help

As I mentioned before, I usually deconstruct loops made by others using math and Audacity labels
as I like to see where each beat was programmed in a sequencer. However, with loops that I make
from completed tunes, I usually just give it the eyeball.

Here’s an example:
As you can see, I was looking for the big beats, knowing that my loop would sound best if it started
with one big beat, then ended at the start of another big beat. When doing this, it really helps to
know what waveforms look like, which can generally be learned through observation and/or working
with a sequencer program.

Anyway, one trouble with this part of the song is that it has a TON of instruments (beats, piano, and
guitar). Making these sound good when looped takes a carefull ear, but this track plays so fast it’s
difficult to really observe the waveforms and listen at the same time.

Therefore, I happened to notice the waveform directly BEFORE my first “big beat”, and noticed
that several big beats down it repeated (circled in red). I then knew that that second small
waveform was probably the beginning of something (guitar or piano) and that the loop might
sound good if it ended after the second one. Turns out it was a piano.

Anyway, have a listen, I think it’s pretty groovey…

Don’t forget to add small fade ins/outs to either side of the loop. Usually a 0.003 fade will keep
the loop from clicking when repeated AND not have silence between loops…

It’s good, but a loop should start and end on the same value, usually zero …
shalimar loop starts and ends on zero.png
[for the uninitiated Audacity will loop if you press shift + play ]

HammerHead eh? Hmm…I’ll give that a try if there is a trial. Your Shalamar loop sounds great. In the pocket!

Allright, just one more example on this topic.
This, again, is what I call a “in-track loop”.
That is, I haven’t taken the loop out and applied fade-outs, just selected the
audio and used the command: effect | repeat
In this particular example, the original “loop” by the original composer runs some
three measures (or bars), before the orchestra repeats with the same notes.
In the picture, this is denoted by the loop “01” and loop “02” regions.

The editors of this audio have allowed the piece to run for 3 measures, then
2 measures more (loop 02), before truncating it at the start of the 3rd measure
of “loop 02” (the unique pattern part).

You COULD create a loop from this audio using just the audio found in the “loop 01
section” as it is “all there” (just not shown in the picture), but in this example, the
Loop 01 section’s first two measures are a bit “dainty”.

So, what I did was loop from:
…thus, the first part of the second loop is now the end of the NEW loop, but it all
works anyways and even manages to sound authentic.

Here’s the example, have some fun…

So is it a gamer you are loopman? I just couldn’t figure out the meter of your clip/loop. It sounded like 6/4 superimposed on 4/4 or somesuch, two rhythms running simultaneously. But good.
Btw thanks for introducing me, sort of, to HammerHead rythm station. It’s great good fun, easy to get going with, and one sounds suspiciously good with minimum input right from the start. :slight_smile: