With over 2 million loops, one-shots, and sound effects available on Splice Sounds, the big question is: where do you start? With such a wide selection, your creativity has no limits.
In a past article, I introduced you to the amazingness that is Splice. The Sounds section is a treasure trove of the highest quality samples you could ask for. Once you're set up with a subscription, you'll have access to at least 100 download credits each month. Since each loop is worth 1 credit, you're effectively given 100 downloads each month.
In this article, I'll take you through a step-by-step process showing you how to use Splice Sounds on your next song.
1. Search for sounds
As I explained in the previous article, you can either use the splice.com website or the Splice app on your computer to browse their collection of sounds. In both cases, you have access to powerful search and filtering options. You can filter by genre, by tempo, by sound type (loop, one-shot, effect), by key, by style, by tags, by instrument, and much more.
In the case of this song, I want to create a funky disco-pop tune. So for starters, I'll go into the Genres section and start browsing through the different sample packs in the Disco category. I love the Lenno Sample Pack. It'll provide a perfect basis for what I want to do. While previewing all the different sounds, I "hearted" the ones I liked the most. It's a way of tagging your favorite samples so you can easily get back to them later.
Once I made my selections, I downloaded a bunch of sounds. Some one-shots (like a kick, a hi-hat hit, a crash effect) and others that had some melodic material to them.
2. Start assembling
This is the fun part. Once the samples are downloaded to your computer, you can drag them directly into your DAW. In my case, I was using Logic Pro X.
See which loops work well together. Personally, I like mixing and matching sounds from different sample packs, particularly because it allows you to create a unique sound. For example, grabbing a fill or a sound effect from a completely different genre will make your song sound original.
There really aren't many rules around what to do or not do. Your creativity should be your guide here. I like to use markers in my session to help me visualize the different sections. The one rule I do follow is I make sure that things keep changing in every section. This goes back to the article I wrote about taking people on a journey with your song.
3. Time stretching and pitching
You'll notice that the loops you download from Splice may come at different tempos. If you were to layer them on top of each other, you'd get a cacophony of sounds that are completely out of sync. Clearly—not what we want. We want all the loops to play in the same tempo.
That's where you'll want to time-stretch the various loops to match the tempo of the song you're creating. If you're on a more modern DAW like Ableton or Logic Pro X 10.4 and newer, you'll have built-in tempo syncing tools that can automatically match the tempo of your loop to the tempo of your session without much work on your end. These tools will speed up your work process tremendously, so learn to use them. That way you can import a loop into your session, your program will do the tempo matching automatically for you, and you can focus your energy on actually making music!
Another thing you may have to do is to pitch various loops to match the key of your song. Whatever key you chose, you want all the melodic loops to match that. Again, you do not want a cacophony of sounds in different keys. It's like listening to a bunch of people talk at the same time in completely different languages. You want all your loops to connect into a steady musical language. The thing that will connect them is tempo and key. So make sure to pitch the different loops up or down so they all match the same key.
If you want to get much more detailed when it comes to the timing and pitch adjustments of the audio loops you download, RX 7 comes with the unbelievable Variable Time module which lets you adjust the time stretch amount of an audio selection without altering its pitch. It also includes the Variable Pitch module, which allows you to adjust the pitch of both musical and non-musical audio regions while preserving their time and length.
Most loops that you download will be named in such a manner that already tells you the original tempo and key information, so always look at the title for clues. A loop titled "80s_chop_shop_groove_114_Am.wav" already informs you that the tempo of the loop is 114 beats per minute and the key of the melodic material is A minor. Use this information to help you in the process.
As an example, one of the synth loops I wanted to use in my piece was performed in the key of Bm and at a tempo of 125 bpm. Take a listen:
The song I was creating was going to be at 109 bpm and in Cm. So I had to time stretch the audio loop to slow it down so it would match my tempo, and then I had to pitch it up a half step (+1). Here's the final result:
4. Cut where necessary
This is where the creativity really has to kick in. When I say "cut," I mean it in two ways:
Cut the time
Cut the sounds
Let me explain.
If something works awesome! But if it doesn't, try cutting the audio loop and rearranging its elements in time to see if you can make them work. As an example, many loops have some neat chord progressions in them, but being stuck with the same repeating four chord progression can get tiring pretty quick. Not to mention, it may be a little awkward if you were to find another song that uses the same untouched loop. And one day you will. So try slicing the loop up where the chords change and rearranging the different slices to achieve a new and original chord progression. Do the same with groove elements to create cool unique groove moments, glitches, or fills.
When it comes to cutting the sound, this is where you'll have to trust your ears. You'll find that where some loops are just a groove, others may involve a groove, a synth, a bass, some guitars and maybe even vocals, all layered into one loop. As lovely as those may be to use, having all those elements may actually turn out to be pretty limiting when it comes to trying to layer more parts into your song. In the case of the synth loop above, it already comes layered with a great bass part. However, I knew that I wanted to create my own unique bass sequence. Having both play at the same time would make them clash, and make the song too bass heavy. One method around that would be to find a different synth sample. But I really liked this one and still wanted to use it in my song. So the alternate way was to use EQ to filter out the bass frequencies. I used a low cut filter to remove the low frequencies from the synth loop. This gave me all the necessary space to use the synth AND create my own bass part. Here's a comparison before and after.
5. Add some cool effects
A lot of modern music is dependent on great sound processing. Dropping a loop in without altering it in any way is no longer as exciting as it used to be. If you want your song to sound truly unique, try adding some plug-ins to affect the way the loops sound. How about running a groove through a distortion plug-in and an amp simulator? How about using an EQ filter sweep of a synth? Or shaping the transients of a loop in a new way?
As you learned in my article on Using Splice to find inspiration for your next song, Splice also features an entire Plug-ins section. With 1678 plug-ins, you'll have plenty to choose from, including 20+ iZotope plug-ins, dozens of incredible compressors, EQ units, filters, and a plethora of saturation, dynamics, imaging, pitch, transient-shaper, and other incredible plug-ins. You can even find 80 free plug-ins to get you started!
For the purpose of my song, I decided that as much as my intro was neat, it was still missing something. Give it a listen:
It sounded cool and the layers were simple yet solid enough that they effectively worked well together. But the intro still didn't really evolve in any interesting manner. After a little experimentation, I decided that a cool EQ filter sweep on the synth could really give the intro a feeling of unraveling. So I went to the Plugins section of Splice and started browsing through the different plug-ins. I decided to download the free DJMFilter and applied it to my synth. It helped tremendously. I applied a similar filter sweep effect to the groove. Just a couple small things and check out how much of a difference they make in building the anticipation to the main section of my song.
Again, there are no rules as to what you should or shouldn't do. You're the boss and creator, so surprise your listeners with something fun.
6. Bring it all together
Mixing and mastering your track are super important tasks. It's the art of balancing everything to make it sound professional. Although many individual loops may come already processed with EQ and compression, you still need to glue it all together.
One of my favorite things about the Plugins section of Splice is the rent-to-own program for various pro-level plug-ins. In fact, iZotope's Ozone 8 and Neutron 2, VocalSynth 2, RX 7 Standard, and Nectar 3 are all available in the rent-to-own program. Meaning you can pay a small amount to rent the plug-ins when you need them, and whatever you pay during your rental period is applied to your final ownership. In other words, pay-as-you-go until you own it. So there's really nothing stopping you from taking all these excellent plug-ins for a spin and seeing how they can inspire your music-making process.
In my case, I added an instance of Ozone 8 and Tonal Balance Control to my master output track to help me create the perfect mix and master of the song, complete with a vintage EQ, dynamic compressor, limiting, and a little saturation. Here's the final result:
Loops and one-shots can provide endless inspiration and also speed up your work process. Use them to your advantage. With over 2 million sounds to choose from, the world is truly at your fingertips, regardless of which style you're working in. Splice can be an incredible source of sounds, loops, one-shots, effects, and plug-ins for your next song. So use these awesome tools to help bring your music production up to an even higher level!