Using Percussion Loops Creatively and Musically

Using Percussion Loops Creatively and Musically

Richard Sussman
[email protected]
Manhattan School of Music

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:

Electronic Musical Instruments
Music Production




Music Technology


Mac G5 Dual with DP4 or higher (Lesson can be applied to any computer & pro digital audio sequncer platform), Stylus RMX, Any Sampler with some Loop Libraries, Any Audio Loops, Any Hardware or Software Drum Module such as Battery 2, DM Pro, or Korg Triton.


90 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Students must have a working knowledge of MIDI sequencer basics, have the ability to create a 3-4 minute sequnce, and understand basic concepts of drum programming. This would be a 2nd Semester College Level Lesson Plan.

MENC Standards Addressed:

MENC 4: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
MENC 6: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.
MENC 7: Evaluating music and music performances.


I have several example sequences prepared in DP demonstrating the various principles to be discussed. The best AV materials for this lesson are the Multitrack Graphic Edit Window in DP (or Matrix Editor in Logic, etc.) and playing the sequence.


To demonstrate to students the various methods of using Loops in a musical and creative fashion, as opposed to just mechanically throwing them in “out of the box”. This lesson will focus on the application of some basic editing capabilities of the “Groove Control” loop format perfected by Eric Persing in Spectrasonics Stylus RMX. The students will each compose or select a tune for which they will create an original percussion track using RMX and other percussion elements as described in the Procedures. The end result will be a 1-2 minute sequence with polished, loop-based percussion track.


1. A brief overview & historical perspective of the basic types of drum loop formats: Sampler Based, Plug-ins (RMX), & Audio (WAV) (:15). 2. Explanation of the need for creating a basic drum kit to be used in conjunction with loops. The kit should include Kick, Snare, Toms, HH, Crash, & a few percussion elements such as shakers or tamb. This kit can be assembled within RMX or by using other instruments such as Battery. (:20). 3. Explain basic procedures for opening and selecting sounds in RMX. (:15). 4. Demonstrate various ways of editing a single GC loop: cutting & transposing notes, changing velocities, offsetting start point of loop, etc. 5. Adding Tom Fills, Crash Cymbals, & other programmed elements. 6. Layering 2 or more RMX loops without making a mess! Total time for 4, 5, & 6 (:40).


Since the usual time of a 2 credit college class is 1hr/50 min, I try to allow 20 minutes at the end for questions & have 1 or 2 students attempt something in class. The assignment is to complete the 1-2 minute percusion track for their tune. This typically takes 2-4 hours of “lab time” during the week. Students are evaluated the following week on the creativity and musicality they have achieved through the use of techniques demonstrated in class. Please see my article “Working With Percussion Loops” on the Soundtree website for more details and supporting materials.

Follow Up:

1. Working with Sampler-based “Beats” and Audio Loops. Combining all three basic formats. 2. Exploring more advanced features of RMX (Filters, Envelopes, FX, “Chaos”, Real-time MIDI control of parameters, etc.)

Items to Purchase:

Spectrasonics Stylus RMX

When budget should be submitted:

In time to have the software installed at least 2 weeks prior to the class.

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