Percussion loops are fixed sets of sounds that repeat in a set cycle. These are generated with various kinds of equipment, including digital samplers, drum machines, and other electronic devices. Percussion loops are used in many kinds of modern music.
Typically, percussion loops are used in digital music creation. Musicians can drop these into a piece of composition software in different file formats including .wav or .mp3, and create more sounds on other tracks to compliment them. Often, a single repeating percussion loop provides the rhythm and tempo for an entire project.
One of the big differences between different types of percussion loops involves the original sounds that are used to make these rhythms. Some use actual drums for an “analog” method. Others use synthesized drum sounds. In the world of digital music, synth drums are popular, but many musicians see the value of using organic live drum sounds for some elements of a project.
Another way that these loops vary is in the specific timing of these portions of sound. Loops are, by nature, set in consistent lengths, and it’s helpful to refer to one repetition as a “bar” to correlate loop-driven music with conventional compositions. Some loops use a simple beat, like four beats in a bar, while others take advantage of more obscure, more complex rhythms, for example, five or seven beats to a bar. Some musicians are only familiar with loops that use a 4/4 beat, but there are many many more.
Musicians can also classify percussion loops according to their respective sounds. Some of the more common kinds of percussion loops are called “backbeats.” Some musicians refer to “harder” or “softer” percussion type loops. These pieces can also be characterized as either “upbeat” or “subdued” to label their overall moods, and how they would fit into a bigger musical composition.
Loops that include percussion also often present challenge in terms of sound quality. The musician has to make sure not to add too much sound to one track or multiple tracks in order to prevent blurring or “soupiness.” Sounds on the primary loop have to work with other sounds that may be added live or as separate recorded samples. All of this requires knowing about how to use specific loops in a given digital music environment, as well as how to deal with the acoustics of a space, and the parameters of a sound system.