DJ loops are another tool that you can use to enhance your sets. They can serve you in the technical side of mixing and can also be used creatively. In this guide, we’ll go over how to set up a DJ loop and the best way to utilise them.
What is A DJ Loop?
A loop is a section of a song that is repeated. Usually, loops are 4,8,16 or 32 beats long. These loops can be set by using your DJ Software. Depending on your DJ equipment you may be able to set and trigger loops from your hardware. Check your software and hardware to see what type of loop options you have available. Some hardware allows you to set a DJ loop at the touch of a button based on your preferred presets. You may also be able to shorten and extend the loop from your hardware. If you are looking to buy a beginner DJ controller take some time to see what looping functions it offers. If your hardware doesn’t have loop functions available you should still be able to activate and set loops from your software.
To set a DJ loop you need to set the start and end point of the loop. Usually, when setting up a loop you want to make sure that the section you are looping is a clean bar. In other words, make sure that the start aligns with the first beat of that bar and runs to the end of that bar or phrase.
You can set shorter DJ loops but always aim to have the loop be divisible by the bar length. For example, if you want a short loop you can trim a 4 beat loop to a 2 beat loop. Setting a 3 beat loop, for example, will cause the mix to sound disjointed when layered over the top of a song that is running in 4 beat intervals.
How to Use DJ Loops When Mixing
There are several ways DJ loops can be used to assist with the technical side of mixing.
Loops can be useful when trying to beatmatch tracks. You can set a loop at the start of the track you wish to mix in. You can then use that consistent repeatable pattern to beat match that loop to the first track. Using initial basic components of a track is a great way to help you learn beat matching. Looping is the easiest way to maintain that simple pattern. Once you have beatmatched the two tracks you can release the loop for your transition.
You can also use a DJ loop to help you while in the middle of a mix. Some tracks may have a shorter transition window than you need to properly transition from one track to another. You can use the loop function to lock a repeatable section to continuously play as you complete the transition. This can be helpful for both the incoming track or the outgoing. In each instance, you’ll need to be careful to select a loop that sounds natural. For example, you don’t want to set a loop that cuts a vocal halfway through its natural cycle. Likewise, large sweeping pad effects can sound odd if cut abruptly with a poorly placed loop.
It’s possible you may encounter tracks which have difficult outro’s to work with. Once again a DJ loop can help you in these instances. Before the track reaches that difficult outro section you can find a usable short section to loop. This will prevent the track from reaching that difficult outro section. This will allow you to start and complete your transition without worrying about the outro.
Knowing your music or at least understanding song structure is important to be able to utilise these techniques. As you use looping more you’ll come to know the natural places within a song that are more open to looping. This varies from genre to genre so be sure to practise these techniques so you feel comfortable applying them in a live mix.
Creative Ways To Use DJ Loops
Beyond helping with the technical side of mixing looping can also be used to add creativity to your DJ sets.
The most common technique is a loop roll. A loop roll takes a set loop length and progressively halves the length at regular intervals. For example, it could be a 4 beat loop that halves to 2 beats then 1 beat then ½ a beat and so on. While it is a common technique it can be difficult to master. Using it well can result in a climactic build before a drop. Using it poorly will result in a trainwreck of a mix. Before adding this skill to your DJ arsenal be sure to practice. Timing is critical to making the loop roll sound natural.
You can also use DJ loops to do live mashups. Looping a familiar vocal and layering it over another track is a basic way to create a mashup. In these instances, it works best if you have an acapella version of the vocal. A section where there are not too many other elements playing other than the vocal can also be used. This will prevent any potential clashes when attempting the mashup.
Loops are also a fantastic way to layer multiple channels at once. Combining various loops can create a unique mix. For example, you could loop an acapella vocal over the top of a looped kick drum element. All these loops can be playing while your primary track is playing. As with all DJ techniques, this does take practice. Take some time to understand song structure. Layering your loops to match that structure will create natural sounding mixes and transitions. It’s also fine to run a loop for a phrase and then end it. You can then bring it back in after a major breakdown for example. Once again practice is important to mastering these layering techniques.
Less Is More
Looping is a useful tool for all levels of DJs from beginners to advanced but one thing holds true for all levels. Use it sparingly for maximum effect. There are examples of crazy loop juggling sets out there. However, the majority of DJs will only incorporate loops if it will assist with their transitions or add a creative element to their sets.
Learning to use a DJ loop at the right time is just as important as learning how to use them in the first place. Familiarise yourself with your software and hardware capabilities and begin experimenting. Once you are comfortable you can begin incorporating these techniques into your DJ sets.