Recycling Audio

I want to use this blog to briefly discuss how I recycled a snare sample and used it as a transition effect.

I had a snare sound which I used within my drum groove for Scat Man. The sound had nice sharp transients and would work well as an impact sound. As I would use the sound as a transition effect though, I needed it to ring out and link together sections of my track. For instance, I used it to transition from verse 2 into the bridge.

Using quite heavy processing I managed to convert this snare not only into an impact but also into a riser which naturally preempts the impact.

I began by lengthening the snare sample. By engaging the warp modes in Ableton and adjusting the tempo of the sample, you can quite easily manipulate the sample length. I used the “complex-pro” warp mode, and increased the tempo until I had the length I was after (increasing tempo will lengthen while decreasing tempo will shorten the sample). I chose the complex-pro warp mode but any of the modes other than re-pitch will work. Re-pitch compensates for the change in tempo by adjusting the pitch of the sample, so a longer sample has a lower pitch. This could definitely work to your advantage but it was not an effect I needed here.

Once I had the length I needed, I applied both reverb and a delay to help the sample ring out. This was simply a balancing act to find the settings which worked within the context of the mix.

Listening to the sample within the mix, I found that the impact stuck out far too much and I needed a way to soften the attack. I picked up SPL’s Transient Designer and completely lowered the attack. Finding that the reduction in attack was not enough, I loaded up 2 more instances of the plug-in, until I had the softened attack I was after.

Once I was happy with the impact, I set about working on the riser.

I loaded up a new, temporary reverb within Ableton and set an extravagantly long decay time and adjusted the dry/wet knob to 100% wet. Next, I hit play for a brief instant to let the sample ring out before hitting the “freeze” button on the reverb. Immediately following this, I hit the pause button so I had created an infinite reverb tail.

Having already set up an audio track and using Ableton’s re-sample functionality, I recorded the frozen reverb (still ringing out) to this track. I now had a long reverb tail recorded. I unfroze the reverb, deleted the effect entirely and reversed the newly recorded audio. Using fades, I automated the volume to ramp up, thereby creating a riser. After tweaking the end point of the riser to end before the sound of the impact, I had a smooth transition between the two sounds. The final piece of the puzzle was to create a side-chain pumping effect on the riser to help drive home the feeling of building tension.

Put together, I had a complete sound effect (a transition effect) which gradually builds tension before releasing it at the point of the impact. This helps solidify the feeling of energy transfer and helps bridge the gap between song sections.

Not bad for a snare.