The most underrated tool in music production – the scissor tool
I’ve discussed various benefits of rendering clips to audio; today we’re going to look at some techniques for creating variations.
Keep in mind I’m using Steinberg Cubase, so some techniques and hot-keys may differ, however I’m sure the same ideas can be applied in almost any DAW. There are a few techniques I apply when using the scissor tool to create variations, the first technique focuses on slight deviations in the overall rhythm by cutting the audio file periodically, and then shifting some of the resulting bits either forward or backward by random amounts on the quantize grid. This technique works great on leads, synths and even percussion loops so be sure to try it on those as well.
In this example I used the scissor tool to cut the audio file on every ¼ note, where the kicks are placed. Holding Alt while clicking with the scissor tool will cut the file periodically by the amount of space between the previous cut and this one. Then using Ctrl+Left or Right Arrow keys, you can move each chunk either forward or backward by a step on the quantize grid. This makes this technique very quick to apply.
Hitpoints and Slicing…
Cubase has a really neat function, allowing you to detect the hitpoints of an audio file and automatically chop the file into several chunks, essentially breaking your loop into individual hits.
This is an incredibly powerful way of creating a ton of variations on loops.
The lead sound I have can be broken up into two categories, Staccato or quick percussive notes and Legato or longer continuous notes. Removing either of the elements and replacing it with the other, completely changes the direction of the sound. If you have a lead made up of a lot of Legato notes it may be lacking in energy or pace. Swapping some or even all of the Legato notes out for Staccato notes will give that lead much more power.
For an in-depth walkthrough and examples of the techniques, check out the video here: