3 Tricks For Dirty Drum Loops

In today's post, I'm going to give you 3 quick and easy methods for dirtying up your drum loops.  As you'll see, these are some old skool, analogue tricks that can now be easily done inside of the box.  You don't even need to spend a night with Christina Aguilera to make things dirty... all you need is a DAW.  For this example, I'm using Logic Pro 9, but these same effects and amp simulators can be found in most other recording software.  So, let's get started....

For today's demonstration, I'm using a drum loop from our popular Bundle of Brushes collection.  I wanted to use a very clean and natural sounding loop for my source track, and this one definitely fits the bill.  It's a straight ahead, funk/folk groove with brushes on the snare drum with no processing in the mix other than a hint of compression:  

103 BrushGroove Clean by thelooploft

Trick #1 - Reamping The Loop

This is probably my favorite method for "dirtying" things up, probably due to the amount of options that are available between utilizing different amps and cabinets.   Back in the day (before amp simulation plugins), this reamping effect was achieved by literally running your drum mix through a guitar or bass amp, mic'ing up the speakers, tweaking the knobs and capturing the distorted result on a new track in your session.  Now, all of this can easily be done with a few clicks of the mouse.

For this example, I used the Amp Designer in Logic and selected the "Blues Blaster Amp" (apparently they never signed that partnership with Fender...) along with a Tweed 1x10 cabinet.  I find that the smaller speakers (well, virtual speakers) keep the sound and bottom end a bit more focused when using the "crunchier" amp settings.  In the screenshot below, you can see the exact settings used in the mix.

The result?  Some crazy bass in your face and plenty of warm grit in the midrange.  We're definitely not at a Simon and Garfunkel gig anymore.  Preview below:

Trick #2 - Using Effect Pedals

Again, this is another technique that used to be done by using (stealing?) the actual effects pedals from your guitarist and running your drum tracks through them.  Since the introduction of Logic 9, these pedals are all available inside of the box.  But don't worry, you can still steal your guitarist's girlfriend.

The effect pedals are a great way to really roll up your sleeves and experiment with some serious knob twisting.  They are also great for getting cool sounds.

In this example, I'm running the loop through a chain of pedal effects consisting of "The Happy Face Fuzz", "The Phaze 2" and a tape delay simulator (synched to 1/8th notes).

The result?  Tripped out, cosmic, space grooves... man.  The fuzz pedal does just as the name suggest and the phase and delay pedals sound like they can cure glaucoma.  Preview below:

Trick #3 - Bitcrushing

Bitcrushing works exactly like it sounds.... it lowers the digital resolution of the audio, resulting in a more low-fi, even heavily distorted sound.  This original drum loop was recorded at a resolution of 24bit, and as you can see below, I squashed the track down to a mere 4bits, along with downsampling it 31x.  In technical speak, I bitcrushed the shit out of it.

The result?  It sounds like this is being played back on an Atari 2600 and the game cartridge needs to be taken out and blown on.  Trent Reznor circa 1981?  Something like that.  Preview below:

Download And Share Your Techniques

So, those are just a few of my tricks for dirtying things up and mutating a rather "normal" sounding drum loop into something completely different.  Now, I'd love to hear some of your techniques.  Click here to download the same drum loop (in WAV, REX2 and AIFF formats) and trash it up in your studio.  Share your ideas and tricks in the comment section along with a link to the end result.  Let's see (and hear) what ya got!

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  • Hey Kent! Wow, very cool track. I really dig that hi hat groove in the first part of the song. You took this loop in a completely different direction… and I like.

    The Loop Loft on
  • I ganked that loop and used it for a track where the original audio is used only as chopped up single hits:


    What made the track, though was that I used Live to extract the groove from the loop and used it on most of the midi clips. In particular you can hear it in the opening hihat pattern. Thanks for the timing!

    kent williams on
  • Thanks Ozcorps!

    The Loop Loft on
  • very nice usage of regular drum lines to twist it up to make completely diff sounds…

    Ozcorps on

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