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The Secret Of Random Swap

March 30, 2006

Mark Jeffery, he who wrote Beat Detective, Batch Crossfades, and Sound Replacer into Pro Tools — as well as Synchronic, the beat-mangling software instrument for Pro Tools LE and TDM systems — has got some tips for you, and you are damn well going to listen.

“When using ‘Random Swap’ within Synchronic, remember that the majority of the feature set is dedicated to audio loop abuse of a most inhumane variety (in fact, the development name of the plug-in was ‘Beat Mangler.’) However, there is in fact one feature in Synchronic that can actually ‘humanize’ a drum loop.

”In the ‘Random Swap’ setting, Synchronic can create continuously evolving variations that preserve the basic pulse and groove of the original loop. The results are similar to the natural variations that a live drummer adds while playing a drum pattern to make the pattern less repetitious.

”The feature works on the basic principle that within a one- or two-bar loop, there are ‘sibling’ positions that are good candidates for drum hit swapping. In a typical ‘back beat’ drum pattern, there are snare hits on the second and fourth quarter-notes of a bar. These snare hits, which can sound different from each other, are ‘siblings,’ and are interchangeable. Going a step further, any slice of a drum loop can be moved by a half-note (or multiple half-notes) and end up in a reasonable ‘sibling’ position. If this interchange is done randomly, then we can take a static drum loop and have it play back differently with each loop iteration.

”For example: Let’s say we have a two bar loop with an open hi-hat on the ‘4 and’ of the first bar. That open hat will sound odd to most people if it were moved to the beginning of the loop, yet it sounds very natural when moved to a sibling position such as the ‘4 and’ position of the second bar, or to the ‘2 and’ position of either bar.

”How you do it? Load a loop into Synchronic. Raise the ‘Detection’ slider up until the loop is properly sliced. Set the ‘Order’ parameter in the Playback module to ‘Random Swap.’ Start playback. Notice how the basic drum pattern is preserved — yet inflections change with each loop pass? See, just a little variation can go a long way sometimes.”

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