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Changing Tempo, but not pitch

By: ThE SaMpLisT


Many  drum ‘n’ bass  flavoured  tracks employ  tried and tested 
‘rare groove’ breakbeat loops,  at tempos in  excess of 160 BPM. 
However, it is not always desirable to have such breaks pitched 
up high enough to loop at these tempos. Some breaks admittedly 
do sound good at a higher pitch (does anyone actually prefer the
‘Amen’ at its original pitch?), but many other breaks can sound 
‘Mickey Mouse’ and lacking in testicles when pitched up. Either 
way,  its good to have control over these variables,  and this 
article covers a couple of common techniques for keeping the pitch 
of your breaks down, whilst jacking the tempo up. It is assumed 
that you will be familiar with the operating system of your sampler, 
and will know how to copy, rename and trim samples.

Method One - Negative Timestrech
The first, and easiest technique, is what I will call the Negative 
Timestretch Method . Very simply, take your loop and use Timestretch
to make it shorter, i.e.: set a Timestretch value of less than 100%. 
You’ll want to use the highest quality stretch available to you, for 
example on an S2000 select ‘INTELL’ and set ‘Quality’ and ‘XFD’ values 
of around 90. The results can sound surprisingly natural, even with 
stretches of down to 75% which yields a tempo increase equivalent to 
pitching up by five semitones! (Complete Timestretch transposition/BPM 
formulae are available from the official Akai pages.) Needless to say, 
this technique is only available to people whose samplers or computers 
allow Timestretching.

Method Two - Poor Mans Recycle! Method
The second, and more complex, technique is what I will call the ‘Poor
Mans ReCycle! Method‘.As its name suggests, this is the old-fashioned
‘manual’ form of the technique so famously automated in Programs like 
ReCycle! and Zero-X. Essentially it involves chopping up your break into 
every single possible edit that is, pulling each individual drum hit out 
of the phrase(s)that make up the loop.

If you have an Akai that allows graphic waveform editing (e.g. S1000,
S3000), then this will be a relatively straight-forward (although still 
time consuming) procedure. If your sampler does not allow graphic editing
(e.g. S950, S2000) it will be a little more fiddly, but certainly not 
impossible. Whichever sampler you use, you might find it helpful to play 
back your samples from the LOW end of your keyboard whilst editing, to 
make it easier to ‘zero in’ on the correct start and end points for each 
hit. Chopping up a break ‘by hand’ like this can take a while, but the 
results can be well worth it. And, unlike ReCycle! or Zero-X, it doesn’t 
cost anything.

Once you have break in all its pieces, and have individually numbered
them, you need to make up a Program to arrange the edits in sequence 
across your keyboard. You want one keygroup per sample, with a span of 
one note each. In other words, assign ‘BREAKEDIT 1’ to KG 1 (C2-C2), 
‘BREAKEDIT 2’ to KG2 (C#2- C#2), ‘BREAKEDIT 3’ to KG 3 (D2-D2), and so 
on, and so on.

Next, fire up your sequencer and, in your Akai, load up your new 
‘BREAKEDITS’ Program and all its samples, together with the original 
‘BREAK’ Program and sample you started with. Using either Multi Mode 
or Program Numbers, set up your ‘BREAKEDITS’ and ‘BREAK’ Programs to 
respond to different tracks on your sequencer.

Now set the tempo of your sequencer so that the original ‘BREAK’ 
loops at its original pitch. With the original break still looping, 
switch to the sequencer track which is assigned to your ‘BREAKEDITS’ 
Program. After a few practices runs, play the edits from your keyboard, 
in their original order, and in time with the looping break to recreate 
the original phrase(s). If, like me, you are lazy, you can quantise 
everything to 16th notes. If you’re completely obsessive, you can experiment 
with adjusting ‘Note-Ons’ by thousandths of a second to recreate the exact 
phrasing of the original break.

When you have your edited break programmed to your satisfaction, you 
can delete the original, and, finally, the fun begins. Try pushing the
tempo up to 195 BPM, or pitchbending the break as it plays, or reversing
the order of the sequenced phrase(s). Try making a tune with a dozen Tempo
changes, or forcing your break to change key with the rest of the tune.
Suddenly, anything is possible! 

Best Wishes, ThE SaMpLisT. Want some breaks to experiment with?

Free downloads are available from: ThE SaMpLisT

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