Tool Review: Looplabs

Monday, May 02, 2011 at 1:10 pm
Jennifer Dick's picture



Music loops have long been a staple of electronic and experimental music and have since worked their way into rock and roll, hip-hop, techno, and other musical genres. As with so many of the tools we’ve looked at, creating loops from a series of samples — once a painstaking process for all but professional music producers with special equipment — is now easy thanks to applications like Audacity and GarageBand, which make home recording and mixing fairly simple if you want to create your own audio. What if you just want to play in someone else’s musical sandbox? Then Looplabs is for you. In-browser editor? Check. Pre-loaded samples? Check. Easy publishing? Check.

Loop creation just got as easy as drag-and-drop.
Features
Looplabs has a number of sponsored remix studios from popular artists (2 AM Club and Willow Smith) in which users can remix the featured song. Users can also opt for the more generic Myspace-themed Music Studio.

Once you choose your studio, the web interface opens to show a timeline in the main section of the browser window and a list of musical genres on the right side. Each genre has a list of samples that can be sorted by instrument. Samples can be previewed before being added to the timeline. Once you drag and drop a sample, it creates a new track in the editor. Sounds pretty basic, right? Well, there are a few things the Looplab people have done to make sophisticated loop creation simple for those of us who don’t have a formal music background (or are too lazy to listen to a loop and determine the time signature and beats per minute, like me).

First, tracks are subdivided by beat-related increments. Depending on the track’s tempo and aural density, it might be subdivided by measure, by half-measure, or by quarter measure (or more!). When the track is added to the editing timeline, all sections are muted and are “turned on” by clicking on the subdivisions. Users can have the entire sample play by clicking and dragging to activate multiple subdivisions at once, or they can elect to have the sample play only during selected sections of their loop. This allows for the creation of very rich and varied soundscapes when different sections of multiple tracks are layered on top of each other and activated at different times.


Sample Classroom & Youth Program Applications

 

  • All Subjects: Have students create brief loops to accompany class multimedia presentations.
  • English Language Arts and History: Students create loops that communicate the mood and tone of a text or historical event.
  • Math: Students create musical fractions using the beat subdivisions in the samples to demonstrate addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of fractions. Some samples will have one subdivision to another sample’s four subdivisions to yet another sample’s eight. This gives students a visual and auditory way to experience fractions.
  • Music: Using their knowledge of music theory and composition, students create a loop that reinterprets one of the pieces they’ve practiced or studied in class, paying attention to tempo, mood, rhythm, and phrasing. Advanced students can record their own samples.
  • Physical Education: Have students research optimal beats-per-minute for warm-up, aerobic, and cool-down exercises. They use this information to create music loops to accompany a workout they design themselves.



Breakdown

    • Price Structure: Free
    • Pros:
      • Pre-populated with lots of samples
      • Very quick and easy to start creating a loop
      • Easy to see how the rhythms of samples match up through marked clips
      • Can share via email links, social media, or blog-embedded Flash player
      • Encourages users to build off the work of others

 

  • Cons:
    • Had some trouble saving loops the first few times I tried the application over two different days; application timed out. May require wired Internet connection
    • Music genre samples aren’t terribly accurate; for example, many of the funk samples were actually closer to hip-hop



Do you use Looplabs with your youth? Do you have any activity suggestions, tips, or tricks to share? Comment below or contact us!