Creating Vocal Chops
Vocal chops, a vocal editing technique pervasive in today’s pop songs, are cut-up vocal samples sequenced together in a new way. The cuts are often small, unrecognizable pieces of words, sometimes just individual vowels, and the goal is to create a fun, creative sound effect that may sound like the singer’s voice but that doesn’t have any comprehensible lyrics. Tiny samples are sometimes repeated in rapid fashion to create stuttering effects, and the use of pads to trigger the samples in a rhythmic fashion often results in syncopated grooves.
Slicing a Vocal Recording in Quick Sampler
To get started building your vocal chops, you’ll turn a vocal recording into a Quick Sampler instrument.
Go to Logic Book Projects > Media, drag Just Like This Vocal.wav to the empty area at the bottom of the track headers, and choose Quick Sampler (Original).
A new software instrument track is created, and Quick Sampler opens with the Just Like This Vocal.wav sample loaded.
At the top in Quick Sampler, click the Slice mode button.
Slice markers appear on the waveform display where transients were detected. Too many transients were detected, so you need to reduce the number of slices.
Below the waveform display, drag the Sensitivity slider to 40.
That’s much better, but there are still a few misplaced slice markers that you’ll later edit on the waveform display. Look at the long sample slice assigned to D#1.
Play a D#1 on your keyboard.
You hear the word “this.” The entire sample plays, as in One Shot mode. To better control the length of the vocal notes you perform, you’ll use Gate mode. In Gate mode, the sample plays only for as long as you hold down the key (or for the duration of the MIDI note on the track).
Below the waveform display, click the Gate button.
Play a short D#1 note on your keyboard.
Now only the beginning of the slice plays, and playback stops when you release the key. For greater control, let’s make the envelope release more abruptly.
In the Amp section, on the envelope display, drag the Release handle all the way to the left so that the Release field reads 0 ms.
Play short D#1 notes in rapid succession.
Now you can play some percussive stuttering riffs with this sample.
You’ve imported your vocal sample in Quick Sampler, chosen the Slice mode, adjusted the sensitivity slider to get the right amount of slices, and turned on Gate mode to make sure the samples you trigger stop playing back when you release the key.
Editing Slice Markers
Adjusting the Sensitivity slider in the previous exercise gave you approximately the slices you wanted on this vocal sample; however, you’ll fine-tune the slice markers to make sure you’re in complete control over what portion of the file gets triggered by your keys.
To zoom in on the waveform display, you can use Control-Option-drag (and Control-Option-click to zoom out), or a pinch gesture if you’re using a trackpad.
Control-Option-drag to zoom in on the first four slices.
Play a C1.
The first slice plays. You hear the word “just”; however, the word is cut off at the end.
Play a C#1.
The second slice plays. You hear the “s” sound at the end of the word “just.” The first and second slices are the same word and should be only one slice. Let’s delete the second slice marker.
Double-click the second slice marker to delete it.
Play a C1.
The first slice plays, and you hear the entire word.
Play a C#1 (and hold it down for the full duration of the slice).
You hear the word “like” and, at the end of the slice, the beginning of the next word, “this.”
Play a D1.
You hear the word “this”; however, the very beginning is cut off. Let’s readjust this slice marker.
Drag the D1 slice marker slightly to the left.
Continue playing C#1 and D1 notes and adjusting the slice marker until you no longer hear anything at the end of the C#1 slice and you clearly hear the beginning of the word “this” at the beginning of the D1 slice.
Let’s continue cleaning up slice markers.
Play F#1, G1, and G#1.
The three notes are each one a piece of the word “moment.” Let’s make sure a single key triggers the entire word.
Scroll right to see F#1, and delete the two slice markers directly to the right of the F#1 note.
The note F#1 should trigger the entire word “moment.”
Delete the two slice markers directly to the right of the G1 note.
The note G1 should trigger the entire word “just.” The slice markers are now all positioned at the beginning of a word, so let’s practice playing this new chopped vocal.
Play short notes, trying some rapid short notes between C1 and A1.
For some fun, chopped vocal-stuttering effects, you can trigger slices in the middle of word so that you can play only the vowel part, without the consonants at the beginning.
Click the Zoom horizontal button.
Create a flex marker after D1, in the middle of the word “this.”
Play the D#1 key, and alternate it with D1.
You can already hear the kind of stuttering sequences that you’ll be able to program in the next exercise. If you play fast, syncopated beats by hitting keys or drum pads on your controller, you may notice that some of the samples don’t trigger fast enough. For such percussive performances, results are sometimes better when moving the slice markers a little bit farther into the word, cutting off some of the slow attack to trigger right into the vowel of each word. Try zooming in and moving your slice markers a little farther past the attack of each word, as in this screenshot. Experiment and see what works best for you.
Triggering and Recording a Vocal Chop
With all your slice markers at the right positions, you can practice a groove on your controller and then record it. This kind of sampling work lends itself well to playing syncopated rhythms. Let’s give it a try.
Position the playhead after the chopped samples on the Splice track (at bar 15).
You get a four-beat count-in. Get ready! Play your favorite vocal chop groove within the C1 to A1 key range. If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t hesitate to continue recording, and you can later cut the MIDI region to keep only the good part of the performance. Or stop the recording, choose Edit > Undo Recording (or press Command-Z), and try again.
Stop the recording.
Don’t forget that you can quantize the MIDI region in the Region inspector, or double-click the region and edit notes in the Piano Roll.
To give your vocal chops a sound that resembles the pitch variations heard when DJs scratch vinyl records, you can add pitch glide to Quick Sampler.
In Quick Sampler, in the Pitch section, drag the Glide knob up to around 103 ms.
Now each slice attack has a 103 ms pitch ramp up or down from the previous pitch.
If you’re so inspired, take a moment to continue adjusting the sound of all your tracks, add effect plug-ins, and move or copy your regions in the workspace to create different sections. When you’re done, you can save your work and open an example project that uses the techniques you’ve learned in this lesson.
Choose File > Save (or press Command-S).
Choose File > Close Project (or press Option-Command-W).
Open Logic Book Projects > 05 Sample Feast.
Play the project.
Listen to the different sections, and use Solo mode to focus on each track individually. Explore this project: open the Quick Sampler plug-ins, zoom in on the audio regions, look at their Transpose values in the Region inspector, and open the MIDI regions in the Piano Roll to look at the MIDI notes.
Note that the Just Like This Vocal track has some automation that makes the envelope release increase while the reverb goes crescendo in bars 19 and 20. You’ll learn how to add automation to your tracks in Lesson 10.
You’ve used samples both in a sampler plug-in and directly in the workspace. The Quick Sampler plug-in is now familiar to you, and you know how to import audio, switch modes, edit markers, and add modulation to your samples. You’re now well on your way to becoming a sampling ninja!