How to create a perfect loop
Writing music for a video game will almost always require loops. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big budget AAA title or a small indie production, music loops are used in every game. before, and you can use any audio editing software from Audacity to Logic to achieve this.
This technique is pretty much bulletproof and quite easy to perform too, so let’s look at how to do it.
The secret of video game music
In video games, it’s common for music sections to loop so players can spend as much time as they need in one area of a game. When you’re playing good music on a loop, you’ll barely notice the transition. between the end of the song and the beginning.
Composing great looping music that you’ll never get tired of hearing, even after listening to it over and over, takes a lot of skill. But luckily, technically producing a perfect loop in a DAW is really easy!
The tail-forward method is a way to achieve smooth loops in video game music. In a nutshell, this method is to copy the last seconds of music and paste them at the beginning. After that, smooth the transition with a little fade and bounce the new audio track. And that’s it, nothing could be simpler.
We’ll be using Logic Pro X to demonstrate how to do the tail-forward method, but keep in mind that any DAW will work. If you don’t have paid audio editing software, there are plenty of free music production software you can try.
1. Record or Bounce the track
Start by recording the music you want to loop, or if you’re working in MIDI, start by bouncing your music to a new audio track. If you are already working in audio, you can skip this step.
To convert a MIDI track to audio, right-click on the audio region and select Bounce in place. In the dialog window that appears, make sure the option to Include audio tail in file is not selected. It is important that this option is disabled for this method to work. Select OKAY when you are ready to create a new audio track.
2. Cut the last bars
Once you have your audio track, cut the last bars/seconds of music at the end and move it to the beginning. You may need to shuffle the audio tracks to make room for it.
The best advice for determining where to cut the music is to look for a point where the sound crosses the 0 dB line, also known as the “zero crossing” (the horizontal line that crosses the audio file).
Use the zoom sliders in the upper right corner of the editing timeline to enlarge the waveform until it is just a line. Once you have done this, the zero crossing point will be very easy to find. Pressing Ordered and + will also help make the waveform more visible.
When you’ve found the best place to cut, move the playhead to that position and press Command + T divide the region. Then grab the new clip and drag it to the start of your music.
3. Smooth the transition point
Now is the time to smooth the transition between the new clip at the start of the track and the original start of the music. To do this, you just need to add a crossfade between the two clips.
Select the fade tool located in the thin strip above the edit timeline. Next, you’ll want to zoom to the point where the two clips meet using the horizontal zoom slider at the top right of the editing timeline. To create a fade, click and drag on both clips and adjust the boundaries as needed. Listen to the transition to see if the two clips flow together seamlessly.
Finally, add the smallest possible fade to the start and end of the entire track, about 10 samples long.
4. Bounce the track again
Since the last seconds of music have been cut and placed at the beginning, the end of the music should now loop back to the beginning perfectly. You can test this by creating a looped region over the entire piece of music and listening to how it sounds.
To create a loop region, click and drag on the thin strip above the editing timeline where the bar numbers are. This will create a yellow highlighted area that you can adjust to cover the entire track. Play the music back to see how the end of the song loops back to the beginning – there should be no pops or clicks.
Now you have a perfect, seamless curl!
5. Add a reverb tail (optional)
If the transition in the loop still seems noticeable, you can try adding a reverb tail. To do this, take the few seconds of music from the end and move it to the beginning as you did in step two, but this time put it on a separate track.
In an empty plugin slot, add a Reverberation to this audio snippet and adjust the settings according to the music. Next, add a few small fades at the transition point, where the two tracks meet. one at the end of the snippet and one at the beginning of the original audio.
Listen to see how it sounds, and once you’re happy with the result, bounce the whole piece of music. The reverb tail added above the transition point will help hide any noticeable difference.
Tips and Tricks for Looping Music
Below, we’ve listed some additional tips and tricks to help you create the perfect loop.
- You can bounce multiple MIDI tracks at once by selecting multiple tracks and pressing Bounce in place.
- If you’re having trouble finding a good place to cut the track in step two, another option is to dial in a few extra bars of music to function as a transition (also called a post-roll).
- Another way to check if your loop is seamless is to duplicate your track directly after the first copy. Listen to the transition between the two tracks to check for pops or clicks.
Looping music is just one element of composing music for video games. read our introduction to creating music for games if you want to learn more.
The Almighty Loop
To create the perfect loop, all you need to know is a few basic audio editing functions that you can find on almost any DAW. Besides that, no other fancy tools are required to create a loop for a video game. We’ve shown you how to use the tail-forward method in Logic, but try it on one of your favorite DAWs.
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