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Tape Loops is an application that uses the good old principle of magnetic tape loops. It's basic functionality is as simple - it can play a sound in a loop or it can play it once. Additionaly, the app provides several useful functions, such as fading in and out, auto muting, synchronization, "random play" mode and several more. By starting up several instances of Tape Loops, the musician can create complex compositions. Tape Loops is done with a live performance in mind, since it's simple interface is visually very understandable and thus the audience can easily see what is going on.

If you feel that this might be useful to you, please help yourself to a download. Latest version includes synchronization and keyboard control. Should you have any suggestions, feel free to contact me.

Download Tape Loops



Demo videos.








Description.

This is the description of all the functions of the program. Keep in mind that the project is in active development, so when new functions are added, this description might not be updated immediately.

Keyboard.


Synchronization with the master deck

There are two methods to synchronize - manually and with the help of the master deck. The manual method is what I would suggest - the response from the computer keyboard is instant and with little practice you would be able to synchronize your loops without any special effort. However, if you lack the practice or just want to focus on something else, you can use the master deck. Note, however, the downsides of this method (mentioned further in this section).

Synchronizing either manually or with the master deck requires well prepared loops - they have to be byte precise which is possible when saving a loop out of a sequencer. If you will try to synchronize loops which you simply cut out of a record, sooner or later they will go async nad Tape Loops at present offers no way to fix that seamlessly during play.

Anyway, once the loops are ready, load one of them into the deck, click "Master" button (or press "V" on the keyboard). The deck will now change color and have "Master" written on it. Then mute it and press play - your master deck is ready.
Master deck sets the tempo for other decks, but normally you wouldn't want it to be heard, as there is an audible delay between master deck and synchronized loops. However, synchronized decks would be perfectly synced with each other.

To synchronize a deck to the master you have to load a loop and then click "Sync" button (or press "C"). "Sync" button will change caption to "...", which means that it is waiting for a sync signal from the master deck. As the master deck position slider goes back to the beginning, the sync deck will start playing as well. Very soon the "..." caption will change back to "Sync".

Warning: you cannot sync several loops at a time. If you press "sync" on a deck, while some other deck awaits the sync signal, the new deck will take over while the previous deck will loose focus and stay in the waiting mode with nothing happening. To fix this youll have to reset it by clicking "...", it will rever the deck to normal mode and then click "Sync" again.

While generally automatic synchronization works fine, there can be problems.

First of all, sometimes the master deck clock will miss the fact that it started over and fail to send the sync signal. Since the slave deck is still in waiting mode, next time the master deck starts playing over it will send the signal, as it is highly unlikely that this problem goes for several loops in a row, however that would mean that if you wanted the loops to kick in right at this moment - it did not happen. Can be disappointing if it is a climax of the song with the beat or bass or both coming into the mix.

Second, if your computer has a RAM heavy or processor heavy app going in the background, sometimes the deck will not enter sync mode instantly and can freeze for several seconds, which might also spoil the timing.

Third problem is rare but does occur. Sometimes the computer would mess up a bit and create a larger than usual delay between the master deck and the slave deck, which will result in the slave deck going horribly out of sync with the rest of the mix. This is not a frequent case, but it does happen, especially if you try to sync at the moment the master loop is about to restart.

All in all, master deck method is reliable enough, but for live performances I would suggest using either fully manual control or else the combination of both.


Fading in, fading out

To fade in a loop you have to press "X", to fade out - "Z".

Fading has two extremely useful parameters to consider - the speed of the fade and the volume limit.

The speed is how fast will the volume change. The default setting is Medium. In the status bar you can see "m". By using keys Q,W,E and R you are able to switch between Slow, Medium, Fast and Faster respectively and that change will be displayed in the status bar as "s", "m", "f" or "ff" for - no, not Firefox - faster.

Fade limit is the volume to which you want to fade. For example, if you need to fade in a loop, but you need to keep it quiet and not go to a full 100 volume, you set a fade limit 30 and Tape Loops will fade the sound in and stop increasing the volume when it reaches 30. Same applies for the fade out.
If you, say, start the fading in and set the fade limit to 30 when the volume is already 40, the fade in will then proceed to 100. The fade limit is set on the fly with the number keys. The "~" key stands for 0, and the "0" key stands for 100. Remember, you can only set fade limit when you are in fading mode. Out of fading mode the keys will set loop volume. However, during fading mode you can use T and G keys to change volume of the loop.


J decks

A J deck is a deck that will automatically mute/unmute when it goes back to loop start. This function is useful if you want to start/stop several synchronized decks at a time. To make the deck become a J deck, simply press "J". It will turn into a normal deck when it goes mute/unmute.


K decks

A K deck can be applied to a muted deck. When the deck reaches the end of the loop it will unmute and play the loop and then mute it again. Useful for firing one shot things like a crash cymbal in a synchronized mix.


Random play

A very powerful feature, random play function triggers the deck at a random time within 20 seconds. It lets the deck play to the end and then decides again. Good for creating ambience and experimenting with multiple loops. Press "U" on the keyboard to turn the random play function on/off.

By holding down Shift and pressing +/-, you can change the random play period from the default 20. The range is from 10 seconds to 86400 seconds (24 hours). So, if you set 86400 seconds, your loop will be triggered some time within 24 hours.


Random play with clustering

Clustering allows you to create groups of sounds which are triggered randomly for a set number of times (cluster number) and then have a pause period (cluster period) when they do not sound. That allows to create developing soundscapes rather than homogeneous ones. Typically, it is used on a group of note loops which create a random "melody". In order to have the best results, it is best to have larger cluster periods and smaller cluster number. Also, the randomplay period should also best be kept low. If the cluster number is great and so is the randomplay period, the cluster will quickly dissipate into individual sounds. With lower values the cluster will still dissipate, but very slowly and with the cluster number of around 10, randomplay period of 20 and a pause period of about 300-500 seconds the cluster will pretty much stay together for a long period of time. However, all the cluster loops should have the same length, otherwise you will have to calculate different randomplay periods to compensate for the difference and that is hard work.



Some audio examples.