Is Using Loops Cheating (Is It Bad to Use Loops in Music)?

by ReverbLxnd in Mixing

What are loops in music? Is it bad to use loops and presets in music? Is it bad to use loops in music production?

If you are new to music production, it’s natural, especially very early on, to want to see what other producers are doing and try to copy and emulate.

In this article, I’m going to be addressing the skepticism about using loops and presets in music production.

I’m going to clarify exactly what loops are in music, and then give you some facts to help you decide whether you think it’s something you should be using in your music production.

Let’s jump right in.

What are Loops in Music?

A loop is an audio file, typically anywhere from a couple of seconds to 15 seconds long, that you can use a building when making music. It can be made of anything from a real instrument (drums for instance), a sound effect or synth, or any mixture of these.

The are many places you can buy loops on the internet.

If you are completely unfamiliar with the idea of selling loops, it like selling beats online but a few steps before that.

Instead of selling finished beats, you are selling melodic loops that other producers or beatmakers or whoever can then take chop up and then make their beats out of.

A preset is something slightly different.

A preset is a saved setting you would find in a synth, sequencer, etc. It lets you use a particular sound, or whatever settings it has, to make your music.

Is Using Loops Cheating / Is it Bad to Use Loops and Presets in Music?

So what I’ll discuss here is my personal opinion. It’s by no means right or wrong, it just my spin on this topic.

I think that there are times its invaluable to use loops and presets in your music.

Some people automatically shun it as not being proper music production.

I get this.

If you don’t use loops, you’re missing out, especially if you’re a beginner and even more if you’re an intermediate producer.

As I said, there are times when it okay to use loops and there are times when it’s not okay.

Let’s start with presets.

When to Use Presets

One thing to keep in mind when people say that using presets isn’t your sound (that you’ve not made it yourself), piano sounds and drum sounds, and any sound really, have been used in music for so many years.

People will recognize it as some type of sound, but as long as you’re doing something different with it, you can’t go wrong with a preset just because it is preset.

Presets can be great to just spark an idea of the type of sound that you want.

You can then adjust certain settings within whatever synth you’re using and make it your own.

The only time you can stray into trouble when you are using your own presets is when you are directly copying a pattern or a melody from another song. That will be recognized.

It might not get recognized immediately, but eventually, someone will realize that sounds the same as another song or melody or whatever it is.

As long as you are original with it, and as long as you are not directly copying other people, there is no harm in using presets.

Now, let’s move on to loops.

When to Use Loops

I have a different opinion on loops than I do of presets because loops are something you have to be a lot more careful with when you are using them in your music.

The big fear that people have with using loops and presets is that people will think the music they’ve made is unoriginal. There’s some validity to that, much more so with loops than presets.

Let’s talk about some good times to use loops.

If you’re using loops to get inspiration — say, you aren’t sure what kind of percussion you want in your drums or synth line you want, throw a couple of loops in and you might get a good pattern.

And then you can build your sound from that, or you can make your synth line from that.

Musicians have taken inspiration from other musicians throughout history.

Definitely nothing to be frowned upon.

One of pretty common practice throughout electronic music to using top loops..

Top loops are drum loops without a kick drum and any low frequencies in them. When you’ve made your drums (you’ve programmed a kick, clap, snare, hi-hat), you add in a top loop at really low volume to give a lot more energy to the drums.

Because the top loops are so low down and because there’s so much else going on, it’s not recognizable.

Top loops are an instance where I’d be more than happy to use a loop in my music production.

When NOT to Use Loops

Loops get a lot of bad press.

The reason they do is that people just, say, a drum loop, as their drums. That is not a particularly good idea.

It one thing to throw a drum loop in and draw some inspiration from it but then make your drums, it a completely different thing to build up a whole track purely using loops.

That’s one of the reasons loops get bad press.

With that in mind, let’s look at what are royalty-free loops and whether you should use them in your music production.

Should You Use Royalty-Free Loops

First of all, don’t feel bad if you don’t understand the business side of the music industry because it can be very confusing.

At the same time, know that it is your responsibility to understand these things because at the end of the day, nobody is going to take care of this but you.

I’m sure that if even dabbled a little bit in the creator world, be that music, video, or whatever it is, you’ve come across this idea of royalty-free.

If you read this blog, you probably know I’m not a fan of “royalty-free”, for reasons that I’ll discuss elsewhere.

What I want to mention here is that you do not have a way of knowing whether the royalty-free producer of those “royalty-free beats you found made them. You don’t know if they know what they’re talking about or they just copied someone else music.

Now more than ever, the barrier to producing music is really low.

Ultimately, I’m a fan of this because that means more people get to chase their dreams, but like all good things, there are two sides.

This low barrier of entry combined with bad information can become a legal nightmare pretty quickly.

One of the scenarios I see commonly is producer A creates a sample pack and labels his loops has royalty-free and puts them up on the site for sale. Producer B comes along, likes the samples, and sees that they are up for sale, especially because he sees they’re royalty-free and thinks “No royalties to pay”.

Then producer B goes on to make a hit record with those samples and he thinks he’s okay because he bought royalty-free loops. On the other hand producer A hears the hit record and now wants a cut. Producer B is left confused because that is not what he signed up for. The question then becomes “Is producer A wrong for demanding credit and compensation?”

I’ve seen this scenario play out more times than I can count.

Perhaps, this stems from not understanding what royalty-free means because in most cases, had producer A known what royal-free meant, he would have never labeled his loops as such. And had producer B known what producer A wanted, he would not have purchased the loops and avoided the problem altogether.

Even when loops are labeled royalty-free, if a record pops, in almost all cases the loop producer will want a cut.

If you know that and accept that risk beforehand, good on you.

What Does Royalty-Free Loops Mean, Exactly?

Royalty-free means no royalties

The loops are not FREE.

You are asking for a one-time payment, typically at the point of purchase, and you are foregoing or giving up any future payments no matter what.

There are three major royalties in music — performance royalties, mechanical royalties, and sales royalties.

Royalties are also called points — you’ll often hear of producer talk of having point on an album.

Royalties are another topic but I hope you’re getting a pretty good idea of what we are talking of giving up with when we say royalty-free.

In Conclusion

There’s an advantage to using loops and presets, as long as you use them for a bit of inspiration, or to pad out elements of your song that you’ve made yourself.

You definitely shouldn’t completely avoid loops or presets just because they get a bad rap, but you have to use them carefully.

If you are starting, I think you should be using presets because they save a massive amount of time that could be spending on programming a sound that’s already been made as long as you make it your own.

I see no fault in using presets, right off-the-bat and I would actively encourage it.

When it comes to loops, be careful, but don’t avoid them as long as you are not just using them to make entire songs.

There’s a use case for loops and presets at any level.

Most producers use loops (even producers I look up to), they just use them carefully.

I hope that’s helped, don’t forget to drop your email in our newsletter below to get notified when we put out more awesome stuff like this.

That’s it for this article.


I've been a musician and brought in my stuff for mixing and mastering, I've been my own producer where I wrote, recorded, mixed and sold my own stuff. Now, I'm *mostly* an audio engineer, where I only record and mix for clients. I'm currently based in Berlin, Germany, where I operate ReverbLand out of. Got a question? DM me on Instagram or Twitter @reverblxnd everywhere, or shoot me an email I'd love to hear from you.

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