Ever wanted to add a little extra glitchy texture to a sound? Of course you have, and you probably have a wealth of effects at your disposal that can twist sound in all sorts of ways to accomplish this. Today, however, we'll look at a much less conventional technique that turns any kind of audio into virtual magnetic tape we can grab and play back with our hands, creating some pretty interesting, time-bending results...
First of all, open up preferences and make sure “Permanent Scrub Areas” is toggled in the Look Feel tab. With this option turned on (or by holding shift if it is off), clicking the lower half of a clip anywhere on its Clip View timeline will snap the playhead to where that point. When you click and hold the mouse over this area in Arrangement View, the playhead will continually reset to the cursors position, even as you drag it over different positions.
This is awfully limited at this stage, and that’s because the interval the playhead resets at is determined by global quantization (which is likely still set to the default value of 1 bar). If you turn global quantization off [cmd + 0], the “refresh rate” is effectively instantaneous, allowing the playhead to freely follow as you drag your cursor across the clip (while continuing to hold the mouse click).
Cool trick huh? You can now effectively control the speed of the transport with the mouse. Try scanning through a sound at 1/4 speed, or twice as fast, or backwards, or randomly, all of which lead to interesting, glitchy distortions of the original audio. Well what if you want to record the results? As you can see above, in Arrangement View, moving the playhead in the clip moves the global playhead, disabling recording as soon as the scrub area is clicked. This isn’t the case in Session View, so switch out of Arrangement View and drop the audio you want to use in a clip slot.
Scrubbing works a bit differently over here. By default, the playhead will only jump to the cursor when the mouse stops moving. To switch back to the Arrangement View behavior, turn on Legato mode in the clip's Launch Box. Now the playhead resets with every move of the mouse, just like in Arrangement View.
Create and arm a separate audio track and select “Resampling” as its input to set it up for capturing the output of your scrub track. In Session View, each clip has its own independent playhead, so the recording clip won't reset or stop when the scrub clip gets scrubbed. Therefore, it continues to record all the sound it hears running through the master in real-time!
So now you have a perfectly good way to record all the crazy output you generate with this technique! From here, it’s all about experimentation. How does it sound scrubbing through a vocal and layering that recording back in with the dry vox? What movement does it add to a pad? What kind of insane percussion sounds can you generate by scrubbing through a drum break and chopping up the output? There’s a whole lot of fun to be had here, and I hope this tutorial launches you into a new world of sound design!
If you love splitting up your sounds into tiny slices and spitting back out something completely different, you’re probably already familiar with loads of methods for doing similar transformations that are quite a bit more straightforward. One of the most popular options is Robert Henke’s Max for Live device Granulator, which in some ways can be seen as an amalgamation of the scrubbing technique with a traditional subtractive synthesizer. Dedicated granular processors like this will give you much more control over your sound, but it’s good to have a strange, immediate, and unpredictable method in your producer's toolbox as well!