Loop Van Winkle — a whimsical polyrhythmic loop recorder

Loop Van Winkle is a grid-based loop recorder, with polyrhythmic and probabilistic elements, designed to create interesting rhythmic elements from live audio, remix recorded or sequenced material, and do, you know, weird loopy stuff. The core of the experience is how the patch interacts with the UI on the first page: here, you can set record periods; playback is triggered following each record period, so placing more record periods in success leads to longer buffers that also are more delayed from the original input; you can also set the end-point of each record sequence, allowing for polyrhythmic possibilities.

Additionally, the recording and playback of the tracks can be set probabilistically, to allow for even more variation.

There are four separate tracks, each of which controls its own looper. Each track has individual controls for the playback speed/pitch of its recorded material, and the “reverse chance,” or the probability that a given playback will be forward or backward (setting the reverse chance to either extreme will lock the playback direction). Each track also has a pan position, although this can be randomized.

So, one way to think of this is as a multi-tap looper, with a lot of flexibility for the placement of record and play heads. This patch may sound kind of complicated, but I wanted to design a very accessible interface, and I think it’s much more intuitive in use than it is when being explained. (Hopefully.)

The patch passes stereo dry audio. The loopers sum inputs to mono, but they pass audio through the stereo field via the panning options.


Stompswitches (all stompswitch controls are replicated via buttons on the second page, to make this patch easier to drop into a Zebu setting):

Left — tap tempo (patch also accepts MIDI clock; there is a clock divider available on the third page of the patch); this is also replicated by the UI button called “Tap tempo” on the second page of the patch

Middle — reset (resets all of the loops to the first step of their record sequence); this is also replicated by the UI button on the second page called “Reset”

Right — lock buffers (no new audio is recorded into the loop buffers; record buttons now act solely as playback buttons — playback begins following the completion of a record buffer period — and can be re-arranged as desired); this is also replicated by the UI button on the second page called “Record-Play”

When the buffers are locked, the colors of the sequences on the first page will change.

First page:

Each track has an eight step sequence. If you press a button in sequence, the looper will record during that period, and it will begin playback as soon as the record period ends. So, adding more record periods in a row leads to longer recordings, as well as playback that is further in time (delayed) from the incoming audio.

If you press any of the buttons for ~1 second, that will set the last step for that sequence, so you can have sequences as short as two steps, or as long as eight steps. By setting different tracks to different lengths, polyrhythmic recording structures emerge.

At the bottom of the page are two groups of controls. The pitch controls allow you to set the pitch for the corresponding loop recording track (they are not labeled, but left to right corresponds to top to bottom).

The “reverse chance” controls allow you to set the probability that playback on that track will be played forward or reverse (0 = always forward; 1 = always backward; anywhere in between represents a probability of one or the other outcome). Again, these are not labeled but follow the same organizational principle.

Second page:

On the top row are controls for each track’s pan position. (Once again, the same left to right = top to bottom principle applies.)

There is also a button for “Random pan”; when this is engaged, each track’s playback will be randomly panned. The first track’s pan position control sets the range of panning (in absolute terms; e.g. if it is hard panned to the right, then the random panning can occur anywhere across the stereo field; if it mildly panned to the left, then the random panning will be limited to that range, either left or right).

On the second row are the buttons described alongside the stompswitches above.

On the third row are two probabilistic controls: “Density” determines the likelihood that a looper will playback. At 1, every time a recording period ends, that looper will begin playback. At 0, no playback will occur. In between are probabilistic weights that the loop will playback.

The complement to this control is “Refresh rate.” It determines the likelihood a looper will record new material. At 1, every time a recording period occurs, the looper will record new material from the input. At 0, new material will never be recorded. At points in between, probability determines whether or not new material is recorded.

On the fourth row are two modifiers: “Fade” will add a fade to the audio input, before it is recorded. This occurs per clock cycle, rather than per recording buffer, so when playing back multiple recording steps in succession, it will sound more like a tremolo effect. At 0, no fade is applied. At 1, fade in/out will occupy the whole length of the clock cycle.

“Feedback” feeds the output of all the loops back into the inputs. Because of the polyrhthmic nature of the patch, and because of the loopers only operating in play once mode, this is less likely to lead to wild arpeggiation than in some other looper feedback circumstances, but it can still lead to some interesting, ephemeral interplay between the loops. (There are circumstances in which it can produce runaway oscillation, so be mindful of that.)

On the bottom row are controls for the wet and dry levels. The wet level is somewhat above unity at 1 (because of the effects of the fade option as well as the way different playback speeds affect amplitude), so you may want to back it off, depending on your goals.

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  • Category: Effect
  • Revision: 1.0
  • License: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0
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  • Modified: 1 month ago
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One comments on “Loop Van Winkle — a whimsical polyrhythmic loop recorder
  • UncleGroOVe on said:

    I’ll be damned if this isn’t a CBA Habit plus a Monome patch, all rolled up purtily in one sonic taco :-)

    Hella fine job, and comes in handy because I was planning to concoct something like this and sync it up to my Loupé loops (so: bonus points for your timeliness!!)

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