Going Loopy: Creating Loop Routines in Traktor

When it comes to DJing, controllerism, turntablism and the like, all too often we think of things from a purely club based angle when there’s rich potential for many techniques in the context of routine based DJing. Making your own showcases with a looper is just one of those techniques…


There are, as usual, plenty of options when it comes to tools to use for the technique at hand. Loop pedals – popular with guitarists and turntablists alike – are the most time honoured way, but software solutions such as Ableton Live and Traktor can furnish us with some very creative opportunities. Ableton Live since version 8 has had live looping built in, but today we’re going to focus on Traktor Pro, whose loop recorder has some very cool secrets to unlock. So, Traktor Pro aside, what is it that we need? Well, something that’ll make things more practical for us is a foot pedal; ideally when you record a loop your hands will be free to be busy creating music, so activating by foot is a big plus. To do this, you can use anything from a keyboard sustain pedal to a dedicated foot controller (we reviewed the SoftStep controller a few weeks ago), or even botch together a DIY model from a butchered computer keyboard and some stiff card. We have the software; we have the hardware. Now we just need some creativity.


There’s one important thing to decide before you start recording: Loop length. The loop recorder will allow you to mix different loop lengths together and ensure they stay synced up, but it’s usually easiest (and more organic sounding) to stick with a loop length and play all the way through. Keep it short and you’ll be able to make quick changes and minimise the risk of recording an error at the expense of variation, make it long and you’ll have potential for a more interesting loop, albeit a more difficult to record one. I think a four bar loop is the ideal compromise for most loops; you can perform a shorter phrase twice with a flourish the second time, and if needs be you can always increase the loop size to eight bars for longer sections. To select loop length, just hit the ‘size’ button in the loop recorder. While we’re up here, set the wet/dry knob to 50% too (that’ll allow you to hear the loop and your decks equally), set the recorder to record from your cue (you’ll need to do this to ensure you only record the deck you want to each take) and snap is probably a good idea to make sure you get nice, clean loops.

One thing that all good loop routines have in common is a solid foundation. Whether we start with drums or instrumentation it’s important that we nail the timing to ensure that the rest of the loop hangs together, and we can do this in one of two ways: Pre-selected loop or metronome click track. If you use a pre-selected loop, you can be sure that the timing will be spot on if you ensure that the track playing the loop is set to master; just hit record and you’re off! If you want to build things up totally from scratch, make use of the metronome. It hides behind the left hand FX panel, and pressing the ‘tick’ button sends the master clock’s tempo out to your monitor channel, so have your headphones ready. Once you’ve recorded your first loop, you might want to turn it back off again. What else are we missing? Oh yes: sounds! You’ll already have an Aladdin’s cave of sound to mine for your routine in your music library; think of your favourite tracks with open hits, drums, melodies and basslines and how you could wrench those sounds from their constituent tracks and meld something entirely new. If you want to get truly original, and perhaps gain an appreciation for an entire artform in itself, it’s time to go crate digging. Little loops and sounds, be they from classical, experimental rock, jazz, or what have you, are just waiting to be recorded from old vinyl, tended to with cue points, and then unleashed on your routine. As a final suggestion, sample packs are a rich resource of one shots and loops just waiting for your care and attention.


There are a handful of basic ways to use sound to record a loop. First is to literally loop an existing piece of music. It could be from a track you have in your collection, a sample pack, or you could have made it yourself. Sometimes the best sounds can be had by looping something recognisable or just too damn cool to need to chop up, but beware that creating a loop composition based entirely on already existing loops is not really the most exciting way to show off your skills. To raise the excitement – and skill – quotient, we need to start thinking about creating those loops live. Here are just a few techniques you could use, from obvious to crazy:

  • Put some cues on your tracks and play them like instruments (Ean demonstrates this with the bassline in his Ozzy routine).
  • Load samples into a sample deck to allow you to play them polyphonically – great for drums. You could either load in single drum hits you’ve acquired from sources such as sample packs or put loop markers around drums you’ve found in tracks and then drag them into the sample slots.
  • Give plooping – DJ Shiftee’s affectionately termed ultra-short loop effect – a try. For the nitty gritty, look here.
  • Loop a tone up and play with pitch, filter, and effects to create things like dubstep basslines and screaming electric guitars (Ean puts this to good use in his Ozzy routine).
  • Combine some – or even all – of the above with scratching. Scratch the odd note in the middle of a cue juggle or scratch out an entire vocal line for aural bliss.


Okay, so by now you should be getting the idea: building a looper routine has a bunch of possibilities. With the loop recorder just getting fuller and fuller the more loops we record, though, the dynamics of a loop routine tend towards starting small and building into a crescendo before exploding into nothing. What if you want to create something a little more sequenced sounding? In that case, I’ve developed a mapping idea that, with a single button press, allows you to send the loop recorder to the next available sample deck slot and clear the loop recorder ready for more recordings. This technique will allow you to (assuming you use an entire, single sample deck) have four independent sample layers which can be muted and unmuted as you please, giving much more flexibility.

  • Set up a pedal to initiate recording of the loop.
  • Set up another pedal, or a button, to copy from the loop recorder to the first slot of the sample deck you want to use, but set a modifier condition that the slot has to be empty (0) first.
  • On the same (second) pedal/button, set up a mapping to copy the loop recorder to the second slot of the sample deck, but set modifier conditions that the first slot has to be playing (2) and the second slot has to be empty. Repeat this logic for slot three and four.

This setup will send the contents of the loop recorder to the next empty sample deck when you hit that second pedal/button, but only then – so you can build up a loop until you want to start something separate. Neat, huh? Because Traktor always mutes the sample slot initially, and there’s no way to turn that behaviour off, we also need to do just a little more work to turn this into a workable solution:

  • Mark four buttons/pedals for mute/unmute duties on the slots.
  • For each button, map ‘slot mute/unmute’ set to toggle to it.
  • Also for each button, map ‘loop recorder delete’ to it.
  • For extra safety, use a modifier on your loop record button so that when it is pressed it is set to 1. Set a modifier condition on each loop recorder delete command so that the modifier has to be 0 to ensure the loop can’t be deleted mid-record.

Now, each time you want to start a fresh loop layer you simply press your new layer pedal/button to send what you have in the loop recorder to a sample slot. The loop will continue to play in the loop recorder until you activate the sample slot, at which point the sample slot takes over and the loop recorder is cleared, ready for you to carry on (if you were to take a look at my string theory piece you might get an idea for a single button press that does all these steps for you…). You can then use these buttons to mute and unmute your layers. Oh, one more thing: you might want to hook up a mapping to clear slots, so that you can reuse them.

If you’re in one of those lazy moods you might be looking forward to a mapping ready for you to download and try out. Sorry ladies and gents, there’s not one; I thought about it but the vast amount of possibilities for different setups combined with the fact that this is really only a five minute job in the controller editor means that it would probably take longer to edit a mapping to your own MIDI preferences than it would to make one from scratch! One final thing – Merry Christmas and happy holidays to one and all!

loop pedalLoopersample decksTraktor TipsTutorial
Comments (36)
Add Comment
  • rasp haunt

    WOW,so funny that even with all the awesome things traktor does.,and even looping,most of the kats that come here sound 98% THE SAME….the loop pedal function is thee way to perform and build your own sound…has nayone seen DJ Radar from Bomb Shelter Dj’s in Phoenix,who actually was thee first to use an actual loop pedal foe his ‘one man band’ routines that were so incredible and original that he ended up playing with PhilHarmonic caliber symphonies?….fine…it seems that Traktor is a lot like PhotoShop…It does soooo much more than people can even dream….yet,they just use the basic ‘Rubber stamp’,-smudge tool- and filters’….if one reads the manual to Photoshop…you would learn that you can take counterfeiting or damaged sentimental art restoration to a whole new paradigm….Thanks Ean…You truly explain in a way that almost everyone can ingest.-I use an RC300 loop pedal,because I was looping before DVS,once I saw DJ Radar do it,I was blown away…it not only brings the ‘Show’ back to the ‘Show’….you are,and make no mistake,a Regular DJ….U are now an Artist,a sound collage artist….not just playing other peoples music….but building compositions from ‘any’ sound…music or not….again Ean,im so glad they have you here to explain and teach what you do,and the power of the software…my hats off to you sir-

  • phil_lip

    wicked article, really helpful and informative! I was wondering, can this method of sending the recorded loop straight into the track deck be applied with traktor 2.5 and the remix decks/kontrol F1, enabling you to store many more different loops than was possible with the track deck?

  • calkutta

    or,if you wanna get super nuts,get an RC-300/50 or any multi-loop guitar pedal thats stereo,plus the traktor looping.i do this and sound like a whole band.its enough with jus the RC,but add the perfect-ness of traktor and it gets pretty darn crazy cool inna whole new way.

  • G4jon

    It would be good to see a complete mapping template for this functionality, on a download pdf if possible. I can’t get it to work so I am obviously not putting in the correct values/modifier states etc….. 

  • Jordan Berlingeri

    It appears a few disgruntled readers are on a campaign to show DJTT and staff as a bunch of product pushing pimps.

    The word is ‘delegation’. If you honestly think that Mr. Golden or Mr. Shiftee or any other DJ for that matter is remotely interested or concerned with backend web programming, well… to you I say, “HA!”

    Besides, if an advertiser wanted to give you monthly money to run a banner or pop-up window on your site…

    All I’m saying is that the bills gotta get paid. And trust me, Shiftee and Ean are paying theirs. So, if they wanna help others pay their bills by selling ad space on their sites, I find it hard to see any fault there. Isn’t it the ad execs who are getting duped anyway?!

    I for one appreciate this site and the talented, passionate individuals who take the time to bring me information concerning the latest DJ hardware and software products. Otherwise, breaking into a new medium of creation may have been a bit more ominous.

    And for those complaining about the length of time between tutorials, get busy with YOUR business! Reach out to members of community forums centered around the products you have chosen to purchase. Read blogs, sites, and any piece of technical information you can on music production, creation, recording, theory… We have the Internet for Sagan’s sake!

    Take initiative and ownership and cease your petty complaints. Some bitch and moan about artist selling out while half a world away, children go shoeless and hungry. If you want something to cry about, try starving from birth. You’ll get a bit more compassion from this sot. Otherwise, hold your tongue, bite it till it bleeds even and keep your G5, well fed, bitter accusations of others to yourself. 

  • Dreamr OKelly

    I just don’t understand how underrated Ean is and how overhyped other DJs are that just spin products mostly.

    Ean fing kills it in these demo remixes.

  • JuanSOLO

    DJTT seems more and more to be about advertising and selling themselves and/or some product, I didn’t even want to read the article because of a DJTT ad that popped up. Granted everyone’s trying to get paid, but for some reason they way you guys are doing it is starting to seem gross, reminding me of why MySpace got so lame. I know you guys have a tricky time with critisizm, but I’m just trying to tell you there is a booger hanging from your nose. 

    • Dreamr OKelly

      You are of course entitled to your opinion, however I would disagree to “some” extent. I don’t think it has hit the shameless level. In the end we are consumers of digital dj tools, and to be an informed consumer you need product reviews.

      And on the criticism point, I’ve never known DJTT to be very sensitive to what we post here as long as it isn’t personal attacks against other posters. I have been free to speak my mind here, even when it critiques DJTT.

      I am not affiliated with DJTT btw.

  • Tré Tuna

    I’ve just about got my loop mapping set perfect using a RigKontrol 3 for the loop recorder and the midi side of my X1 to control the sample decks once everything’s in. Still working out a few kinks, but been using it for a few months now and it’s a blast! Think you gave me an idea of how-to work out my last few kinks too. Thanks for the article!

  • Anonymous

    Just when I thought my mapping was complete, here’s DJTT and Chris with another great mapping idea.
    Damn you DJTT for making me enter the little mapping window again and again.

  • SmiTTTen

    Like I don’t have enough things to try and master now. Thanks for ruining Christmas! 

  • technicaltitch

    Brilliant article again thanks!

    Regarding un-muting the sample slot and clearing the loop recorder, might you be able to map both to the inverted trigger of the button used to copy the loop from recorder to sample slot? That way these functions would be triggered when you released the ‘copy to sample decks’ button.

    • Chris

      Unfortunately, due to limitations in Traktor’s mapping system, doing that has the side effect of muting and un-muting every sample slot as you press that pedal! I tried and failed to pin it down to a single switch, but it’s actually for the best if you consider you might not *always* want to send every loop to a slot without embellishing it first.

      You could do it with some string theory though, and far be it from me to say there’s definitely not a way to do it without, either…

      • Chris Cartledge

        Oops, that was me in another account!

  • Walter

    Didn’t know that the footswitch alignment of the S4 can be used with a dubble foodswitch. How does this work?

    • Walter

      örks! forget that! Should buy new glasses instead of a footswitch… 🙂

  • Ben

    Whats up with with the new s4 mapping? so much for two weeks………

    • Dreamr OKelly

      Seriously!!! Usually I do all my own mapping, but user mappings for the S4 are a bitch because you have to nullify existing mappings then override them with custom ones.

      I’m leaving the hard work to Ean’s team this time!

  • Hedgehog

    Great article Chris.You should at least give a list of the mapping-commands necessary to create such a mapping though.

    • Chris Cartledge

      Thanks Hedgehog! I have, but they’re not explicitly set out in verbatim terms; perhaps I’ll look into developing a way of setting out Traktor-speak for those that need an unequivocal step by step – thanks for the input.

    • G4jon

      agreed!! Please list the mapping-commands!!!!

  • Noelflava

    Nice article, I myself have been trying to drop loops from the loop recorder into the sample decks for ages now with no luck. Not sure if this is possible with the standard S4 mapping? Been a bit careful about changing the mapping for the S4. Anyone know if you can add modifiers and still keep the factory mapping running? 

    • Joey Boots

      if you hold the browse button down, it trigger the copy mode.  I’m pretty sure that in that mode you can copy any flashing light to another flashing light.  Examples would be cue of deck b to cue of deck c.  This will copy the deck over and will but it in the exact same spot.  You can also (while holding down the browse magnifying glass) click either the play or record button in the loop recorder and copy it to a sample deck (or possibly a track deck).

    • Anonymous

      When in doubt, get the manual out.:)

      Joey is correct. To get a sample from the loop recorder to a sample deck slot, press and hold the browse button, then press the play button of the loop recorder to make it the source, then select a sample slot and the sample in the loop recorder will be added to that slot.

      If you want to see how this is done, watch this video. (another great example of how loops can work.:))

      Here is the tutorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zazd80d0nEE


  • Da Beef

    Awesome tips wanted to have a setup like this but didn’t think it was possible great work guys

  • John Wayne

    just read the article and look at the pictures.  If you can do better do better.

  • Alexfells

    Been waiting for an article of the loop recorder. Its on of those bits of traktor I never use but really want to get into using in a constructive way.

  • Anonymous

    God! I wish this site would stop shamelessly shilling products and insulting us with their incessant advertising! What happened to the amazingly detailed, well thought out dj tutorials they used to post? Oh wait.

    • Acidistic

      if you don’t like it leave! There always has to be somebody that bitches about every article now.

      • Anonymous

        The “oh wait” at the end is meant to indicate I was being sarcastic.  This is exactly the kind of article that everyone is complaining that DJTT doesn’t put out.  I agree, there are an absurd number of haters in the comments, which is what I was trying to poke fun at.

        • Djsquaretube

          You didn’t pull it off very well

          • BADFiSH

            Ean Golden seem to think so.

          • Tomii!!

            I thought it was funny. LMAO! guess it was just over your head. I can feel your love tho

    • Ean Golden

      thanks for the sarcastic support.. 🙂 

    • Deacojonez

      seriously dude that was amazing how can you be such a sarcastic dick. Why dont you make something thats revolutionary and think out side the box.
      Oh wait.