BFA's Momentum combines samples and loop manipulation with an irresistible price tag.
There's no shortage of tools for integrating pre-recorded audio loops into your music-making workflow. Whether that's some routine tempo or pitch matching, or more creative slicing, dicing and processing, most DAWs offer at least a basic loop tool set and there are many third-party virtual instruments that include loop-based options. However, if your budget is tight (or even non-existent), one new option is Big Fish Audio's Momentum, a plug-in-based loop playback and manipulation tool. And, yes, it's free... but is it any good?
Momentum is a free download from BFA's website: www.bigfishaudio.com. If you do not already have a BFA account, you will need to create one and, once Momentum is installed, you will also need to log in via the software's UI. The upside of this is that, once logged in, any BFA loop library products you already have registered within your account will automatically appear within the My Files tab of Momentum's browser. Flip to the Browser's Store tab and you can, of course, browse, audition and purchase content from the extensive BFA catalogue.
There are already a number of 'Momentum-ready' titles within the Store, while some older content you might already own will have a 'Coming Soon' label within the My Files section. I imagine BFA will gradually be adding the required metadata to these to make them fully Momentum-friendly. There is, however, a free 1.8GB sample pack so everyone can explore the full feature set. And while there are some excellent, genre-based, construction kit titles in the Store which I'm sure BFA would be happy to see you dip into, you can drag and drop any audio loops — third-party or your own — into Momentum for playback and processing.
Aside from the Browser section on the left (which can be collapsed when not required), Momentum's key features are divided across some fairly self-explanatory panels, some of which serve multiple functions. Whether from Momentum's own browser or elsewhere, audio loops can be dragged and dropped into the upper half of the display. This then generates suitable mixer channels (in the upper panel) and key mapping (in the virtual piano keyboard) for each loop.
The behaviour is different if you drag a full Momentum-ready construction kit from the Browser. In this case, each sub-set of loops (drums, bass, guitar 1, etc) then share a mixer channel and are grouped together in the key map. In addition, when such construction kit loops are triggered (for example, 'bass verse'), the virtual keyboard highlights the related loops within each group (all other loops intended for the 'verse' section). Aside from saying loops can sometimes be a lifesaver for media composers on a deadline, I'll leave you to have your own debate about the merits of construction kit-based music, but the way Momentum handles these prepared kits is undoubtedly very slick.
You can set the project's global key via the drop-down menu located top-right and can pitch-shift loops in real time via the pink coloured keyswitches. Many loops libraries (including BFA's) come with original root note and tempo data embedded, but you can manually adjust this for individual loops if required. Loops recognised as drum or percussion don't get pitch-shifted by the keyswitches and, of course, all loops can be tempo-matched to your DAW host. The quality of both the pitch and tempo manipulation is easily on a par with similar processes in other products or the better DAWs, which is to say it works very well providing you don't stray too far from the original tempo/pitch. Different triggering modes, sync, and stretching options can also be configured.
So, at one level, Momentum can be used as a single hub for your triggering, mixing and real-time pitch/tempo manipulation of all the loops within a project. The Mixer includes a comprehensive suite of insert and send-based effects. However, providing your DAW supports it, multiple outputs are also supported if you prefer to do your audio processing within your DAW's mixer. Used as a loop playback hub in this way, Momentum provides a simple and very effective platform, whether you are working with a Momentum-ready construction kit or a selection of your own loops.
However, if you are more interested in slicing, dicing and mangling loops rather than just triggering construction kit elements, then Momentum can also do that. Clicking on the Slice button (bottom-left) changes Momentum into Slice mode, where it allows you to do more detailed manipulation of a single loop. The upper Mixer display is replaced with a waveform display/editor panel for the currently selected loop (you can select from the loops currently loaded within the Momentum project via the panel located bottom-right). Loops are automatically sliced, and you can now trigger individual slices rather than multiple loops. Slices can be edited manually or set to a fixed grid resolution. You can zoom in/out on the waveform display for easier editing.
Once you are happy with the way your loop is sliced, selecting the FX button (top-left of the waveform panel) then allows you to get busy with some slice-level effects processing. The lower effects panel allows you to toggle on any of the main effect types — VolPan, Pitch, Reverse, Stutter, Filter, LoFi, Delay and Reverb — and set the level of various parameters for each effect on a per-slice basis. There is nothing radically new here in terms of loop manipulation, but it is well implemented, easy to use and a heck of a lot of fun. If you like to mangle your loops to squeeze that extra creative mile out of them, then Momentum has plenty to offer.
If you like to mangle your loops to squeeze that extra creative mile out of them, then Momentum has plenty to offer.
Once you have sliced a loop, you also have the option to drag and drop a MIDI–triggering clip back into your host DAW. This can, of course, then be further edited to change the order and/or timing of slice triggering. Again, it's standard stuff, but well done none-the-less.
Perhaps the only point to emphasise here is that, in a single instance of Momentum, in terms of triggering, you are either in Mixer mode (where you can trigger multiple loops) or Slice mode (where you can trigger slices within any single loop); you don't seem to be able to mix and match both behaviours. However, if you have applied slice-level effects to a loop while in Slice mode, these effects are then applied as the whole loop is triggered in Mixer mode.
So, who might Momentum appeal to? Well, it's free, so anyone with even a passing interest in using loops within their workflow can audition the software without any commitment other than creating a free BFA account. From BFA's perspective, they will obviously be hoping that interested users enjoy the free tool and might then be tempted into the Store tab to purchase some additional loop content. This strikes me as a fair — and perfectly transparent — trade and, of course, you are not obliged to buy anything.
From the user perspective, some might object to the requirement to log in to a BFA account on first use but, in my own testing at least, once configured, Momentum worked quite happily in the absence of an internet connection. That aside, I've no criticisms of the tool itself; Momentum is simply a polished and efficient platform with plenty of creative possibilities. It might not break any particularly radical new ground in terms of features but having a single plug-in within your DAW host that can handle all the loop-manipulation and playback duties within a specific project is an attractive proposition. And, at this price, getting some Momentum into your loop-based projects is a no-risk undertaking.
Die-hard loopers might already have their workflow in place, but for everyone else, Momentum is well worth exploring.
- A polished loop-manipulation and playback tool.
- Lots of creative options.
- It's free!
- Doesn't break any radically new ground.
- Some may be deterred by the presence of the Store.
- At this price, nothing else to criticise!
Momentum offers a very slick loop–manipulation and playback front-end for use with BFA's loop content or your own. Something for nothing that's well worth a look.