“Sound Smack” by AfroDJMac: Musical Magic Tricks via the Free Audio App Paul Stretch — w/Video Tutorial

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New York-based producer, songwriter, guitarist, and live electronic musician AfroDJMac visits SonicScoop regularly to share his discoveries about in-the-box electronic music making. His focus is on creating instruments and effects with character and practicality for the live electronic musician. Be sure to check out the free Ableton Live Device Rack he posts every week.

The simple interface of Paul Stretch holds complex potential for sound design and effects.

Paul Stretch is a free application for Mac and Windows that allows you to do some serious stretching of your audio. Now, I’m not talking about the kind of small stretching you might do when matching two songs to the same BPM, I’m talking EXTREME.

Ever wanted to hear what a song might sound like stretched 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 times (10^18)? Then Paul Stretch is for you. This software is capable of taking a 3-minute song and making it last well over five millennia! I seriously doubt any of us will be taking a road trip that would require a soundtrack of that magnitude, but it does open up some nice sound design possibilities.

How It Works

Head on over to http://hypermammut.sourceforge.net/paulstretch/ and download Paul Stretch free of charge.

Once you have it, you will need to click the file menu and open any audio file. The slider along the top determines how much your audio file will be stretched. On the Process Page, you can filter out certain frequencies, add compression, and shift the pitch.

A little tweaking can change the sound dramatically. I tend to find that every audio file sounds a little different, so I simply tweak to taste. When finished, you can render a portion of the audio. I prefer, however, to route the audio into a DAW using an application like the free Sound Flower, which allows you to send audio from one application to another.

For the purposes of this demonstration I will be routing audio into Ableton Live, but the principles are the same in any DAW. Follow along in the video as I demonstrate the techniques described below. Live users can download the project file and follow along here.

Video tutorial bonus! Follow along with AfroDJMac in person right here:

Paul Stretch for Adding Atmosphere

Once routed into a DAW, I like to treat my stretched audio as any other instrument track. The sounds generated from Paul Stretch are stretched to such a degree that they tend to lack definitive transients or much rhythmic information. The pitch of the audio is still retained and this can be useful in creating a sort of atmospheric backdrop to your music.

Try looping a portion of the stretched audio and adjusting its pitch to match that of your track. From there it can be mixed in to taste to give the track an ambient backing. This could prove especially handy during intros and breakdowns.

Consider adding a compressor sidechained to a rhythmic element from your session to add some movement to the stretched audio. A thoughtfully-placed tremolo or sidechained gate effect could also breath life into your stretched audio.

Sample That Stretch!

Any of you that know me from my Free Weekly Ableton Live Rack downloads will know that I love to sample just about anything and make it musical. Paul Stretched audio is no exception.

There are a couple of options here. First the stretched audio can simply be cut up in to smaller pieces and triggered on with your midi controller. From here you can rearrange your sounds as you would any sliced and diced sample. Don’t be afraid to add any processing effects to these chopped bits of sound.

Another approach is to take your stretched sample and map it out across your keyboard so you can play it like any other pitched synthesizer. This will give you a playable instrument with quite a unique sound to it.

Just for Fun

If you are into ambient music, then sometimes simply stretching out your audio to its breaking point, like the waistband on your dad’s tighty whiteys, is satisfactory enough.

Just to give you an idea of how surprisingly pleasing your results can be, despite your source material, here is a beautiful ambient piece (credited to Shamantis via http://soundcloud.com/shamantis ) created by slowing down Justin Beiber’s “Baby” 800%:

Have fun!

AfroDJMac: (noun) One Man Musical Aphrodisiac; Simultaneously Futuristic and Nostalgic Indie Dance Party, blending Rock, Dance, Glitch, and Old Video Games.

  • kent williams

    Inspired by seeing this article, I refreshed my build of PaulStretch for OS X. If any of you mac people want it.
    Current version for OS X Snow Leopard x86, with a link to a PPC build, if you’re really archaic like that.

  • Anonymous

    Extremely useful article. Paul stretch redefined the way we look at over stretched audio, and these tip are exteremely helpful for making a cohesive composition from your experiments in the ultra slow.