Using iZotope Iris on Drum Loops

With Iris, iZotope has given digital musicians something exciting to explore! It's one of those synths that truly deserves to be termed as "innovative". Toby Pitman puts it to work on drum loops.  

I've been getting quite into Izotope Iris lately and it's proving to be a useful tool for manipulating drums and loops.

The main reason I really like Iris is that it reminds me of Metasynth. The ability to select parts of the frequency spectrum with almost Photoshop like tools is rather cool for me. 

Now although Iris is nowhere near as powerful as Metasynth when it comes to actual 'image to sound' trickery, it does have a major advantage and that's the ability to play your frequency selections via a MIDI keyboard on the fly. This all adds up to one immensely creative tool.

Loop Composites

So the main thing I've been playing with is compositing loops. Now I'm not sure if Izotope meant for this but it does a pretty great job of it. Because you can effectively select the sounds you don't want visually, (say a kick) and completely remove it from a loop it opens up a fair amount scope for merging loops together. This is something you just can't do with a normal EQ. 

Here's an example of what I mean.

Add In A Loop

To add a loop just drag it onto the Iris interface. I've added this to the Sample 1 window (there are 3 available).

Adding a loop in Iris

You'll see the frequency spectrum in the interface.

The frequency spectrum

Set the Root key for the sample (C4 in this case). All your loops should be the same tempo and have the same Root key assigned. Here's my raw loop.

Select The Kicks

So now I can go in and select the kicks with the Magic Wand tool. Aim for the brightest color. One click will select the main frequencies in that area.

Using the Magic Wand tool to select frequencies

The clever bit is if you click again Iris will select any frequencies harmonically related to your initial selection, like the click in the kick! Nice!!

Clicking again with the Magic Wand tool

So I'll go through and select all the kick information.

All kick frequencies are selected

If I play C4 on the keyboard you can hear just the kicks.

That's pretty clever!

I can always roll off anything in the bottom end I don't want with the vertical selection tool. I say roll off, it's more of a slice!

The Vertical Selection tool

Invert The Selection

So now I just invert the selection and I'm left with everything else, i.e no kicks!

Inverting the selection to remove the kick

Add Another Loop

So now I'll add another loop into Sample 2. Here's the Raw loop.

Here's the spectrum.

The frequency spectrum of the second loop

I'll set the same Root key (C4) and as they are both the same tempo we should now have a nice composite.

Go Crazy!

In Sample 3, I'll add another loop and this time make a more crazy selection with the Lasso and Brush tools. This gives me a more extreme filtered element. 

Selecting with the Lasso and Brush tools

With some added effects from the Mix window I get quite an interesting result.

Adding effects

The Future Of Iris?

Iris is such a fun tool to use and you can get some really interesting stuff out of it. As you can see, it's also quite a powerful corrective tool too. 

I'd love to see some more image based features (starting with a Contrast control!) in Iris. The ability to smudge, smear and blur would be awesome!! Maybe that's just not possible though? Still a great bit of kit though!

For the past 20 years Toby has worked as a professional guitarist, programmer and producer. Clients include Sir Paul McCartney, George Michael, Shirley Bassey, Yusuf Islam, Giles Martin as well as the London 2012 Olympic Ceremonies. He has also worked extensively in TV, Advertising and Film. As well as composing himself he has also ... Read More


Gary Hiebner
Excellent tutorial. I have just got Iris, but haven't spent time with it yet. After reading this I am going to get more into Iris, and start magic wanding my loops Thanks!

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