How To Create a Tape Stop Effect in Ableton [WATCH]

tapestop ableton fx

Ever wondered how to create that classic tape stop/record stop sound effect you hear so much? You know the one that goes bswhherrrrrr.

Well it is time to learn how to do that.

Before we dive into the tutorial, let’s take a step back and think literally about what the tape is actually doing to create that effect, it’s quite a simple process that is happening.

When the tape is laced through the machine, in ‘PLAY’ mode, the wheels in the tape machine are spinning at a set speed (usually between 15 and 30 inches per second for high quality). As the tape moves moves from 1 reel to another a stationary tape head is reading this magnetic information on the tape as it passes by. In order for the tape head to read the tape at the correct pitch (and sound like the normal recording) the tape much be spinning at that dedicated speed.Now, imagine the ‘STOP’ button has just been pressed.

Due to the way the tape machines are built so they don’t damage the delicate tape, the wheels  don’t stop spinning instantly, instead they slowly decline in speed until coming to a complete stop. In turn, this decline in speed is causing the magnetic information on the tape to be read at a slower and slower speed and slower speed until a standstill.

reel tape ableton tutorial

So the classic sound you hear, is just the decline in tape speed and therefore the decline in pitch giving us the cool slow motion/falling sound effect. Who knew this unintentional sound could lead to so much more. Just like simple downsampling gives us the classic 8 bit effect, so unintentional but so cool!

So in our DAW (Ableton for instance) to get this sound we essentially need to make a section of our song, decrease in pitch. Now, there are a few ways to do this. First we could create some pitch automation which is not so easy to do on the master track. Or we could use an effect plugin inside Ableton to do this effect for us.

Now you know the history behind it, check out the video below to see how I achieve the sound with two different methods to create the classic sound. Examples in the video 3:31, 4:33, 5:36

Leave a Reply