Most musical performances involve a musician playing an instrument or singing into a microphone alongside a band of a few other people. There’s typically a ‘song’ or melody that the musicians stick to, and the performance hinges on everyone working together to produce something pleasant to listen to.
There is a twist on this traditional method of musical performance, and it comes from an unlikely source: modern looping technology. We’re going to look at what this is, and offer up some of our own perspective on this unique little tool.
What Exactly is Looping?
Looping is a recording technique that allows a musician to immediately play back whatever he or she has just recorded. This requires the use of something called a ‘looper’, which is a small pedal with a few buttons. This pedal is installed along the signal chain of whatever is going from the microphone or instrument into the amplifier or PA system.
When the performer presses the button on the looper, whatever they play or sing is recorded in real-time. Then, when the looper button is pressed again, that exact recording is played back over and over again, until the performer decides to either stop the performance or add more ‘layers’ to the loop.
Once the initial ‘loop’ has been recorded by the musician, he or she can even add additional layers to the loop. This is beneficial for producing multiple different sonic elements, like percussive beats or atmosphere background sounds.
Some loopers, like the Ditto from TC Electronics, use a single button to both loop and add layers to the loop. Other pedals, like the Boss RC-300, use a bank of different buttons to activate looping and the addition or removal of layers.
How to Learn to Loop
Bret Dallas, a loop musician from Denver, Colorado, has this to say to beginners who want to learn how to use a looper:
“First and foremost, just go buy a looper. Sit down with it and learn how to use it. Experiment with it, and don’t get frustrated if you don’t get the hang of it right away. Before long, you’ll be looping like a pro!”
Bret Dallas should know what he’s talking about. He’s been a loop musician in Denver for over ten years, and he’s a great example of just how far this technology has come.
Take Bret’s advice: go out, get yourself a looper, and have some fun with it!