Musicians Who Use Looping: A Beginner’s Guide.

As you’re no doubt more than well aware, the whole process of real time looping is essential to the way I make music, whether it be live or in the studio, solo or collaborating – it’s a very long time since I last did a gig that didn’t have some element of looping in it. Certainly, one listen to my latest solo live album shows that – this is entirely live, there’s nothing added here, just the gig… (click the ‘buy’ button below to download the album and pay whatever you think it’s worth for it)

[Jan 2014 edit] And my latest project, FingerPainting is a duo (and sometimes a trio) that relies on multiple musicians looping at once and sometimes looping each other! Every note that Daniel Berkman and I have ever played together has been released – check it out in the sidebar there, or get all 10 shows for just £10 here.

The basic idea is this – a looper is an effect that allows the musician to record what they are playing and then loop it while they play over the top. Almost all looping devices allow you to do multiple layers on that loop, and some of them allow you to do fun things to the loop once it’s recorded – reverse it, slow it down, speed it up, stop it, restart it, remove some or all of the layers…

My own looping device of choice – the Looperlative LP1 – gives me 8 stereo channels (although at the moment I’m running it in mono) which can be played back through any of three stereo pairs of outputs. This allows me to record in a way that means I can mix and edit things more easily, but also allows me to ‘post process’ individual loops – I can run whatever is on that loop through another effects unit to change the sound again after I’ve recorded it. It also allows me to replace bits of the loop, scramble it, and chop bits out of it to make smaller loops from the big ones.

Anyway, just in case you’re unfamiliar with who else is trying this (I certainly didn’t invent it, though I did have fairly major hand in the development of the Looperlative, from a feature list/inspiration point of view) here’s a few other people doing good looping things, starting with one of my favourite ever live performances, and ending with a clip of Lobelia and I live in Dallas:

This Imogen Heap video is spectacular – she’s using an Electrix Repeater, which means that she can have a visual click track to keep those loops in time with each other, but nothing here is pre-recorded. Genius:

Here’s KT Tunstall squeezing everything possible out of an Akai Headrush:

Here’s Michael Manring – he was the initial influence on me to experiment with looping, and here he’s using the same looper I started out with – the Lexicon JamMan:

And here’s Zoe Keating, using a software looper, with a lot of the start/stop of the recording process automated before hand, but no pre-recorded cello parts:

And finally, the video of Lobelia and I that I mentioned, with me looping my bass and her voice:


4 Replies to “Musicians Who Use Looping: A Beginner’s Guide.”

  1. Great post! I wish I had this info back in 1998 when we embarked on our two-piece mission and I thought the way to do it was with looping, but I couldn’t find any info on loopers. I even wrote to Dave LaRue of Steve Morse fame, thinking he might have a suggestion, but I guess such things were harder to come by back then. I eventually came across the Boomerang some years later but never got around to using it until now – I’ve finally found a use for it in a new song…better late than never!

    By the way, another great looper I’ve seen live is Liam Finn. I couldn’t find a good video example, but here’s this:

    1. Hi Amy,

      in 98, I think the only loopers around were the JamMan and the Echoplex (which was being made at the time by Paradis) – unless you had the Fripp-mod done to a TC 2290… Other than that, it was tape loops and delay pedals 🙂

      I got my JamMan after reading about Michael – I don’t think I’d ever heard him do any looping at that point – he talked about it in an interview and it sounded like the solution to my problems, so when I started writing for Bassist, I requested on for review. And the rest is history 🙂

      Looking forward to hearing what you do with your boomerang now!! 🙂

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