The Art Of Looping
by Christoper Bates
The Rebirth of the One Man Band
A few years ago if you mentioned to someone about a one man band, visions of Dick Van Dyke and the world’s worst cockney accent flooded ones senses in an awfully Mary Poppins like kind of way. If that person who mentioned the idea of a one man band was an authority on music, their reputation would take a knock more severe than Van Dyke’s talent for imitating a cockney geyser. However, due to a variety of reasons the idea of the one man band has made a phenomenal comeback. Whether it is advancements in digital recording technology or our austere times leaving little budget for band members, loop pedals and software are revolutionising the modern music scene. From street buskers to artists playing arenas, looping hardware and software has almost become the absolute must have; enabling a single artist to record layer over layer singlehandedly.
Naysayers and traditionalists will argue that it is just a phase. They will continue to argue that nothing can replace a full band. Perhaps, they are right but that may be missing the point. I’m fairly sure when instruments became electrified, the traditionalists also said it would just be a phase. So, if you have recently been kicked out of a band with the catch all excuse of “creative differences”, have an auto-immune disease that means you have to literally live in a bubble, or are crippled by shyness and the thought of telling a lead guitarist a 10 minute solo is not a good idea, looping may be the answer to your musical prayers. If you wish to dominate the world of folk music like Damian Rice or explore your abstract sense of humour like Reggie Watts, the plethora of looping options have got you covered in one way or another.
Beginning Your Looping Quest
You’ve been unceremoniously dropped kicked out of the band you were a founding member of as you may or may not have insisted that the sick bass solo you wrote feature prominently on the next track. No judgement here, perhaps bass solos are needed in all genres of music? What do you do now? You have just heard the lead singer’s girlfriend has replaced you. With vengeance in your heart you scour YouTube for inspiration on how best to give them the middle finger without resorting to a horrible text message. Low and behold you discover not one but infinite number of artists who use loops to create a full sound by themselves. If inspiration hits you, you’ve just been knocked out by a sonic brick lobbed through the air.
With infinite possibilities always comes the question “where do I begin?” Beginning your Kung Fu looping saga can be daunting for a young grasshopper like yourself. Fortunately, those people who design apps for the new iPad or iPhone you signed up for have created your first looping tool. Loopy HD will become your new best friend and all for approximately $5. Easy to use and infinitely fun it is a great starting point to turn you from grasshopper to master.
Things are Getting Serious
You’ve spent hours with your trusted companion Loopy HD, so much so that you may be legally married in a few countries. Your confidence is up and you feel you’ve become the one man band in sole control of your creativity you were destined to be. You now feel that all the hours spent looping and layering should be heard by the world live and through relentless use of social media. However, you’ve discovered there is a limit to what for $5 app can do. What now? Yet again modern technology has come to your rescue. There are two, granted more expensive, options you can take in upgrading your hardware or alternatively software.
See it not as cheating on your life partner in Loopy HD, rather it is expanding your possibilities. Loopy is such a great app that you will still play on it regardless even if a little bit less. If you choose to go the hardware route a good starting point would be the BOSS RC-50. Although it was designed primarily for guitarists to loop numerous riffs, it can be used for almost everything. If I was to begin listing the products numerous features we would be here for a lot longer than your marriage to Loopy. At approximately $800 it is an investment. The Korg Kaoss Pad is another bit of kit that will require your attention. Also feature laden, it has become a must have for all those inclined to electronic music but its versatility does not end there. The Kaoss Pad at approximately $500 is another great investment to make if serious about dominating the looping world.
As to the software path Albeton’s Live Looper program is fast becoming the program to have. The learning curve from your trusty iPad app to Live Looper may appear steep at first but it is a far more versatile program. It will require a bit of practise to nail your loops using the software but hours spent practising something you love is no chore. Also if you are veering more to the production side of the industry you can do no wrong by purchasing the program.
What’s left to learn?
To answer that question, it’s completely up to you. You can learn more instruments to record and loop to turn you from one man band to symphonic orchestra. The limits with looping are what you set yourself. However, like with anything in music whether it is low fi looping or whether you aim to play Wembley Arena singlehandedly you need to practise and learn the limits of the hardware or software you choose to use. In depth knowledge of your gear can only improve the understanding of the music you look to create. That been said, play more! The more you play with this handy tool the more fun you’ll have.