RECORDING: Live Looping
Man, just the phrase “live looping” can make my head spin. I’m currently working with my friend and roommate on a live show for his upcoming album, which is ambient post rock.. occasionally with drums and keyboard stuff… but most of it is him looping over himself with an insanely decked-out pedalboard.
As a multi-instrumentalist who took up drums first, he has me drumming on a few of his tunes but as soon as the arrangement changes on one of them, it’s ridiculously easy to get off-time, playing with him, playing over the live loops he makes. As loops get added to a loop, chaos ensues, musically…. and things can get noisier and noisier. And rhythmic loops (such as a melodic guitar riff) can easily get buried as loops are added. A lot of people might not know about this stuff, but trust me, it can get a little hectic and impossible to play along to, because there’s nothing to latch on to, rhythmically, as a loop progresses. But thankfully, there are cool solutions, for those out there who love to do live looping with their music.
First off, I’ll list some live-looping artists that I respect greatly and also am very inspired by:
KT Tunstall (covering the Jackson Five)
Imogen Heap (this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. This entire song using ONLY her voice, and hands)
and my man, Ethan Tufts, aka State Shirt (hopefully I will be doing a collab with him on YouTube in the near future)
Oh, and I can’t forget Andy Othling, aka Lowercase Noises:
Now, you guys might be wondering… how the HELL do these people do this?
Well, there’s many ways…. KT Tunstall and Bernhoft, for instance, use a Boss RC looper pedal (Bernhoft I believe is using the RC-50, and KT uses something smaller). Then, Imogen Heap is using something they don’t even make anymore… I forget exactly what model she uses (and the brand)… wait, it’s called the Electrix Repeater (it’s a 4-track looping device, and she’s creating and/or muting the loops by pressing her thumb or finger on the buttons in the video). State Shirt is using a software looper called Mobius (which is like a Gibson Echoplex looper, on crack!). Lowercase Noises is doing his ambient looping with an expensive loop pedal called the Boomerang.
If you’re looking to do something much more simple, though (to start)… I highly recommend the Digitech Jamman Express XT. Check it out and YouTube, and check out the possibilities. Then, if you are a solo singer-songwriter, you could benefit from using a TC Helicon Voicelive Play GTX, with a Switch-3, for live looping, and being able to create vocal harmony on the fly, as you perform your song (with or without loops).
I currently use a Digitech Jamman Solo XT (when developing my own ideas), and I also use this same pedal, synched with my friend’s Jamman Express XT (his pedal is the master, mine is the slave). I also dabble with the Windows version of Mobius (by the way, it’s free to download and use).
The whole culture of live looping is much, much more involved than this blog could ever possibly explain. But once you check it out, you quickly become addicted to the technology and the possibilities, especially if you’re a multi-instrumentalist. So check this stuff out, and imagine the possibilities. The sky is truly the limit with live looping.
Maybe in the future, I’ll have a series of how to do live-looping (and I’ll make some videos, with my roommate and friend Luke Pigott, who I’m rehearsing with, for the past week or so). I think it would be really beneficial to the readers of this blog, especially those of you who are multi-instrumentalists like myself.
Stay inspired. Stay creative!!