Looping!

Posted: January 6, 2011 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

Looping is a new art form and it’s here to stay, it allows you to do a gig all by yourself with little or no support from other band members. Looping is becoming incredibly popular, there’s even a looping festival in Santa Cruz California, which I attended last year, where loopers gather from all over the world.

I know a couple of unbelievable loopers you might want to check out on Youtube, Rico Loop from Germany and Phil Stendek from Saint Louis. Both guys are amazing and each has a very different style. It’s always handy to see what other guys out there are doing and borrow an idea or two.

Rico does a lot of looping with his voice, like beat-box type vocal sounds along with instruments. Phil surrounds himself with instruments and moves from one to the other. (By the way Phil won a recent Boss looping contest).

Rico blows over a water bottle and loops that, then he drinks some water so when he blows over it again, the bottle plays a harmony with itself. Phil plays everything so well, he’ll whack out a slamming beat on a drum set, then he’ll grab a bass and lay down a slap part. One time I saw Phil do a show he had a table stacked with exotic instruments, he would loop tons of sounds and then grab a guitar and start singing. I think Phil is one of the most entertaining guys I know.

I do looping myself, I’ve looped at parties, clubs, I even played a wedding for a bride named Jessica who asked me to play the classic Allman Brothers guitar song Jessica as she walked down the isle. I originally got into looping because I demoed the Boss RC loopers at Namm shows and the RC-50 is the loop pedal I use. I especially like it because it has three separate phrases so I can create different loops and switch between them, like a verse, chorus and bridge.

This brings me to some basic facts of looping. First, you can’t go 1, 2, 3, hit it, like a band, you have to gradually build the song. Also, if you use a looper with one single main loop like the Boss RC-20 or the Digitech Jam Man, it’s hard to do a traditional A-B-A form. This is because to go to a brand new B section, first you have to erase the A section. Now that big return to A, that’s so important in traditional music is a challenge. I see many loopers doing A-B form or A-B-C form etc. Using a high powered looper or multiple loop pedals can solve this.

My Tips:

1. Probably the most important tip for looping is to get different sounds. I use a Roland VG-99 that can create a bass sound, acoustic guitar, rock guitar tones, freaky effects and tons more. Although, it’s a great show technique to pick up different instruments, I just turn a knob for a completely different sound. Many guys who use acoustic guitars tap on the guitar for percussion sounds. Use your imagination, there are endless ways to get different sounds.

2. Here’s a real important trick I learned right off. While you’re erasing a loop to make room for a new loop, keep playing to cover up the gap. I consider these guitar breaks. The trick is, while you’re playing guitar by itself, operate the pedal with your feet to silently erase the loops you have created so far. This will give you empty looping space to start building the next loop, to change from an A section to a B section.

3. Many loop pedals have an undo and redo function so you can take away a part or add a part back in. This is great for redoing parts that you might not play perfect, but I use undo and redo to fly in and out signature guitar lines too.

4. Pick or write songs that have a repetitive chord progression, like People Get Ready, Johnny B Goode or Black Magic Woman, these all have simple chord progressions. Also, there’s nothing wrong with rearranging a song so it loops better, rearrange away.

5. Another thing I do sometimes, is create a chorus on my looper at first and then I play and sing the verse without the looper. When I get to the chorus I add my loop parts. This makes the choruses big compared to only my guitar and voice on the verse.

The main thing about looping is to be creative and prepared, and remember, practice makes perfect. You’ll be keeping track of a lot of stuff but you’ll get used to it and it’ll become automatic.

Loop on!


Comments
  1. Phil Stendek says:

    Thank you Paul for saying such wonderful things! Mentioning me in the same sentence as Rico Loop is quite a compliment. Also, I find your advice here to be absolutely essential. They are all lessons that took me forever to learn, but they are a big part of the reason I get consistent work. I often find myself dropping whole chord progressions of songs just to make them loop faster, and it pays off. I’d much rather have a song get assembled faster and keep the audiences’ attention then lose them because I want to put 4 part harmony and 6 part percussion on a song. Oh yeah, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    • phanson says:

      Wow Phil, Thanks for the comment! I’ll never forget seeing you at the House of Blues or was it the hard Rock in Vegas? Umm, which ever I’ll never forget your show, you just blew me away, I’d never seen looping like that. You are awesome and that’s why you won the Boss US looping contest. Thanks for the tips I learned from you! It was also great to see you at Namm last weekend even though your pizza was cooling as we talked in LA sun.
      All the best!
      PH

  2. Bob Axford says:

    that’s a great write up. Thanks!

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