Whether you are a beginner or a more experienced guitar player, you have undoubtedly heard or read about a device called a looper – this is the name guitar loop pedals are known under.
They are used for live performances, for studio recording and composing sessions and also by guitar teachers and students as a training tool.
A looper pedal is a small gadget, designed to record a part of your song (or the entire piece) and then repeat it again and again – basically, the portion you have recorded is looped until you stop this process.
Some models will allow you to add different effects to the recorded sound while playing it back – these include distortion, chorus, phaser and many more.
When playing live, you can create a richer sound by using the looper instead of a backing track. Start the loop when the time is right and play something different over it. This will reduce the need for additional guitarists or for using backing tracks.
For those taking their first steps toward composing their songs, the loop pedal allows them to improvise over a pre-recorded part until they are satisfied with the result.
Practicing with a guitar looper pedal
One reason you should consider purchasing a guitar looper pedal is the fact that it provides you with a lot more opportunities for practice then other methods, and it is a lot simpler to use than a specialized computer software for recording and sound engineering.
To begin with, you will have to learn how to use the device – the easiest way is to hit the footswitch, strum a chord and count until you reach the end of the bar; just then, press the switch again to stop the recording.
By repeating this, you will grow familiar with timing and with the ways you can start and finish a loop. You will also grow accustomed to the feeling of the switch and with what the other features included do.
As you become familiar with the gadget, you can try many other exercises which aim at improving timing. As the patterns you are playing grow more and more complicated, you can start adding effects to the sound, or you can try overdubbing.
The latter means recording a different melody over an already recorded part which is being looped. You will get a richer sound as if two guitars were playing in the room.
You will surely find a guitar looper pedal beneficial when you start improvising and composing your tunes.
Instead of having to rely on another guitarist to repeat the same part over and over again while you are thinking of improvements and new ideas, you can start the loop and keep it playing for as long as you want. Improvising does not require you to overdub or record another loop.
Using the looper in the studio
It can be challenging to write a new song on your own when you cannot foresee how the different ones will sound when put together.
Remembering everything on your own is even trickier, as you can easily forget one note which will change the whole tune. If other guitarists do not accompany you, you will need recording software to be able to compose a song.
A looper will solve the problems, allowing you the freedom of composing on your own, at any time, without any unnecessary complications.
Record the song or the melody you had in your mind and loop it; once you have another idea, you can use the overdubbing feature most loopers have to add layer upon layer until you are satisfied with the result.
Last but not least, if you are improvising at home and you come across something that sounds great, you might want to show it to your band members. However, if you do not have recording software, it is impossible – a phone recording takes away all the quality.
With a looper, this problem is solved – you will use the device to save your ideas, and, as most are portable and easy to carry, you can take it to the studio whenever you have a scheduled rehearsal.
Live performances with loopers
Live performances can be significantly enhanced by loopers, even if you have an extra guitarist in the band. Sometimes, multiple layers create a much richer sound.
Carrying a looper is not difficult and will not overload the stage. This small pedal can be placed next to your other effects and, as long as you do not use it by mistake, everything will be alright.
Another moment when you will find a looper extremely useful will be in the unfortunate event that the other guitarist in the band cannot show up. If there is no time to set up a backing track, the only hope for a successful show is the looper pedal.
Easy to use, setting everything up should take little time and, provided you have a more professional model, you can preset the time or number of loops.
Other reasons for purchasing a looper
The best looper pedal is the one which meets your expectations without costing too much. If you only want the primary function, the reasons mentioned above are enough to demonstrate that the pedal is worth the money. However, there is one more thing which could convince you to buy a looper.
A more expensive model might include a lot of other cool features for a guitar player, such as a drum machine and many guitar effects which can be used for the recorded song.
Some of these include chorus, phasers or delays. Distortion can also be encountered on some pedals, as well as crunch or overdrive. Noise filters can also be featured, turning a simple loop pedal into a more versatile device, which will enhance your playing and make things a lot more exciting.
Where to place a looper pedal in a signal chain
Now that you know the answers to questions such as ‘what is a loop pedal?’ and ‘how does a loop pedal work?’, you will probably wonder about where to place such a gadget in your signal chain. Your preferences and the way you want the looper to function are the ones that will help you find the right place for your loop pedal.
One of the most popular options guitarists go for when it comes to this is at the end of the signal chain. By placing it there, the recording looper you use will catch the specific pedal arrangement at a given point within the loop without responding to the changes you make on the board.
Additionally, it is best to consider the sound you want to capture to find the right place for your pedal. For example, you can also place it between effects if you want to benefit from greater flexibility as you can thus influence the overall sound by turning the modulation and reverb effects on or off.
What’s more, since the market offers loopers that come with stereo potential, you can use such a model and plug it into a mixer bus to track separate instrument signals and mono vocals.
Features to consider when buying a looper
The market offers so many loop pedals that a beginner might find it overwhelming to identify the right one. This is not uncommon since loopers are packed with different features to allow users to record and loop according to different preferences.
However, before learning how to use a loop pedal, you will have to learn more about what a certain model is capable of. Plus, identify your needs and what best suits the music genre you perform and your playing style. There are a few key factors to pay attention to in order to get one step closer to finding the right looper for you.
Think of the recording time ensured. Some dedicated loopers can provide many minutes of recording and can even help you save hours of recordings. If you’re serious about playing using a looper, and you want to advance in this field, a high-end model is thus best.
The number of loop channels featured is also worthy of consideration. Some loopers come with a single loop channel. However, this channel can make it possible to accommodate the overdubbing of several parts. You will also find models with independent loops. In such cases, you can turn the loops on or off according to your needs and preferences.
More expensive units come with additional advanced features that will help you explore more, take your creativity even one step further, and extend your sonic experience in different ways. For example, select such models are designed to play audio in reverse or provide you with drum machine sounds so that you can enrich your performance. Moreover, the market also offers loopers that can slow the audio, which ensures greater room for customized performances.
Also, you might want to take a closer look at the input featured. More often than not, loop pedals have a mono input, but you will also find stereo loopers. Such factors will help you make a more informed decision, but it is safe to say that you can hardly go wrong with a looper, regardless of the one you decide to purchase.
Loopers are such a nice addition because they provide you with the realm and features needed to explore your creativity, and if you can’t afford or don’t want an extra guitarist, you can use such a pedal to play by yourself yet make the output sound as if several guitarists played at the same time.
Once you learn how to use a looper pedal, you can add or eliminate sounds, start or stop the music, and try endless sound combinations.
Looper pedals – popular models
When prospecting the market for a bass guitar loop pedal or any other items in the looper category, you will see that there are two main types: looper stations and stompboxes. Each of them comes with pros and cons, and knowing more about each type will help you make a more educated decision.
Stompbox loopers are simple and thus more suitable for beginners. The products in this category feature a single button that you can use to record, overdub, and stop. Employing such a looper is thus simple as all you have to do is to press the button once and start playing, and then press it again to save the phrase.
As one might expect, this type of simplicity comes with limitations, though, since you can’t play too many different types of phrases. It does make a good option for first-time users and those interested in practicing just for fun at home.
In case you’re not new to loopers, and you’ve already gained some experience in using them, you might want to take a closer look at loop stations. These units are more suitable for advanced musicians who want to explore more and translate their creativity with the help of these devices.
For example, loop stations will allow you to switch between different phrases in the middle of your performance or play a phrase only once or continuously, and that’s just to name a few of the benefits provided by loop stations.
They are indeed pricier, given the advanced features and many functions they are equipped with, but the many sonic possibilities they ensure make them worth every penny.
The great thing is that you will find models for all budgets and skill levels, as well as online tutorials and tricks that will help you get the most out of a looper. Once you discover their great sonic potential and the countless sonic outputs you can create using a looper, it will be difficult not to include one in your performance from then on.