If you haven’t figured out yet a looper pedal does, let me break it down. In simple words, a looper records the instrument signal (or sometimes vocal) and stores it on the device. As soon the loop is stored you can play it over and over again. It’s a really great tool for jamming, practicing, song creation or some wicked live improvisation (just like Ed Sheeran or Damien Rice do on stage).
The length of the loop depends on the device. Some can record only 30sec loops, others up to three hours. Some loopers have memory loops that you can record and store in the library to keep using your favorite tunes and rhythms. Overall, it’s a great device for music experiments, jamming, practicing and live performance.
How Would I Use a Looper?
While layering up loops and being a one-man band sounds cool, it’s not the only way to use a looper. It’s super useful for solo & band performances, but you can also find it indispensable in your everyday practice.
So, as I’ve mentioned many times, solo-artists can use loopers to layer up recordings of different instruments to create a song. Others, the loop only one section, use it as a basic rhythm section and play over it. With bands, you can make the tracks more interesting by running different instruments/vocals through a looper, and again, piling them up.
Yet, don’t forget about practicing! Loopers can help you in perfecting your sound and skills, and teach you to play a ‘duet’ but by yourself. Yeah, I get it, it might sound sad, but if no one is around to jam with you and you need to practice – record the main melody and play a solo over it. Magic! Built-in metronomes or drum-sections also come in handy for obvious reasons.
What to Consider When Buying a Looper?
There are a bunch of features you should pay attention to when choosing a looper. Some are similar to those of a chorus, distortion or any other kind of pedal (like size, simplicity, and controls); others are unique to loopers (looping time, memory, MultiLoop and Input/Output). But remember, it’s up to you to decide what will work best for your music style and practice – I can only tell you what’s important to consider.
- Size – the size doesn’t always matter. In the case of loopers it certainly doesn’t, as you can find the most advanced and effective looper that’s no bigger than a smartphone (it will certainly be wider though) like DigiTech Jam Man Solo XT. Why is it important then, you might ask? Well, consider your practicing room or the size of your pedal board. Can you allow yourself to get a monstrous Boss RC-300 Loop Station? If not, go for something smaller.
- Simplicity – that’s crucial if you are a pure, innocent newbie. You want to focus on perfecting your skills rather than reading through the manual over and over again to figure out how the hell the looper works. Choose one with single control knobs and single switches like TC Electronix Diito – it’s as easy as it gets.
- Build Quality – as it’s a pedal and gets stepped on over and over again, you need to make sure it has sturdy casing and is preferably made of metal. Avoid plastic at all costs!
- Looping Time and Memory – this is probably the most important feature of a looper. Recording, storing, and playing loops are its main purpose after all. Be mindful of how much space you need for your everyday practice. Most musicians make duets with just 30-60 seconds of looping time. But if you’d like longer tracks, look for longer looping time. Same thing with memory: if you prefer keeping your loops for future practicing – choose loopers with internal memory slots.
- Footswitches and Controls – here you aren’t only looking at the control knobs, but also at the footswitches. Usually, fewer controls mean ease of manipulation control at the expense of versatility. This is similar to footswitches. If you get a versatile looper with a bunch of different effects, you want it to also have at least two footswitches to ensure seamless control. Also, check how responsive the footswitches are. If there is a significant delay in between the step and the start of looping – you don’t want to use it for a live performance.
- Multi-loop – so remember that example of Sheeran and Rice layering up several loops on top of each other and playing them simultaneously? For that, you need a multi-loop feature like Nux Loop. Most hobbyists can get by with single or dual loops.
- Looping Modes – if basic loopers no longer suit your needs, you might be looking into something more flexible and interesting. Choose ones with extra features like Reverse or Half-speed, or other built-in effects like distortion or overdrive. Consider the VOX Lil’ Looper.
- Input and Output Type – Ok, this one is serious. Several In/Outputs is the only way to ensure you’ll be able to connect several instruments, mics, amps, players and computers to the looper. Again, you might not even need it if you just picked up a guitar, but if you are playing with a band both live and in a studio – do get one with several inputs.
- MIDI Synchronization – This is another one that is important for band members. MIDI Sync is needed in order to connect to the MIDI beat clock, which helps to synchronize the loops with your band members.
Do I Need to Buy any Accessories with My Loop Pedal?
I’d say no. Loop pedals are self-efficient as is. If you want more effects, you can even get a looper with versatile pedal effects like VOX Lil’ Looper or Zoom G1on. But honestly, for looping, nothing is required but a looper. You might, however, need extra batteries or adapters, but that’s not necessarily a problem as the looper usually comes with those.
I would say that the looper is the favorite pedal I own. I personally have a couple: for practice and jamming and performing with the band. I wanted the first one to be basic, and I chose the EXT 720, simply because of the high-quality sound. Yet, if you need something cheaper, TC Electronics Ditto is just as good. For playing with a band I chose the Boss RC-3 because you always choose Boss when you need high-performance and awesome sound. Plus, large storage is just what is often needed for hours of practicing.