In this blog post, I talk about why I love my looping pedal. It has been a game changer and if you don’t use one for your live shows you should really consider it! I’ll talk about why it’s changed the game for me and give a breakdown of a video where I use my looping pedal. I love looping so much!! Here’s a photo of my looper, the RC-30 by Boss:
What Is a Looping Pedal
For over a decade now, artists everywhere have been using looping pedals as a part of their gear setup. A really good example of an artist using a looping pedal live would be Ed Sheeran. My friends and I saw Ed live in Glasgow in April 2016. With his looping pedal he was able to create the sound of a whole band. He played the entire concert all by himself. If you don’t know what it is, a looping pedal is used to record whatever you are playing live and then “loop it”, or play it back continuously, on repeat. You can then add more and more layers of sound to the mix. Some looping pedals allow you to record your instrument as well as your vocals. Mine does this, and let me tell you, it’s been a game changer!
(Learn about the minimum required gear to begin gigging right here!)
Before I Started Looping
My days as a live solo performer are divided into two eras. Pre & Post Looping Pedal. Before I bought my looping pedal my solo shows were a little more 1-dimensional. The reason is that you could only hear whatever I was playing and singing at a given time. I couldn’t add any vocal layers to sing harmonies. I couldn’t play guitar solos either. Singing harmonies and playing solos to try to melt faces are my favorite but without the looper, it wasn’t really an option. That made me sad!
Buying my looper changed everything. Needless to say, I underestimated the mechanics of looping and bombed hard at my show as a looping artist (the FIRST day I bought it). I didn’t quite have the timing down and was a bit too cocky, thinking it’d be easy. It’s not too tough, but before you use it live at a show please make sure to test it out at home! Don’t be like me!
The BIG Benefits of Looping
Some of the Main Benefits of using a looper:
- Record a chord progression to give your chord hand a break. I’ve played 1 and even 2 hour sets with no break, regularly in fact. Looping a chord progression so that it can be heard without me playing gives me a lot more longevity at live shows with less breaks. Less breaks means better value. I set myself apart from my competition this way. I always get the feedback of “man, this guy never STOPS!”. Sure, I have built up my endurance, but the looping pedal REALLY helps!
- I can play full-on guitar solos. Sometimes to begin a song it’s cool to loop a chord progression and vibe into the song with a guitar solo. Some songs have a solo in the middle and after looping a few chords I can add the solo in, just like the recording. This often ties into point #1 above. Playing a solo is different from playing chords (Maj7 chords and other more demanding chord shapes). Playing one note at a time (as is soloing or playing a melody) is a nice break from barre chords and it lets me show off my soloing skills a bit.
- My soloing has improved! With the chords looped in the background, I’ve had way more opportunities to practice my live solo improvisation. I have noticed a huge difference since beginning to use my looper. I’ve learned my way around the fretboard better. I’m better at playing double stops. Finding different chord voicings has become easier too. Sometimes I loop a progression using open chords (E, A, D, C, G, Bm, etc – all those chords we first learn on guitar) and as I sing I’ll play different voicings of each chord higher up on the neck. It makes it sound like there’s 2 guitar players. This also lets me jump into a solo whenever. For these reasons my performances are so much more dynamic and musically textured.
- I can Build Songs Up. I can record a chord progression, then add rhythmic muted strumming, then melody lines, and even layers of vocals. There’s basically no limit to what you can add and this can be a great tool for writing as well. You can basically sound like an EDM song!
- With a looping pedal you can Sing Harmonies. This is HUGE! I love playing songs by The Beatles. By recording myself singing a verse or chorus I can play it back and sing vocal harmonies on top of the recorded tracks. It sounds so nice!!!
- Being nice and low-key, performing Instrumental Music. Some of my gigs (ie, wedding ceremonies) are very low key and don’t require vocals. At a ceremony, I’ll record a chord progression to a nice love song (something like “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran). I then play the vocal melody with my guitar nice n lightly. This is a beautiful vibe for wedding day bliss, the perfect amount of beautiful and low-key!
An Example Of Me Using My Looping Pedal:
Check out this video below. It is a promo for my Wedding & Events music company, Brad Cooper Weddings. This is a cover of the song “Sugar” by Robin Schulz. I use my looping pedal to create the full sounding beat. Below I breakdown the steps of how I used my looper to get the job done:
1. The Base Layer of Chords
The Base Layer of Chords: I start with the chord progression of the song as the base layer (Relative to the capo: Am-Em-C-D-Am). It’s a fairly simple chord progression and rhythm. The video begins halfway through my recording of the loop. You can hear a click from my pedal as I end the first layer’s recording at 0:03 into the vid, which starts the loop. You can hear the chord progression playing without my hands moving. It’s very important to properly time the start and end of the loop on the first beat of the chord progression. After I’m happy with my base layer I can then add in the beat.
2. The Beat
The Beat (Quarter Notes to Imitate a Bass Drum): At 0:10, after you hear me count to 4, you can hear another click of the pedal as I begin slapping the bridge of the guitar. That click is me stepping on the pedal to hit record again. I beat up my guitar for 4 bars and then at 0:19 you hear that click again. That’s me ending that recording. If I don’t end the recording anything I play or sing will end up on the next playthrough of the progression so I have to be aware of turning on the off and recording feature. Next comes the melody line for the EDM part.
3. The Melody Line
The Melody Line: I want to make sure my fingers are ready to properly play that melody line which is why I let another 4 bars go by so that I can come in clean right on beat 1. At 0:26 I hit record and start the melody line, but at 0:29-0:30 I mess up a bit (which my face gives away, lol). I have to quickly stop the new recording, delete the bum track, and get ready to try again. At 0:34 you hear the new recording begin with the click of the pedal and at 0:42 the melody track is recorded and looping.
I then just let the 3 layered track loop as I go “Ohhhh….Ohhhh…Babayyy” etc. To add extra rhythmic feel I mute the strings with my left hand and strum a few “chuck-a-chucks”. At 0:57 there’s a VERY audible click to my pedal. This is me stopping the entire loop entirely. Everything you hear from this point on is me playing without using the pedal. At 1:43 I click the loop back on (like pressing play) for the chorus which makes the song pop again, adding some nice dynamics. What I recorded earlier comes back in and it sounds huge!
“What Is This Magic You Are Using?”
Looping can confuse people in the audience at times! Not everyone knows how it works or that this pedal even exists. I see it all the time, people pointing to my guitar when I complete a loop and stop strumming so I can clap over my head for example. I’ve had people come up to me multiple times to tell me “Hey, I know you’re not really playing the music mate!”. It is pretty funny, it makes me chuckle every time. Usually I just smile and let it be. Sometimes people are super intrigued and inquisitive, so I’ve taken breaks and explained how it works. I’ve even worked it into a performance, like “I noticed I’m turning a few heads with my music voodoo jedi mind trick, let me show you guys what I’m up to over here!”.
I’ll Always Use MY Looper For My Solo Shows!
As you can see there are tons of benefits to using a looping pedal. A few different brands offer looping pedals nowadays with different features. Some looping pedals don’t have an XLR (or microphone) input. I bought my looper (the RC-30) because is does, and I want that feature to record vocals as well as me instrument. Some looping pedals have 1 channel, some have 2, and others have more than that.
I can’t imagine not using my looping pedal. It gives me so many options, makes my performances more versatile, and legit makes me a better player! Try it out and I guarantee you’ll love it too. Leave a comment to let me know how it goes for you. If there’s any questions about looping please ask away. I’m always here to help you out! 🙂
That’s it for now, have an awesome week, there’s more coming here at The Music Entrepreneur soon!