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Looping traditional musical forms / looping philosophy

--- Mike Barrs <mbarrs@nightviewer.com> wrote:

> Here are the two main hurdles, as I see it:
> 1) Many musicians aren't interested in free-form, solo performance, 
> style music. If you want to play with other musicians, a looper is a 
> because it's like playing to a click track... which everyone hates, 
> they're another looping musician. Don't underestimate this.

I occasionally play loops with other (non-looping) musicians. Some get 
into it,
some don't. A good friend of mine (a bass player) absolutely loves to do 
form stuff with me. To me, this just means you won't play loops with 
everyone you
play music with. The ones that enjoy it will REALLY enjoy it. In the same 
that I wouldn't play lap steel in every group I play with, I don't use my 
every time I go out.

> I almost bailed
> out of looping, until I finally figured out that I could learn how to 
> on the pedal in time with the downbeat if I really worked at it. This is
> something everyone here probably takes for granted, but it's an enormous
> barrier for newcomers... especially those used to working with live
> musicians where there is more live human interaction in tempo feel.

You have a Repeater, which easily accomodates this. When you notice your 
drifting from the other musicians (shouldn't happen if they were listening 
each other, but reality being what it is, and most musicians being what 
are...), you just tap the corrected tempo into the Repeater and it'll fix 
it for
you. You don't need to retrigger the start of the loop every bar or two.

> 2) Someone like me who comes from a traditional music background (blues 
> jazz) automatically thinks in terms of traditional song structures like
> A-A-B-A. How many people on this list have actually tried to loop a
> traditional verse-verse-chorus-verse song? 

I'm not one, but there are several people here that have talked about 
doing that.
I know John Mazzarella is one, you might check the archives for some of his

> I've been working at it for a
> year, and it's frustrating. The Repeater fixes the bar length with the 
> recorded track, so forget an AABA song where the "B" section is a 
> number of bars, unless you want to get into a Midi pedal tap dancing
> nightmare of arming and switching between loops. 

That's because they expect you to change loops, not tracks, when you move 
another musical section. I haven't tried it, but you should be able to 
program a
midi controller to switch to the next loop and start recording with one 
press. The Repeater's loop switching latency may prevent that though, so 
what you
might do is program one pedal to switch to the next loop (at loop end), 
start recording in that loop when you get there. 

If that won't work for you, you might have to pre-record the loops in the 
you're going to use beforehand. To do this, you'd tap in the tempo, record
silence in loop1 for as long as you want, record silence in loop2 for as 
long as
the next section, loop3, etc, THEN go back and start recording your music 
the spaces you've created for it, switching loops where appropriate.

OR do two or more sections together. For example, if you were doing a form 
you'd record A and B together before ending the loop, or even the entire 
The Repeater lends itself well to this approach because of the very long 
lengths it provides (up to 8 minutes per loop).

>From what I've read, the EDP lends itself to this loop switching much 
>better then
the Repeater, since you can switch loops directly into record with one 
press of a
button (no midi required), and can alter the loop length on the fly while 

> And then there is the
> problem of the "crash to a singularity" when you've built up a looped "A"
> section with bass, rhythm guitar and lead, and then suddenly move to 
> guitar on the "B" section because it needs a new bass line and new rhythm
> chords. If you're not working in the ambient soundscape style, you can't
> hide these transitions with washes of delay and reverb tails.

This is a different issue entirely, and not one exclusive to the Repeater. 
you're doing all kinds of different parts and layering up a whole bunch of 
before moving to the next section of the piece, you're always going to have
problems like this. As someone else said, it would be easier to move 
through the
different parts adding a layer at a time instead.

That said, if you can get to a Phil Keaggy concert, this guy does this 
then anyone I've ever seen. I don't really hear it on his recordings, but 
concert he uses loops on every single song. And all he does are 
traditional song
arrangements, no "washy ambient" material at all. He does the entire show 
with a Lexicon Jamman and the loops come in and out all the time. It's 
much seemless too. If you weren't watching him dance around on the 
and hearing other parts coming and going when there's only one guy on the 
you'd probably never know he was looping (ie, if you only heard the 
audio). It's
really quite amazing, and it sounds like what he's doing exactly what you 
want to

I saw him recently and noticed that he does things to compensate for the
disappearance of the loop part as he's playing. For example, he'll make a
dramatic creshendo and intentionally use the buildup and immediate stop in 
music as part of his arrangement, or he'll play his guitar louder when 
the loop so that the volume at the transition is similar.

> To the extent that the Repeater (or any other looper) fits my style, I'll
> use it. But I'm not going to warp my entire musical concept to fit what 
> box can do.

A tool is a tool, and you can either use it to augment what you do, or 
what you do to use it. The choice is your's, but to say you won't adjust 
what you
do to accomodate a different tool doesn't really allow you to fully 
utilize it.
That applies to anything, from a new guitar (more pickups, more strings,
different tuning) to a distortion box, to a complex effects unit, to a 

That's not to say that it's bad. Some people make great music with just an
acoustic guitar. Other's want to use the giant rack-o-fun. It's about using
whatever helps you. 

> To be clear, I love my Repeater. I love it enough to have bought a second
> one when I heard Electrix was going out of business, as a backup (that 
> non-replaceable power supply scares me). But I don't see it as a tool 
> will instantly appeal to the vast majority of musicians, until the
> capabilities of loopers (and especially, the user interface) go through a
> few more product evolution cycles.

There are a couple of ways of using loopers that would work for virtually 
musician. I haven't seen any of the marketing for existing loopers exploit 

One is as a practice tool. For example, if I'm working on a new song and am
thinking about what guitar part I want to play, it's very convenient to 
play the
chords for a section into my looper and then experiment playing parts over 
as they loop. Sure, I could do the same thing with a 4tk, or a computer, 
or make
another musician sit there and play the stuff while I mess around, but 
it's just
SO fast and easy with the looper. About 15 seconds of setup time, immediate
access. Very efficient.

Another thing that loopers are particularly well suited to is making 
music by yourself. There's a huge number of people out there who've gotten 
of "the band scene" and all the frustrations that go with that, but they 
love music and want to do it. A looper allows a great way to have 
something to
hear and react to while playing by yourself. 

I fall into that category myself. My family life, job, and schedule in 
makes it hard to rehearse with other people very much. And frankly, I'm 
sick to
death of trying to sort through a world of flakey musicians to find 3-4 
that will
even show up for a rehearsal without being a total jerk or leaving after a 
of two. I just want to make some music, I'm tired of dealing with people's
whacked out personalities and depending on people who are not reliable. 
Using a
looper allows me to play, rehearse, or just mess around any time I have 
the time
to do it.

> P.S. this is all in the context of the Repeater... the only looper I
> understand, and I'm still just a beginner. If the EDP does a better job 
> handling traditional AABA song formats, please let me know. 

You'll probably hear this more from the people using them, but from 
everything I
can tell, the EDP IS more suited for that sort of thing. There are 
probably ways
to make your Repeater do what you want too.


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