Loopity-Loop by Doug Johns
The questions I get asked the most, whether at a clinic or a gig or posted up on YouTube, seem to center around my looper. A lot of people ask what kind of looper I use or about specific features on the looper. But probably the most common question of all is, “How do you get the loop to stop and start seamlessly?”
While it’s different for everybody, I think the answer is that it’s most important to recognize how your body (usually the foot) hits the pedal. You’ll want to practice this – just the way you practice anything else on your instrument – until your body is hitting the pedal in a consistent, second nature action.
I know some loopers have a bit of a correction feature in the loop “window” (I think that’s called quantizing?), meant to adjust and “perfect” your loop starts and stops. Personally, I don’t care for this. I think that when your loop entry and exit point are just where YOU put them… well, that’s the way it should sound.
But it can be tricky, especially when you’re not the only one on stage. Sometimes I’ll get excited or be way too laid back, and I’ll set up a loop that can really push or pull a tune to a tempo that the drummer ultimately has to deal with.
I’ve also seen loopers out there that can save loops so you don’t have to do them live all the time. They’re sort of like a “band in a box.” But in the spirit of improv, I prefer to just make my loops on the fly and let the groove naturally flow from there. Attached is a video of “Stank,” a good example of looping on the fly.
The fact of the matter is that you have to practice. When you’re starting your loop and you hit the pedal for the first time, keep your body moving with a physical pulse. Tap your foot, shake your booty, whatever, so that when you close the loop “window,” you’ll be more apt to nail it in perfect time. Practice. Repeat.
Loop pedals are fun, and by now most musicians have tried one, used one, or are at least aware of their capabilities. For me personally, loop pedals are a crucial part of my touring line-up. Performing as a bass and drums duo, the looper has really come in handy as a way to sound bigger than a two-piece act.
Touring economics aside, I would really advise getting a loop pedal just on the fact that they’re great practice tools. They can truly help develop time, rhythm, and chordal understanding and expand your overall musical vocabulary. And loopers are fun! AND you can get a cheap one or an expensive one at any local music store. Just try a few and find the one that feels good to you.
So, go ahead and get yourself another tool for your musician toolbox: a looper! It’s fun, it’s inspiring, and you’ll finally get to hear those grooves of yours with all the chords and such layered on top of them. It’ll be one big, fat, swingin’ song! And when you’ve practiced enough…
…Take your looper out there and jam with somebody!