Use Looping to Write a Song

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

You might be thinking that the purpose of your pedal is to enhance your live performance – either as the foundation of your solo act or to replace your drummer at an upcoming gig. After all, how often do you get to have your music played exactly the way you wanted it? Or maybe you want an extra long solo; or you get an idea for some really cool background licks on the fly that you want to throw in, or your band can’t rehearse this week and you’ve got some great ideas for a new song that you just can’t wait to try out. But if you’re new to looping, you might need a little help getting started. The ideas below should work on most loop pedals.

1. Do it Janet Jackson style and “Gimme a beat!”
If your device has beats included, you can use them or you can create your own. You can use vocal percussion or real instruments to create your beat or use the Beat Buddy pedal.

If you have a single channel looper, you’ll need to create a beat long enough for your entire tune. If you have a multi-channel looper, make sure your channels aren’t synced and lay down a 4 or 8 beat pattern. Make sure you get the timing tight!

2. Meghan Trainor has step 2 nailed because “It’s all about that bass!”
If you’re just doing a jam with no harmonic changes, just lay some tasty bottom end on top of the beat. If you don’t play bass use an effect to drop that sound down. I like the Micro POG from Electro Harmonix, but there’s a bunch of pedals out there and your loop station might even have that effect built in.

3. Harlan Howard’s advice of “Three chords and the truth” is next
Regardless of your device, this is your song structure:

You need some harmony to frame your tune.
Simple chord patterns like A-E-G are a great start…
…or a 12 bar blues pattern of C, F, C, G7, F, C can get you started.
From here, you’re literally ready to rock and roll.

4. Earth, Wind and Fire said it best: “Sing a Song”
You’ve got a beat, a bass line, some chords in a form that’s grooving. Time to start singing (or playing) a melody. If you’re on a single channel looper, you probably don’t want to record this unless you have a repeated chorus or vocal line. If you’re on a multi-channel looper and want to record it, put it on a separate channel by itself so you can bring it in and out as you see fit.

5. Do what James Brown, the Godfather of Soul said: “Gimme Some More!”
Add some extra vocal (or instrumental) harmonies on the chorus or repeated lines. Add some background licks. Put some long notes underneath a particular section. Add some rhythmic pops to accent a chord change or fill a space that has no lyric or melody. Add a little extra percussion to fill out the beat. Don’t be afraid to jam! Play a solo, talk to the audience, have some fun, explore your device, and loop on!

These tips aren’t really for ambient or noise or avant-garde music. Although they might work to get you started in that way as well.

If you use loopers/samplers that have 16 beat limit (even with a doubler) you’re up for some challenges. 16 beats ain’t enough for a tune. We recommend a device with longer looping memory and multiple channels. You really need a more robust piece of technology to get a “song” looped.

Playback options are something to seriously consider as well. For example, you may not want something that has instant playback once a loop is going. Especially if you’re putting bridges, chorus, or verses on separate channels.

Memory is important  you need some time to play with, literally. If you have complex material, you should be looking for a device with a lot of memory and features that will help you perform it your best.


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