How to Use a Looper Pedal
When I was first experimenting with making my own music, I felt a bit overwhelmed by how much technology was out on the market. Where was I supposed to start? What were the most important products to get my hands on?
Over time, I learned the dos and don’ts of the music technology world, and I want to share my knowledge with you on an amazing device: the looper pedal.
Let’s take a look at how to use a looper pedal, what looper pedals are best, and what kind of sounds we can create with this awesome device.
What will you need to learn how to set up a loop pedal
- A looper pedal
- An instrument (or you can use your voice)
- A metronome (if your pedal doesn’t already have one built-in)
There are a lot of great looper pedals on the market, but here are a few of my recommendations:
- TC Electronic Ditto X 2
- Boss RC-3
- Zoom G1on
The TC Electronic Ditto Looper pedal is one of the most highly recommended for practice sessions because of how easy it is to use, while the Boss RC-3 will allow you to record loops for much longer and has enough storage for 99 presets.
The Boss RC-3 also has a built in drum set, which may be a plus for you if you’re looking to experiment with different instruments. Here’s a Boss RC3 Loop Station demo for you to take a look at :
The Zoom G1on pedal has received great reviews and includes 68 accompaniment rhythms for you to practice along with.
Additionally, your looper pedal may also have a single button or dual buttons. If your pedal has a single button, then you’ll need to press it twice in order to stop the recording, which can be a little more tedious.
If you’re new to looper pedals, you may want to go with a device that has a separate start and stop button. All of the looper pedals I listed above include two pedals.
If you’re considering other types of pedals, check out this article
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Understanding what your looper pedal does
The first step to learning how to use a loop station is understanding what a looper pedal does. You’ve probably seen popular artists like Ed Sheeran stepping on a pedal during their performances, and gradually building a complex, multi-layered, and harmonious sound.
That’s what a looper pedal sounds like when done right. Your looper pedal is a device that will record sound you produce, and then play it back to you in a continuous loop.
This will allow you to experiment with building harmonies, combine different instrumental parts to hear how they sound together or record some background chords so you can practice improvisation.
Step 2: Plug in your looper pedal
You’ll want to begin by learning how to set up a loop pedal. If you’re playing guitar, plug the guitar into the loop pedal input. Next, you can either plug in headphones (if the pedal has a headphone jack), or hook the pedal up to an amp.
If you’re recording vocal loops, you can plug a microphone into the loop, but be aware a vocal effects unit, such as the Boss VE-20, will give you much better results than a looper pedal designed for guitar.
Take a look at this video to learn how to properly plug in your looper pedal.
Step 3: When to press your pedal
So how do you create a seamless loop? This takes practice, so don’t try out your new looper pedal for the first time in a performance. Each pedal feels different in how hard you have to press, which can affect the timing of your loop.
You’ll typically press the looper pedal down on the first beat of the bar, in which you want to start recording, and again on the first beat of the bar, you don’t want audio to extend into.
Here’s an example: if you’re playing something in 4/4, and your audio will last one bar, you’ll press the pedal down on beat 1, and again on beat 5 (beat 1 of the next bar). The second time you press stops the recording, and voila, you have your loop.
Step 4: Creating your first loop
Start playing and get a steady tempo in your head. Keeping a steady tempo is SO important when you’re recording loops, especially if the loop lasts longer than one bar.
It’s common for us to slightly speed up from our original tempo as we play for a while, especially when we find a passage easy to play. This is why you might want to consider using a metronome.
Play for at least a full bar before you press down on your pedal to begin recording. If you press the pedal and attempt to begin playing at the same time, you’ll most likely create a gap in the continuity of sound that you’ll have to listen to over and over again...yikes.
If you don’t like the sound of what you record, simply clear the recording with the delete button and try again.
Here’s a great video that will take you through these next three steps.
Step 5: Creating multiple tracks
After you have your first loop, you’ll want to start building harmonies and creating a more complex sound. This is called “overdubbing”, and it will have you sounding as good as Ed Sheeran in no time.
Have your first layer playing in a continuous loop. In order to turn the pedal on to overdub mode, hit the loop button (the record button) again. Now you can start playing your second layer on the beat of your choice. Once you stop playing, the pedal will then play both layers in a continuous loop.
Step 6: Undoing the most recent layer
Everything’s going well. You’ve recorded three layers that sound glorious together and then… you make a glaring mistake. Do you now have to erase your entire creation and start all over again?
You can undo your most recent layer by simply pressing the “undo” button on your pedal. If your pedal only has one button, then don’t panic. That button can be used to control a of your functions, including record, stop recording, erase, and undo.
When you press your undo button, all of the audio layers preceding the layer you want to get rid of should continue to play in a loop.
Let me know if you enjoyed this tutorial on looper pedals. This guide on looper pedals for beginners will give you the basic knowledge you need to get started. If you’re looking for something more simple, try out these apps.
If you’re looking for some loop pedal exercises or loop pedal tabs, I’d suggest starting out by following this link. Learning how to use looper pedals changed my career as a musician, and I know it will change yours too. Have fun with your new pedal!