[2/18…fixed link to mp3]

For my friends who might not know, looping is the one of two ways to play with yourself live and not get arrested for it  (the other way is to lucubrate).  The term comes from the old way of doing it, which was to take a piece of reel-to-reel tape and make an endless loop out of it by taping its end to its beginning and then running it between two decks set however far apart the loop would stretch.  I’m forgetting exactly how it worked, but you could basically record on one of the decks and it would playback a few seconds later on the next one while you were still recording on the first one.  Depending on the deck, it could be set up for sound on sound, so that the recording got denser as you proceeded, or it would regenerate every time it went around if not.

Echoplex first managed to fit the whole contraption in a single box, but the tape heads were only a few seconds apart at most.  The cool thing was to be able to move the tape heads while playing, giving a great flying saucer/swooping effect (heard about four minutes into this song by the Mess) and generally good for dubbing out.


It got stolen or I got drunk and sold it or something, and the Mess self-destructed fairly quickly, so the old echoplex is one more of a series of musical things I wish I never sold or lost.  I was more or less broke through the rest of the 80s and 90s, so I missed the new digital loopers which for a thousand bucks or so would get you maybe thirty five seconds of loop.  I started messing with vst plugins and software loopers in the late nineties.  I could never afford a mac or protools, instead slowly worked my way into the wild world of windoze plugins (can you say “crash?”).  Discovering Plogue bidule changed everything for me, and that is what I use for live playing and spontaneous recording today.

Software loopers come in many flavors and have reduced the price point from thousands of bucks to zero, as long as you have a computer and a sound card.  I still have files from an old program called ambi-loop which was not half bad, but now my main loopers are mobius, when I can keep it running, an ancient, idiosyncratic plug called ellotronix which has some cool features (here hear), and a thing called Loopy llama, which is stable and never seems to fail.  Mobius is the most advanced, being a dead knockoff of the thousand dollar digital echoplex except that the loops are however long your computer can stand it and you can stack up eight of them instead of just one like the hardware version.  I also really like arc-dev’s free drum looper ellipsis (here/hear in action).  It is versatile and easy to control externally.  I like setting that up against another “accent” percussion loop in bidule’s looper, which lets you only play portions of a loop and leave the rest silent (hear here).  That last one also uses a one-bar looper called repeatler with a neat feature of letting you slice chunks out of the loop as well as put them in.  The mix is not finished, so it is a bit long.  Here is a shorter one using repeatler if you are either in a hurry (just listen to this) or have too much time on your hands (listen to both).

If you like any of the music, I have tons more posted at Way Music, about half of which uses loops in one way or another.