Whether you are an experienced guitar player or a beginner, you might find your creativity limited because you can only play one instrument at a time with your two hands.
If you are not in a band or if you do not have another guitarist to help you, creating new music and presenting new ideas could prove difficult. In order to help you, engineers developed the looper pedal, a guitar effect which could prove essential.
A loop pedal for a guitar, also known as a looper, is a gadget used to record a part of your performance or song idea and then repeats it – basically, the line is put on a loop.
You can play the recording to yourself or your bandmates, repeating it until you have found a new idea to complete that section. While playing back, the looper can also be used to adjust tempo, pitch, volume and more.
Another excellent use for a guitar looper pedal is to add more guitar layers on a song, during a live performance, without having to use actual backing tracks or another guitar player.
Record the original part and play it when the time comes, while you do something different on your guitar – you will have a backing track which can be adjusted to your liking in the moment.
Basic looper pedal features
There are many loopers available on the market, each with extra functions and perks; which the best looper pedal is will be left for you to decide in time, but the basic features are commonly found on all devices.
A very simple looper pedal, suitable for a beginner, is usually a box-shaped thing with one footswitch and one level adjustment knob.
You will control the looper with the footswitch – it can be used to start recording a part of your song, to play it back and to stop the playback.
Most models will have an option allowing you to quantize your loop, which avoids issues regarding timing. More professional models will have controls for other functions, such as undo/redo, overdubbing or other effects such as pitch shifters.
The more expensive and complex models will feature a lot more: effects such as distortion, chorus, phaser and delay or reverb can be included on the same device, to give you more versatility and to allow you to experiment with different sounds without having to record different pieces every time.
Some pedals allow more than one guitar to be connected to them, and this can prove very useful when rehearsing or composing new songs with your bandmates.
How to use a looper pedal?
Usually, guitar teachers recommend their students to buy a looper pedal for a more comfortable and exciting practice. A straightforward exercise, to begin with, is learning how to open and close the loop.
You can start by choosing a chord you like; after you have decided, hit the footswitch, play your notes, count four beats and then hit the switch again at the end of the bar. By repeating this, you will learn to open a loop just on time.
As you are getting more comfortable with using a looper, you can go to other, more complex exercises. One example also concerns timing – strum a chord eight times in a row with the looper recording, and after the last chord and before the next beat, stop the recording and close the loop by using the footswitch again.
After you manage to perfectly time a loop, you can start playing more complex patterns which can be used for improvisation or demonstration of a new song.
Now, you can try playing two different bars; record each one separately on your looper and try to time the end as best as possible, so that the rhythm continues without pauses. Once you manage to do this, you can start improvising over the loop.
There are many other exercises concerning timing; when it comes to improvisation, you can learn quite a lot by practicing overdubbing. This is not too difficult: you have to use the footswitch to record over an already set-up loop, creating a rich and complex sound.
Most pedals have similar switches, but to understand how to use them for overdubbing, read their instruction manuals where things are clearly explained.
Great guitar looper pedals at affordable prices
For a beginner, it is advisable to start learning the art of using a looper with a simple, less expensive device. The TC Electronic Guitar Ditto is one of the simplest models available – it only has one footswitch and one level adjustment knob. It offers 5 minutes of looping time, more than enough for practice and also for performances.
The only control knob is enough for essential touches, and if you do not like dealing with many different sound effects and options, this is the item to go for.
Another simple model is the Digitech JamMan Express pedal. The manufacturer is known for their vast experience with different guitar effect pedals and processors, offering good quality for affordable prices.
This particular model has two pairs of input and output jacks, and its metal body gives it excellent durability. It has a 24 bit and 44.1 kHz sample rate. The stereo recording time offered is of up to 10 minutes.
If you want something more from your looper, you can go for the Vox VLL1. This affordable gadget is not only a looper – it can work as a delay effect and has other classic guitar effects which can be added to your recorded loop.
Suitable for beginners too, it could be their first step into the world of more complex effects, such as distortion, phaser, and crunch.
What is a loop pedal?
To understand how to integrate this type of accessory in your practice or performance, or both, you need to learn more about it. What is a looper? This question may come up to anyone who ever listened to Ed Sheeran and noticed how he manages to play the guitar while an entire harmony sustains his performance.
You don’t necessarily have to be as dedicated to your solo guitar performances as the abovementioned musician. However, you may still find the looper a good option for the music genre you prefer. This type of tool is versatile and can help you enrich your performance to the point that you won’t need another guitarist to support you while on stage.
A loop pedal is an accessory that records the sounds of your guitar when playing a riff or a chord sequence. After that, you can use it to play the respective sequence in a loop while you focus on other things you can do with your guitar.
You should know that many artists like using loop pedals, including Ed O’Brien from Radiohead and Bill Kelliher from Mastodon. Your solo performances can benefit significantly from the addition of a looper, so consider getting one.
What does a looper pedal do?
The basics of how a looper works have been described earlier, so you might need a bit more information about how to integrate it into your signal chain. Many guitarists who have never tried one wonder how to use a loop pedal because it may not be clear right from the get-go.
A looper records and replays in a loop a riff or a chord sequence. It can be extremely handy when you don’t have a band performing with you, or at least another guitarist to provide backup for the melodic line you want to attempt. However, with the help of a looper, your situation improves.
You can introduce the looper at the end of the signal chain. It is a straightforward way to do this, and your performance will be pretty smooth. Another option on how to use a looper pedal is to introduce it between effects. Modifying the overall sound is easy when you apply this method.
Loop pedal for beginners
Novice guitarists may feel a little shy about using a looper, but things are not at all complicated. Here are some pointers to help you get started. To record a loop, you only need to tap on the pedal when the sequence you want recorded starts. Tap again when you reach the end of that sequence.
The immediate looper effect is that the sequence you just recorded will play in a loop until you decide to stop it. Of course, while these steps cannot be considered challenging, getting everything right requires coordination, which can only be developed with practice.
To ensure that you don’t get discouraged from the first times you’re using a looper, make sure to choose a simple sequence you want to hear repeated. The best part about this accessory is that you can store various loops and overdubs; make sure to mix and match until you get the desired effect.
Guitar looping ideas
The following ideas on using a looper will help you get the hang of this helpful guitar accessory. The first to try is the basic loop. The most challenging part of getting a loop right is choosing the beginning and end correctly so that the loop plays smoothly. Choose a chord and play it for four beats; stop the recording, and let the acoustic guitar looping continue.
As you can see, keeping with the beat doesn’t require a lot of focus. Tap the pedal, pluck the chord, count to four beats, tap the pedal again, and let it play. It is that easy.
Since many people don’t know how to use a guitar looper, attempting more sophisticated sequences can be a real challenge. That’s why you need to progress slowly. The next simple technique will help you get better at this. To perform basic strumming, you pick a chord and strum it eight times, which brings you to the equivalent of two full bars. Don’t forget to tap the pedal at the beginning and the end.
If you prefer a loop effects pedal, you may expand your range quite nicely and without a problem. But let’s see what other basic loops you can obtain. A more complicated technique is playing a full sequence that adds value to your training. Listen to four-bar blues sequences on repeat before attempting to record them. Identify the start and the end so that you can time yours with the utmost efficiency.
Overdubbing is another idea that’s mostly used by fans of the loop pedal. It is an advanced technique, so you should only move to it after you managed to get the timing right for more straightforward exercises. Overdubbing involves the recording of a loop on top of another. You can easily imagine the benefits of mastering such a technique. Your backing track will be able to replace all the support guitarists you would have otherwise needed.
The need for a looper explained
Why should you bother with a loop pedal, anyway? If the above information hasn’t yet convinced you of the usefulness of such an item, here are all the crucial reasons why you should get one. First of all, it will help you practice and get the riffs right as you attempt to create the perfect loop. Secondly, if you want to play live and give a solo performance with a significant impact, the backing track you can build for yourself will help you a great deal.
In case you’re in the business of songwriting, creating a composition will be made much simpler by the introduction of a looper. You will also find it useful for observing your playing so that you can operate the necessary changes for improvement. Loopers with effects can also enrich your practice and performance, in case that’s something you want.