Creative Looping Within Your Means

If you can plug it in or mic it up, you can loop it. That is the conclusion I’m fast coming to when experimenting with live looping technology. Although another very important rule of thumb is, “Keep it simple, stupid” :)

I wanted to put a few short thoughts together on having a creative mindset when using the looper, using other instrumentation alongside the bass and then working within limitations and budget. I find these things exciting and challenging. So here goes:

A melodic / chordal instrument compliments

Although the bass can be a great instrument on which to play chords and arpeggios, as a guitarist for many years (I would class it as my second instrument) I find my Electro-Acoustic Guitar particularly useful for the purpose of providing chord structures more readily. I tend to use it as someone else may use a piano. It allows me to experiment with more complex chords and harmonies than I may otherwise get from only using my bass; maybe even dabbling with different tunings. Although I can (and do) loop solo bass (and very cool it is too) using my guitar adds extra inspiration and spice into the mix. I tend to search for complex, open chords as these then help lead to either melodic structures or unique bass lines when accompanying on the bass. Being primarily an ear player, I don’t always know exactly what I am playing, but that’s ok; I work with it. If this appeals to you, try it.

Work creatively with what is at your disposal

From an instrumentation standpoint, I use mostly bass, guitar, percussion (usually a djembe) and my voice – but when I say ‘work creatively’, I also mean on technological and ability levels.

Currently, I’m using a MacBook G4 running Mobius and Ableton Live Lite. Now, looping with this kind of humble setup does have its limitations. I have to think about latency issues, software glitches, processor speeds and disk access speeds… this coupled with different brands of hardware communicating with each other and keeping everything as portable as possible is a real challenge! That is the stuff that keeps me awake at night! I plan at some point to upgrade to the Looperlative LP1 which will iron out most of these sorts of issues, however for the moment, this should not stifle creativity.

A playful and experimental spirit

That said, being creative with what you have and know is liberating. The looping medium is such that it draws out creative instincts differently to other musical approaches. With so many manipulation options at one’s disposal, the looper becomes an instrument in it’s own right, not reliant on sheer musical ability but rather on a playful and experimental spirit. Improvising on this instrument takes one on a journey; it is risky and sometimes unpredictable. I’ll expand on a couple of these concepts in future posts.

Conclusion: Variety is the spice of life – so be brave!

It’s true! Musically, I tend to be of the opinion that anything goes. Not everything works, but that’s ok… that’s what experimentation and improvisation is all about. Step out! Be bold! It will be worth it. Bad noises will occur, but you will also come across some gems. If you can, record your rehearsal times, you will be surprised at what you create.

I would value your comments. Have fun.

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  1. Gregg

    Thanks for sharing. I find myself creating and looping complex drum patterns, and “accidentally” banging something out using the piano voice of my synth into the looper in order to run melodic scale patterns and up and down the neck of my bass. It’s just so much fun!