September 13, 2014 by Don Russo
So, you are thinking about adding a loop pedal to your live act. I mean let’s face it…that is the norm now a days. Here are some tips(purely my opinion) on how to pull it off well:
Practice using your loop pedal at home a lot before taking it out live. You need to get familiar with all of its function, and be comfortable with it. You don’t want to look like you don’t know what you are doing. Nor, do you want to make constant mistakes. Trust me, it’s very easy to do live. It’s just simply not fun to play if you are not relaxed.
I love recording a progression while singing a verse or chorus, then adding small little parts as I go. Then, when I pull back and start soloing, it takes people by surprise. Some people don’t realize I’m using a loop at first. It keeps the feel of the performance a little more authentic.
One of my favorite uses of the loop pedal is to create grooves to jam with. It’s easy to emulate a bass drum by attacking the saddle of the acoustic guitar with the heel of your palm, and a snare sound by attacking the higher part of the strings while muting them with your left hand. You can also “smack” you hand down on the fret board to get a snare-like sound.
I like to layer small parts as I go along to help with the dynamics of the song. For Example, I may record a groove, add a bass like, add the chords, and then add a high picking part as the song goes to help bring the song up and down. This is a great exercise in learning how to write and add parts like The Head Hunters.
Once you’ve mastered the loop pedal, try things on the fly. The pedal should be an extension of your playing. Try to maintain that “live” feel…which leads me into my first don’t.
This is simply lame…you might as well play with backing tracks. Again, make sure that it is part of your LIVE show, happening spontaneously. Sure, you will have rehearsed parts, but it will come off more skilled and less cheesy.
Don’t Fire the Band
This isn’t really a tip on using the pedal, as much as overall musicianship in regard to the pedal. Make sure you continue to play with other people. Playing with different talented musicians will make you better than anything. They will have a different perspective on music and playing as well. And let’s face it…no matter how awesome you are with a loop, you can’t replace a good band.
Don’t Overdo It
There is nothing worse than watching a guy take like 5 minutes to set a loop. We live in a culture with a short attention span as it is. Also, you don’t have to cover every single part. I have seen dudes that I love, launch into piano, guitar, percussion, background vocals, harmonica, and more…all in the same song! When someone sees you playing solo, they are expecting a solo act, not Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. Be more subtle and make it more seamless…that’s just my opinion, but I’m sticking to it.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to incorporate the loop pedal into your live show, and keep it from becoming a gimmick. Happy looping!