First experience playing live with a looper

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
So in a way it's like playing to a click live. It was a bad night for me to do that for the first time. Now I didn't play all night with it, maybe a total of 30 minutes. The leader in my trio decided to mess around with it, because it was a private party and he had some latitude.

For clarity's sake, a looper is a device that my guitar player was using that records, however long he wanted, anything he played while it was recording. When he was done he played the loop back through his amp. The first loop he played just the rhythm chord progression. Which freed him up to do a lead on top. It's like having 2 guitar players. Plus he can stack any amount of loops on top of each other to get a really orchestrated sound. Which he did once. It was pretty impressive, because he's such a high level musician.

Anyway, I was going on about 2 hours sleep, pretty loopy myself, and I had to play ultra quiet for this particular gig. Plus I was directly to the side of his amp, so the loop wasn't exactly aimed at me. Even with me playing ultra quiet I was still struggling to hear, so I could stay in sync. He had to play quiet too. I found that most of my available brain energy had to go to focusing on trying to hear his loop, and my style suffered. I couldn't nuance, for struggling to hear. So I just kept straight time, which sounds fine, but I couldn't be me. Needless to say, I went off more than a few times, but he was understanding and turned it off when it would become too noticeable. I even caught myself hesitating momentarily to stay in sync, something that felt very wrong.

No matter what, human time is not metronomic. We definitely tend to speed up during certain figures...just a little, it's a feel thing, but that little bit will get you out of sync with a loop or sequence or a click. So even though it really filled out the guitar part in a very cool way, I was not digging it, especially being sleep deprived. Now I can easily stay to a click or a loop or a sequence if I have it in my cans. That's completely different. But when I can't hear it? That kinda sucks lol. I don't enjoy following the time, I like feeling the time. There's a certain way you can lay a cymbal crash in for instance, that pulls the band back, that does not line up with a click. That's what you lose with a click, the real musicality and stretch and the push pull that human time has. The elasticity is gone. So that's it, just thought I'd trot that out here. Anybody who has to play with a click or sequence, you has my sympathies
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
i played with a guitarist who used an old Copycat back in the day. I had to keep with the timing of the delay through his cab in the same way you did larry. Not the same thing, but the same struggle to lock into a pulse that's vague at best. Tough call, & especially if you're already jaded through tiredness.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I've seen guitar players do cool things with loopers, but I certainly do not see how one could use one in the context with a drummer.

I think trying to play along with a looper without a click for reference would be maddening.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
If I could hear it, it would be different. Ideally I would have cans, and I can mix how much ambient sound I let in by adjusting the earmuff part. But I'm sorry I don't want to play with cans live. That's not what I want to be doing. I realize that limits me but I have no designs on landing a gig like that. Since I get my money elsewhere, I prefer to play the music I love, with the people I choose to be involved with.

Plus a loop isn't a click, because I was keeping time when the loop was recorded lol. So there's some built in imperfection right off the bat lol.

I don't think it will be a regular thing. He kept asking me.."are you sick of it yet?" Lol. It was challenging for sure. I don't see how I could get in the zone with one.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I found that most of my available brain energy had to go to focusing on trying to hear
That sounds like my world as an ex-rocker, Larry. It's tough for sure when the natural way you play is too loud for the music being played. I find it works best if I play super simple, even as simply as Meg and Phil Rudd at times. More of a scaffolding role than stonemasonry (not sure why I keep thinking of music and architecture analogies lately). It can work great, though. Take Mo Tucker's drum part in Venus in Furs - I can't imagine a more advanced drum track being an improvement.

In an old 80s band the guitarist was influenced by The Edge and played a number of tracks with that doubling up delay effect. I had to be extra careful about time in those songs or the effect would go out of synch. Definitely harder and more demanding of discipline from the drummer ... which is why I usually avoid it :)
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
I've played with a guitarist using a looper at an open jam and it was fine fun! I could hear him well, though, and he had a very percussive rhythm guitar style that was easy to follow. It was really quite a blast.

My first experience trying to play with a band using sequencers was horrible, however. I was pretty green, and hadn't played with a click before. I was just filling in for a few gigs, and had been recommended by their regular drummer, who had heard me play in my own band. I think the guys thought their drummer was playing tricks on them, I struggled so much to stay in time.

It went beyond humbling all the way to humiliating.
 

Toolate

Platinum Member
What was the actual point of doing that Larry? Were you short a guitarist or was the lead just looking to experiment or come up with a different kind of sound? I would think that playing this to a click would sort out lots of your fears so when he starts with it, you would already be in time with a click and thinking that way. Personally hate the click but its here.

Also, what was the bass player doing? Would think you could lock in with him and make this easier.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The point was that the guitarist just felt like experimenting. As far as locking in with the bass player, he was even further away from the loop. Besides, he follows me. His time isn't as good as the leaders time, the leader is really advanced with his time. When a loop happens, it's kind of the boss of the time and I have to switch to a "following" role. I can follow as long as I can hear, but when I am having a hard time hearing the loop, well it's not a desirable situation for me. I mean the gig was loose, I wasn't stressing out, and neither was the leader.

He uses the looper for solo gigs mainly.

And Anon, I downshifted to stupid simple too, no other choice.
 

StickIt

Senior Member
Loopers can be tricky. If the loop is not started and looped perfectly, then it will be a tad bit off regardless. When done right, though, and if you can hear it well, I love 'em.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
Anybody who has to play with a click or sequence, you has my sympathies
We use sequences in 90% of our 3 piece stuff.

It's certainly a challenge but I think it has helped my tempo skills tremendously in the past year. I learned that we are not machines but we do have the ability to make constant and minute adjustments to play together even if the tempo wavers slightly, which it will.

My bass player used to think he was a human metronome until we started using teh SPD. For the first 6 months he would argue that it was speeding up or slowing down.

And yeah, if everyone can't hear it, you are screwed. If My bass player will sometimes drift into his own little loud world and end up a half click off. I trigger all the sequences using an SPD so I can stop or stop/start them to get back on track. They are generally short segments so it can be painless. Playing along with a full song sequence has trouble written all over it IMO.

When a loop happens, it's kind of the boss
Change kind of to absolutely and boss to God. :)


Also, what was the bass player doing? Would think you could lock in with him and make this easier
Assuming of course that the bass player could hear and was dead on with the sequencer.
 

John Lamb

Senior Member
Playing with loops or background tracks when you don't have a proper monitor is DEATH.

Otherwise, it can be tons of fun :D
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
This is what happens:

https://soundcloud.com/drecor/then-the-whales-came

It's me and my friend, he's running his guitar and keyboard through the loop station and through one amp. Timing is tricky so I wouldn't recommend using it on any sort of professional level. You also have a bit of a problem where the lead part (live playing) has the same tone as that recorded in the loop, so it can kinda get drowned out and you both end up following each other rather than the loop.
 
Interesting stuff! While my band isn't looping (yet), the guitar guys use their delay pedals a lot. That makes for good psychedelica (we think), but it also makes my timekeeping job a lot harder.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Loopers can be tricky. If the loop is not started and looped perfectly, then it will be a tad bit off regardless. When done right, though, and if you can hear it well, I love 'em.
This ^^^^

I did a couple of gigs with a guy who used a looper and then soloed over it. As in Larry's issue, it's hard to hear the rhythm tracks when it's coming out of the same amp that someone is wailing (or in my case loosely noodling) away though.

And when they don't exactly hit the loop on the beat, you get this periodic glitch that you have to chase. It's like Vinnie's Attack of the 20lb Pizza. He's Vinnie and can work out playing against the glitch. But when it randomly shows up in the middle of songs for the rest of us, it can be a real bear.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I've played with a guitarist who uses one. It's not my favorite thing.

Larry, as you point out, the real kicker is that the loop itself is not in perfect time; it's a snapshot of human time that may feature some push-and-pull in the phrasing. But you have to find a way to navigate that.

I'm very comfortable playing along with a click, in the studio or live, but a loop makes me a bit edgy. I feel the way you described, like I'm following the time more than stating it. Because if it goes off, it doesn't matter, because I still have to follow it. I find that as distracting as you do.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
....No matter what, human time is not metronomic....
This is the essence of what makes people groove and machines not.

Playing in-time doesn't always translate to metronomic time.

I've never played to one in a live setting, though I've recorded to a bunch of loops. I'll bet I'm stumble pretty hard myself trying to do it live.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
Larry, as you point out, the real kicker is that the loop itself is not in perfect time; it's a snapshot of human time that may feature some push-and-pull in the phrasing. But you have to find a way to navigate that.

I'm very comfortable playing along with a click, in the studio or live, but a loop makes me a bit edgy. I feel the way you described, like I'm following the time more than stating it. Because if it goes off, it doesn't matter, because I still have to follow it. I find that as distracting as you do.
1. The loop SHOULD be in time. Playing with a freehand loop is just adding to the dilemna.

2. I find playing with a loop is less distracting than a click. At least is music/notes instead of a damn click sound. If I do play along with a click, I prefer it to sound like a tambourine or closed HH that will actually blend into the song. If recording, I like the loud nasty click click to keep me focused.

Last night my bass player told me he doesn't listen to the click (even though it's there along with my drum track) when he records. I just laughed and shook my head. We got into a short discussion about it and I bet him he couldn't play 30 seconds on tempo alone. He said he could play the whole 3 minute song :rollseyes:

Bottom line, I was impressed that he passed the 15 second mark but he didn't make it to 30 seconds. Guitarist didn't make it 15 seconds. I don't think I could go 30 seconds. I haven't even tried because I know my limitations. I have fooled around enough lately to know unmachinelike we are. We have extraordinary abilities to adapt but we are not built for perfection.
 
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