I've got the "looper" blues


"Uncle Larry"
Not really. On a scale of 1 to ten, it's probably about a 2. Allow me to explain. My guitarist/bandleader recently started bringing a guitar looper and using it. We mostly play as a trio, and when he's taking leads, it's nice for him to have a rhythm guitar playing in the back, so while we're playing, he "records" a chord progression in his looper, and when he plays lead, he stomps on the looper button and it plays the rhythm chords while he squeezes out a lead.

As soon as he hits that pedal, I have to abandon the mindset I'm in and go to strict metronome mode. Kind of sucks for me as I don't play metronomically perfect. I very subtly play with time, according to where we are in the song. I never even realized it until the looper. It's hard, because it's not like I can hear the looper all that well. It's the same tone as his leads, so it blends right in, and I'm sitting behind and to the side of his amp, so I don't get to hear it like he does. I feel I personally fail when the looper and I get out of sync. Hey, I'm really doing the best I can under the circumstances, and oh well, I'm not a machine.

When it goes on....I feel I have to come down from the headspace I'm in and drum very pedestrian. I can't flow anymore, it's all I can do to keep exact pace with it. I definitely cannot get in the zone when I am trying to hear the looper, and be one with it. Sometimes the second he stomps on it, I'm out of sync (just enough to notice) a few seconds later. On a money beat song I can usually handle it until his lead ends, but not always. Sometimes he has to stop the looper, because we're out. He says things like, (when I get out of sync) the looper never changes (implying why am I going off?). That's like me saying his frets are fixed, why did he play a wrong note?

Plus when he stomps to record, and then stomps to stop recording, that's introducing two possible imperfection points. And when he goes to start the looper, that's introducing a third possible deviation. So it makes me look bad. I HATE wearing any type of headphone onstage, so I won't take that suggestion. I'm mainly just venting a little, but am open to suggestions, except those involving a headphone.

It's really not that big of a deal, but I felt it was enough of an issue to discuss here. If I could hear it better, really, I don't think I would have a problem with it. I can easily play along to my metronome at home, but it's stupid loud. He just can't understand, because he's right in front of his amp, that I do not hear it like that. It's really pretty much mud from my vantage point. It's a low volume gig to begin with, so I am already exercising a great deal of volume control, and now he just heaped more work on me by having to play along with something that may or may not be right on time-wise.

It's all good, I just wish I could hear it better. I've been dealing with this for about 2 months, and I'm not getting any better at it.
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Platinum Member
I have played with a guitarist who sometimes uses one and it's awful. As you say, it's not a metronome; it captures all of HIS imperfections and then repeats them. His playing is going to have a natural push and pull that can make it hard to follow. So even if you could hear it perfectly, it may not solve your problem.

I don't have any good solutions. It's just a bad idea. When my guitarist started using one, I basically told him to f*** off. He stopped using it. If he hadn't, I would have stopped playing with him. The bassist hated it, too. If the guitarist was a better musician, he'd realize this instantly and never bring it up again. It's on him, not you.

Anon La Ply

Larry, I remember that feeling!

In the 80s I spent a couple of years playing in a band with a guitarist who liked to use the delay effect like U2's The Edge. I always felt a bit of trepidation before that song because of all the issues you mentioned - you have to be very, very careful the whole time and the guitar is not that easy to pick up in detail from behind the kit. You can hear the way I'm holding back here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYIR9RwAF_Q

Apart from DED, most people don't tend to rate Larry Mullen Jr but it was like that for him pretty well all gig, every gig. I would really struggle with that. Respect!

It's tougher still with your situation because the punishment for error is for the entire thing to go out of synch, as opposed to an effect sounding muddled.

Just goes to show, Lar, you've practiced your bum off to get where you are in music, and just as you start to feel you things under control a new challenge you would never have imagined suddenly presents itself for you to conquer :)

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
There's no way around this but everytime someone introduces things you have to sync to, it's headphone and pedestrian playing time. The more you do it with a good monitoring system the easier it gets but your situation is just about unacceptable. However, rather than fight him on it, maybe ask him to provide some kind of extra amp for you so you can hear what he's doing. Any deviation from that just means failure.

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Loop stations make me cringe a little bit too. I've played with 2 guitarists using them and neither of them could time it very well. It's also hard to hear what's going on when you have 2 layers coming from the same amp.


Platinum Member
Let me apologize on behalf of other guitarists. A looper is a typically a tool that guitarists use to sort out their ad-lib and lead parts on their own time, so they don't waste their band's time. While I use mine to work on my drumming, you're absolutely correct that the start/stop stomping often takes a try or two. Coupled with the fact that the loop is also at the mercy of the guitarist's internal metronome....

On the flip side, they can be a wonderful learning and writing tool for guitarists and multi-instrumentalists. If I get an idea, I can go from brain-radio to recorded audio-watercolor in 2 minutes. Basically, I can capture the essence of a part I imagine before I forget it.

Here's a horrible example. that captures both the benefits and deficits well.


Platinum Member
I've played with 2 guitarists using them and neither of them could time it very well. .
Same here. Not all guitarists 'hit the button' at the right moment... so the looper can at times eventually play out of sync with the band...which of course the looper doesn't give a damn about.


Platinum Member
Same here. Not all guitarists 'hit the button' at the right moment... so the looper can at times eventually play out of sync with the band...which of course the looper doesn't give a damn about.
As a guitarist, you can be creative and record a rythmless loop of a sustained note, feedback, or some other sonic-mayhem and avoid the sync issue, though it has it's downsides. At best, you end up sounding like "My Bloody Valentine". At the worst, you end up sounding like Yanni or a persistent horny dolphin.

We can't all be Reggie Watts.


Platinum Member
I've worked with loops and sequencers going way back, but I can't imagine working with a looper in this situation.

I think I'd end up throwing it out a window. Without some sort of click or reference point, I don't see how any drummer could play with a looper pedal and make it work.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I've worked with loops and sequencers going way back, but I can't imagine working with a looper in this situation.

I think I'd end up throwing it out a window. Without some sort of click or reference point, I don't see how any drummer could play with a looper pedal and make it work.
This is why you've never seen it happening within a band context. For some reason players think they can be combined within groups of people. Just not gonna happen. The greats know this - when Weather Report let Jaco do his solo bit, that's when he used his looper. Same thing with Victor Wooten - you never see him impose that thing on the band. What is it with people who think they can do it?

I'd bail Larry, or get that guy to stop screwing everything up.


Platinum Member
I'm lucky enough to play regularly with a guitarist/bassist/vocalist who has fantastic timing. He's VERY reliable when it comes to stomping in and out, and conscious of the difficulty it presents to me. He'll even play a rhythmically "busy" pattern, so that I have more of a foundation to play with. Still, it's not easy. If the rest of the band gets loud (especially the bassist), it's game over after a few measures. I can plow through musicians with bad timing if I'm hearing a click, but with a track that's not so well-defined, it's tough to make adjustments myself, while refusing to adjust to others.

The only compromise is to make the guitar amp audible to you somehow. Situate the amp so it points at you somewhat, or mic it and bring your own monitor wedge (even a small 8" speaker is much better than nothing!).

The thing that's most disorienting is that, left to our own devices, we drummers tend to make small timing errors at the end of phrases, usually during fills. A guitarist who is looping will tend to rush or drag at exactly this moment, because of the stomping "out". So listen extra carefully as you play fills!

Good luck! Hope you and your band can conquer this beast, because it's pretty cool when it works.

No Way Jose

Silver Member
Fire the guitar player. When auditioning a new guitar player ask, "Do you have a looper?" If the answer is yes then the guitar player does not qualify.


"Uncle Larry"
Thank you for all the support. So it's not just me being a pussy.

My guy is very picky about things, and introducing another speaker off his guitar cabinet is just not going to happen. I barely have enough room as it is. He tends to use loops in the beginning of the night, which is always a dinner set at this one particular place we play 3 to 4 times a month. And TBH, it's not THAT big of an issue for me. He does not get on me for getting out of sync, he said one thing once, and nicely too. It's mostly me wanting to be the most excellent drummer I can be. He's pretty good with stomping at the right second, but I really can't tell how far off perfect it is.

Larry8: I would never tell him to kiss off, playing drums with that man is the highlight of my life. He doesn't do it to mess with me, his only concern is to sound as good and full as possible. He also uses a vocal harmonizer, but that doesn't affect me.

Bo: Re: head phones and pedestrian time...I'm afraid you're right, but I'd rather get out of sync and have him stop it than to wear headphones. Not only that, but I never know when he's going to use it, so I would be stuck wearing headphones all night. Not gonna happen. No way would I bail on this band. He's without a doubt the best musician in my scene, and that opinion is shared by most musicians in my scene. He's really that good. Playing with almost anybody else would be a major step down.

Dre: Re: the 2 layers coming from the same amp....That does make it difficult. He doesn't change his tone when he records the loop. It would be a little easier if he went really treble-ey for the loop part, it would reveal itself a little better I think.

Kamak: No apologies necessary, but I appreciate the sentiment just the same. I am in no way downing this guy. His motives are pure. I just have a hard time staying with it for more than 30 seconds. It's usually the things I do besides the beat that aren't in perfect time. Without the looper, the band automatically micro adjusts, the looper can't do that. So either I adjust, (and I do if I'm just a tiny bit off. I don't like adjusting but oh well new skill to learn.) or he stops the loop when I get to the point where I'm an eighth note off.

Ian: Made me feel better man. But I'm sure Vinnie could do it lol.

Brent: Great post man. Made me feel better knowing I'm not the only one who finds it difficult.

Jose: Not my band, I can't fire him, nor would I as long as I'm breathing.

Harry: That is the obvious solution. This band doesn't use monitors. We set up the PA speakers behind us. He makes it work, he's also a top notch sound engineer.

The only thing I can really do is do my best to try and develop a super power for hearing this thing without any monitoring. That is what I will do. I refuse to be one of these guys that complains about stuff. (Except here) I'd much rather do my best to rise to the occasion as best as I can.


Senior Member
that sounds horrible... and I agree 100% on the three points of human intervention you describe (stomping to start the recording, stomping to stop the recording and stomping to start/stop playing the loop) -- without the whole band playing to a 'click' it sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Depending on how bad the situation actually became - I'd probably suggest to the guitarist that the drums/bass (assuming a 3 piece) can certainly hold down the groove as he solos -- and with MUCH less chance of an issue.

Good luck Sir!


Platinum Member
Have him focus really intently on what you're doing when he's hitting his buttons on the floor. They tend to get wrapped up in their own thought process and it ends up making an un-even loop that really difficult to stay with for long periods. However, through trial and error, I've been able to get these guys to use me as the guide for when they hit the button, and since they're listening externally instead of focusing on the "loop" on their own, it tends to make the loops a lot more even.

Your mileage may vary.

"Be careful with that loop, or it sounds like poop!" - Stephen Hawking.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Come on Larry - how good can be be if he insists in using gear that screws everything up? To play great is one thing. To be aware of what he's doing to the other musicians is something else. Are you really sure he's the sharpest tool in the shed?

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Please help me understand this new (new to me) electronic device.

After he has recorded some chord pattern while he is playing live on stage, he stops recording. Later on in the song he presses a button and the chord pattern plays back while he plays a solo, or different guitar part. Is this correct?

How can he ever press the button at the exact correct time so that the recorded chord pattern comes in at the exact correct beat that you are currently playing in?????

I don't get it.

If he played and recorded the chord pattern just before his solo part and pressed the playback button just before his solo part then I can see how the looper would stay on the beat. This could work ok.

Someone explain this to me...... please.