What Is A Loop Station? Guitar And Vocal Looping Overview!Devlon Jarrod Horne
I haven’t used a loop station in my performance, but I know a colleague of mine that handles it all the time in his live performances, and you wouldn’t believe what he can create just with his microphone and guitar using a loop station. I decided to write this article on what exactly is a loop station and what you can do with it. Can you use a guitar, a microphone, and any other instruments?
A loop station or loop pedal is a small device that is used for the recording and playback of a piece of music in real-time. You can record, erase, overdub, store audio for live playback, and you can use many different instruments, including a guitar, microphone, keyboard, and bass, among others, to create loops in your live performance.
A loop station is excellent if you’re a solo performer, and from what you just read, it seems like it can pull off some fantastic things. We are going to take a look at precisely what a loop station is and what functions and features it comes with. You would be surprised at the ingenuity of what these little pedals can offer you as a solo performer, so let’s dive right in.
What is a loop station and what can you do with it?
The fastest definition would be is that a Loop Station is a fiery red foot pedal manufactured by BOSS, a company renowned for producing guitar effects pedals. The pedal is designed for musicians and singers to record live performed audio to use for playback so that they may perform live to an audience or privately just for the purpose of practice. It can be viewed as a teensy recording studio and has been successfully used by many solo artists to create the effect that they are performing as a full band.
You do get looping pedals made by other companies that are just as good as BOSS looping pedals. However, I use BOSS and so do my colleagues and as such, I decided to stick to one brand for this article
How does a loop station work?
A Loop Station works simply just by recording, and playing back. The timing is critical, as music has two rules. It’s got to be in tune, and it’s got to be in time. Once you have decided what instrument you want to use to record with, even if it’s your voice, the timing is triggered by depressing the pedal first to record and then again for it to play it back again.
Even though the recording has a beginning and an end the playback repeats the recorded segment again and again and again ….. and again in a cycle hence the term ‘loop.’ Once the first ‘loop’ has been recorded and is playing back, further loops may be recorded to ‘roll’ with the existing first loop as ‘overdubs.’ This allows for quite a complex production to be created to exist as an accompaniment to a one-man-band.
What makes a good loop station?
The primary prerequisite is that the loop station must be able to record and playback a quality signal without any time delays. There needs to be enough memory on the pedal to handle all the data being recorded, stored, overdubbed, and played back. Not all musicians love reading manuals so user-friendliness is a must. Fortunately, most loop stations have all these bases covered already along with cool additional features like drum samples, multi-track recording, auxiliary inputs, onboard effects, and USB outputs.
The criteria for choosing a loop station can also depend on the artist’s needs and is not always dependent on how many features are available, for example, a multi-instrumentalist might require the powerhouse features of an RC-505 whereas a vocalist or guitarist might find the RC-3 is best suited for their needs. The best advice would be to start simple and graduate to bigger and better as your looping evolves.
What features does a loop station come with?
We briefly covered this. Now let’s dive deeper into a looping pedal to explain exactly what its functions and features are
Every loop pedals’ primary purpose is to record some piece of audio and then play it back as discussed, in a loop. There is no set parameter for timing in terms of recording. It is all up to you as the performer to introduce the timing. Most popular music is in 4/4 time along with drum grooves, especially if they are built-in grooves of the loop pedal. so, when you’re playing cover songs and improvising and such, you more likely want to stick to 4/4 time to make things easy for yourself when you record at a beginner level.
This will help you keep time and allow you to playback the recording as well as overdubs in time, more so then if you were trying to loop something with a swing feel. All you need to do is record your piece of audio and then count to 4, then stop the recording to introduce playback.
Once you’ve recorded your piece of audio into the loop pedal the loop pedal plays it back in an infinite loop until you decide to stop it. The playback will literally go on forever if it could. This is the defining characteristic of a loop pedal and is what makes this pedal uniquely different from a regular effects pedal.
The greatest thing besides being able to record and playback your audio so you can sing or improvise over it is that you can record multiple audio pieces and have them all playback simultaneously in the loop.
You could lay down a chord progression, then you could lay inverted chords over that or a little riff. You could add percussion to your loop and even vocal harmony or even strings. All of these audio pieces would playback simultaneously creating a full-on band effect.
Storing and erasing
A loop pedal comes with a memory bank similar to guitar effects pedals and controllers. You are able to save your recorded loops for later playback or you are also able to erase them completely. A cool feature is that when you are live recording and overdubbing you are able to erase and record loops in your performance creating different playback sections. What this means is that essentially you could have full-on songs with different verses, choruses, bridges, and endings while you are playing and recording.
Drum loops and other samples
Depending on your loop pedal, it will come with a wide array of drum samples and other samples that you can use in your live performances to playback and build other loops on. For example, you could use a built-in drum loop that playback repeatedly, and then you could lay down your chord progression, bassline, or vocal harmony over that. If you don’t know how to create your own percussion sounds live then this is a great way to get the feel of looping. You will also stay in time better when recording your loops. Other samples could include chord progressions and vocal samples.
Watch a basic demo of the BOSS RC-3 pedal and what it can do. If you enjoy that little demo then have a look at our free introductory looping course by Brad Cunningham – Looping For Your Voice & Instrument.
What other guitar effects pedals can I use with a loop station?
You can literally use any effects pedal with a looping pedal. Depending on where you plug it into your chain of effects it will be subject to the other effects pedals effects. I nice combination with a loop pedal is usually a compressor and then a reverb pedal and delay to make the loops sound nice, full, and wide.
Can I use a loop pedal with a guitar?
You can definitely use a guitar with your loop pedal, and it can be either acoustic or electric You just have to make sure that with acoustic guitars that it does have a line out so you are able to plug it into your looping pedal. The great thing about using a loop pedal with a guitar is that you can loop chord progressions and sing over them or you could improvise over them.
No need to search the net endlessly for a backtrack containing a Major 13th chord. All you do is come up with a progression using chords you want to sing or improvise over and then record it and play it back. The possibilities are endless not to mention you will improve your improvisation skills incredibly.
Can I use a loop pedal for singing?
You can do so much by using a microphone and vocals with a loop pedal. You can sing harmonies and riffs. You can even beatbox and create your own percussion using a microphone and just your voice. You could sing a bass line and record that. Essentially, using just your voice, you could create the sound of an entire band.
What other instruments can I use with a loop pedal?
You can use virtually any instrument as long as it has a jack output. Even if it doesn’t have a jack output you can use a microphone and then record it through there. For example, you could use a harmonica and record a loop through the microphone.
Other instruments you could use to record loops include keyboards and bass guitars. A loop pedal is incredible and is a must-have if you are a solo performer looking to expand and express yourself more.
Is a loop station for me?
There’s only one way to find out. The next time you are in a music store ask for assistance and go demo one. If you are a singer, songwriter, guitarist, instrumentalist then you should really have a go with one and see what transpires. The possibilities are endless and you can choose any genre you like.
The BOSS Loop station range includes the following products
We are going to cover all the loop pedals in the BOSS range. BOSS is renowned for there effects pedals and their line of looping pedals are no different. Some are so sophisticated that they are termed loop stations. We will order them from beginner loop pedals to the utmost advanced looping stations created by BOSS. If you would like to know more about these products then have a look at my article on – BOSS looping Pedals Comparison: Complete Guide
There are plenty of other looping pedals and devices out there made by other companies.
What famous bands or artists use a loop station?
Famous artists that have used loops are KT Tunstall, Steve Morse, Dave Coleman and probably the most popular currently is Ed Sheeran.
Watch Ed Sheeran demonstrate how looping and overdubbing works for vocals and guitar. It’s incredible.
In conclusion, we discussed what a loop pedal is and what it can do for you as a performer whether you play guitar, are a singer, or even if you play any other instrument. We got to take a look at all the incredible functions and features a loop station has and ways to use them.
One of the coolest things that the loop station brings to the music industry is that it bridges the huge gap, between technology and talent. In a world where pop stars are manufactured in a studio, ‘laboratory’ style, the difference between their produced recordings and their live performances are blatantly apparent.
However, the loop station artist, even though they are embracing technology to create loops, must still deliver in time, in tune, and in one take just like the older legends before them had to.
Check out our free introductory looping course by Brad Cunningham – Looping For Your Voice And Instrument
Then check out our complete looping course from Brad Cunningham – Pro Level Looping for Vocals & Instruments