For this article a brief outline about loop pedals. It will include what they do, the various functions you can find on them and their history.
What are Loop Pedals?:
A loop pedal is a simple device which lets you record and playback a musical idea.
What Can Loop Pedals Do?
A basic loop pedal will let you record your guitar. You can then play back this recording and add other parts to augment your previous made recording. There may be a control to balance the overall sound of your loop.
More advanced looper pedals will offer you more functions: You may find a start/stop function which will let you bring in your loop any time you want it. You may only want to have your loop in one part of a song you play. The loop may work as a extra part. All you need to do is start your loop at the time you want it to come in, and stop it where you want to end it.
There may be a function which will let you set the rhythm of your loop.
Some loop pedals come with a Automatic Start function, this function will let you start recording a soon as you start playing a note.
Your loop pedal may have a Save function, which will let you preserve the loop you have just created for any future moment when you want to use it.
There are loop pedals which come with pre sets for either/or rhythm tracks of drums or backing tracks of various musical styles. This may be ideal for guitarists who like to work with generic pre recorded musical ideas instead of creating their own, individual musical ideas.
You may come across loop pedals which do have a dedicated XLR input for a microphone. In this case you will be able to use your voice alongside your guitar signal.
The earliest, and most basic form of loop pedals are delay pedals with a hold function. The first pedals of this kind started to emerge in the early 1980s.
The hold function on most of these pedals is very short. They may contain just enough time for you to hold one chord, certainly not enough time for looping a whole sequence of chords. Overdub functions did not exist: You simply record over your previous recorded sound. This recording technique is called “Sound-on-Sound”: Each time your record over your original recording, the quality of original will get weaker. As one can imagine, there is a limit to how many times you can record over your original idea, since the original recording will disappear as too many parts are recorded over it. Sound-on Sound is a valid and useful technique but requires some planning and a little experience as to how many parts you can record over your original idea.
As the 1980s progressed delay pedals started to have longer delay-and hold times. Some of them did have a hold time for a full two seconds, which is good enough for 1.5 bar of music in 4/4
The overdub function was still often Sound-on-Sound with the result of loss in quality for your loop once you started overdubbing.
Towards the end of the late 1990s and early 2000 we see the emergence of dedicated loop pedals. Newer, better digital technology meant longer loop times and overdubbing without the loss of any quality for your original recording.
Today you can find any kind of looper pedal you may want. All have their own dedicated purpose and function.
When you are new to looping you may want to start your journey into looping with a basic delay pedal with a hold function: It will teach you the technique how to set up your basic loop. True, a basic pedal will be more primitive compared to a more advanced, dedicated loop station pedal, but it is also more fun. You will learn quickly how to set up creative loops. In the meantime you will see its strengths and weaknesses. Once you upgrade to a better loop station your learning curve will be short since you already have mastered your basic loop skills. You will enjoy your time with your new looper straight away instead of being frustrated over not being able to create smooth loops for your music.
Here two videos I have made for loop pedals: One is with the Boss Delay DD7, this pedal is a delay pedal with a hold function for 40 seconds, no save or stop/start functions. The loop will repeat itself as soon as you finished recording. In the video I do mute the sound of the loop by turning down its volume with a volume pedal. The DD7 will allow you to turn down the volume of your loop by using the level control. The volume will be turned down, but this will not stop the loop. The loop will keep playing until you erase its content!
The next video here where I used to Boss RC-2, which is a dedicated loop station which contains 16 minutes of recording time for creating loops. It also contains various drum guides which you can use along side your loop. You can hear me using a drum guide on the actual loop. The RC-2 does also come with a Save and Stop/Start function. Most dedicated Loop Station pedals will have these functions.
The PDS series from Digitech are one of those pedals which use” Sound-on-Sound” for their Looping-and Sample Function. On this particular model you can stop your loop, but you cannot save it.
Hope you found this article useful and enjoyable.
Looking forward to see you again here in the future.