Definitions

Sample

[Sample also means a single value in a digital audio file, we never mean this kind of sample in this text, except for the combination “sample frequency”]
A sample in this text is a recorded bit of sound, be it a note, a drum rhythm or a whole melody etc.

Loop

[Loop also means a way to insert an effect into an audio chain and a repeated program code – we never mean those loops in this text]
“Loops are short sections of tracks (probably between one and four bars in length), which you believe might work being repeated.” A loop is not “any sample, but…specifically a small section of sound that’s repeated continuously.” Contrast with a one-shot sample. (Duffell 2005, p.14)

“A loop is a sample of a performance that has been edited to repeat seamlessly when the audio file is played end to end.” (Hawkins 2004, p. 10)

Looping vs Sampling

Looping can be seen as a subset of Sampling,
but we prefer to see them as the two basic approaches to how and why music is repeated:
– Loop rather means a continuous repetition rooted in principles of trance, mantra, lullaby…
– Sample rather means a recorded sound or phrase which can be called back any time and thus allow compositions, irregular structures…
Since a Loop can be interrupted (mute function) and a Sample can be regularly repeated, the result may become similar.
Musicians choose one or the other approach depending on how they think about the magic, challenge and purpose of music.
Engineers choose the approach which is simpler to program.

Live

Live means interpreted in front of the public, as opposed to playing back a previous recording. and thus is at least a little different from all previous interpretations,
Some also talk about Live in the studio, meaning that the interpretation happens with all musicians in real time, as if there was a public, as opposed to recording fractions and/or instrument after instrument.
Most musicians and listeners agree that a ready recording brought to stage weakens the experience for the listener, or feels like cheating.
Advantages of Live:

  • the listener can see how the music is made
  • the musician is free to adapt to moment and space or follow an inspiration
  • the energy of a physically played instrument is stronger than its recording
  • each presentation is different, which makes it more intersting for a returning listener.

Live + Looping

LiveLooping is a playing technique based on loops which are recorded during the performance. Its a way to compose in real time, or “near real time” since the loops are recorded seconds or minutes before they are heard.
The combination of Live and Looping helps both sides of traditional music:

the live musician who looks for more musical complexity or a more relaxed way to create and interpret.
the studio musician used to work with loops and samples but looking for more spontaneity.

Plus, and maybe most important, it suggests new structures and sounds.
For listeners who are used to electric music, the most interesting aspect of LiveLooping might not be the way the music is built, but the instruments used.
Musicians who choose LiveLooping or LiveSampling by definition have one feeling in common:
Music works better when played live.
Technology for precise non-live looping has been available much longer and styles like HipHop have grown out of it. Its easier and safer for the musician – so the ones who choose livelooping agree that there is something stronger to it, be it more fun, deeper, spontaneous,,, preserving the musical essence which cannot be recorded or assembled! It calls and recalls the live and life energy which we cannot control but channel and distribute – apparently through sound, but the energy is more subtle even. It appears that for similar reasons, most use organic or electrorganic instruments (all traditional and some modern ones, made with real oscillating objects like strings, skins, tubes of air…). They bring some fresh power and surprise, some intuitive control and expression, and some freedom to adapt to the moment – a freedom we don’t want to give up for more technical precision or lighter transport… but we do use electronic processing to enhance this experience and find more flavors of the live life energy!

Anyone can create loops, but they don’t sound good very easily. Its not like a keyboard with a sequencer which can do most on its own.
A LiveLooping tool does not play by itself, it only goes on playing the musicians impulse.
A live musician needs to develop skills on some instrument.
A live looping musician also needs to study his looping tool. Depending on talent and ideas, it takes hours to years of practice to handle the loop with precision and without getting distracted from the music.

Oscillations

Physics tells that the universe is built on oscillation of not yet found smallest, maybe not material particles.
Biology and History tells that on all time levels, most if not all events repeat, but always with slight differences.
Music also oscillates on several levels, some synchronized to the lower level:
– a notes fundamental (0,5 – 50ms) => pitch
– the harmonics (multiples, nearly synced) (0,05 – 25ms) => timbre (distortion)
– a modulation like tremolo (not synced) (100 – 1000ms) => expression (delay)
– a echo / reverb (50 – 1000ms) => space (delay / looper)
– a repeated pattern of notes (not synced) (100 – 2000ms) => rhythm (delay / looper)
– a repeated chord sequence (usually synced) (1 – 50s) => harmonies (looper)
– a repeated part of the music (usually synced) (2 – 200s) => refrain… (looper)
– a playback song in repeat mode (not synced) (2 – 50 minutes) => sick fans (media player)

maybe interesting to mention that composed pieces of music are usually often repeated:
50 times while composing
100 times to rehearse it (can be a lot more if many orchestras interpret the piece)
100 times in the recording studio
up to a billion times from the media
but since those repetitions are usually not perceived as such and happen irregularly and in different circumstances, they are not relevant in this context.
But the repeat mode in a CD player is definitely a way to loop and must have a specific effect on the listener. Its amazing how some people can spend an afternoon with a 3 minute piece. Usually they want do dig deep into some emotion or state. Maybe they would use a looper to repeat only a specific part of the piece and seamless splice. So why not build loopers for listeners or better: include Record and Feedback and Reverse functions into media players?

A simple looper does one or two of the last 4 levels, a sophisticated one can create them all.