Start using a few switches and short loops. You have a new instrument and you have to learn to play it. No quality arises without a process. But this learning can happen in a playful way. The ‘Plex ought to facilitate your playing – not render it more difficult. Let intuition grow through accidents and incidents.
Even with just the two switches RECORD and MULTIPLY you can give impressive solo concerts. Do not forget to reset sometimes and just play alone.
Not every tune sounds nice when repeated. In general, glissandos (gliding notes) soon get obtrusive. Take your time to experience the effects of different kinds of looped musical themes.
How to learn from mistakes
Not everything we think of as a mistake really is a deadlock. Often it is interesting to see which way you are going when starting with a mistake.
Therefore do not stop an “awful” loop immediately, but work with it or change it round by looking for a positive interpretation of your mistake. Once you have fought your way through the thicket you might arrive at a new area – and the great view you get will explain why you made the “mistake”.
In music we also express our faults and can be made aware of them by musical treatment. This is a way to wake up. Often the music expressing the break-through after a thorny thicket is extraordinary beautiful and can be published as an interesting result of a process.
The relationship between loop signal volume and direct signal seems trivial. But think of it: if the volume is unbalanced, the first repetition of your loop is either louder or softer than the original.
In the first case you will have the tendency to play even more loudly. Then the next loop will be even louder! Thus, your loop will push you up and up, until it distorts or until you go mad.
In the second case you probably will accompany the loop more quietly and the last layer will come back even softer – your music will grow more delicate.
Of course you can get used to an unbalanced volume. In polyphonic loops it is very reasonable to turn up the solo voice – turn MIX a little down.
You probably are not used to determine a rhythm with footswitches (tapping). It is not important to be very exact when switching an effect but taping is the first art to learn if you want to create rhythmic loops. PARADIS modified a regular footswitch for this purpose: FSP1 has an extremely short stroke requiring little force. No undefined time period will pass. You have a better rhythm feeling when tapping than when pressing.
Oberheim’s pedal board is not ideal, but still better than the ordinary long throw switches.
If you have trouble operating the footswitch, try taking advantage of the rhythm in your leg: Strike the floor as usual with the tip of your foot and move your foot over the switch at the beginning of the beat. You are able to tap the switch without any extra effort. Otherwise, you will have the tendency to play the first note more loudly and to lose your timing. Sitting electric- and western-guitar players are recommended to use their free left leg.
Percussionists are recommended to install keys in various places, to be operated by knee and …
Here is the bases how to become creative with keys for the ‘Plex:
Since OVERDUB is the most used key while playing, we wanted to allow you to use a separate key instead or additionally. We thought of the Piano Sustain type of pedal or a personal construction on your instrument. Plug it into the OVERDUB socket.
In many of those special cases, you might like to keep the foot on theOVERDUB pedal while calling another function. This is possible, with the exception of a few strange cases. (will be better in the update)
If you need only RECORD and OVERDUB (allows a lot of creativity!) you can plug an ordinary On-while-pressed key in the Pedal socket, and it will doRECORD.
If you want to include keys into your personal pedal board construction, go ahead. It takes a resistor in series with the key and its value defines the function of the key:
RECORD 0 Ohm
OVERDUB 14.3 kOhm
MULTIPLY 7.87 kOhm
INSERT 4.75 kOhm
MUTE 2.87 kOhm
UNDO 1.58 kOhm
NEXT 681 Ohm
If you do not find the exact values, try similar ones. You might loose the capability to use OVERDUB together with another key or get wrong functions at the worst.
Traditional delays have commonly been applied in two ways that are helpful at the beginning of a song:
You start with a musical theme to be looped, but the rhythm is not yet perfect. When recording the theme it may be correct but it will not have the necessary drive. It has to be played over for a while until it is ready to be recorded. In Rehearse state you keep getting confronted with your own irregularities. Only when the ‘Plex and yourself are playing exactly the same, will the theme be ready to record. Leave Rehearse with INSERT and conserve the musical theme.
The other application is the exact opposite: You have no idea what to play but you feel the beat. Tap RECORD, play anything, then INSERT. First you have the impression of a great chaos. But each phrase will be a reaction to what you have just played before. Suddenly, you play a new theme. Maybe you could not even replay it. But it is conserved in the ‘Plex. In order not to lose it tap INSERT as soon as you have heard it once, or tap OVERDUB to continue directly with activated overdubbing.
Select the most simple element to start with. In a salsa for instance, the bell. Record one or two beats at the most with RECORD. You could end the recording with MULTIPLY and immediately start recording a second instrument. Then multiply with four. You may use OVERDUB to record several instruments over these four beats. Then you will probably record bass line and harmonies, let us say over 16 beats (a second multiplication). This kind of music is often building towards a climax which is very convenient, because it is hard to simplify the groove.
Using the a volume pedal, you can reduce the loop volume while your actual playing undertakes the loop-theme, after fadeout you close with a coda. More interesting is to reduce feedback (with a pedal) and maybe reoverdub certain instruments while it fades out.
Do not forget to open feedback again before you start the next theme. Otherwise just undo to get back the start.
Sound carpets have been the most common electronic loop until now. Use feedback, overdub and a volume pedal to construct sound carpets.
Start with RECORD (for this application, precision is not that important). Play a loop length of 2 to 5 seconds. End RECORD with OVERDUB in order to get a clean transition of the sounds.
Sometimes you do not want any attacks at all. The looped sound carpet will then be very even. Use the pedal to control input volume: Each note will be faded in, take also advantage of the dynamic of the instrument. This can also be done in Delay Mode.
The limiter is helpful when weaving an even carpet. Overdrive the input, so that with each attack the LED turns red. Then the limiter will even up your carpet.
In this application FEEDBACK is not fully open. Otherwise your carpet will grow too thick. Control the development: Quicker change requires a feedback turned rather down, opening feedback makes the carpet grow.
Build up a groove (as described before), multiply it to get a verse. Add a chorus with INSERT, maybe in several layers with OVERDUB. Append several verses and choruses with MULTIPLY. Record an intro or an end with INSERT. The more sophisticated way is to use several loops and switch with NEXT between the parts. The advantage of INSERT is that you automatically have the sequence of the parts going, once it is created.
It is possible to record the last few minutes of playing in the practice room in order to listen to new ideas or to settle arguments about what just happened. This is another application of the ‘Plex: Connect a mixing desk output or a room microphone. Select the parameter Overflow to “ply” and InsertMode to “reh”. Tap RECORD and immediately INSERT. This brings us to Rehearse. Then you tap RECORD again and let go. The Record will end at the end of memory and continue in Rehearse. In order to listen to it, tap OVERDUB.
This is helpful to give lessons. The pupil may not hear what he does while playing. So the teacher can hold the pityless ‘Plex mirror and say: “Is that what you want it to sound like?”
UNDO and Replace both are correcting functions. Replace renews a part of the loop completely. UNDO deletes your last recording.
Replace is quite difficult to apply in loops with a great number of layers, often you can hear that there has been a correction. Sometimes this does not matter, because you may want to make some experiments. At least even your correction can be cancelled with UNDO.
You can apply Replace in a creative way: for instance, you have recorded a beat of two chords and have multiplied it by 4. Now you think this sounds too boring, so you exchange a chord with another one: press INSERT, play the chord and release INSERT exactly at the start of the next chord. You may find the function Replace too abrupt. You can use OVERDUB and a reduction of FeedBack instead. It may be somewhat tricky to operate (siting) but allows very creative “real time editing” of the loop.
To use UNDO, remember that you may not know where you are jumping back to. To prevent clicks, it is important to tap on an attack recorded in the loop, and not at any time after the mistake.
If you want to record a sample, we recommend starting the loop withRECORD and ending it with BREAK. When tapping MULTIPLY, the ‘Plex is ready to play your sample each time it is told to by a MIDI or BEAT SYNC signal. You can connect any instrument to the BEAT SYNC input, for instance the drummer’s second bass drum. He can then release your sample at his pleasure.
You can release it yourself with a footswitch connected to BEAT SYNC or the INSERT key.
In a band, the musicians often do not want to adapt to a machine and reject the ‘Plex as a rhythmic base – very understandable. However, you can transform your solo instrument to a multi-voice instrument for a short while.
You can either go into Delay MODE, tap RECORD twice in the short rhythm of the beat and control the doubling with the pedal.
Or you remain in Loop MODE and record a phrase (start with RECORD, end with OVERDUB) and immediately play a second or third voice. One singer can thus build huge soul choirs. Leave that state with a long RECORD(Reset) pressing.
You can also record the first chorus with RECORD, end the recording withMUTE, and release this first chorus with UNDO to accompany it with a second voice.
The dream of synchronizing several ‘Plexs (with BROTHER SYNC) was one of the greatest impulses to develop the ‘Plex. We are still unable to foretell the variety of sound to be made from this connection. It is very unique to be rhythmically connected and at the same time have all the liberties of a solo play.
Rhythm musicians could be overdubbing short loops, while the harmonic musicians might be multiplying long loops. While the harmonies and solos go on, the rhythm musicians continuously change their short loops. You can experience polyrhythm when one musician builds a loop of 4 beats, and another one of 5 beats.
I have discovered a very special, freely improvised musical style which obviously is connected to the effect of loops to audience and players. It may be very personal, but I would like to explain it, because it has become a ritual and oracle and has changed my life in a very interesting way. I rediscovered music starting with the OM (for technical reasons – there was no ‘Plex!). OM is a carpet of floating notes. Then there were short tunes. The harmonies grew out of the notes I overdubbed, because they matched each other. Later there were rhythms. This process of the musical setup lasted about one year. At the same time I developed an application for this musical style you might try out as well.
As an important precondition you should not worry about the quality of your music. Start with simple rhythms and tunes and do not think of success. You see now why I started with OM, the origin, the emptiness. Meanwhile, OM is not the only way to start a loop. Often I doodle around with a few notes to get in the right state. For somebody not knowing the process I would recommend the OM. You can build up an OM by fading in a certain note or octave notes in different sound colours, over and over again, with overdub and much feedback into a loop of 2-3 seconds. No attack should give a rhythm. However the wave of slowly changing sound colour will give you the feeling of the exact loop length. The OM calms you down and opens the channel to another world, flowing over with tunes and rhythms. You can play them until you find an interesting theme to be overdubbed with multiply (and reduced feedback). This theme might come from your interior and express a momentary state of mind. The waving of the overtones in the OM may give you some points of the melody. Thus it can start thoughts and feelings that may consciously or subconsciously worry you. This first theme of course is not the last. It may be simply a trifle: you fade it out and search on. Probably you find a second theme which may be even deeper in your mind. With feedback you control how long you want to remain in that theme and how quickly you go on to the next one.
In the beginning there are often nice thoughts to lead you onto a long journey with deadlocks, obstacles, yes even an accident – awful sounds and chaos. It seems to be helpful to walk through these vales of tears. Colour them even more awfully and try to feel what actually is going on inside. When playing or listening to the loop I can think of my problems because I consistently create the proper climate for myself. The reverb serves the same purpose because it creates the proper space which I consistently change by adapting reverb time and intensity with the foot pedal. Using headphones you can put yourself into an acoustic prison and free yourself to fly on a wave of long reverb.
The continuous repetition can be something harassing. Suddenly this hurricane calms down. Thoughts change. It becomes easy to continue to play beautifully, honestly, without cheap simplicity – while a new solution might come into my thoughts – and a new story.
Normally I play between 20 minutes and one hour without stopping. In that way I have taken all my essential decisions in the past few years, have digested sorrow and problems in order to overcome them more quickly and have even solved technical problems – for the ‘Plex.