There are many effective looping strategies for live performance.
As a drummer/percussionist originally, I’ve always gravitated to rhythmic approaches to live looping, favoring a more West African musical paradigm of layer different rhythmic and non-rhythmic parts against each other. This causes what is called ‘Terrace Dynamics’ in music and is particularly effective in groove based music.
There are, of course, many other effective approaches that people use to make looping including the very large percentage of our community who use softer and more ambient approaches.
I borrow from these techniques too, but it is not my primary musical approach.
In my own particular approach, there is always a danger that the loops will be viewed as being to static. Consequently, from the get go, I’ve been very interested in how to ‘mask’ the static quality of rhythmic and ambient loops from the audience. These strategies are used to try to make the music sound more organic…………and, in a way, to try in an odd way, to emulate a real band playing in real time. (of course it goes without saying that much fun can come from purposefully NOT trying to emulate a real band……..I’m into those more experimental approaches too).
So, here are some of my strategies for ‘masking’ the recurring nature of a loop from the listeners’ ears.
1) I got this first one from Steve Lawson (with many thanks): but a random filter on your loop that has very strong sweeps between frequencies and high ‘Q’ values. It is amazing how different each iteration of your loop will sound like utilizing this approach.
2) Use two different and non-syncrhonized loopers and make on long ambient loop over which you put a rhythmic secondary looping track. The loop will randomly cycle against each other. Even when they happen to coincide on each other’s downbeats, it will have taken so long that the audience will not percieve it as a coherence.
3) With rhythmic loops you can use ‘slip’ functions (Electrix Repeater) or mute/retrigger features (like in the EDP) that retrigger wherever you were in the loop when you last mute the loop so that the rhythm plays differently, rhythmically speaking against another element (this also requires two loopers playing simultaneously.
4) Use any kind of modulation or delay functions that are in a different time scale to your loop (this is particularly effective with ambient loops that cycle over rhythmic loops but can also be used with two different ambient or textural loops in less rhythmically bases music.
5) In software manipulation of loops, use randomization features for processing or retriggering one’s looped content.
6) Using the ‘scramble’ functions and/or the quantized replace (Looperlative DL-1 terms) or INS=SUB features in quantized mode to Replace rhythm fractions of your loop.
My brother, Bill Walker, is especially effective with this technique when using different feedback percentages as he replaces.
With auto swell, volume pedal or guitar part swell or ‘slow gear’ guitar techniques, this also is a beautiful way of continually morphing your loops.
7) This next one I have almost no experience with, but Matthias Grob truly loves it and does it beautifully……………using different feedback percentages to subtly replace original content.
I think this category could be greatly expanded by the loopers here.
8) This one only exists in the LP-2 because I put it in the software for this purpose: Random Retrigger……………allows you to randomly retrigger one’s loop (the loop continues from the random start point whenever this is used. Due to the nature of the wave forms being of unequal volume when randomly retriggered this always causes a rhythmic ‘gated’ effect.
This is particularly effective at creating ambient or avant garde a-rhythmic loops and then creating and ostinato rhythm by rhythmically playing the foot pedal like a kick drum.
In a best case scenario: use a secondary looper to re-loop your results.