Interested in guitar loop pedals? You've come to the right place! Loop pedals make tiny sound clones that turn a one-man (or woman) show into an entire band. Who says you need band mates? You can create one at the touch of your foot. We'll guide you through the process of learning how to create a loop and how to use a guitar looper, plus where to go when you're ready to learn more.
What is a guitar loop pedal?
A guitar loop pedal records short passages then plays it back in a repeating loop. While originally used for guitars, musicians use loop pedals with vocals and a number of instruments. Some famous "loopers" include Ed Sheeran, KT Tunstall, and Imogen Heap (just to name a few). I love this video of Ed Sheeran performing "You Need Me, I Don't Need You." This is a great example of creating a progression with a loop pedal.
In Ed Sheeran's video (above), he uses a loop pedal to create complex rhythms and harmonies. The basic backing lays the ground work to increasingly add more to the song. Guitar loop pedals are a great practice and performance tool that can take your tunes to the next level.
What can I do with a guitar loop pedal?
You can work on rhythm guitar playing, which will help keep you on time. Loop pedals let you hear how your rhythm mixes within the chord progression. It's great for experimenting with different types of rhythm.
Loop pedals give you the power to be the composer. You can get creative and write your own harmonies. Who knows, maybe you'll be the next Bob Dylan!
You can work on perfecting your practice solos. The loop pedal allows you to record short chord progressions. When you build the progressions, you can play over the top to make rocking solos. With the loop pedal, you can transform your one person band into a multi-instrument gig, all by yourself. Essentially, creating virtual band mates.
How do I play a loop?
A loop is all about timing. A good loop will start and stop at the right time. You can easily tell a good loop from a bad loop. A good loop will flow seamlessly into the next loop. A bad loop sounds like it's jumping back too soon, because it isn't timed properly.
Let's practice! If, you're a visual learner check out the video at the end of this section.
- We'll start very basic and focus on timing. Hit your footswitch to start. Pick your favorite chord (we'll use E minor) and let it ring for 4 beats. Hit the footswitch again to end the loop. The order will look like this:
Footswitch + 1 (Chord) + 2 + 3 + 4 + Footswitch
Now, you've got yourself a loop! Practice this several times to get in the habit of starting and stopping the loop at the right time.
- Your loop timing is down, let's try creating a loop while strumming. Pick a chord (we'll stick with E minor) and strum it 8 times, making 2 bars. Hit the footswitch at the end of the last bar. If you hit the footswitch at the perfect time, you'll have a perfect loop.
- When you feel comfortable will strumming and looping, practice playing on top of your loop. Get creative and see what sounds good!
Here, David Macara Brown covers how to play loops in time using the Boss RC-30. Brown also talks about using the counting feature and tap tempo on the Boss station. I like how he breaks down how to use the pedal and what settings he uses.
What kind of guitar loop pedal should I buy?
I'll give a little secret. Basic loop pedals will give you the functionality to overdub, undo/redo, play/stop. If you're just starting out and want to save money, instead of buying a loop pedal, you can purchase a delay pedal, which typically has the exact same functions as a loop pedal too.
The Boss RC-30 loop station is the best loop pedal for beginners, also what Brown is using in the video above. It's lighter and smaller than it's big brother, the Boss RC-300. With the compact size, you don't have as many features, but if you're just starting out this is a good place to begin.
Note: Ed Sheeran is said to have performed with the Boss RC-30!
The Boss RC-30 has enough internal memory to let you play for three hours. It comes with two synchronized stereo tracks with dedicated volume faders and track-select buttons. Plus, the Boss brand is known for their durability and warranty, which don't come with other brands.
The Boss RC-30 Loops Station comes with 99 onboard memory presets, built-in loop effects, and true stereo outputs. The dedicated controls and faders make it easier to mix each track.
If you're looking for a "middle of the road" guitar looper, we suggest the Vox Lil Looper Pedal. It doesn't come with the hefty price tag of the Boss. The Vox is actually half the cost of the Boss, but still has the features you'd find in other pedal competitors.
Even with the compact size, Vox offers two independent loops and great features like recording, playback, and overdub. You can make your timing a bit easier by using the quantize function.
The Vox Lil Looper won't be as durable as the Boss RC-30, but you'll be getting your money's worth plus some with the number of features and effects. This is a good loop pedal to start with if you're starting to experiment and aren't ready to shell out the big bucks yet.
We've guided you through what a loop is, how to play a loop with a pedal, and where to begin when buying a guitar loop pedal. Now, all you need is a little extra motivation. Listen to Roz Firth's cover of Pharrell William's Happy. I imagine Roz's voice sounds like angels swimming in champagne glasses.
Interested to read more? Check out these links for a good read: