Looking for a midi/audio looper
November 28, 2007 10:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for (preferably software-based) audio and midi loopers, designed for real time use.

I recently got a midi pickup and what not for the guitar. It's pretty sweet and very fun to use. I'd like to be able to use some kind of looping software to "build up" songs in real time. That is, play a simple drum track, play a bass track, play some chords, etc.

I've played with the Roland RC-20. My complaint with it is that it seems like you can't start recording the second loop until after you've recorded the first one AND played through it once. This takes twice as long and I'd like to use this for performance. Other roland loopers might be better?

Most of the loops will be midi instruments so it's fine with me to record midi loops for playback instead of plain audio loops. This may end up being rather taxing for the computer to handle, I don't know.

It would be really nice if the looper understood bars, so that when I trigger a loop it won't start until the beginning of the next bar. Also I do have some midi foot controllers that I can use, it would be nice if I could use these (there are 10 stomp buttons) to select a patch to play/record.

Here's a youtube example of what I'm interested in trying. I think he's using a roland rc-20 or similar and you can see that he has to wait to record the loop.

I'd really like to do this all live in real time, so I'm not after making pre-recorded loops.
posted by RustyBrooks to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Roland RC-50 or Digitech JamMan.
posted by sourwookie at 11:13 PM on November 28, 2007

As far as MIDI goes, the pedals will only take the audio signal fed to them (they have no tone generator to respond to MIDI triggers). So the pedal will not sputter due to overload, your sequencing source will if it's underpowered on the CPU.
posted by sourwookie at 11:15 PM on November 28, 2007

Rico Loop is the current master of this style.
posted by sourwookie at 11:19 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Does the RC-50 have the same problem with waiting to start recording the second loop? It looks interesting. Maybe more than I want to spend but it's an option. It's got some pretty bad (and pretty good) reviews in harmony central.

I'm fine with a pure audio looper, but the nice thing about a midi looper is I'd have something I could fool with later, if I wanted to.

The Rico thing is neat. But I'm actually aiming for something perhaps a little more like Herb Ellis and Joe Pass, but just me. A little more conventional perhaps.
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:39 PM on November 28, 2007

Want to play like Joe Pass? Learn jazz guitar and get really good cohorts.

Jazz form (AKA American Songbook) will rely upon a 32 bar form (A eight measures times two, bridge eight measures once, A form again times two).

Doesn't lend itself to 4, 8, 16 bar looping.

If that is what you're after, invest in a Jamie Abersold library.
posted by sourwookie at 12:13 AM on November 29, 2007

Alternatively, these things will do what you want: you merely have to be really clever about their use. A kind of "hacking" if you will.

"All Of Me" a 32 bar form, no bridge. Can you loop it? No. The last four measures prevents a repitition of the first 16 (unless you loop the 32 bars in an AB form).

"Solar" Miles Davis? Sure. 16 bars 4-evah. Loop till the cows come home.
posted by sourwookie at 12:19 AM on November 29, 2007

Oh, and Nick is using a Roland GK-3 pickup to trigger MIDI signals in a "box." That box sends audio signals only to his looper. While he uses MIDI in a trigger/generation context, the looping pedal sees no MIDI, only analogue audio.
posted by sourwookie at 12:25 AM on November 29, 2007

You want to do something like this with a few instruments instead of just a mike?

He is obviously using Live here, which is audio based instead of MIDI based, but seems like exactly what you want. I think he has his pedal sending keyboard shortcuts actually.
posted by aubilenon at 12:52 AM on November 29, 2007

I had never heard of Ricoloop before, but that was cool. Evidently, he also uses Ableton Live.
posted by aubilenon at 1:02 AM on November 29, 2007

I've seen/met him live a couple of times using the RC-50. With my own eyes.
posted by sourwookie at 1:18 AM on November 29, 2007

As far as I know, and I know a bit about this you need to do one of two things:

Buy Ableton Live and spend a good amount of time developing your environment. I use ableton with a FCB1010 foot controller (not great but it has a lot of buttons) to control a system of looping buffers that will do everything you are looking to do.

Basically I have my guitar go into a track in live that feeds through some effects and then goes to my master out. I then have three tracks that take my effected guitar as an input. These are armed to record and have the input set to 'Auto' the record buttons on these tracks are set to buttons on my controler. So while I'm playing I can start recording these loops at the same or different times and, since I'm using Live, I can record for a DAY if I want to -- no limitations save disk space. So I can do something like this: while playing I start recording two loops: I stop recording on one after 16 bars and it starts looping right away. I keep recording the other one for another 64 bars, the first loop playing back all the way with me just adding some sound to it.

THEN, I have another three loop tracks set up in Live for my synths: Absynth and Live's Sampler. I can do the same thing as I do with the guitar with these.

THEN, I have another three tracks set up to record the Master Output of Live. This way I can record all the sound I'm making for 64 bars or so and get it looping, then use Live's DJ crossfader to fade from my 'live' loops to a single recorded loop. which allows me to stop all the running loops save that one without changing what the audience hears. Then I can start adding even more overdubs to that Master loop or I can build up a whole different song in my headphones while the audience hears the Master Loops and fade it all over at once.

The OTHER thing that you could do is buy Max/MSP or use the free Pd to do the same thing and a million other things, too, but you'd have to cook it yourself and program everything. More flexibility even than Ableton Live, but at a higher development cost.

Good luck.
posted by n9 at 4:06 AM on November 29, 2007

There is a loop machine effect built into Guitar Rig 3 (not sure if it's in 1 or 2) that I believe matches and in some ways exceeds a typical high-end looper petal. It has multiple undo, for instance, and you can export the tracks when you're done. It's only for audio, though.
posted by abcde at 6:06 AM on November 29, 2007

Response by poster: sourwookie: thanks for the multiple replies. I think I have explained myself badly though.

I can already play guitar - not like Joe Pass naturally, but well enough for my purposes. What I was referring to is some recordings that Joe Pass and Herb Ellis made together, that are really quite nice, just the two of them and some drums. They're both kind of comping, they're both kind of playing the melody, at once, and it's fascinating.

I'm not looking to make static loops, obviously that won't work for jazz songs. Think of it more like this...

I run through the song once, no repeats. I tap every time I want to start recording a new "phrase" beginning with the next measure. So recording a song might go like

* tap to start intro, record in bank 1
* tap to start verse, record in bank 2
* tap to start chorus, record in bank 3
* tap to start outro, record in bank 4
(let's ignore second endings on verses for now)
Obviously I won't want any of these to start auto-looping, when I start recording the second one I want the first one to stop for now.

Now, I have a complete track of something (drums, bass, chords, whatever) and I can go back and start again for another instrument. I suppose the next time I record into bank 1 I'll want it layered with the previous thing I recorded in there.

I know that the video I showed, he's using an audio looper, not a midi one. I also know that it's probably an RC-20. I'd like to do what he's done, but with a bit more sophisticated motion through the song, not just a static 4, 8 or 16 bar loop.

The RC-50 might be good enough. Ableton live looks interesting, I'll check that out. I've played with a few computer based audio loopers today, some of those might work. (I found a website for loopers, can't think of the name right now). I've fooled around with cubase, I *think* I could actually automate the create-new-track-and-start-recording process but I'm not sure I can make it do the process I described above. On the plus side I can use it to record audio OR midi. Kind of a big stick for this problem though.

Hey, I have guitar rig and somehow I never noticed this. I'll have to check it out. I can't think right now if I have 2 or 3 though.

Thanks for all the replies
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:56 AM on November 29, 2007

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