Christian Howes by Christian Howes (re-blogged with permission -- click here to view original post)

Music tip – “How To Use Looping and Loop Pedals”

Creative Strings Academy - Learn improv and try a FREE one month trialI received a question...from a Creative Strings Academy member about “how to use looping and loop pedals” to practice and develop more music in his life. Here is his question and my answer below: “I was wondering if a looper of some kind could help fill in the gaps for me as a bassist. As I understand it, I see you building tunes for the ground up. You lay down a bass track, then some comping and maybe some harmony and then practice jammin’ with the loops. Can you do that with jazz standards as well? Thanks again for the inspiration and ideas. I know I would need some kind of bass pick up and…?” My (short) answer: 1) The first loop should express “workable” subdivisions. It should not leave any big rests. Sometimes this is a bass line (like a walking bass line, or any bass line that is busy enough that you can feel the constant subdivisions). Sometimes it’s better to have an ostinato, moving countermelody, inner voices pattern, or rhythmic subdivision, especially if the bass line has very little activity or motion. An example can be found here in the featured video on my Youtube channel where my bass line is less active, so I used a strumming pattern as the first loop:


Otherwise, if you play a bass line that leaves a lot of room without subdivisions as the first loop, then you’ve got to fill in those spaces with some kind of percussive subdivision. This is because our mind processes time in smaller chunks. We can’t process or measure whole notes at 60bpm. We need to hear the quarter notes one way or another in order to stay together. This is the same reason that in a string quartet or orchestra everyone needs to zero in on whoever is playing the subdivisions at any given time in order to stay together.   Here’s an example of a loop that starts with a bass line and includes regular subdivisions:


  2) You can use loops to improvise over simple forms, like one bar vamps. This is great practice and can be lots of fun. Ultimately it’s more challenging and rewarding to play longer forms. I like to play full song forms. e.g., a 32 bar jazz standard, a 12 bar blues, or a verse and chorus of a pop tune. It’s tricky, however, to keep it interesting in longer forms because the audience has to listen to the loop setup. There are different ways around this. The “Boomerang” looper, for example, has different “modes” to enable you to create all kinds of different loops at once. I’m not that fancy with technology. I just use basic looping and then try to be creative in finding ways to change up the songs so that it’s not always the same old thing on each song (especially if i’m doing a long solo concert with the loop pedal). Visit the Electric Violin Shop for a selection of loop pedals.   3) For gear, I recommend you have a multi-effects pedal like the Boss ME-80 (available at Electric Violin Shop) and utilize the Octave feature to expand your range and cover a wide range of registers to illustrate an “orchestral” palette or texture. Similarly, you can use different effects (tastefully) to have different timbres of sound so the loop doesn’t sound like 7 layers of “the same.” A bassist could use the 8va octave to cover melodic range and a violinist can use the 8vb to cover lower/bass range… You could also accomplish this withSOFTWARE and run through your laptop. Adam Spiers has a blog explaining how to do it for free.   Bottom line – Looping is great for: 1) Practice 2) Teaching 3) Performance/creativity/expression
Christian Howes is a noted performer, teacher, producer and clinician and runs the annual Creative Strings Workshop in Columbus, Ohio as well as the online Creative Strings Academy. Click the banner below for information... Learn jazz improv with Christian Howes