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Re: questions for loopers

On Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:59 PM, Jon Forsyth <jpf211@nyu.edu> wrote:
> 1) what aspects of looping do you enjoy the most?

To use the looping gear as an instrument. As opposed to using it as a 

> 2) what aspects of looping do you enjoy the least?

The "one man band" concept.

> 3) what looping tools (including controllers) do you currently
> use/have used in the past?

Electric instruments, acoustic instruments, one microphone, two MIDI
surfaces: The Gordius Little GIant 2 and the Faderfox LV3, a laptop
(Macbook Pro) with an audio interface (RME Fireface 400), looper
software Mobius, four alternative host applications (depending on the
kind of project I'm currently involved with): Logic Pro, Mainstage,
Plogue Bidule, Ableton Live.

In the past:
Same audio source instruments as today, Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro,
Electrixpro Repeater, Akai MFC42 analog filterbank, mixer, Lexicon
LXP-5 multi effect unit, TC Electronics Fireworx multi effect unit,
Behringer FCB 1010 pedagboard MIDI controller, Faderfox LV1, a huge

> 4) what are the strengths of these tools?
Current (software based) tools setup provides more power to be
creative, is more portable, and easier to back up.

The previous (hardware based) tools setup looked better on stage, at
least in the dark when all buttons and lids were twinkling.

> 5) what are the weaknesses of these tools?
Software based setup needs to be taken care of more, since you have to
follow upgrades in components. For example a computer operating system
might suddenly be upgraded and you need that upgrade for one task but
also have to upgrade a lot of third-party software to work well under
the new OS version.

The old hardware based rig did not have any way to recall set levels.
This meant a gig might sound bad initially before you got all levels

> 6) do you modify a loop once it's been created?
Yes, that's an important aspect of the art form.

>  if so, how?
Most possible ways that serves a musical purpose. Fore example:
changing loop length, transposing pitch/speed, replacing certain parts
of the loop's audio with new audio, reversing, re-sampling many loops
into one new loop, adding new layers of audio, "peeling off" layers of
previously added audio, duplicating a loop while mutilating it.

> 7) how much planning do you do for a particular performance?

Almost no planning regarding the actual music I will play. But a
lifetime of development regarding needed performance skills; like for
example music harmony theory, improvisational techniques, arrangement
theory, physical instrument playing skills, sound design experience

> 8) what form does this planning take? (do you write it down, keep it
> in your head, etc)

I keep it in my stomach. Although my ambition is to keep it in my
heart, but THAT is still a dream. Seriously, I never plan more than
will be instantly playable without the need for notes on stage. An
octaphonic surround concert may need a lot of planning to set up the
rig but then I use that preparation time to find out solutions that
will make improvisation simple and fluent on stage. This means quite
few but rather powerful options at hand (feet).

> 9) at what level of detail do you plan? (melody, harmony, timbres,
> dynamics, instrumental techniques, etc.)

I guess "at all levels" would be accurate here.

> 10) describe your general approach to loop performance.

Make some music I enjoy and have fun. If performing at a festival I
might decide at the very last minute to go with an approach that will
go well with (= sounding different) what the artist before me played
on the same stage.

> 11) what would the ideal looping system look like? describe it in as
> much detail as you can (and don't worry about practical concerns).

At least 80 foot switches and three expression pedals. A dozen hand
controlled faders and buttons. As for functionality I prefer simple
and powerful modules that you can play pretty instantly. I like three
such "modules", or "stages".

1) First stage may be a delay unit of freeze-reverb located before the
looper in the signal chain. This module should be instantly available
to snag a short moment of live sound, even just a note within a fast
melody run. I think such a "fast audio snatcher/freezer" shall be
controlled by an expression pedal that also mutes passing audio (the
system audio input, actually) when catching and freezing a slice of
audio. Technically you could view it as a *cross fader* between the
normal audio input signal and the audio-freeze-pad thingy. This is
useful for acoustic microphone instruments because it prevents audio
feedback. There are many musical ways to use such a "freeze pad"; you
may snatch a chord and play over it or you may cut parts of the frozen
audio into the looper to build something up there. When using a
Chapman Stick as the physical audio source instrument I use two
parallel input signal paths; each one pre looper and with its own
expression pedal and "audio freeze pad module". With that setup I can
play two fretboards - one with each hand - and freeze slices from left
or right hand as some sort of musical questions-and-answers game.

2) Second stage is the actual looper. I use a looper with five
parallel, internally synchronized, channels. For  each channel I can
create maximum five alternative loops.  The fifth channel is used to
resample the loops currently playng through channels 1 - 4. The five
loops do not have to be of the same length, but they will relate to
each other in a synchronized way, meaning any poly rhythmic relation
can be set up by manipulating the length of the loops. I never use
multiple inputs for my multi channel looper. Instead I manually select
the channel who's loop is going to be the target for the next action.
The looper has to create a tempo for the session based on the length
of the first loop created. A crucial function here (really a
must-have) is the user option to set preferred maximal and minimum
tempo. With that function on board you may start out a performance
with an extremely short first loop (like a half second) or with a very
long first loop like several minutes and you will be sure that the
tempo sent out to all slaved gear will still be within a range that
makes musical sense.

3) Third stage is post looper. I want each looper channel to deliver
its own output for processing. On each of the five outputs I like
different post-loop effect that both work on the stereo panning and on
synchronized processing (LFO following song tempo). Knowing about what
post-loop effects you have at hand is important for the instant
decisions regarding which one of the five loops you lay down a current
musical part in.

The ideal looping system described above is what I'm currently using,
so I'd say I'm a happy camper :-)  I wouldn't want to change anything
in the system.

Greetings from Sweden

Per Boysen
www.looproom.com internet music hub