How to Make a 2-Bar Loop on Your Guitar Looper Pedal
If you are new to making guitar loops on your looper pedal, fear not! Here is a simple step-by-step approach about how to create a multi-layered guitar loop.
No need to buy the latest looper pedal with all the flashing lights as a simple start/stop guitar looper pedal with overdubbing will work fine to create cool-sounding loops.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Making A Great Guitar Loop
The first step is to work out all the layers or overdubs for your loop. I usually come up with a rhythm first. This means, what is the tempo? What time signature am I playing in, like 4/4 or 3/4?
So, I will strum out a muted rhythm on the strings. You can palm mute the strings with your strumming hand or mute the strings with the left hand to create a rhythm. For example:
Use the tempo guide or metronome click if you have one on your looper. If you do not have the guide, then tap your foot beside the On/Off button on your pedal. For example, tap your foot right beside the pedal to the tempo of your tune. When you are ready just move your foot over and hit the On button.
The two most important part of making a rhythmically stable loop is to start the loop exactly on beat 1, they call this the “downbeat,” and to end the loop on the downbeat.
Make sure you play your rhythm part exactly to the end of the bar(s) you are recording. In other words, do not stop the rhythm part too early. This is often the reason a loop can sound wrong. The last bar you record must go to the end to be complete. See the 1-bar example in 4/4 time below:
On to the Layered Overdubs
Ok, let’s assume you have a decent sounding rhythm loop and are ready to add the second layer. In my looper books, I break the layers into five parts:
If you start with the rhythm, as in the examples above, you can now go to any other layers for the overdub. For instance, you could play a chord progression or a bass-type layer, there are definitely no rules, so experiment. For this lesson, I will add a chord progression as the second layer overdub:
Ok, so now we have a rhythm and 2-bar chord progression. For the third layer, let’s add a bass overdub.
I use an Octaver with the looper to make the guitar sound closer to an actual bass. You do not need to go buy an Octaver but does make the finished loop sound fuller. The Octaver I use is built into my multi-pedal, so, fortunately, it is easy to use.
At this point, you can stop and just jam or improvise a solo if you like. I’ve added a simple melody line to add substance, but this step can easily be skipped. The melody line I played is based on the chords from the chord progression:
So, again you may decide to stop overdubbing or continue. I often add an “extra” layer to add more dimension to the whole loop. Try and figure out a complementary part that doesn’t steal too much from the original loop. Less is more so leave lots of “air,” so the loop does not get too dense and cluttered. Here is the extra part I added:
The Finished Multi-Layered Guitar Loop
Ok, so you should now have a decent sounding loop with lots of variety. Hopefully, you have played your overdubs with a synced rhythm, so all the layers groove together. Here is the audio for the completed loop, building layer on layer:
Using a guitar looper pedal is great fun but takes practice like everything else in music. Here are a few last tips to keep in mind:
- Plan out and practice all my layers in advance.
- Write down or memorize the chord progression.
- Sort out a running order for the overdubs.
- Watch the volume as you play each layer. Try to add dynamics to the loop by playing some parts quieter and more prominent parts louder.
- Switch the tone (pick-up selector) for different layers if you are using an electric.
- Add effects, like the Octaver, Delay or Overdrive, to widen the bandwidth.
Please leave any comments or suggestions for more looper lessons.
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