Almost all of the up and coming working musicians I know are utilizing loops- it’s no longer a fad or novelty. Loops can be used in conjunction with other musicians and can make a 2 or 3 piece sound huge. Drums and percussionists are the most common accompaniers but whoever you’re working with must be able to be flexible enough to play with imperfect loops and be sensitive to your cues and body language. Having that one extra musician to play off of is the best of both worlds- they can reinforce your loops and take you to new places.
After the basic skills for looping are attained, the most important skill for a looper to have is to incorporate their mistakes into the music. There is not a looper on the planet who does not make mistakes throughout a performance and the best are able to find workarounds or able to misdirect the audience somehow. You must learn how to make imperfect loops sound groovy- this is something that cannot be taught but only mastered through experience.
The easiest songs to loop are obviously the ones with the least chord changes- if you’re going to loop a song with bridges and/or turnarounds try to keep the bass and guitar on one loop. This will allow you to make quick changes without too much effort. Leaving one loop track open is a great way to create an improvisational jam section that you can use to keep things fresh. Improvisation in looping is a key to keeping your performances less predictable for yourself and the audience- beware the trap of always playing it safe. Looping is about taking risks.
We are living a dream by being able to accompany ourselves with this technology and I look forward to seeing its evolution. I hope to one day be able to incorporate laptops and loop with software instead of being limited to the processing power of floor pedals. Though some may deride looping as a technology based crutch, it’s evident that these machines only work when utilized by talented and creative artists.
Spend some time with looping and you will find that you too can become a one man musical army.