Looper pedals are a fantastic way to turn a single instrument into much more. They are a great composing and performing tool that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Ed Sheeren is one of the most notable musicians who utilize loop pedals frequently in his performances.
Loop pedals open up individual guitarists to endless possibilities, but they are not completely foolproof to use. Using my guide on how to use a loop pedal, you’ll be creating your first loop in no time!
What is a loop pedal and how does it work?
A loop pedal is an effects pedal that you plug into your guitar and amplifier. When you step on the switch, the loop pedal records your playing, and then you can loop this excerpt over and over again. The amount of material a loop pedal can record varies from a few minutes to a few hours. Advanced loop pedals allow musicians to layer multiple tracks on top of each other, while the most simple ones only allow a single loop. One thing most loop pedals have in common is that you stomp on the switches to start or stop the recording and loop.
Here is a great example of a complex loop pedal being used. Ed Sheeren uses a multitrack loop pedal with multiple instruments and microphones plugged into it so that he can change between numerous loops throughout the song.
Different kinds of loop pedals
There are many different types of loop pedals out there that offer a plethora of functions. However, the most important functions to look at when purchasing your loop pedal are:
- Input type: Most guitarists will look for loop pedals and other equipment that supports standard mono quarter-inch guitar cables, but keyboardists will generally want a loop pedal that supports stereo inputs.
- Amount of tracks it can support: Simple loop pedals will only support a single loop pedal, so if you want to layer more and make complex loops, you should look for a more complicated pedal.
- Durability: Loop pedal pricing varies greatly, and you get what you pay for. Cheaper loop pedals are not usually made from the most durable materials, so they may not last as long as high-quality pedals with metal casings.
- Ease of use: If this is your first time using a loop pedal, you should consider getting a simpler, more user-friendly one, as the more complicated models can be very confusing for beginners.
Creating your first loop
The world is your oyster with a loop pedal, and you should let your creative juices flow as you create new loops and experiment with the equipment. Of course, there is no right way to use a loop pedal, as you can use it for many different things, from creating a simple backing track to composing an entire song. However, here is what I recommend for beginners learning how to use a loop pedal for the first time.
Start with a bass line
Start by playing a simple bass line or a riff that is relatively low in pitch. This gives you a solid base to layer on rhythm or more complex melodic parts.
Layer the chords
After establishing the main “riff” or bass line, you should add the chord progression. This will bring more depth to the song, creating a solid base for vocals and melody.
Add a melodic part
Once the chords and bass line are created, it is time to play the melody. Add a simple melodic part that follows and compliments the chord progression.
Add vocals, drums, bass, keyboard, etc.
If you are using a high-end loop pedal that can be plugged into multiple instruments, add a vocal loop, a keyboard part, a bass part, or even a rhythmic part using drums or just the body of your guitar.
Tips for using a loop pedal
Use it for training your ear and improvisation
Loop pedals are great for practicing improvisation and training your ear. Plug your guitar into the loop pedal, play a simple chord progression and practice your guitar solos by following the chords using scales and riffs. This is a great way to get better at improv without having to practice with other musicians.
Read the instructions
Loop pedals are generally very intuitive pieces of equipment, especially if you stick to the simple entry-level pedals. However, you should still ensure you have a good understanding of the loop pedal to maximize your potential. Read the instructions manual for your loop pedal when unboxing it to learn how all the controls and settings work.
Control your volume
Volume plays a huge part in how your loop sounds. Since you will be playing bass parts, rhythm parts, and lead parts on the same instrument, you want to ensure the volume of the support parts are low and the lead parts are high. I have made the mistake of keeping all parts at the same volume; the result is the melody or lead not popping as much as they should.
Avoid using overdrive or distortion for rhythm parts
Just as you should control the volume of your different loops, you should also adjust the effects you add to different layers of the loop. For example, the main riff and rhythm guitar parts should not have too much overdrive or distortion. Otherwise, the layers will blend into each other, and the lead will be less noticeable. Only add distortion and overdrive to the lead or melody and use it in moderation to keep the loop sounding crisp.
My pick: best loop pedal
The Boss RC-10R Rhythm Loop Station is my favorite loop pedal on the market. This pedal comes with nearly 300 preset rhythm loops. You can choose between various drum variations, and the pedal includes every genre, from jazz to heavy metal.
This is the perfect loop pedal for musicians familiar with the basics of looping but who want the versatility of a complex loop pedal. You can definitely take your songwriting and gigging to the next level with the Boss RC-10R Rythym Loop Station.
Wanna learn more about the different types of effects and how to use them? Check out my full guide to effect pedals.
What famous songs use loop pedals?
Many famous artists utilize loop pedals in the studio and in live gigs. The most famous artist to use loop pedals consistently is Ed Sheeran. Other famous songs that utilize loop pedals are “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, “Daydreaming” by Radiohead, and “Jungle” by Tash Sultana.
Are loop pedals good for beginners?
Absolutely! In fact, loop pedals are an excellent way for beginner musicians to practice soloing and ear training exercises. Just make sure to get a beginner-friendly loop station, as the more complex ones are definitely not beginner friendly!