What Is A Loop Station? – Gear for Loop Musicians

Loop Musician Gear, What is a Loop Station Looper PedalAre you a musician?

Do you like performing live to your own music?

Perhaps you’re interested in making musical loops on a computer for your songs, or creating accompaniments for yourself to perform on stage, using your instruments and voice your voices.

In that case, you should get to know the looper, or loop station.

Either that, or you’ve found your way on this article because you wanted to do know what loop station or a loop pedal is. Either way, we’ll take a look at what a looper is in this post.

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First, take a look at this video

What about this performance do you notice that’s interesting?

Well, for one, he is doing it all by himself. He’s also accompanying himself using various loops he’s generated from a couple instruments and microphones. He is, in other words, a modern day one man band. And perhaps the most famous one around today at the moment.

Another thing. He seems to be looking down a lot and doing something with his feet.

What he’s doing is creating and switching between a set of loops using a simple device. This device is called a loop station, otherwise known as a loop pedal,  loop machine, or simply, a looper.

Now, you’re wondering, What is a loop station?

Loop Station Explained

A loop station, is a device that allows you to generate loops in real time from voices or instruments. They have the ability to create what are called “overdubs”, meaning, you can record one loop over another, to create the effect of having a couple of instruments or even an entire band playing with you while your perform or record music.

Loop stations are often used by musicians typically referred to a loop artists. But they can be used by anyone who is an instrumentalist or singer, or even a beatmaker. They have a variety of uses, including for practice and rehearsal, self-accompanied performances, or live performances of loop-based music.

Let’s break it down to the essential basics.

Basics of a Loop Station

What is a “Loop”?audio loop icon

A loop is a snippet of audio. Normally, a loop consists of recorded or generated audio of instruments (acoustic or synthesized) or vocal performances. These loops are usually a few seconds long, but they can be any length.

Loops are usually small musical phrases, like one bar or four bars, that are played over and over. They are edited or made to be repeated seamlessly from end to end without any gap in sound. Ideally, a musical loop will be so recorded that you won’t be able to tell where the loop has started or ended (unless you’re pro musician with exceptional hearing skills).

This ability is what allows musicians and producers to take looped drums, percussions, and other instruments, to be arranged into whole songs. Yes, in fact, you can create entirely new pieces of music using otherwise unrelated loops, as long as they can be synched together for correct groove and timing.

Another famous loop artist, Reggie Watts, using a tabletop loop station.

What is a Loop Artist?play repeat icon

If you are a singer-songwriter as well as a musician or beatmaker, it is easy it integrate loop performances into your music.

For instance, if you have a song that has a number of chords repeated for 3 minutes or so (the typical length of song), you can create a loop of yourself playing the chords on a guitar or keys. Then, you can record another loop of a bassline as the chords loops.

After that, add some vocal or synth percussions to your combined loops. When you’ve created sufficient loops, you’re free to add vocals, and even play some guitar or other instrumental solos as your loops continue to play.

This is called loop music. And the musicians that specialize in making this music are called loop artists.

With a looper device, an artist instrumentalist is free to create as many accompaniments as she desires. Even in cases where you need a chord change, loop musicians can use more advanced loop machines to create separate loops passages to change between choruses, verses, and bridges.

What is a Loop Station?

Boss RC-300 Loop Station 3-track Looper Pedal
The Boss RC-300 Loop Station. One of the best loop stations you can get.

A loop station, then, is a device which allows an artist to do what I have mentioned above, create entire accompaniments for themselves on stage or in a studio, using either one or a handful of instruments. They are usually designed to operate using your feet, leaving the instrumentalist’s hands free to play their musical instruments.

They are most popularly used among guitarists, but are also used by keyboardists, violinists, even acapella vocalists. Some loop stations can even be combined with a music app on your cell phone or tablet, or computer digital audio workstation.

The types of loopers that exists range from basic to advanced, with a wide variety of features to suite the preferences of the loop artist or musician. Some of them add effects as well as drum and percussion sounds that you can use for your music.

Many good loop stations will have the ability to add effects, as well as drum and percussion sounds, which you can use for your music.

Types of Loop Stations

Basic Looper Pedal
Boss RC-1 Loop Station
Boss RC-1 Loop Station, a very basic loop pedal.

The basic looper pedal has a simple single pedal switch plus a volume knob that controls the volume of the loop playback.

The single pedal on the basic looper is a multifunctional switch that controls the recording, overdubbing, playback, undoing, redoing, and stopping function of the looper.

Commonly seen used by guitarists jamming to their own chops and grooves, this looper does the basic job of recording short phrases of performances. These are best used for practising your solos to chord or rhythmic accompaniment passages you create. But they are also just as good for live stage performances, too, where you can create complex rhythmic patterns by layering loops one over the other.

Read: Best Looper Pedals for The Money

Looper Pedal with Effects and Parallel Looping
TC Electronic Ditto X4 Looper Looper Pedal
The TC Electronic Ditto X4, a dual parallel looper pedal.

These pedals do the same as the above-mentioned looper. However, if you want to add effects to your loops without having to change the original loop, or creating a new loop, there’s a looper that allows for parallel looping for the purpose of layering effects in a loop chain.

While the basic looper pedals may come with effects which you can create with your loops (such as delays, flangers, choruses), on a parallel looper, you can preserve the original loop and add other loops to blend effects to each loop.

Loop Pedals with DAW Connectivity

Since many of the newer DAWs and iPad music making apps on the market offer the ability to be used as a live performance software instrument (eg. Ableton Live, and Bitwig Studio), it’s natural that there will be some loop stations that will have the functionality of DAW connectivity. Some may come with their own software, while others will be able to be connected via audio interface and MIDI controller for further musical creativity.

Tabletop Loop Stations
Roland Table Top Looper
A Roland Table Top Looper

As I mentioned before, loop stations aren’t just for guitarists. Many vocalists and beatmakers, and even live performance producers, utilize loop stations for live performances of their music.

Because these musicians would have their hands free, a tabletop version would be preferred. With a tabletop loop station, you can use your hands instead of relying on your feet to make switches.

Finally Thoughts

In this post you’ve been acquainted with the basics of a loop station, as well as the main types of loop stations, loop pedals, and loopers that exist. You’ve also learned what a loop artist is, and what is loop music.

Hopefully, you’ve either had your curiosity satisfied, or you are now interested in getting a looper for yourself or for someone you know who needs one or would love to have one. If that’s the case, take a look at the looper pedal guide for guitars, vocals, and other instruments. Until then, happy looping!