Here’s Part Two of my multi-part series on a cappella looping.
Part Two: Choosing Your Loopstation
First off… you won’t likely go wrong with whatever you choose, so don’t sweat the choice. They’re about 80% the same in what they do. Some have features you may or may not want, but they’ll all have the essentials.
The most obvious difference is between software and hardware loopstations. A hardware looper is a single piece of dedicated equipment, much like a guitar effects unit, usually worked with foot-pedals. The good ones have mic and line inputs: just plug in and go. A software looper runs on your laptop, meaning you’ll need a decent laptop, an audio interface to get sound in and out of the computer, and probably some sort of MIDI controller. Hardware loopers are simpler to use, but sometimes more limited, and less expandable or customizable. Software loopers offer more choice, but may take more time to get it running, and can be more complicated to use onstage.
I could spend paragraphs doing a point-by-point comparison, but ultimately I think the best solution is the one that fits the way you like to work. Take a look at the points below, and see which sounds more like you:
- I want something that “just works”. Open it up and go.
- I want a single thing that does the job, not a bunch of things to hook up
- I don’t like twiddling and programming. I just want to play.
If this sounds like you, go for a hardware looper.
- I enjoy programming and customizing stuff. I’m one of those geeky types who could do that all day.
- I want to be able to explore/expand the limits of the loopstation
- My laptop’s fast, and I take it everywhere I go anyway.
If this sounds more like you, you may want a software looper.
In my case, I started out with a hardware looper: the Boss RC-50, considered one of those best and most feature-rich ones out there. I used happily it for several years, but eventually went the software route using Ableton Live. My main reasons:
1. The RC-50 was a faster setup, but I got better sound quality with my software combination of audio interface and laptop.
2. There were lots of features on the RC-50 I never used, but a few critical things I couldn’t do without a software looper
3. The software solution was more compact, making it easier for international travel.
To learn more about the different features, check out this blog from Kristoffer Thorning. Also check out http://www.loopers-delight.com, where you’ll learn more that you ever thought possible about loop stuff.
part 1 - http://www.casa.org/content/live-looping-blog-series-overview
part 2 - http://www.casa.org/content/live-looping-blog-series-choosing-your-loops...
part 3 - http://www.casa.org/content/live-looping-blog-series-song-selection
part 4 - http://www.casa.org/content/live-looping-blog-series-arranging-loopstation
part 5 - http://www.casa.org/liveloopingfinal
About the writer:
In a word…multifaceted. Juno-nominated, multiple-CARA-winning Dylan Bell is a performer, composer/arranger, music director and producer/engineer. As an a cappella singer, arranger and producer, Dylan has worked with many of the world's renowned vocal groups including Cadence, the Swingle Singers and the Nylons, as well as his own groups Retrocity and the FreePlay Duo. He’s played stages across the world from his native Toronto, Canada to Stockholm, Sweden, to Calcutta, India, and his compositions and vocal arrangements are performed everywhere from Arnprior to Zurich. Dylan also has a secret life as a freelance multi-instrumentalist, touring internationally as a pianist, bassist, and guitarist. Visit Dylan at www.dylanbell.ca.