Loop (music)

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The term Loop ( English loop ) refers to a repeatedly reproduced in the music sequence .

The term stems from the fact that this was originally achieved using a piece of tape that was glued together to form an endless loop . Today it is used by musicians for unchanged, repeated sequences, regardless of how this is technically implemented. In popular music , loops are especially drum rhythms, accompanying chord sequences, bass lines or melody phrases.


Loop describes a time-limited sound event that is usually reproduced repeatedly using technical means - the achievement of similar effects through arrangements that are interpreted by musicians (for example in American minimal music ) must be differentiated. Here one speaks more of repetitive arrangements .

Loops that consist of previously recorded material (including working with records, especially in the styles of hip-hop , techno , drum and bass , trip-hop and avant-garde jazz ) can be replaced by loops whose material is recorded during the performance itself ( own instrumental playing, ambient noises, etc.). For the latter, the term live looping is becoming increasingly established .


Early forms of loop music had their roots in contemporary serious music . The French composer Pierre Schaeffer seems to have been the first to create his own compositions with "closed grooves" on records. John Cage and Conlon Nancarrow used music boxes and pianolas as well as machines for church bells . The more flexible use of electroacoustic recording media (such as tape ), which also enabled realtime looping (live looping), saw pioneering work by Bebe Barron and especially Edgar Varèse - the Poème électronique is a composition for several audio tapes, which is in the pavilion of the Philips company sounded through a system of 300 loudspeakers at the 1958 World Exhibition in Brussels. Also to be mentioned are Karlheinz Stockhausen in the studio of the WDR in Cologne as well as Éliane Radigue , who combined field recordings and tape loops. At the same time, musicians from the field of minimal music such as Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros experimented with the possibilities of realtime looping. An outstanding tool was the Time Lag Accumulator , attributed to Terry Riley , which was also used by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno under the name Frippertronics : two tape machines shared one tape; the second output of the right (reproducing) tape machine was connected to the second input of the left (recording) tape machine. The loop length resulted from the spatial distance between recording and playback on the tape and the tape speed .

At the end of the 1970s, through the work of Grandmaster Flash, the use of loops was found for the first time in the burgeoning rap / hip-hop culture. Grandmaster Flash used new operating techniques for turntables in order to use recurring drum / rhythm sequences as the basis for the work of the MCs . Some became famous in this field, which naturally a strong questioning of applicable laws for copyright meant and still means the piece Dub Be Good To Me by Beats International , in which a sample of the bass line of Guns of Brixton from The Clash as a basis has been used.

The live looping genre is further removed from the musical mass market. Since realtime looping offers a single musician the possibility of building up very complex and complex sound structures, many of the artists are solo musicians.

After early works were based on the time lag accumulator, today's artists use either long digital delay effects or special loop devices. In addition to recording, playing back and overdubbing loops, some also allow further playback and processing steps such as reverse playback, half or double speed, inserting, dividing, doubling and thus giving the possibility of creating complex musical structures.


Basically there is no direct relation between musical styles and the use of loops; Looping is not an independent style either. The constant expansion of the functions of samplers and the further integration of computer technology made it possible to work with loops in completely digital systems in the 1990s. This created the technical basis for strongly loop-based music styles such as techno, trip-hop, drum and bass and also big beat . The selection of the basic loop material became an integral activity for the musicians; Many musicians now used clearly non-genre sources as the basis for their titles (e.g. Safe From Harm by Massive Attack based on the album Spectrum by Billy Cobham or the use of samples from so-called serious music in the pieces by Amon Tobin ) .

The majority of the pieces can be assigned to the context of hip-hop and electronica . Live looping uses acoustic or semi-acoustic instruments, voices or found sounds (noises, voices, tools ...) as well as experimental electronics. Musicians often use loop concepts for work as solo singer-songwriters , e.g. B. to be able to underlay a solo with a previously recorded accompaniment loop.

Working methods and composition / interpretation techniques

Working with loops enables different approaches and uses for the corresponding tools. Some of the possibilities are listed below as examples.

Looper as a real-time overdubber

A looper enables the musician to have several parts that are difficult or impossible to play at the same time sound at the same time. This means that completely different instruments can also be used in a solo musician performance, which can then be heard at the same time. In terms of the way it works, this corresponds to overdubbing from studio technology, which is possible here with little technical effort and in real time in a fluid presentation.

Example: The musician starts a song with the verse sung, which he accompanies on the guitar. Then he can z. For example, you can add a guitar solo part to the accompaniment you played previously, creating the impression that two guitarists are playing.

Well-known musicians who use live looping in their performances are KT Tunstall , Imogen Heap , Jarle Bernhoft , Rick Walker , Jason Mraz , Ed Sheeran , Dub FX , MC Xander , Michael Schiefel , Michel Godard and Peter Bence . Looping is also an integral part of their performance for many artists from the field of math / post-rock . B. at Battles , Minus the Bear or Russian Circles .

Looper as a tool for sound design

Since loops do not work on the level of musical parameters such as sound duration and length, but record audio information, loops can be used as sound design tools. By changing the playback speed (pitching and time stretching), pitch (pitch shifting) and playback direction, recorded audio material can be given a completely new sound character - a way of working that is particularly effective with very short loops (<1 s). These possibilities are further expanded by using them in combination with other electronic audio effects, the sound of which can sometimes change significantly (e.g. reverberation sets in before the original signal when playing backwards).

Looper as an electronic notebook

Newer loopers as well as laptop- based solutions often offer the option of storing the recorded loops in non-volatile memories. The practical design of dedicated hardware loopers in particular (e.g. a small effects pedal with a special guitar input and headphone output as well as an option for battery operation) makes it possible to sketch spontaneous ideas in an uncomplicated way and to record them for later processing.

Looper as structure-building elements

Especially when using sound sources with a static or unregulated character (ambient noise, electromagnetic interference and other audio-technical artifacts and sources of interference, quasi-statistical sound sequences, especially from modular synthesizers - "noodles"), loops can be used to give these sound events an orderly structure .

Example: a quasi-static sequence of sounds and sounds from a modular analog synthesizer or virtual-analog synthesizer serves as the sound source. This sound event has no clear tonal center and no recognizable rhythmic structure. By recording a short loop (“half a measure to one measure” - 0.8–3 s), the now repeated acoustic event is given a rhythmic structure - a pulse. This can be supported by the fact that after seven loop passes the first quarter of the loop is played four times (stutter effect), which results in the effect of a cadenced twist. In this new Metaloop (8 loop runs long, the last bar of which is a stutter effect) the pitch is now varied, e.g. B. Clock 1,2: 0; Measure 3,4: +5; Measure 5.6: +7, measure 7: 0, measure 8: −2 (given in semitones). This creates the effect of a harmonic cadence, which is supported by the stutter effect.

Looper in sound installations

Loops are particularly suitable as elements in sound installations, especially when using loops for a relatively long time (30 s and longer), possibly in combination with shorter loops.

Example: in an installation distributed over two rooms, there is a microphone and a loudspeaker in each room. The microphones and loudspeakers are interchanged and connected to two loopers (different or the same loop length) that are in "overdub" mode. Such an installation creates an “echo” between the two rooms that is strongly offset in time, just as it will reproduce “older” events for a long time. Through the numerous loop runs and the constant playback and re-recording via the loudspeaker → room → microphone transmission chain, this transmission chain becomes an essential sound-shaping element of the installation.

Tools (selection)

  • dedicated loop hardware: realtime
    • Oberheim / Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro (EDP)
    • Electrix repeater
    • Electro Hamonix 2880 Super Multitrack Looper
    • Boomerang Phrase Sampler
    • Line6 DL4 / JM4
    • Boss DD-7 / DD-20 / RC-20 / RC-20XL / RC-30 / RC-2 / RC-3 / RC-50 / RC-300 / RC-505
    • Digitech JamMan
    • Lexicon JamMan
    • Looperlative LP-1
    • Akai headrush
    • tc electronic DITTO LOOPER
  • dedicated loop hardware: not realtime
    • Akai MPC series
    • Roland MV-8000, MV-8800
    • Roland MC-909
    • Yamaha SU700
  • Loop software solutions: Realtime
    • Mobius
    • Augustus Loop
    • SooperLooper
    • AngstroLooper
    • LoopyLlama
    • lloopp
  • Loop software solutions: non-realtime
  • Loop vinyls
    • Endless House Tools Part 1-9

Individual evidence

  1. http://livelooping.org/
  2. ^ Baumgärtel, Tilman: grinding. On the history and aesthetics of the loop . Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86599-271-0 , p. 53 - 89 .
  3. ^ Baumgärtel, Tilman: grinding. On the history and aesthetics of the loop . Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-86599-271-0 , p. 225-250 .
  4. Loop Station: Comparison 2020. Accessed June 14, 2020 .

Web links

Commons : Loop  - collection of images, videos and audio files