Gitbox Culture

Musings on guitars, guitarists, guitar styles and approaches, technical matters and guitar design by a professional guitarist with a Ph.D in ethnomusicology. Also covering electric bass, lap and pedal steel guitar. And what the hell, banjo.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Looping Pedal Roundup!"

I've been using a looper pedal, specifically the blue two-pedal Digitech Jam Man, for about six months now.  It's pretty limitless what you can do with this pedal, at least in theory.  I'm still getting used to the tone degeneration that is inherent in surrendering your guitar signal to a 44.1 kHz, 16 bit digital converter.  And the looper, probably to my ultimate benefit, exposes certain weaknesses in my playing.  But somehow, its basic ability to record and play back, in an infinite loop if I want, anything I play into it on the fly keeps me coming back.

What this magical technology confers on the player is the capability of creating and controlling anything from a simple rhythm guitar part to a multisectioned guitorchestra.  Really, any sound could be included in the loop - the looper includes a second input (XLR instead of quarter-inch) and onboard mixer.  I was making loops last night where I overdubbed harmony vocal pads a la the Beach Boys, just using my pedalboard and an amp.

The archetypal looping god is, of course, Robert Fripp, whose Frippertronics made live guitar looping almost a household word in the eighties.  Here's Fripp himself, complete with pompous spoken introduction, demonstrating Frippertronics:

He does sound great, though. Nobody rocks a black Les Paul Custom like RF. These days Fripp has abandoned the electronics for a kind of human Frippertronics, his army of Guitar Craft students.

Another variation on late-career solipsism is Pat Metheny's Orchestrion project, currently on tour in the U.S.

Guitar Player Magazine has a "Looping Pedal Roundup!" posted where you can compare the different ones if you're in the market.  And there's always the Harmony Central user reviews if you're hardcore.  My experience with the Digitech device has been mostly positive.  The first time I used it live, I stepped on the left pedal and it came off and clattered to the stage.  It snapped right back on, and it never happened again, but I always have that traumatic experience in the back of my mind when I use it now.  But I use it all the time when I play solo, and though I'm still rather unambitious with it in front of actual people, it's really my most fun gadget.


  1. I'm really impressed by Pat Metheny's Orchestrion project. That is incredible how the entire "orchestration" depends on everything Pat does with his guitar. Amazing.

  2. I like that the instruments are acoustic ones - it really changes up the usual sequenced, synthesized one-man band deal.

  3. I've been thinking a lot about looping pedals lately, inspired by Keller Williams, David Gans, as well as a guy here in the UK Matt Stevens (you can d'load his album Echoes for pay-what-you-like.) I'm still unsure which pedal to go for though.
    Nice piece - keep it up!

  4. Best thing I've seen on youtube for a long while!
    It must be nice to have that much space!