A common question I get when I am out performing is, “What loop pedal should I get?” Many musicians I talk to are in the initial stages of using loop pedals and see so many new units on the markets, they wonder if it is a worthwhile investment and others have used loop pedals for years and are considering upgrading. So after my short tenure performing, teaching, touring and long hours “in the shed” practicing, my answer is this:
“Whichever is best for you.”
Sorry. No above all-end all pedal. No Excalibur. No great mystery. No silver bullet. Simply put, your pedal should reflect your needs, abilities and aspirations. When I first jumped into live looping, I picked up the RC-20 from the team over at BOSS-Roland. At this point in time, I was performing primarily as a Trumpet player in different musical settings. I didn’t know the difference between an XLR or a ¼ quarter inch cable. I was used to coming to the gig, putting my mouthpiece into the horn and that was the extent of my gear! (Oh, to be so simple again…) Soon after watching somebody loop for the first time, I was hooked and my musical aspirations were altered forever.
The RC-20 from Roland was my initial pedal for two reasons: price point and features. It was sold to me at a price I could manage (Thank you Guitar Center) and the features onboard were simple for me to understand on this new musical path I was going setting upon. Simplicity and stellar construction won out over more complex pedals and computer programs. One microphone and a few cables later I was up and running. My first night I was able to stitch together a (very) rough version of “Stand By Me.” Live looping had taken a hold of me.
Sometime later I found myself needing more room to grow into and the BOSS RC-50 found it’s way onto my pedalboard. I was now a bit more experienced and was needing more than two loops to compose with and was slowly working up my dexterity to build and utilize loops in entire song writing process, rather than just having it a “glorified vamp” as one musician called it on a show. I now had more recording time and had what was to me, easier controls and more options to choose from. Independent EQ’s, MIDI Sync capabilities and all start/stop functions for using in a break in a song to solo over. True, these aren’t the only differences but these are the ones I used the most at this part of my career.
The MIDI Sync was huge. I had picked up the BOSS GT-1OB to start using effects and found that my knowledge was incredibly limited. Compression? Phaser? Delay? Reverb? Not….a…clue. I did what any mad scientist would do. For a year straight asked my elf the same question night after night of practicing, “What does this button do?” Using MIDI sync I was able to sync my loop pedal and my effects pedal for synchronized effects.( MIDI OUT of the Loop pedal to MIDI IN on the GT-10B) I am flattered when people assume I am a technician regarding gear, but at the end of the day, I do what I’ve done since I was little, explore and place the square peg in the round hole. I will save effects pedals for another blog though, so keep an eye out for that.
When the BOSS RC-300 found it’s way to me I felt like a 16 year old kid who was given the keys to his Dad’s convertible for the weekend. Way more options, recording time, huge design and programming changes and….built in effects? The game changer for me was the ease of operations and also the built in effects. While attending my first NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA I witnessed Rico Loop for the first time. To call the man a wizard at looping is an understatement. Bass, voice, harmonica, guitar, melodica, a bottle and vocal percussion were all utilized in the composition of his music, the majority of it improvised. Taking mental notes of tempo changes, modulations and using areas of the RC-300 that I never thought of as a musical device (i.e. using the volume switches for effects) and of course, the built in effects, left my head full of new ideas and avenues to explore when I went home a few days later. If you get the chance, take a peek at Rico Loop’s videos from NAMM!
Now with the arrival of the RC-505 from the BOSS-Roland team, the envelope has been push even further. Longer recording times, more effects, more MIDI options and two more channels to record on make this an even more versatile workhorse to anchor a musician’s pedalboard. Smaller in dimension and lighter, it can fit into a smaller footprint than it’s predecessors. I find the RC-505 easier to navigate in the “brains” of the pedal as well.
The market has numerous options for choices in loop pedals. Digitech, TC Helicon, Vox and Line 6 all have versions of loop machines. I won’t give an armchair of review of each one, because I do not have the experience needed with any of those for a educated opinion about it. I have seen them in action and have heard all of them help the musician utilizing them make beautiful music.
Again, the pedal you decide to invest in your pedal should reflect your needs, abilities and aspirations. There is no perfect car to buy or perfect tool. It has to be perfect for you. I have a six foot table full of pedals when I perform, and I had the pleasure of watching Grison Beatbox win the World Loop Championships with probably the smallest rig of any artist to perform that night! There are plenty of demos, reviews and performances around the web to keep you up for days on end. Read some reviews, think about what you want and then try it out at your local music shop. If your local shop doesn’t have it in stock, there are plenty of looping communities with websites and microsites in just about every social media outlet. Contact an artist who uses what you want, the artists I have reached out to have been very generous with their time and expertise!
Good luck on your own musical path and thank you for being a part of mine and reading about a part of mine. Any ideas of thoughts about gear and such is always welcome on this blog. I look forward to hearing from you!
Just Alliance's Blog
Thoughts, ideas and musical musings from this Silver State Loop Artist.