Though live looping has been a musician’s tool since the 1950s, it has become increasingly popular in recent decades. In fact, its popularity has even reached a broader audience with its use by pop stars, YouTubers, talent show competitors, etc. This page will help you understand the differences between hardware loopers and software loopers and guide you through turning your computer into a powerful and versatile looper.
The easiest way to live loop is by using a hardware pedal (Click here for a list of Loop pedals). These pedals can range from being very simple to more complex, with built-in drums, various audio effects, and most importantly, many features to help you create impressive pieces of music.
The main advantages of a hardware looper are its robustness and ease of setup at live shows. However, even though there are highly advanced looper pedals available, these devices always have limitations when it comes to the song structure. Simple looper pedals will restrict you to stay with the initial number of bars, and all parts of your song must be a multiple of this number, for example, if your first loop is 4 bars long, all other parts must be 4, 8, 16, etc. bars long. Advanced pedals allow you to have multiple different parts, such as intro, verse, chorus, etc. Using different parts in a song helps to avoid repetition and can lead to a more dynamic musical performance. However, to achieve this with high-end pedals, you need to invest a lot of time in learning and memorizing how to set up and confidently use the device on stage.
Finally, effectively controlling a complex loop pedal while singing and playing instruments is a skill in and of itself and requires a lot of practice.
Software loopers have many advantages over hardware loopers. In short, a software looper is generally more flexible and user-friendly than a hardware looper. This is because developers have access to modern computer interfaces, such as screens, keyboards, and mice for PCs, and touchscreens for tablets. Also, most software loopers offer « infinite » flexibility when it comes to adding effects or instruments through plugins. Furthermore, advanced software loopers allow for elaborate song structures with a much simpler workflow compared to a pedal, which typically has a smaller screen and a limited set of knobs and buttons.
Software loopers make it easy to save and recall song configurations, such as structure, sounds, MIDI instruments, and FX plugins. They are also a good choice for home studio performers, as the computer and audio interface are likely already present in the studio.
The main disadvantage of a software looper for live performances is that you need a computer, such as a laptop or tablet, on stage, which may be perceived as a higher risk of failure than a hardware pedal. However, using a computer on stage is becoming more common, and the advent of SSD drives with fast reboot times also helps reduce « techno-stress. »
Basic setup for turning your computer into a looper
It’s easy to turn your computer into a looper. All you need to have is a USB Audio Interface, a Windows PC and software Looper . There are many software loopers (click here for a list). LoopToGo is one of the most powerful and easy to use and yet, the most affordable. It comes in two versions: LoopToGo Free or LoopToGo Pro.
The use of a USB audio interface is crucial in order to reduce audio latency to near zero. Onboard audio cards generally do not provide adequate capabilities, leading to an unacceptable audio latency. If you want to use software looping, this will likely be the most significant expense you will incur.
The connection between the software and the audio interface is established through an ASIO driver. ASIO stands for Audio Stream Input/Output and is a trademark of Steinberg. The ASIO driver manages numerical audio data by exchanging fixed-length buffers between the audio interface and the application. While the interface is digitizing new data into a buffer, the application processes the previous buffer. The buffer length should be as short as possible to minimize latency, but long enough for the application to process the audio data before a new buffer exchange. It is recommended to have a buffer length equal to or less than 512 samples, with 256 samples or less being preferable when the sample rate is 44.1 kHz. For instance, a buffer length of 256 samples will result in a latency of 5.8 ms, which is equivalent to having a speaker located 1.9 meters away from your instruments and is unlikely to be perceived by most people.
Straight to the point…
To make a long story short, make sure you have an audio interface, download (click here) LoopToGo Free and browse through the video tutorials and help page and have fun. If you like the Free version and need more than 4 tracks, buy the Advanced version or Pro version (they are very cheap!). Also make sure you check from time to time for a new release, we are adding new features on a regular basis. Even better, if you would like to see a new feature, a new shortcut or a new script, just contact us. We really like to hear from LoopToGo users.