Last fall I picked up a looper (TC Helicon VL3X). A looper is a device that records bits of your live performance then plays them back while you accompany yourself. It can allow you to layer track upon track so that by the end of a song you can have a virtual full band playing along with you all of which you’ve performed live in front of the audience (no prerecorded tracks so what you play live in front of them is all they hear.)
At first my looper sat in my studio and I looked at it every time I was in there telling myself “I have a looper” and pondering the possibilities but I was intimidated by what I knew was going to be a steep learning curve so for some time there it sat.
Those possibilities were driven home when I attended an Ed Sheeran concert. I watched a high energy five piece band warming up for him wondering to myself “how is one man going to follow this” but follow it he did and in fact I watched one man with a guitar and a looper blow that five piece band off the stage.
I finally decided one day to turn it on and read just enough of the manual to figure out how to use it on a very rudimentary level. Once I started it was like eating salted peanuts. I couldn’t stop. Every time I thought to myself, “well if it does this I wonder if it does that.” I would return to the manual and find out to my surprise and glee that “yes it does.” I had my first performance with my new toy at my CD release and although it was an adventure I think for the most part my audience liked the addition. I can honestly say I’m not Ed Sheeran nor will I ever be but although I’m still in looper kindergarten I feel it added a dimension to my show that allowed me to better define my songs and how I want them to sound.
I am barely competent on my looper now six months later. Maybe its my age but although I have no trouble coordinating the thousands of guitar notes I might play in a song whilst singing along the addition of a couple of well placed and well timed foot taps on a looper can completely throw me for a loop (no pun intended). Its worth the learning curve however to be able to play your own percussion, bass and lead lines and sing your own back up because at the end of the day your success or failure is completely in your own hands. Its more challenging but practicing is a lot more fun and my audience gets more variety. Performing with it is still an adventure but one I hope the audience enjoys. None of my performance is prerecorded and I am sadly still prone to the disasters than can happen when you play anything live but isn’t that the charm in live performance?