Loop Record

Loop Recording in Songzap allows you to quickly capture short musical phrases and chord progressions, add multitrack layers and then construct a detailed song arrangement from your loop ‘building blocks’ – all in just a few simple steps and actions!

Watch us explore all of Groove Designer’s intelligent features!

Introduction to Loops

Loop recording is a music production concept that emerged widely when it first became possible to digitise music and manipulate sound data on a computer, back in the 1980s and 1990s. Nowadays loop recording and playback is a powerful and commonly used tool in music production – and on stage too. Indeed many music genres exist because of the use of loops and repeated musical sounds.

An audio loop in itself is something very simple; usually it is just a number of beats or bars of sound that continuously loops and repeats. We often play repetitive phrases when performing an instrument, but, with audio loops, the exact same sound that has been recorded plays back over and over again.

In music production, this can be useful if we want to reuse a musical phrase in different parts of the song. Perhaps there is a ‘perfect’ take of a guitar hook or a vocal performance and we want to reuse that in different places as the song is played back. In other cases, we just don’t need to keep playing the same thing over and over again, such as a four-bar chord progression that continues throughout the song. So we can use loops to save time and to keep the sonics of a track consistent too. Playing back loops also keeps things very much locked in time, because the loops always trigger exactly at the right time and, if the performances are good, the dynamics of a song can be very tight and give a strong sense of rhythm that people can dance to.

On stage, guitarists often use a looper pedal to build up complex layers of sound, first adding some chords, then some lead parts, then maybe some percussion or vocal layers. Some great examples of this are by KT Tunstall and Ed Sheeran. The looper pedal can be quite hard to master, because timing of the performance (and the timing of tapping the looper pedal buttons with your feet) is critical to getting a good sounding result. But the results can be extremely impactful and creative, allowing a simple one-person performance to sound like a full band with intricate layers and dynamics varying throughout a song.

Loops and phrases can also become synonymous with the structure or arrangement of a song. For example:

  • The same guitar melody might appear in the intro, instrumental and outro of a song.
  • A four-chord piano loop might be present in a song’s verses, with a different four-bar chord progression being used in the chorus.
  • A singer might perform the same lyrics and phrasing in each chorus of a song.
  • A strings or horns motif might be absent in the song’s verse, but be present during the chorus and instrumental section to add density and interest.
  • Drum beats themselves are often loops that are repetitive phrases interlinked by drum fills.

It’s therefore possible to consider the loops and arrangement together, as if the loops become the building blocks by which the song is constructed (arranged). Let’s take a look at how this approach can be adopted and achieved in Songzap.

Loop Recording in Songzap

Loop recording is part of the Groove feature in Songzap. This is because the ‘Groove’ of a song is generally defined as being ‘the combination of rhythmic and repetitive elements that make up a song’. So the ‘groove’ of a song is all about how the drums interact with a repetitive bassline, motif or sequence of arranged notes.

When you get to the Loop Recorder within the Groove page, you’ll see a fairly simple layout with a waveform display, four mix faders, and some control buttons in between (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. The Loop Recorder features (a) and with record enabled (b).

Here it is possible to record up to four layered loops for each song section. So you can record four loop layers for the verse and four different loop layers for the chorus for example. If you are a guitarist, then you might use some the four layers as follows: 

  • Loop Track 1 (layer 1) to record chords (panned left)
  • Loop Track 2 (the second layer) to record the same chords (panned right)
  • Loop Track 3 as picked or arpeggiated chords
  • Loop Track 4 as a solo guitar line

(of course, you might only need to use one or two layers to get the sounds and feel you need in your song, there’s no need for overkill every time!)

When playing back your recordings, the layers all play at the same time, so you can build up complex soundscapes, but you’ll need to make sure everything recorded is in key and time with each other too!

To record a loop onto Loop Track 1, select Track 1 with the Loop Track Select button, then press the Record Enable button. You should be able to hear the microphone input sound in your headphones. Press play and the recorder will start to count down with a two bar count-in (8 beats in 4/4 time signature), as in Figure 2. 

During the count-in, the song will jump back to the segment prior to the segment you are aiming to record a loop for. So if you are recording a loop for the chorus, then the segment that appears before the Chorus will be active during the countdown. As soon as the count-in completes, the song segment you are aiming to record for loads and the recording starts automatically. The count-in gives you plenty of time to prepare for recording and allows you to hit the first note perfectly in time. Note that if you are recording to the very first segment of the song, then there will be no count-in given and recording will start immediately.

Figure 2. Last 3 beats of the Loop Recorder count-in.

Loop recording and playback is very time critical, so you’ll probably want to switch the metronome on during recording, and you’ll probably need to practise getting good timing with your performances too. This is a good exercise for any musician and will prepare you well for a professional recording studio experience too! 

The loop recorder runs for up to 16 bars before automatically completing. You can stop the recorder earlier than 16 bars if you have completed playing your loop, but many musicians prefer to play a phrase over and over again so that they can choose the best version that is performed correctly and most perfectly in time with the metronome. For example, you might be recording a four-bar chord progression, so you can play this four times in the 16-bar window, and choose the best version to use in your song.

Setting the Loop Window

After recording, you can select the Loop Window that defines what will be played back repetitively by Songzap. Activate the Loop Window by pressing the Loop Window button (see Figure 3) and then you can select your preferred start and end bars for the playback.

The Loop Window can be adjusted by touching and sliding the start and end markers from side to side, or with the small left-right arrows on each end of the loop window. You’ll also see an indicator in the middle that shows the start and end bars for the loop window, as well as the duration of the loop in bars.

Figure 3. Loop Window examples.

Building an Arrangement with Loops

Once you have recorded some loops into different tracks and different sections, you can start to build a song arrangement with your loops. As an example, let’s assume you have recorded loops for a Verse and Chorus as follows:

  • Verse Loop Track 1: Acoustic guitar chords
  • Verse Loop Track 2: Picked guitar melody

and

  • Chorus Loop Track 1: Acoustic guitar chords
  • Chorus Loop Track 2: Picked guitar melody
  • Chorus Loop Track 3: Electric guitar chords
  • Chorus Loop Track 4: Electric guitar chords

You can now create a song arrangement that utilises these audio loops in different ways. As shown in Figure 4, an arrangement might have two different verse sections, one with the picked guitar melody active, and one with it disabled. This is a good approach for creating space in a song, where the lead guitar disappears and leaves space for a vocal to come in.

Equally in Figure 4 we see that there are two different Chorus sections together. After 4 bars, the electric guitar loops on Loop Tracks 3 and 4 are enabled and give the song some extra depth and intensity.

Figure 4. Song arrangement with varied use of loop recordings.

Mixing Loops

You can mix your loop recordings in much the same way as you mix linear recordings in Songzap, so do take a good look at the Mixing Tutorial also.

A key point to be aware of is that the loops can be mixed independently and as complete song tracks. Let’s explain that a little… For each song segment that has loop recordings, you can set the volume of each loop that has been recorded. This is done directly in the Loop Recording page – simply adjust the loop volume levels by moving the Loop Faders that can be seen above in Figures 1, 2 and 3.

When it comes to mixing the full song in the Mixer page, you’ll see that swiping left on the top set of faders reveals the Loop Track faders and mix controls, as shown in Figure 5. It’s worth understanding that the fader, compressor, EQ and reverb controls for Loop Track 1 are essentially a group fader for all of the loop recordings that have been assigned to Loop Track 1 across the arrangement. This applies similarly For Loop Tracks 2, 3 and 4. Figure 5 shows this diagramatically. All of the audio loops that make up the first loop track column in the arrangement are controlled by the LOOPS 1 mixer channel.

Figure 5. Loop Arrangement and Mixer relationship.

With this in mind, it makes sense to record similar types of audio to each Loop track. For example:

  • Record chords onto Loop Track 1.
  • Record lead melodies onto Loop Track 2.
  • Record sounds to be panned left onto Loop Track 3.
  • Record sounds to be panned right onto Loop Track 4.

(You don’t have to follow this exact approach, but having your own consistent method for a song helps with getting a good mix result in the end.) You’ll notice we mentioned panning above, this can be a cool effect for recording the same musical phrase twice onto two loop tracks, and hard panning one left and the other right, in order to achieve a super-wide stereo impact in chosen song sections.

It can take some time to get to grips with any loop recording technology, and learning to perform in time and to a beat or metronome can make a big difference to the results. But it’s a useful skill to develop and add to your creative process. With Loop Recording and the Arrangement Editor in Songzap, you can construct complex songs with interesting sections that take the listener on a dynamic musical journey!  

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments