For all the sophisticated synthesis and remix tools out there, for a lot of musicians, the best thing sound technology can do is just give them a way to record and play. Looping is a simple technique – it involves recording a snippet of sound, playing it back, and then adding layers. But used masterfully, it can become transformative, producing rhythms and layers and letting solo artists accompany themselves.
“How do I get started looping?” is a question I hear from a lot of musicians, particularly those who are already expressive with their instruments and voice. There’s a technical answer to that question, involving something like the Loop Station from BOSS. But before you skip ahead to what to buy at your music store, it’s best to have some musical ideas.
And so, our weekend inspiration today comes from K Ishibashi aka Kishi Bashi, the Japanese-American virtuoso looper, who mixes a variety of instruments and spectacular, present voice. National Public Radio, the listener-supported broadcaster from the United States, has an intimate look at his work and shares the video above. It’s worth listening to the full radio piece (streaming worldwide free), as Kishi Bashi picks apart his process and explains what he’s doing.
Part of what I like best about what he’s doing is the rhythmic invention, in the snippets themselves and the layers. And even something as simple as doubling the speed can have a huge impact.
For those new to live looping techniques, it’ll be eye-opening. And even for more advanced loopers, Kishi Bashi’s chops should give you some encouragement to hone your craft.
It inspires me to look for ways of covering looping and other live performance techniques better here. From Ableton’s built-in facility to homebrewed Pd patches to pedals and plug-ins and the lot, there are many angles one could take technically, even before the all-important musical issues. So if you have some ideas of what you’d like to see, let us know.
BOSS, for their part, has held international looping competitions to judge users of their ubiquitous pedal. But there are other ways to go, as well.