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In electroacoustic music, a loop is a repeating section of sound material. Short sections of material can be repeated to create ostinato patterns. A loop can be created using a wide range of music technologies including digital samplers, synthesizers, sequencers, drum machines, tape machines, delay units, or they can be programmed using computer music software.
- "Loops are short sections of tracks (probably between one and four bars in length), which you believe might work being repeated." A loop is not "any sample, but...specifically a small section of sound that's repeated continuously." Contrast with a one-shot sample (Duffell 2005, p. 14).
- "A loop is a sample of a performance that has been edited to repeat seamlessly when the audio file is played end to end" (Hawkins 2004, p. 10).
While repetition is used in the musics of all cultures, the first musicians to use loops were electroacoustic music pioneers such as Pierre Schaeffer, Halim El-Dabh (Holmes 2008, p. 154), Pierre Henry, Edgard Varèse and Karlheinz Stockhausen (Decroupet Ungeheuer, pp. 110, 118–19, 126). In turn, El-Dabh's music influenced Frank Zappa's use of tape loops in the mid-1960s (Holmes 2008, pp. 153–54), and Stockhausen's music influenced The Beatles to experiment with tape loops; their use of loops in early psychedelic works (most notably "Tomorrow Never Knows" in 1966 and the avant-garde "Revolution 9" in 1968) brought the technique into the mainstream. The stereo version of The Kinks' 1967 song "Autumn Almanac" (which appears on the 1972 compilation The Kink Kronikles) also features a psychedelic tape loop during the fadeout. Later, inspired by Terry Riley's use of one tape on two tape machines, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp created the technical basis for their No Pussyfooting album—this technological concept was later dubbed Frippertronics.
Another approach was the use of pre-recorded loops, exemplified by Yellow Magic Orchestra (Condry 2006, p. 60), who released one of the first albums to feature mostly samples and loops (1981's Technodelic) (Carter 2011), and Grandmaster Flash's turntablism. Major producers like Timbaland, and underground producers like as well as the group Sir Mask, and others often create their own sound loops then incorporate them into songs.
Today, many musicians use digital hardware and software devices to create and modify loops, often in conjunction with various electronic musical effects.
In the early 1990s, dedicated digital devices were invented specifically for use in live looping, i.e. loops that are recorded in front of a live audience. Notable live looping artists employing the new technology included Stars of the Lid and Radio Chongqing. Live looping is not exclusive to electronic music and is found in the singer/songwriter genre, achieving new popularity in the employ of popular artists such as Imogen Heap, Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird, Marbin, Katie Kim, Keller Williams, and KT Tunstall.
Many hardware loopers exist, some in rack unit form, but primarily as effect pedals. The discontinued Lexicon JamMan, Gibson Echoplex and Looperlative LP1 are 19" rack units. The Boomerang III Phrase Sampler, DigiTech JamMan (Ross 2010), Boss RC-300 and the Electro-Harmonix 2880 are examples of popular pedals.
In 2004, there were twenty live looping festivals in twelve countries in this burgeoning international movement. These include Loopstock established in 2002 in San Luis Obispo, California, and the Y2K? series, established in 2000 in Santa Cruz, California. The Y2K4 International Live Looping Festival in October 2004 in San Francisco and Santa Cruz drew fifty loopers from five different countries over four days.
The musical loop is one of the most important features of video game music. It is also the guiding principle behind devices like the several Chinese Buddhist music boxes that loop chanting of mantras, which in turn was the inspiration of the Buddha machine, an ambient-music generating device. The Jan Linton album "Buddha Machine Music" used these loops along with others created by manually scrolling through CDs on a CDJ player (Entropy Records 2011).
A major advantage of looping that it can be used continually, and not have the quality degradation that is inherent when musician playing a musical part repeatedly (human error). Additionally, there can be huge cost savings, on the production end.
Loop-based music software
Music software to create music using loops range in features, user friendliness, and price. Some of the most widely used are Digidesign's Pro Tools, Sony's ACID and Sound Forge, Cakewalk Sonar, ReCycle, GarageBand, FL Studio (formerly Fruity Loops), Propellerhead's Reason, Ableton Live, and REAPER.
Many companies now exist who provide services selling music loops and Sample libraries, such as Function Loops, PowerFX, Beta Monkey Music, Samplephonics, Sample Magic Loopmasters, Loops Lab Media, Crypton Future Media, and Zero-G. Loops and samples, sometimes referred to as "sample packs" are typically purchased in CD, DVD, and digital download formats containing pre-recorded music loops.
- Break (music), break beats are drum loops
- Live looping, the melodic layering of just-recorded musical loops (usually beatboxing) as live performance.
- Carter, Monica (June 30, 2011). "It’s Easy When You’re Big In Japan: Yellow Magic Orchestra at The Hollywood Bowl". The Vinyl District. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
- Condry, Ian (2006). Hip-hop Japan: rap and the paths of cultural globalization. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3892-0. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
- Decroupet, Pascal; Ungeheuer, Elena (1998), translated by Jerome Kohl, Through the Sensory Looking-Glass: The Aesthetic and Serial Foundations of Gesang der Jünglinge, Perspectives of New Music 36 (1 (Winter)): 97–142, doi:10.2307/833578
- Duffell, Daniel (2005). Making Music with Samples: Tips, Techniques, and 600+ Ready-to-Use Samples. San Francisco: Backbeat. ISBN 0-87930-839-7.
- Entropy Records (2011), Jan Linton: Buddha Machine Music, Entropy Records.
- Hawkins, Erik (2004). The Complete Guide to Remixing: Produce Professional Dance-Floor Hits on Your Home Computer. Boston: Berklee Press. ISBN 0-87639-044-0.
- Holmes, Thom (2008). "Early Synthesizers and Experimenters". Electronic and Experimental Music: Technology, Music, and Culture (3rd ed.). Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-95781-8. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
- Ross, Michael (29 July 2010), DigiTech JML2 JamMan Stereo Review: Up To 6 Hours Of Looping At The Touch Of A Button, Gearwire Forums Archive from 25 November 2012 (accessed 10 June 2014).