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Frippertronics is a tape looping technique used by English guitarist Robert Fripp.[1] It evolved from a system of tape looping developed in the electronic music studios of the early 1960s by composers Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros and made popular through its use in ambient music by composer Brian Eno, as on his album Discreet Music (1975). The effect is now routinely found in many commercial loop station guitar digital effects boxes such as the Boss RC-3.


Frippertronics is an analogue delay system consisting of two side-by-side reel-to-reel tape recorders. The machines are configured so that the tape travels from the supply reel of the first machine to the take-up reel of the second, allowing sound recorded by the first machine to be played back on the second machine. The audio of the second machine is then routed back to the first, causing the delayed signal to repeat, while new audio is mixed in with it. The length of the delay (usually three to five seconds) is controlled by the distance between the two machines, and the number of repeats is controlled by the volume on the second machine.[2]

Fripp used this technique to dynamically create recordings containing layer upon layer of electric guitar sounds in real time. An added advantage was that, by nature of the technique, the complete performances were recorded in their entirety on the original looped tape.

Origin of the term[edit]

The term "Frippertronics" (or "frippertronics") was coined around May 1977 by poet Joanna Walton, Fripp's girlfriend at the time, for a performance they planned to do together at The Kitchen performing arts space.[3][4]

The (No Pussyfooting) recordings[edit]

Fripp had first used the technique when Brian Eno introduced him to it in Eno's home studio, combining Fripp's guitar performance with the two-machine tape delay, on the 21-minute piece "The Heavenly Music Corporation" recorded on 8 September 1972 and released on the Fripp & Eno album (No Pussyfooting) in 1973.[5] A subsequent Fripp & Eno album, Evening Star, was released in 1975. These recordings were not purely tape loops however, since some after-the-fact processing, overdubbing, and editing were done.

The delay system was first used in live situations for a short European Fripp & Eno tour in May–June 1975 promoting Evening Star, with the 28 May 1975 concert at the Paris Olympia Theatre being bootlegged as Air Structures (in 2011 the concert was officially released as a download, along with Eno's original backing loops).[6]

After returning from this tour Eno released his own version of the open loop tape system with Discreet Music (1975), one side of which features looping. Eno mentions in the liner notes that "here is the long delay echo system with which I have experimented since I became aware of the musical possibilities of tape recorders in 1964."[7]

Frippertronics and its types[edit]

Frippertronics was later expanded to different situations. In what he called "Pure Frippertronics", Fripp created loops in real time without additional editing. Sometimes he rewound the recorded tape, to be played back while improvising a guitar solo on top of it. Fripp used this type of Frippertronics to perform live solo concerts in small, informal venues. It allowed him to be what he referred to as a "small, mobile, intelligent unit", as opposed to being part of a massive rock concert touring company. One such show was in a room at Faunce House at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, in a venue built to be a tiered classroom.

Only one and a half albums of Pure Frippertronics were officially produced: Side A of God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners in 1980; God Save The Queen was the pure Frippertronics side, containing three compositions; Red Two Scorer, God Save The Queen, and 1983. He then produced Let the Power Fall in 1981, which takes up where God Save The Queen left off, with works entitled 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989. Marriagemusic was the B side of a League Of Gentlemen single; it is clocking in at over 11 minutes.[8]

There is also a 2-LP bootleg of live Frippertronics entitled Pleasures In Pieces recorded at The Kitchen in New York City on 5 February 1978, containing five tracks (in order of appearance; The Second, The First, The Third, The Fourth, The Fifth, ranging from almost 7 minutes to over 24 minutes. The titles of the pieces are most certainly not given by Fripp. This bootleg has also been issued by persons unknown as a single CD. It is most likely a CD-R recording of the vinyl 2-LP set. Of course Pleasures In Pieces was not and is not authorized by Fripp. However, the Sound Warehouse recording was issued by Fripp as an MP3 file through his DGM web page, though he makes clear that the recording is an audience bootleg and was not originally authorized by him.

Fripp also used Frippertronics in more conventional rock recordings, replacing what could be viewed as musical parts normally served by orchestral backing. He referred to this as "Applied Frippertronics". Several of Fripp's albums, as well as albums by Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Daryl Hall, and The Roches, featured this usage. Side B of God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners included what Fripp termed "Discotronics", mixing Frippertronics and a disco-style rhythm section.[9]

According to Eric Tamm, the first album to feature "proper" Frippertronics was Daryl Hall's Sacred Songs (recorded 1977; released 1980).[10]

From Frippertronics to Soundscapes[edit]

In the mid-1990s, Fripp revamped the Frippertronics concept into "Soundscapes",[11] which dramatically expanded the flexibility of the method by using digital technology (delays and synthesizers). Fripp has released several albums of this type under the title "Music for Quiet Moments" culled from live recordings. He began releasing these in 2007 though some of the source tapes are from earlier than that.



  1. ^ Fricke, David. "Electronic Music and Synthesizers" Archived 4 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Synapse Magazine, Vol. 3 No. 2, Summer 1979.
  2. ^ Scapelliti, Christopher (23 March 2022). "Watch Looping Innovator Robert Fripp's 1979 Frippertronics TV Demonstration". Guitar Player. Retrieved 30 March 2024.
  3. ^ Osborne, Luka (6 August 2022). "Frippertronics: how Robert Fripp and Brian Eno brought looping to life". Happy Mag.
  4. ^ "Interview with Robert Fripp by Dick Tooley - ETWiki".
  5. ^ Prendergast, Mark (2001). The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Trance: The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 119. ISBN 1-58234-134-6.
  6. ^ "Fripp & Eno". 28 May 1975. Archived from the original on 5 May 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  7. ^ Liner notes to "Discreet Music".
  8. ^ "King Crimson Facts".
  9. ^ Reed, Ryan (11 April 2022). "Robert Fripp's 20 greatest guitar moments". guitarworld. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  10. ^ Tamm, Eric (1991). Robert Fripp Archived 18 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine. ISBN 0-571-16289-4.
  11. ^ Baldwin, Douglas (November 2007). "Guitar Heroes: How to Play Like 26 Guitar Gods from Atkins to Zappa", edited by Jude Gold and Matt Blackett, Guitar Player, p.111.

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