A floor-based Boss RC loop pedal.
|Developed||Late 20th century|
Live looping is the recording and playback of a piece of music in real-time  using either dedicated hardware devices, called loopers or phrase samplers, or software running on a computer with an audio interface. Musicians can loop with either laptop software or loop pedals, which are sold for tabletop and floor-based use.
History of the looping device
By the late 19th century, jazz and blues had heavily influenced popular music, encouraging musicians to experiment with rhythm, repetition, and musical improvisation. With the advent of sound recording on gramophone record, invented in 1887 and first marketed in 1889, came the tape recorder and the development of pure electronic music.
On 1 October 1947, Bing Crosby became the first American musician to release music via tape broadcast. In 1955, Brian Eno began experimenting with multitrack recording as a means of composing synthesized recordings.
In 1963, musician and performer Terry Riley released an early tape loop piece called The Gift, featuring the trumpet playing of Chet Baker. It was the first piece ever based on a tape delay/feedback system with 2 Revox tape recorders. (Riley used to call this system the Time Lag Accumulator. Unsurprisingly, the name did not catch on amongst other performing musicians.)
Digital delay systems in the 1980's were unintuitive and experimental, but the equipment's limitations inspired innovators of the technique to find creative applications.
Even by the early 90's, when dedicated loop machines first went on sale, the term "live looping" had not yet been coined. The first dedicated loop device was the Paradis LOOP Delay. The Paradis and other models had volatile memories, forcing composers to develop fresh loops live in front of their audiences — and thus, live looping came into existence.
Roland and Digitech loop pedals entered the market in 2001, around the same time DJ mixing gained popularity. When the 2002 Repeater introduced real-time studio looping, looping devices became affordable enough for aspiring at-home composers to enjoy.
As laptops gained popularity in 2004, computer software began to emulate the 90's effects of early looping devices.
Modern live looping tools and applications
Live looping has become increasing popular in recent history as it offers the ability for a single musician to create multiple layers to their live music, resulting in a sound close to that of a "full band". Notable manufacturers of looping devices are: Boss Corporation, DigiTech, TC-Helicon, Boomerang, Electro-Harmonix (EHX), Line 6, Pigtronix, and Vox.
In a 2012–13 poll of 1000 singers, 11% stated that they used live looping while 51% did not know what live looping was. Artists known for their use or advocacy of the technique include:
- Ed Sheeran
- Dub FX
- MC Xander
- Ambre McLean
- Jacob Moon
- Amy X Neuburg
- KT Tunstall
- Kid Beyond
- David Torn
- DJ Quest
- Reggie Watts
- Aftab Ali (10 February 2014). "In conversation: David Devereux". Retrieved 8 March 2014.
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- "Looper Pedal Manufacturers". LooperMusic.com. Retrieved 2015-12-28.
- TC-Helicon; Barker, Greg A.; Alexander, Kathy (2014-01-06). The Ultimate Guide to Singing: Gigs, Sound, Money and Health. TC-Helicon. pp. 191–. ISBN 9780992034405. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- "Canada’s Best Kept Secret, Ambre McLean!". Dec 12, 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- "Jacob Moon shines in Oshawa". Feb 21, 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- Battino, David; Richards, Kelli (2005). The Art of Digital Music: 56 Visionary Artists & Insiders Reveal Their Creative Secrets. Backbeat Books. pp. 106–. ISBN 9780879308308. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- Richardson, John (2012-01-26). An Eye for Music: Popular Music and the Audiovisual Surreal. Oxford University Press. pp. 246–. ISBN 9780195367362. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- Werner, Matt (2012-05-15). Oakland in Popular Memory: Interviews with twelve cutting-edge artists from Oakland and beyond. Thought Publishing. pp. 70–. ISBN 9780982689844. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- Lauren Beck (2011-05-18). "tUnE-yArDs Live-Looping Will Blow Your Mind". The L Magazine. Retrieved 2015-11-29.