Hands-Free Live Looping Tutorial

The latest loopop video demonstrates several approaches to creating live, hands-free looping performances, in the style of Youtube artist Elise Trouw.

Trouw’s performances combine live looping, with multiple instruments, and complex arrangements. Here’s Trouw’s live looping mashup of Everlong by Foo Fighters and What You Won’t Do for Love by Bobby Caldwell.

Live looping, in this style, requires some planning, because it depends on your looping system being configured with the arrangement of your song.

The loopop video explains three methods for hands-free looping:

The first method is using an application designed for this purpose, in this case the MacOS app ZenAudio ALK. Next, the video demonstrates two methods to achieve something similar using Ableton Live. The more complex method is how Trouw performs, using an IAC driver or loopback software like LoopMIDI, Bome MIDI translator Pro or LoopBe, MIDI YOKE. The video also demonstrates a simpler method, using automation of Loopers in Ableton Live.

If you’ve got your own approach to creating live looping arrangements, share it in the comments!

31 thoughts on “Hands-Free Live Looping Tutorial

  1. Looping is a great way to avoid the drudgery of playing with other creative, beautiful human beings. With a looper, you get to enjoy rocking out with the best! Yourself! And your audience will think, “Wow! S/He does everything! What an amazing individual!” It’s also a great way to remove natural variation and get to hear the same 8 beats over and over and over. Who needs a band, or a drum machine, — just bore the crap out of your audiences with layers and layers and layers of you …all night.

    Actually, I don’t mind loopers– despite the above cheekiness. I think they have their place. And there are people who do very creative things with them– even almost making you forget you are being subjected to a looper.

    However, I hope that some years from now we look back at this little phase we’re going through with at least a little bit of retrospection and perhaps an appropriate amount of humor and humility.

    1. Is this really a phase?

      It seems to me that looping is maturing, and artists like Trouw are figuring out how to make it less of a performance gimmick.

      A reality of live performance is that audiences are typically small and conservative and it’s tough to make any money. Until this changes, it makes small-group and DJ performances a lot more viable than larger band performances.

      Trouw’s approach is impressive to me because it incorporates more showmanship and risk into the performance, which makes it more fun to watch than typical looping performances.

        1. So far her mileage has garnered 3,722,878 views on that video, not to mention her other videos that are racking up millions.

          How has your mileage compared using whatever technique you use? You sound like you must be much more successful at getting an audience with how you perform. Tell us more…

    2. We were doing this in 95 with delays. And with my Oberheim/Gibson Digital Echoplexes I could layer up to 16 parts of various length multiplied or divided and even remove layers all with a few quantized midi cc’s played back over a sequencer to the Echoplexes. This is nothing new.

        1. He doesn’t need to. There are plenty of videos of David Torn on YouTube. Point is looping like this is very tired and there were more interesting things happening thirty years ago.

            1. “Point is…”
              Also, tape =/= real time playback and manipulation. Nobody would be talking about this if the post was about someone who was composing within a DAW with individual segments they had prepared beforehand. Musique concrete technique is now commonplace whether you create “computer music” or not. Torn and his (few) peers were able to move past Riley’s/Fripp’s methods into something very expressive that didn’t require hours of splicing. This is just a novelty, like most looping acts. The only thing that appeals to people about it is the independence and immediacy but it’s really no more interesting than composing in a DAW and honestly it’s more limiting. She’d have the same linear results with a band if she bothered. Anything that happened with the GRM, or at the IRCAM, or in Zappa’s basement is now practiced by thousands, and this isn’t to subtract from the value of work done by people like Shaeffer or Stockhausen. It’s just that what Torn does remains special. You and I both know Stockhausen wouldn’t have anything positive to say about this. I doubt he’d want his legacy to be a pioneer of tired, repetitious music for the sake of novelty.

      1. Brilliant, thank you!
        Terrible shame the zenAudio looper app. is no longer being developed.
        Aside from Ableton Live, another option is the Roland RC-505, in conjunction with a
        midi sequencer, giving you at least some FX sound design automation.
        Anyone who questions the creative musical potential of sequenced live looping, or that it
        is somehow a tired retread of vintage looping (“We were doing this in ’95” , LOL!)
        has nooo idea what they are talking about.

    3. My experience with bands is that there is ALWAYS 1 drunk and 1 diva. Even in a power trio. With looping, I get to be the drunk AND the diva.

    4. Couldn’t agree with you more, however, in the current state of today’s music industry, getting a full live band together is going to be near impossible for most people. I have talked to countless people who’ve all hd the same experience as myself that spent, no wasted, their entire 20s trying to get a dependable band together. That’s an entire 10 years in your prime wasted sabatoring your entire music career.

    5. Your idea is old and antiquated, a thing of the past. Your stuck in the way things used to be and not open to new concepts of creation. Every new idea is called crazy by the masses until it becomes a standard. FYI in life, everything is phase.

  2. Hating people which know how to play more than two instruments PLUS have a beautiful singing voice PLUS looking damn’ good…… 😉

  3. She is very talented and she made this look so effortless. Awesome performance. Have played with my RC-300 a bit, but this makes my attempts pretty lame lol. Will drag it out again and use this video as definite inspiration.

  4. this is a great overview of live looping. thanks! one note though is that for some reason loopers dont seem to easily record their audio output into the arrangement view of ableton live. have you got a way to do that? i tried it the other day and nothing was recorded into the corresponding audio track in arrangement view 🙁

  5. I’m not buying that performance as live. I’m sure she’s very talented and CAN do it live, but that video is a well choreographed lip sync.

    1. It might be possible that the vocal is lip-synced, but perhaps not. However, nothing else about those loops was “so good” as to not be live. The drumming was obviously raw and realtime. Same with the bass playing.

      Any of the impressiveness of this can be attributed to it being carefully programmed, well-rehearsed, and not-necessarily-the-first-take.

      She’s got a nice voice- and clearly works hard.

    2. You could be right. They can post a behind the scene video. Maybe they already did that, but I won’t be scanning her channel. All I know is my fat ugly face would’ve never been able to pull so many views. Genuine people who are also beautiful will survive. A fraud with a beautiful face will, for a bit, then crash and burn.

    3. Seems you didn’t view the explanation video how to do something like this. Of course the “arrangement” of the sampling parts is pre-programmed, but it could also be done “on the fly” by having several footswitches for the ons and offs of the looped parts.

    4. Kenny I agree with you. The sounds of the video seem to be pre-recorded. Her vocal mic is not reacting to changes in proximity or position. The big give away is the sound of the drum kit. With a sensitive studio condenser vocal mic off to the side we would hear a ton of room tone, but the kit sounds tight. Also, can someone explain how perfect start/stop triggering is achievable when playing drums requires use of all 4 limbs?

      Not saying she did not create the loops or play the parts. Just not live in one take like we see.

      Then again…
      It could be done live with the help of a person off camera muting and un-muting mics or switching scenes on a digital mixer, and operating record start/stop controls.

      OR it could be multi tracked to a click and mixed after the fact, but that would not be ”looping”.

      1. I got the impression that she is playing live but someone else is triggering the loop start/ends. That’s the very best case. With an every-so-slight increase in cynicism, it could be explained as you describe.

        1. I get the impression el jeffe, billy and a few other commenters didn’t watch both videos, because they completely explain her performance technique – and you can literally see her play everything that you hear in the video.

          Just because YOU can’t do something, don’t assume someone intelligent, talented and hardworking can’t do it.

  6. Nice and captivating track but, Elise, PLEASE STOP PLAYING WITH YOUR HAIR.
    What are you trying to achieve with those constant gestures?
    Totally unnecessary.

  7. Jeskola buzz is a modular tracker with looping capabilities that can outperform live and other daws. Of course, there’s enough Max engines to create variations from loop to loop, changing order of slices every time…

  8. Nice video. That was easy to setup the automation in Ableton. You’d have to NAIL IT when you launch your track if you use the ableton automation though, not much room for error. I wish that application was available for PC, it looked interesting. You would be amiss for some free-styling though, this might be better for more pop and rock musicians and less appropriate for EDM producers who want to build drops, not sure yet though.

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