Super prolific weekend, live-looping is awesome to get ideas out

One of the things I enjoy about this artform is that it forces you to turn out material really quickly. Sometimes I have a little bit of an idea but while punching in the notes I get another idea. And within about a half minute I have a base of a cool tune. That’s why in this weekend I was able to punch out 3 pretty well-formed song ideas—and have time to edit the videos too!

It all starts with the main iPad. I can lay down a beat, a bassline, or a texture in about 2-5 seconds. Then it’s all about putting some meat on those bones. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and I’ll do a couple of takes, but lately that’s been more about technical issues—I’ll accidentally hit the stop button or set the wrong measure for the loop start/end. True, the solos and melody lines are a bit harder to come up with on the spot, but I’m building up this list in my head of the ones I really like. Plus, I have my favorite chord progressions.

As you can see it unfold on the videos, it takes under 10 minutes to get all that music built out … then I’m bored and want to move on to the next song. If I don’t like what’s going on I could cut it short and just move on to the next idea. During one of my live sets a “song” usually lasts from 1 to 6 minutes depending on how it’s shaping up. (This weekend’s batch of videos each was self-contained so I had to rebuild each song with the annoying metronome for the first 2 minutes or so.)

Before I started doing live-looping it would take forever to get out a song. I’d overanalyze parts, spend a lot of time EQing (and usually get it wrong), rewrite segments, try to put in a lot of different chords. Each song might be 30 hours of labor and constantly second-guessing. But with looping, there are really no take-backs. If you make a mistake you just move on. You build on what you know will work and take a few chances. You don’t have time to jump back to the mixer panel most times and you can’t do fancy progressions. In spite of this, I still find it wonderfully enjoyable and I’m always amazed at how other people can make fully-formed songs in this format—that’s definitely something I’m aspiring to.

Thanks for being along for the ride!