What Is a Looper Pedal?
Unless you’re a dedicated solo player like Ed Sheeran, A looper pedal probably isn’t top of your guitar shopping list. However, it can be an invaluable tool to any guitarist whatever style you play.
A looper pedal records your guitar as you play a riff or chord sequence and plays it back to you over in a loop. You can then add to this loop by ‘overdubbing’; playing a second part over the top which will be recorded and added to the loop next time it circles round.
If Ed’s music isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other great players using these stompboxes to take inspiration from, including Radiohead's Ed O'Brien, Paul Gilbert, Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher and many more.
This buyers guide will take you through everything you need to know about loopers. From the basics of how they work, to why they’re such a great addition and what features to look out for when choosing the best one for you.
Why Do I Need a Looper Pedal?
From making practice time more enjoyable to building up epic live loops on stage and even in composition, the looper pedal is one of those unsung heroes that you should seriously consider picking up.
This seemingly simple function is extremely useful. It gives you a simple way to stand back and really assess your playing. You can also make quick tracks for recording. When composing music, you can experiment with layers and hear how a song flows.
By far the most used instance for a looper in live performance is for solo acoustic acts and vocalists to bring multiple parts/instruments into their performances. If you're willing to get really creative, you can use loops as samples in your gig, either creating them on the fly or pre-programming sounds to enhance your performance.
How Do I Use a Looper Pedal?
To create a loop, all you have to do is tap on the pedal at the beginning of your phrase to start recording and tap it at the end to stop recording. The pedal will then continue playing the loop until you press stop.
As with most things in music, this takes a lot of co-ordination, timing and practice, so don’t get disheartened if you can’t get it at first. Start with something really simple so that you can get the hang of it and build up so that soon you can get that perfect loop every time.
Some pedals come with built-in metronomes or preset drum beats, but you can always create your own beat by playing muted strings to set a tempo.
Experiment with different note ranges to try and expand your mix. Not every overdub has to play from the start to the finish of your loop. Try one overdub that plays for the first half and a second overdub for the second half, like a call and response.
The most basic loopers have more than enough storage for an average user creating single loop and unlimited overdubs. More sophisticated looper pedals have space to save multiple loops so you can store a setlist of backing loops for a gig or save your compositions as you create them on the looper.
Where Does a Looper Pedal Go In My Signal Chain?
You can put the looper in a number of places in your signal chain depending on how you want it to function.
Putting it at the end of your signal chain is by far the simplest and most popular option for most guitarists. In this setup, the looper will capture the exact pedal setup at that moment within the loop and won’t react to any changes you then make on your board.
You can also put it in between effects depending on what sound you want it to capture. When it’s in your effects loop, you have the flexibility to turn your reverb and modulation effects on/off to affect the overall sound.
These days, more and more loopers have stereo potential. If you’ve got a stereo reverb or delay, or you’re going straight to the mixer, stereo looping is a must. You could also use this to track separate mono vocals and instrument signals by plugging the looper into a mixer bus.
What Are The Best Looper Pedals?
A number of huge brands make loopers in a range of styles, sizes – be it mini or double pedals – and functions like built-in delay. Companies like TC Electronic, Boss and Digitech specialise in the field and produce some of the most popular models available.
Household stompbox name Boss love a good looper pedal among all their other amazing effects, with the compact Loop Station and its variants still going strong. They’re super simple, with basic level and loop capabilities and the potential on some models to save and recall your old loops. This is a great starting point for beginners.
Looper pedals are certainly one of TC Electronic’s strong points in their range. The Ditto delivers simple functionality with the potential to mix up your loops with half speed and reverse capabilities. They also come in a number of sizes and offer various save spaces.
The Flashback series incorporates a delay effect too, so you have a crazy amount of control over what you play – whether you want to loop your playing round again or let it drift off into the sonic distance.
A great option if you’re going to take your recording to the next level. Electro Harmonix love creating new and exciting pedals, their loopers being no different. Look past the quirky dials and layout and you’ll find pro quality and an intuitive layout after a bit of fiddling.
Some of the more expensive loopers in the range have the ability to record and play 2 synchronised loops in one session. Whilst most users will be happy using one loop at a time, having 2 loops can offer a huge amount of control in live performance and composing.
A popular pick in looper territory, Digitech offer loopers in a handful of price brackets and with varying amounts of buttons to play with. If you need a simple, to-the-point looper it’s difficult to beat the trusty JamMan. Further towards the higher end of the spectrum, you’ll encounter the Trio, an all singing and all dancing stompbox catering to an array of musical genres thanks to its controls.
What Looper Pedal Should I Buy?
Armed with all this knowledge, you now have all the info you need to browse through our full list of looper pedals and find the best one for your needs.
To be honest, all our loopers are fantastic, so you can't really make a bad decision. You just need to decide what you want to loop, how complex you want to make these tracks and how many loops you want to keep saved. Once you have an idea in your head, head over to our looper category for a browse.