Ableton Live's Looper plugin is a tool that's often overlooked by even long-time users of the DAW. What are its specialist strengths, and how can you make best use of it? This device is a useful creative tools because it allows you to create interesting musical ideas on the fly, whether in a live performance or producing within a studio session. Here we'll show you how to make use of the Looper, and how to create unique beats, basslines, chords and more through use of the Looper. Let’s jump in and see how…
Using Live's Looper Device
Looper can be used to create ideas on the fly in a live context or even in a production setting to try out new ideas. If you've run dry on inspiring beats, or you wish to get an idea down from your head more quickly – these are scenarios where the Looper can come in handy.
First, we'll look at how you can use your voice, like a beat boxer to easily and quickly create new beats through the use of the Looper. You can build up and layer voiced drum elements until you have a full sounding vocal drum kit.
Step 1 – Create the Project
Set up an audio track (create a new track with Ctrl/Cmd-T) on which to record your vocals.
Next add the Looper plugin to the channel. Enable the metronome in Ableton. This will help you keep in time to your project tempo.
Start playback and try out some beat ideas. Get comfortable with producing Kick, Snare and Hats sounds. When you're ready, you can turn to the actual plugin and start the looping process…
Step 2 – Set up Looper
Make sure the following is set on the Looper first:
- Set the Song Control to None.
- Set the Tempo Control to Follow song tempo. (In a live context you may want to choose None, as tempo can drift in a live situation).
Step 3 – Record Drum Parts using Overdubs
We'll start by recording a kick idea and then move on to the other drum elements.
Record-enable the Looper. Then press the big + when you wish to start your overdub.
For the first line of recording, we've come up with this Raw Vocal Kick Sound…
Step 4 – Add Other Elements to your Beat
See how quickly you can get results with the Looper. It took a maximum of 3 minutes to get this idea down. It's not the most excellent beatboxing, but you get the idea.
Playing with your Loops on an Audio Track
Looper also has a very handy feature called Drag Me. This allows you at any time to drag an idea from the Looper onto an audio track.
When you use this function, instantly an audio file/loop will be created on the audio track.
Once you are happy with your loop creation, simply drag it onto an audio track and voila! The pattern is there for you to edit and process as you will at a later stage.
Mapping Looper Parameters to MIDI
A good idea is to map the big + in Looper to a button on your controller, or better yet a foot controller. This moves the loop function away from being so mouse-driven to a more performance driven task.
Press Ctrl/Cmd-M to enable the MIDI Map, select the big + sign on Looper, then press a button on your controller. Now that + button is mapped to the controller button for easier use in overdubs.
Other Uses for the Looper
You can try the same thing with instruments other than your voice, of course. Why not try using a synth with Looper? Whilst recording loops, you can change presets with your overdubs and in the process build up a unique-sounding synth loop with different layer contributing a different quality, and activating/deactivating the layers as you go along.
Let's try this using LennarDigital's Sylenth1, which is a great sounding synth for some ‘analog-style’ sounds. Go through the same process as above to set up Looper on the track.
It's time to create further overdub layers using different presets from the same synth – Sylenth Preset 3.
Now you have created a layered synth in the space of a few minutes. You can drag this newly created layered synth onto an audio track. Or better yet, right-click the file and choose Slice To New MIDI Track. A Simpler Intrument is created with the audio file mapped across the MIDI notes – Sylenth Preset 4.
Try fiddling with the Speed setting. Changing this gives you a classic tape-style effect. When you slow down the time, the pitch is also altered, and this could also be used in a live context to create variance in your performances. The Reverse button is also a nice feature – it will flip your audio around and create a different swing on your looped ideas. In a performance, you could build up a loop, quickly reverse it for something different, and then flip it around again to carry on with the performance.
The Looper is an underplayed plugin that could be used to great effect in your future productions and performances, and this is just touching the tip of the iceberg. Once you get deeper into the plugin, you'll find other uses for it that you would have never thought of. Try out the Looper in your future tracks – you'll be amazed at how fast you can come up with ideas, and how these looped ideas can work their way into your tracks.