Loop (music)

Loop (music)

In electroacoustic music, a loop is a repeating section of sound material. Short sections of material can be repeated to create ostinato patterns. A loop can be created using a wide range of music technologies including digital samplers, synthesisers, sequencers, drum machines, tape machines, delay units, or they can be programmed using computer music software.



"Loops are short sections of tracks (probably between one and four bars in length), which you believe might work being repeated." A loop is not "any sample, but...specifically a small section of sound that's repeated continuously." Contrast with a one-shot sample. (Duffell 2005, p.14)
"A loop is a sample of a performance that has been edited to repeat seamlessly when the audio file is played end to end." (Hawkins 2004, p. 10)


While repetition is used in the musics of all cultures, the first musicians to use loops were electroacoustic music pioneers such as Pierre Schaeffer, Halim El-Dabh,[1] Pierre Henry, Edgard Varèse and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen's music in turn influenced The Beatles to experiment with tape loops, and their use of loops in early psychedelic works (most notably 1966's "Tomorrow Never Knows" and 1968's avant-garde "Revolution 9") brought the technique into the mainstream. The stereo version of The Kinks' 1967 song "Autumn Almanac" (which appears on the 1972 compilation The Kink Kronikles) also features a psychedelic tape loop during the fadeout. Later, inspired by Terry Riley's use of one tape on two tape machines, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp created the technical basis for their No Pussyfooting album—this technological concept was later dubbed Frippertronics.

Another approach was the use of pre-recorded loops, exemplified by Yellow Magic Orchestra,[2] who released one of the first albums to feature mostly samples and loops (1981's Technodelic),[3] and Grandmaster Flash's turntablism. Major producers like Timbaland, and underground producers like Jimmy Spice Curry, as well as the group Sir Mask, and others often create their own sound loops then incorporate them into songs.

Use of pre-recorded loops made its way into many styles of popular music, including hip hop, trip hop, techno, drum and bass, and contemporary dub, as well as into mood music on soundtracks.

Modern looping

Today many musicians use digital hardware and software devices to create and modify loops, often in conjunction with various electronic musical effects.

In the early 1990s dedicated digital devices were invented specifically for use in live looping i.e. loops that are recorded in front of a live audience. Live looping is not exclusive to electronic music and is found in the singer/songwriter genre, achieving new popularity in the employ of popular artists such as Imogen Heap, Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird, Marbin, and KT Tunstall.

Computer programs to create music using loops range in features, user friendliness, and price. Some of the most widely used are, Digidesign's Pro Tools, Sony's ACID and Sound Forge, Cakewalk Sonar, ReCycle, GarageBand, FL Studio (formerly Fruity Loops), Propellerhead's Reason and Ableton Live.

Many hardware loopers exist in rack unit, effect pedal, or other forms. Early examples of rack and pedal loopers are the Gibson Echoplex[4], DigiTech JamMan[5] and the Electro-Harmonix 16 Second Delay.[6]

In 2004 there were 20 live looping festivals in 12 countries in this burgeoning international movement. These include Loopstock established in 2002 in San Luis Obispo, California, and the Y2K? series, established in 2000 in Santa Cruz, California. The Y2K4 International Live Looping Festival in October 2004 in San Francisco and Santa Cruz drew 50 loopers from 5 different countries over four days.

The musical loop is one of the most important features of video game music. It is also the guiding principle behind devices like the several Chinese Buddhist music boxes that loop chanting of mantras, which in turn was the inspiration of the Buddha machine, an ambient-music generating device. The Jan Linton album "Buddha Machine Music" used these loops along with others created by manually scrolling through CDs on a CDJ player.[7]

A major advantage of looping that it can be used continually, and not have the quality degradation that is inherent when musician playing a musical part repeatedly (human error). Additionally there can be huge cost savings, on the production end.

See also



  • Duffell, Daniel (2005). Making Music with Samples : Tips, Techniques, and 600+ Ready-to-Use Samples. San Francisco: Backbeat. ISBN 0-87930-839-7. 
  • Hawkins, Erik (2004). The Complete Guide to Remixing: Produce Professional Dance-Floor Hits on Your Home Computer. Boston: Berklee Press. ISBN 0-87639-044-0. 

External links

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