Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: Gone Loopy

This week I added the ultimate toy for any bad guitar player- a loop station pedal. I have considered getting one for years but held off because I always felt like I should work on my playing and not add gear that would just add to the goofing off at the expense of actual playing. With so much more time on my hands these days, I figured it was a good time to grab one. I also feel like I am reaching a point in my playing where this is something that has a good deal of value for me. All this time in quarantine practicing regularly has got me to a place where I am moving beyond playing in just one scale at a time for improvisations and to a place where I need to be more focused on the song, its melody and the changes. Being able to create quick loops is very helpful in pushing my playing forward.

Of course, the first thing that I realized when I threw the pedal down on the floor is that I am pretty bad at using it. I have had no trouble making loops by recording to a computer, but having to hit the pedal to end my playing and start the loop just threw me for a… you know.

 Some of the time, I just didn’t hit tap the pedal hard enough for anything to happen. I mean, I am not slamming my foot down when I tap the beat out with it. No problem. I’ll just stomp on the damn thing. They call them stop boxes, right? That worked! All good now…

Except… wow, that first beat is kind of loud. I guess when I stomped the box I also hit the one beat twice as hard as necessary. At least I can hear where the one is. How do I reset this stupid thing?

With clearing the loops from the pedal mastered, it’s time learn to walk and chew gum. I isn’t too difficult to stop slamming the first chord down to start the loop, but ending the loop is trickier. I might be a bad guitar player, but I would be horrendous drummer. I tap the pedal again at the end of the loop and hit it too softly. So it doesn’t stop looping.

Now this thing is in my head. My foot is on the pedal, here comes the end of loop. Bam! Foot to the floor, we have looping! But wait… it’s a half-beat too soon. Take two. Half beat too late (and I slammed on the one as I stopped the loop, just for good measure). Resetting people, going again in five. Such is the life of a bad guitar player.

Ultimately, the pedal is actually pretty ease to use and even on the first day I am making more quality loops than bad ones after a few tries. The one thing that does continue to give me issues is the way the pedal works for adding a second loop. On the Boss Loop Station RC-1, when you end the loop it, it begins play back and continues recording what you are playing to create another loop. Since I am mostly just practicing improvising over chords, one loop is enough for me most of the time. This means I have to hit the pedal twice to stop recording as the playback continues. I forget that about half the time and end up recording the solo as a second loop. This feature also makes it slightly difficult to record the loop and jump into a solo right on the first beat without getting an extra note or two in the loop. This way of functioning is incredibly cool though if you are looking to create more layered sounds or write music because it is easy to play one part, start the loop and jump into a second part. That is something I will definitely play with more as I get more comfortable with this new toy.

After a few days of playing with this thing, I feel kind of foolish for not getting a loop station earlier. I don’t have a ton of people that I play with (and now that number is down to none) and this is a quick and easy solution that definitely beats play-along tracks and having to open up recording software just to lay down a eight-bar pattern. It’s fun to laugh at all the mistakes I make using it, but it is incredibly simple to use even for a pretty lousy guitar player like me.

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