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24th August, 2022

A Guide to Live Looping

Have you heard of live looping? Whether or not you recognise the technique by it’s name, in all likelihood you’ve seen live looping at a gig or concert.

Live looping continues to be a rising trend in the musical world with everyone from online musical influencers to big superstars like Ed Sheeran getting involved.

In this article, we’ll introduce the concept of live looping and how it differs from regular looping, as well as give you some tips and tactics for starting to learn how to do it yourself!

Looping: The Musical Technique

Looping, unsurprisingly considering its name, consists of a musician using a snippet or section of audio or music to play repeatedly in a ‘loop’.

Beats, music, a specific instrument, a rhythm or percussion effect, beat boxing or even spoken words can all be used to great and creative effect by the talented DJ or musician. Often, looping is used to create a backing track with depth, complexity and, of course, a good sound.

Introducing: Live Looping

Live looping really takes looping to a whole new level. This technique sees an artist create a loop live and in person, in front of an audience at a gig, performance or concert.

Unlike ordinary looping which is often mixed and produced in the privacy of one’s studio or workstation, and then released out into the world, live looping is done in real time and right then and there before your audience’s eyes (and ears).

What’s Overdubbing?

Overdubbing is the effect that is used during the process of looping to really layer the different audio and enhance your performance. Simply put, overdubbing is the process of taking the previously recorded phrase and recording over it. This gives the phrase itself as well as your loop more depth and auditory complexity.  

But that’s not all! Stacking is the practice of using multiple overdubs and having them all play together. This can help produce a harmony that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to create playing solo. 

The Different Ways to Loop


The most common style of live looping is a tempo loop to help artists sing, or play an instrument over the endlessly looping audio. 

Long loops

Rather than short phrases or cuts, sometimes your music calls for a longer verse to loop. This might give you the opportunity to play more creatively with your looping. 


If you’re feeling bold and brave, you can deliberately loop out of the established tempo that is playing on a cycle. 


Hard to master without making it sound chaotic or the loop jarring, randomised looping done well can take your performance to a previously unheard of level. 

How to Loop Live

There are actually three main different ways to create live loops when you’re playing at your next gig:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Apps

Once upon a time, hardware was really the only option, but as technology in the musical industry developed, software and (later on) apps have changed the game. Still there are benefits to using a more traditional method for live looping.

1. Hardware

Often called a looping pedal, these handy pieces of hardware were originally designed for guitarists. Operated using one’s foot, the guitarist could continue playing (and often singing) whilst creating a loop live in front of an audience. But it didn’t stop there. Other musicians and instrumentalists soon realised just what could be achieved with a looping piece of hardware and the technique exploded! Hence the creation of more diverse and varied looping stations

Some of the downsides to looping with hardware is that you’ll need to take the station or pedal along with you when you go from gig to gig, and the fact that this equipment can cost anywhere from $150 to $1800. 

2. Software

If you’ve got a laptop with you, as most DJs do, using live looping software might be the best option. There’s a wide variety of different looping software available, some of it is free and others cost a subscription fee or can be bought outright. Among the most commonly used is Ableton Live which, despite requiring some getting used to, has a lot of handy features.

Of course, if you’re a singer or instrumentalist, you’re likely not going to be able to work a laptop or looping software. 

3. Apps

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, especially the iPhone and iPad, the arrival of looping apps was inevitable. Fortunately, there are many apps out there that cost less than $10 and will still do the trick, such as Loopy HD. There’s a lot of variety in the types of looping apps available and the various features each offers, so spend some time playing around to find the one that works for you.

Whether using an app for your looping is right for you will depend on the particulars of what you need, the instrument you’re playing and how you intend on live looping. 

How to Live Loop

Considering the different ways and methods for live looping, we’ll simply break down a general guide to getting started. 

  •  Think ahead

The first and most important step is to consider what you want to loop. Think about what you want to achieve and work out the rhythm you’re after.

  • Record

Record your initial performance by hitting the record button on your station, software or app.

  • Overdub

Now comes the looping. Layer your initial performance with another while the first part plays in a loop. Make sure to hit the pedal or button that engages the playback mode.

  • Playback

Now play back the overdub as a loop and continue doing this until you have all of the layers you’re after.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Face it, live looping is both an art and a skill, and all art and skill takes a tremendous amount of practice. Apart from exercising your creative skills and working on new sounds and tracks, the more you practice the more confident and seamless your live looping will be when you come out in front of an audience.

The simple rule is: You can never be too practiced.

DJ City – the home of everything you need for live looping

At DJ City, we stock all of the DJ and music production equipment and gear you need, including a wide range of looping stations. It doesn’t matter where you’re an old hat at live looping or just beginning to dabble in the beginnings of the art, we’ll be more than happy to help you out and steer you in the right direction. 

Want to know more? Give us a call on 1300 352 489.


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