How to Create Live Loop Performances

February 3, 2018
Learn how you to create your own live loop performances using a loop station or Ableton Live.
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With live performances becoming more and more prominent within today's EDM scene, I thought it would be worth taking a look at how artists go about achieving this. Most EDM has incredibly complex instrumentation, so it's not always possible to play entire songs live, especially if you're a solo act. I'm going to show you how you can use a loop station, or Ableton, to create your own live loop performances.

This performance by Elise Trouw revolves around the concept of live looping audio in order to create a song. With the correct Ableton setup, this performance could be done mostly live, with the addition of tracks being automated to turn on and off at certain points in time.

Simple Method Shopping List:

Advanced Method Shopping List:

1. Simple Method: Loop Station

The simplest way to start creating live loop performances is with a loop station. The Boss RC-300 Loop Station allows you to loop 3 stereo source signals. For example, you could record yourself singing, playing guitar, and playing another instrument on top of that. The controller has two stomp buttons for each input which toggles the loop on and off. This little device is awesome because it lets you jam all by yourself. The following performance by Phil Stendek was done entirely using the Boss RC-300 Loop Station.

2. Advanced Method: Ableton

The idea here is that you'll be triggering clips and scenes in Ableton's session view using a controller like the Push 2. There are other MIDI controllers out there that can work, such as the Akai APC40 MKII or its little brother, the Akai APC Mini. However, the Push 2 was designed specifically with the intention of controlling Ableton. Keep in mind that the more inputs your audio interface has, the more analog source signals you can record into Ableton.

In the following video, you'll see all of these elements working together. Kleft is recording multiple analog signals through his audio interface and into Ableton. He's record arming tracks at different points in time using the Push 2, creating full clips and scenes that he can playback however he wants. On top of performing with analog instruments, he's performing with MIDI instruments as well. His drums appear to be part of an Ableton drum rack and he also plays a software synth at one point in the video using the Push 2's pads in note mode.

How you decide to use this method is up to you and depends on what you feel comfortable playing live. For the most part, you don't need to be able to shred on guitar or be the best percussionist in the world to create something truly unique. People appreciate a live performance and it creates a connection with people that you just can't get from a typical DJ set.

How to MIDI Map Your Controller in Ableton

If you don't have a Push controller, don't worry. You can use any MIDI controller you own to setup MIDI mappings in Ableton. You may or may not have the ideal MIDI controller for this purpose, but if you're only trying to record to a couple tracks, it can get the job done. ADSR has made a great video on how to setup MIDI mappings using Ableton Live. Keep the concepts in mind and then map your controller however you like. You'll definitely want to MIDI map the record, solo and on/off buttons for each track:

If you have any questions about how to setup your own live looping rig, you can send me an email at charles@blackghostaudio.com.

I'd also like to invite you to like the Black Ghost Audio Facebook page and to follow us on Twitter for more great content. You can request an invitation to the Black Ghost Audio private Facebook group here. It's full of experienced producers and audio engineers who are willing to help you out and collaborate. Come join us!

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If you're interested in learning more about music production, sign up for a free online music production lesson with a Black Ghost Audio instructor today. They're happy to answer any questions you may have about recording, production, mixing, mastering, and music business.

Charles Hoffman is a mixing and mastering engineer at Black Ghost Audio, and writer for SonicScoop and Waves Audio. After graduating from the University of Manitoba with a degree in English Language and Literature, Charles continued his education at Icon Collective, a music production school based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can send him a work inquiry at charles@blackghostaudio.com.

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