Live looping - gear, workflow

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Common Wiggler
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Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:50 am

Live looping - gear, workflow

Post by Jee » Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:02 am

Hi folks,

Is there some people relying essentially on live looping for their creation process?
I see a lot of benefits and potential in terms of creativity, live sound mash-up and resampling sounds to build up track in a kind of improvised way.

I'm trying to rebuild my workflow around but it's not that simple...

It all depends on what I want to do, I know :)
I want to be able to use a set of instruments (like banks of instruments) and feed them to a looper from live play or DAW sequences, then mash up the loops with FX and ideally be able to resample on the fly. In short start with nothing prepared except the selection of instruments and FX and get something lively and evolving, allowing also for suprises, happy accidents and capitalize on them on the fly.

I quickly discarded the classic "DAW based" approach in Bitwig/Live or FL (MIDI sequencing, audio record of clips) because it remained too limiting for what I intend to do. Biggest concern being that we can't resample clips in these DAWs so it requires much more preparation upfront, which i'm reluctant to do :)
Among other issues... (CPU load etc).
So I thought I should explore the traditional live looping using a looper sampler, that looks more flexible, appropriate and CPU-friendly (for a reason I guess).
I own Melda MSuperLooper and it's not perfect yet but it's super powerful already. Especially the FX section is unbeatable on this kind of instrument, even in hardware. I'd really like to use it as main looper (a 3 tracks looper actually), but still thinking about the best options in terms of efficiency.

I could purchase a boss RC-505 or 202 but... I'd like to avoid it at first, if I can. I think it could solve most (but not all) of my issues but I'll lack the FX section (it has one but not great from what I heard) and I'm limited in space available.

I have an APCmini and an MP218. In live I use APCmini for sound (source track for the looper) selection.
I use the MPD218 as looper controller (I mapped the pads / notes to looper controls -cool!).
I feed the looper with both my hardware synths mixed and sent through a single stereo input and I also use some VST rooted to the looper track. I pick the one I need then I sample it.
Technically I'm supposed to be OK. But I noticed some of my samples getting glitched/crackled (like when you have a latency crack) or having sometimes problems getting a good sync with hardware. Or even volume fluctuations. I still got it to work, with the feeling it's not bulletproof tecnically speaking and could lead to some issues going forward. Latency seem to be an issue here and also MIDI sync (I use a drumbrute as master MIDI sync and need a large MIDI delay of 33ms to sync it fine with bitwig, which surprised me).
Anyone using computer-based loopers? Especially with mixed configurations? How did you solve the latency issues and MIDI setup?

I need to replace my current soundcard that becomes old and too small for my needs and I was wondering if there's a best choice for live looping stuff.
Presonus claims to have near 0 latency Quantum thunderbolt soundcard (but no direct monitoring), is it worth it / true?
I was aiming originally for an Arturia Audiofuse studio but it seems the USB2 connectivity will not improve much the latency compared to my current USB2 scarlett 2i4 interface?
I heard thunderbolt on PC is not ideal, USB should be preferred (USB3 I guess) so I don't know...

I also thought about getting the chase bliss blooper (as complement to the setup, not a replacement) that looks really inspiring with its resampling capacities, neat effects. totally in the spirit of what I need. But I freaked out when I saw the price of 560€ :doh:
Still, would be certainly handy especially when synced and seems worth the money in the end (if it proves as creative as it seems).
Also makes a really nice creative delay, I would make use of it too for sure. Any views?

What other gear can do sampling / live resampling on the fly, has FX in the path ideally selectable before or after record head etc?
Maybe octatrack? I once had a machinedrum and wasn't thrilled by elektron UI's so kind of reluctant on this side...
Which other am I missing?

Any advice to implement live looping more generally? Is computer based looping doomed to fail or can I have hope that this "ideal hybrid system" can work rock solid if I change my soundcard?

sorry for long post, so many questions!

Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 332
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Location: London

Re: Live looping - gear, workflow

Post by StrangeAttraction » Sun Oct 18, 2020 9:54 am

I'm in the same place but mainly with eurorack modular...currently trying out Live via ES-9...or might invest in something like Bitbox or that Instruo module or Boss RC505 box (techno outfit Karenn use it very successfully in their live jams).

What are your sound sources? Modular(euro)? External synths? DAW tracks? Instruments (guitar, bass, drums, mic-ed percs)?
That'd be useful to know, I think. Tell us more!

Common Wiggler
Posts: 225
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:50 am

Re: Live looping - gear, workflow

Post by Jee » Sun Oct 18, 2020 1:09 pm

I have 2/3 hardware synths and a eurorack modular and a filterbank. All this is pre-mixed in hardware and sent to the computer with 1 stereo out to feed the looper.
The looper also receives some VST for the acoustic sounds and drums essentially and some FX.
So really combined set of sources.
I can get MSuperlooper and my hardware to sync decently, it's OK, I am just not sure of the stability on the long run at this stage and I didn't involve all the gear in my tests. :roll:
But the power of the FX section after the looper tracks is massive I really dig it, seems almost perfect with a MIDI controller :)

Wiggling with Experience
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Re: Live looping - gear, workflow

Post by Technologear? » Wed Oct 21, 2020 6:39 am

I tried this approach with the rc505 but it didn't work out for me. I'm now using multitrack midi sequencing and a digitakt for looping or sampling.
To give it a go, the key thing is your mixer. You need the looper on an aux, plus other fx chains on other auxes, with returns on channels not aux returns, so you can route the looper back through fx chains to re-record the loop. I'd try that first if you haven't already (either itb or hardware)

Common Wiggler
Posts: 225
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:50 am

Re: Live looping - gear, workflow

Post by Jee » Wed Oct 21, 2020 4:22 pm

that might be good advice...
I have a small mixer but it's more or less dedicated to pre-mixing the hardware gear and doesn't have many aux.
So it would be my last solution, to go for another bigger hardware mixer and / or hardware looper (and FX).
But I really feel like it would be heavy artillery whereas I feel close to the goal technically and worflow-wise.
I got the computer looper to work quite fine actually, but I hit the limitations of computers rather quickly (latency or computing power).
I was too greedy with FX chains (on only 2 tracks), the reverbs didn't make the CPU happy at all.
But still, I think live looping precisely needs resampling and FX capabilities indeed.
I simplified the setup and the latest update of MSuperlooper now includes resampling... which is really awesome.
It should theorically fill the gap.
So I'll work on fine-tuning a set of effects that can be interesting and cpu friendly first, if I still struggle then maybe I'll give up with computer looping and revisit.
Let see.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it helps :)

Common Wiggler
Posts: 91
Joined: Mon Aug 05, 2013 1:51 pm

Re: Live looping - gear, workflow

Post by maxl0rd » Fri Oct 23, 2020 2:08 pm

The people I see being successful with this kind of stuff take one of two approaches. Go 100% hardware, keep it simple, and focus on working within the limitations of whatever device you use. Lots of examples of people making this work. The second approach is to go 100% software and build exactly the tools you want in max/msp or something like that. Usually the off-the-shelf software isn't flexible enough. I guess the monome ecosystem has some interesting hybrids, where the hardware is kind of programmable to some extent.

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