Episode 8 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at a few ways you can use a looper pedal as a practice tool.
While using a looper pedal is great fun for jamming or songwriting, it can be used to speed up your development and help you learn skills faster.
This episode will give you some simple ways you can use a looper pedal to help you practice guitar.
Listen to the podcast using the below player or search for Bite-Size Guitar Podcast in any podcast app.
Ask a Question
If you have a question about this episode or any other question about learning or playing guitar, ask it here and I’ll answer it in a future episode.
Use your Android/PC/Mac (iOS doesn’t work) to record your question below and send it to me to be included in a future episode.
Tips for asking a question for the podcast:
- Introduce yourself at the start (eg: Hi, I’m Aaron from Australia …)
- Try to record in a quiet environment to avoid background noise
- You have up to 90 seconds to record, so take your time providing any details you want
If you want to send me a question in text instead of voice, you can send it here.
Here are some helpful guides to learn more about looper pedals and how to use them:
- Ultimate Guide to Looper Pedals: explains what to look for in a looper pedal as well as some great loopers to choose from
- How to Use a Looper Pedal: simple exercises to help you get used to using a looper pedal
- BOSS Loop Station Pedals Compared: compare some of the best looper pedals
If you don’t already have a looper pedal, I recommend reading through the above guides to find out why they’re so popular and useful.
Podcast Episode 8 Transcript
Hi, I’m Aaron from guitargearfinder.com and this is episode 8 of the Bite-Size Guitar podcast.
In this short and to-the-point episode, I’m going to talk about a few different ways you can use a looper pedal as a practice tool.
If you already have a looper pedal, you might get some new ideas to try out after listening to this short episode. If you don’t have a looper pedal, this episode may give some reasons to get one other than the typical use of loopers from a jamming or performance perspective.
For anybody who doesn’t know what a looper pedal is, the basic idea is that it’s a guitar pedal that records something you play on guitar, then loops it over and over so you can jam along to.
On my website I go into all the differences between different looper pedals, so check it out to learn more about them.
Let’s look at how you can use a looper pedal to improve your guitar abilities.
Work on Rhythm Skills
The first thing you can do with a looper pedal is to work on your rhythm skills.
What makes a looper a great practice tool is that it gives you instant feedback on your playing.
As I’ve talked about in earlier episodes, the way you hear yourself while you play is very different than how you hear a recording of yourself. Being able to step back and listen to your playing can reveal a lot about your technique and timing.
With a looper pedal, you’re able to record yourself playing something, then instantly hear it played back. This is a great way to uncover any imperfections or bad timing that you may not notice while you’re playing.
You can work on riffs, licks, scales, or any other skill by recording it on a looper and practicing playing over the top of it on each repeat.
A simple exercise to try out to get an idea of what I’m talking about is to come up with a strumming pattern using muted chord hits and record it with your looper pedal.
Start by recording a simple strumming pattern, then try playing another muted strumming pattern over the top of it. The goal is to practice syncing up your rhythm with the looped rhythm.
If you find that easy, try layering a more complex rhythm over the top of the existing loop. So you might start by recording a basic rhythm pattern using eighth notes, then come up with a pattern using sixteenth notes over the top of it.
Try recording one rhythm pattern, then come up with a different rhythm pattern that compliments the first one.
If you’ve never tried this before, you might enjoy the challenge. Thinking up of different rhythms to play over the top of a loop is a great way to build your confidence and creativity.
You’ll quickly learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating interesting rhythms. Your timing will also tighten up and you’ll correct any mistakes in your technique.
I remember doing this a few years ago when I felt like I was always strumming the same patterns while playing acoustic guitar. After a few practice sessions with a looper pedal, I learned to experiment and come up with new rhythm patterns. It made a big difference in my rhythm technique.
Give it a try and see how many different rhythm patterns you can come up with on your own.
Improve Your Improvisation
Another way you can use a looper pedal is to work on your improvisation skills. This is a popular way of using a looper pedal because you have full control over what you create in the loop.
Instead of jamming with a backing track – which is also great fun – you can customize your own backing tracks with a looper.
For example, if you’re just starting out learning to improvise and you just learned the A minor Pentatonic scale, all you need to do to start improvising with that scale is record yourself strumming the A minor chord on your looper.
Once you’ve created a simple loop using an A minor chord, you can work on improvising using the scale.
Then if you want to switch to a different scale, you simple record a different chord on your looper pedal.
I’m guessing most people listening will have tried this before. It’s a pretty obvious use of a looper pedal, but it’s great fun.
Once you feel confident improvising over single-chord loops, you can create longer progressions or complex loops to push yourself further.
Try adding in a chord from a parallel key or use an odd time signature to force yourself to try new things.
If you’re interested in learning modes, this is a fantastic way to truly learn the quality of each mode.
As an example of how to do this, record a loop only using an E power chord. Then improvise over the top starting with E Ionian. Then move on to E Dorian over the same loop. Then keep going through E Phrygian, E Lydian and so on.
The beauty of practicing modes like this is that your ears will quickly get used to how each note in the mode relates to the root note. So for example, once you start recognizing the distinctive sound of a raised fourth, you’ll start to be able to tell when a song is using Lydian.
Try to get a grip on the important notes in each mode and how those intervals shape the overall sound of the mode.
If you’re a beginner and everything I just said went straight over your head, that’s fine. The key point is that you can use a looper pedal to help you learn modes when you’re ready for them.
Understand Music Theory
Using a looper pedal to learn modes is a great example of how you can use a looper to learn the practical side of music theory.
It’s one thing reading a book on music theory, but being able to put theory to use is something a lot of guitarists struggle with.
Using a looper pedal is a quick and easy way you can figure out the ideas behind any music theory you’re learning.
For example, let’s say you’ve just learned the difference between Major and minor chords. You know that the notes that form a Major chord are the root, the Major third, and the fifth. You also know that minor chords are built using the root, the minor third, and the fifth.
But what does that really mean?
Well, with a looper pedal, you can figure out what all that theory means by playing. Record the root and fifth on the looper pedal.
In other words, record yourself playing a power chord. A power chord uses the root and the fifth. So all you need to add in to make a Major or minor chord is the third.
If you record an E power chord on your looper pedal, playing the note G# over the top of the loop will give you the sound of a Major chord. Playing the note G would instead give you the sound of a minor chord.
So you can quickly learn the basic difference in sound between a Major and minor chord by alternating between the notes G and G# over the top of an E power chord loop.
Then you can repeat this with a different chord position, then again and again until you start to get a grasp of what it really means to play Major or minor chords.
Again, if you haven’t tried this before with a looper pedal, I recommend giving it a go. There’s something about recording something on a looper pedal that frees up part of your brain to step back and take a different view on what you’re playing.
You can follow this same basic idea for any aspect of music theory. If you’re interested in developing a stronger understanding of music, I suggest trying this out.
Melody and Harmony
The last suggestion I’ll leave with you to try with a looper pedal will help you develop your sense of melody and harmony.
The first step is to record a very basic rhythm on your looper pedal. You can strum chords, arpeggiate some chords, or play muted hits. Set up a basic rhythm as the backbone of the loop. If your looper pedal has built-in rhythms, use those.
Then, make up a simple melody or lick and record it on your looper pedal. The melody doesn’t need to be amazing on your first attempt. You’ll gradually come up with more interesting melodies the more you practice this exercise.
Now that you have a rhythm and a basic melody, try harmonizing over the top of the melody. If you know music theory, try using thirds, fourths, fifths, or any other interval.
If you don’t know music theory, just try to play the same melody higher up on your guitar and listen for the notes that work well and the notes that don’t seem to work.
Once you’re able to confidently create a harmony, the next step is to experiment with counterpoint. The basic idea behind counterpoint is that you don’t follow the same direction of the notes in the melody. So if the melody rises, you would create a harmony that goes in the opposite direction.
Learning how to use counterpoint on the fly is nice and easy using a looper pedal. If you mess up, you simply wait for the loop to start again and you have another go.
That’s the real beauty with the looper pedal, you have a quick and easy way to start again any time you make a mistake. Just wait for the loop to start again and you can get right back into it.
So to recap what I’ve covered in this episode, I’ve gone through four different ways you can use a looper pedal as a practice tool.
There are plenty of other ways you can use one, but these four are a good starting point.
- The first way is as an active listening exercise to work on your rhythm skills.
- The second way is to work on your improvisation.
- The third way is to work on the practical side of music theory.
- The fourth way is to improve your sense of melody and harmony.
Hopefully, you now have a few different ideas you can try out with a looper pedal.
Check out the guides listed above for some handy looper pedal resources and a lesson on how to get started with a looper pedal if you haven’t used one before. If you don’t already have a looper pedal, I also go through all the features you can find in different loopers and which ones might suit you.
I hope this episode has given you a couple of things you can try out and I’ll talk to you again next time.