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5 Top Criticisms of Singers Who Loop

5 Top Criticisms of Singers Who Loop

If you understand the meaning of these audience statements, you’ll have discovered 5 ways to stop being a looping bore on stage – says Mister Tim

When I started looping it was the first time I had performed completely solo.

That meant that it was my first time being completely responsible for what happened on stage.

As I asked for feedback from audiences, I learned not just how to be a better looper, but a better performer in general:


1. “It looks like you’re thinking really hard.”
That’s because I was thinking really hard, trying to keep track of the loops and effects and etc. But audiences don’t like to see you think hard. They want you to be relaxed so that they can relax. Master your craft first, and then relax and enjoy the performance.


2. “It takes too long to build your loops.”
We all have a sense of time and timing. There is a reason radio pop songs are all approximately the same length and have similar structures: it fits the tempo of how long we can go without a change of some kind.
Those same expectations about timing apply to live performance. If you take too long, with anything, the audience will feel it. Record your performances and pay attention to your timing. Tighten things up.


3. “We can’t see what you’re doing.”
Loopers can get buried in their pedals, not realizing that the audience has no idea what buttons they are pushing. For looping to be most effective you should visually communicate, as much as possible, what you’re doing. This applies to any kind of music: turn to look at the soloist so the audience knows where to to look. Move in and out of the main focus of the stage depending on if your part is the most important or not. If there is a technical aspect to what you are doing, let the audience share in that.


4. “Your actions don’t match the mood of the song”
In early looping I would stand and act exactly the same for every song (probably because I was thinking too hard). Live performance is visual as well as auditory. Your actions, your stance, your demeanor will cue the audience in to the mood of the music just as much as the sounds will. (Sometimes closing your eyes and getting lost in the music is exactly right. Sometimes hanging your sweaty head over the edge of the stage and headbanging with the front row of the crowd is exactly right.)


5. “I can’t hear the melody!”
It’s easy to loop a bunch of noise. It is difficult to balance the sounds so it sounds good. Looping is a marriage of human and machine. We rely on the technology to make it happen, but without our biological control it doesn’t work. The most important part of looping is not the gear, but your ears. As you are layering loops you have to make sure that the main point of the music, the melody (and usually the lyrics), can be heard. Make the early loops too loud and the audience can’t hear the important stuff. Listen carefully, adjust your sound, don’t get too loud too fast, and be careful with your loops.

My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Olivia Rose Leaf Olivia Rose Leaf - You Are My Sunshine

Clever and interesting take on the song, but your voice sounds too happy for such a sad rendition? I’d love to hear more dark and intense expression, maybe holding notes longer, maybe attacking the words more, or going even droopier like an emo kid who just took a tranquilizer. Push the concept even further. Some variation in strum patter (go to 2-string chords for a bit?) could take it to another level.


Mister Tim www.mistertimdotcom.com is a published composer, award-winning recording artist, and in-demand performer, teacher & performance coach. In addition to an active performing and touring schedule with his solo vocal live-looping/beatbox shows, Mister Tim sings with Boulder, CO-based Celtic Rock band Delilah’s Revenge, manages the… Read More

  • Thanks for the advice, Mister Tim. I used my looper for the first time live this past weekend. I remembered from your other article to do it again if you don’t get it right, so I did and it was great. A perfect loop, in time, and at the right volume. I let the audience know beforehand that this was going to be new and special for them. After the show I got a great compliment from a fan about using the looper, with none of the negativity that I had to restart.

  • andy

    not enough loop time when you need to play a solo on guitar.

  • Mister Tim

    Excellent, Eric! The audience always (usually?) wants to see you succeed. Good work!

  • About 2.: It’s not so difficult if you’re more than one person.
    Check this video to understand what I mean!


  • SoonEnough

    One is missing: “You’re looking at the floor all the time!” :-)

  • Mezzofuoco

    That drives me crazy too!
    I’ve found that using as few machines as possible and using my hands to play them (on a high stand) while still allowing body expression keeps me in touch with my audience, and they also can see a bit of what’s going on. Also, not using too much technology keeps the music expression where it should be, in the voice and spirit, after all, we’re performing for the audience! Loopers are to enhance what we already know what to do, not to replace us. They’re tools for me, not the end all, because if the tech ever fails, we should be able to just sing!