Joe Gore's 6 Live-Looping Tips

June 18, 2012

Joe Gore has worked with luminaries such as Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman, and PJ Harvey, but, lately, his focus has been on his loop-based duo Mental 99 (with drummer Dawn Richardson). Wielding a Trussart Steelcaster tuned C, G, C, D, F#, A (low to high), Gore crafts killer tones with a laptop running Apple MainStage, and he loops with a Boomerang III pedal. Mental 99’s sophomore release is imminent, so look for it online.

Don’t Kill the Energy
“It can be challenging using looping to play conventional song structures that require transitions from one part to another,” says Gore. “Even if your looper has several independent loops like the Boomerang III, when you mute that big first loop and begin the second, there will likely be a significant drop in volume and intensity. To avoid this, either drop your level down to a whisper for a dramatic contrast, or come in with a gigantic sound that maintains the momentum.”

Get Help
“If you are looping within a band, you can avoid drops in intensity when transitioning from one part to another by having other members of the band play louder. It’s like ‘misdirection’ in the magic world. You create an event that diverts the listener’s attention away from one thing to another.”

Loop Like You’re Mixing
“Bringing the perspective of a mixing engineer to looping helps you create more satisfying loops. One of the reasons I use a laptop and digitally based sounds is that I can be more ingenious with panning, EQ, compression, and other tools while crafting parts that fit together well.”

Watch Your Volume
“Sometimes, you have to lower the volume really far when overdubbing the last layers of a loop, so they don’t crowd out everything that came before. The same goes for soloing over a loop—what you are accustomed to thinking of as an appropriate level for a live guitar solo can overwhelm everything else.”

Watch Your Volume
“Sometimes, you have to lower the volume really far when overdubbing the last layers of a loop, so they don’t crowd out everything that came before. The same goes for soloing over a loop—what you are accustomed to thinking of as an appropriate level for a live guitar solo can overwhelm everything else.”

Have an Exit Strategy
“No matter who you are, train wrecks come with the territory. If you are lucky, you can back out of a failed overdub by using Undo, but, sometimes, you’ll have to wipe the entire loop and begin again. Having an exit strategy— whether it involves a volume pedal, a kill switch, or something else—is essential.”

Look Up From Your Feet
“Nothing can turn you into a shoe gazer faster than looping. Consider practicing your looping moves with your eyes closed, or memorizing the sequence of patches to avoid staring at the screen if you use a laptop. Making eye contact with the audience is important.”

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