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Loop Masters: 5 Essential Songs to Elevate Your Guitar Looping Skills

Uncategorized Jan 28, 2024

Embrace the Art of Guitar Looping: A Versatile Skill for Performers and Hobbyists Alike

Discover the transformative art of guitar looping, a technique that's as beneficial for the bedroom musician as it is for the live performer. This guide delves into how looping can add depth and complexity to your solo performances, and also serve as an invaluable tool for non-performers looking to enhance their guitar practice. Whether you're honing your skills at home or captivating an audience, mastering the loop pedal allows you to become your own accompanist and expand your musical horizons. In this Guitarticle, we introduce 5 Fun and Easy Songs to Loop, featuring classics like Bittersweet Symphony and Where Is My Mind. Learn how to create enthralling musical arrangements and elevate your guitar playing, regardless of your performance aspirations.

Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve

Introduction to the Song: Dive into the '90s with Bittersweet Symphony, a track famous for its captivating string section – perfect for a guitar looping session. This anthem not only ruled the airwaves but also brought a unique orchestral touch to rock music.

Looping the Chord Progression: The song's charm lies in its repetitive elements, making it ideal for looping. Challenge yourself to pick out the rhythm, bassline, and chord progression by ear. Start by looping the steady beat, followed by layering chords. Use a violin effect on your guitar to mimic the original string section, creating a rich, orchestral feel.

Techniques and Effects: To replicate the lush strings, experiment with effects like reverb or chorus. These can add depth and dimension to your loop, bringing it closer to the original sound.

Interactive Learning: For a hands-on learning experience, try working out the different elements before referring to the accompanying PDF. This will enhance your ear training and understanding of the song's structure.

Performance Example: [Link to YouTube video performance] - Watch a live looping rendition to see how these elements come together. I choose to start with the beat, then build the chords up with individual interval layering in octaves and finally loop the main string part after the first chorus.

Interesting Song Facts: The strings in Bittersweet Symphony are sampled from an orchestral version of The Last Time by The Rolling Stones (link to more info). While the melody of the vocals draws some inspiration from the Stones' original, it stands out as more than just a cover, marking its own place in music history.

Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People

Introduction to the Riff: Pumped Up Kicks features a bassline that's both iconic and accessible, making it an excellent choice for beginners learning to loop. The song's charm lies in its minimalist style, driven by a catchy, repetitive bassline paired with simple chord progressions.

Looping the Bassline: This song is a great exercise in understanding how basslines can dictate the feel of a track. Start by looping the bassline, which plays the root note of each chord at the beginning of every bar. This not only lays a solid foundation for the song but also helps you understand the relationship between basslines and chord progressions.

Building the Loop: Once the bassline is set, layer in the four open chords (using a capo for ease). Some may find it easier to start with the beat or chords, but tackling the bassline first offers a rewarding challenge. As you build the loop, pay attention to how each element contributes to the overall sound.

Expanding the Sound: To capture the essence of the original track, experiment with different guitar tones. The song's synth-heavy sound can be emulated by playing around with effects and guitar settings, giving your loop a more authentic feel.

Educational Note 

If you're finding some of the musical concepts mentioned here a bit challenging, don't worry. These fundamentals are all covered in our Beginner Guitar Course Plus, where you can learn and master these skills at your own pace.

Beginner Guitar Course Plus

Expanding the Sound: As you experiment with guitar tones to emulate the synth-heavy sound of the original track, it's important to be mindful of your strumming intensity. A common pitfall in looping is over strumming the chords, which can easily drown out the other musical elements you've introduced. For a more balanced and harmonious loop, focus on gentle strumming, particularly when playing through all six strings. This approach not only ensures that each part of your loop is heard clearly but also allows you to create a dynamic contrast. Save the more robust, full-strumming for the choruses or other parts of the song where you want to increase the intensity. This extra control over your playing will add a professional polish to your loops and make your overall performance more impactful.

Where Is My Mind by The Pixies

Looping the Iconic Riff: Where Is My Mind is renowned for its unique and memorable opening riff, making it a fantastic piece for looping enthusiasts. The key to looping this song lies in capturing its distinctive riff while maintaining the structure of the song. Given that the bridge section deviates from the main loop, it's important to plan your loop accordingly.

Building the Loop with Contrast: Start by looping the bass line, which essentially follows the chord roots. This will form the backbone of your loop. Once you have a solid bass foundation, layer in the chords. The strumming pattern is relatively straightforward and should complement the rhythm established by the bass line. Next, incorporate the beat, and then finally, add the main distorted guitar theme.

Handling Distortion Carefully: This song is a great opportunity to play around with distortion, but it's crucial to be mindful of how it's integrated into your loop. For the best sound, use distortion before the signal reaches the looper. This approach will prevent all your looped elements from being distorted, allowing you to selectively apply distortion to specific parts of the song.

Maintaining the Ethereal Feel: The Pixies' original track is known for its dreamy, ethereal atmosphere. Pay attention to the dynamics of the song; the chorus sees a drop in several elements, creating a stark contrast when everything builds up again. If you're using a single-track looper, focus on how you can emulate these dynamics to maintain the song's distinct feel.

Adding Vocals for a Full Band Experience: Don't hesitate to add your own vocals to the loop. Singing along with your creation can give you the full band experience and add an extra layer of depth to your performance.

Technical Note for Advanced Loopers: If your looper allows for multiple tracks, this song is an excellent choice for experimenting with element separation. Managing different sections on separate tracks can add complexity and versatility to your loop.

Interesting Song Facts: Beyond the realm of music, "Where Is My Mind" found its way into an extraterrestrial context. In 2004, during a critical software replacement for NASA's Mars rover, Spirit, this iconic track was played to wake up the team working on the rover. It's a testament to the song's universal appeal and its ability to inspire and energize, even in the most high-pressure and unique situations. For more on this intriguing story, check out More here.

Closing Time by Semisonic

Understanding the Song's Structure: Closing Time is more than just a popular bar anthem; it's a masterclass in song structure. The song features a middle 8/bridge with a key change, a technique often used to break the repetition of the same four chords. This key change acts like a 'palate cleanser' for your ear holes, creating a refreshing contrast that re-engages the listener when the familiar chords return. And also makes it very difficult for the same full loop to endure throughout the whole song.

Looping the Progression: As you start to loop this song, focus on the core chord progression that forms the backbone of the track. Pay attention to how the chords transition into the bridge with the key change. It’s important to accurately capture these nuances to maintain the integrity of the song’s structure in your loop. If I were to perform this live, I would drop out the looped elements at this point and build up organically with just the guitar to come back in with the full loop.

Layering for Emphasis and Space: When building your loop, remember to allow each musical element its own space. Go easy on the strumming of the chords to avoid overpowering the other elements. This approach helps in creating a balanced and dynamic loop that truly captures the essence of the original song.

Opportunity for Improvisation: This song also presents a fantastic opportunity for you to add your own flair with a guitar solo. Use the provided scale options in the downloadable PDF to craft a solo that complements the song. This not only adds a personal touch to your performance but also enhances your skills in improvisation.

Technical Advice: Be mindful of the overall volume and intensity of each element in your loop. The goal is to create a harmonious blend where the chords, bassline, and your improvised elements coexist without competing for attention. (Live Performance Video)


Taking Your Guitar Skills to the Next Level with Looping

Exploring these five songs - Bittersweet Symphony, Pumped Up Kicks, Where Is My Mind, Closing Time, and Closer - offers a fantastic opportunity for budding guitarists to not only enhance their looping skills but also to delve deeper into the art of guitar playing. Each track presents its own unique challenges and learning opportunities, from mastering rhythmic consistency to experimenting with different effects and dynamics.

I encourage you to not just follow these guides, but to also make these songs your own. Share your versions of these loops or any other loop-friendly tracks you love playing. Your creativity might just inspire others in our guitar community! #scottguitarist

And if you're looking to refine your skills further or explore other aspects of guitar playing, do check out the comprehensive courses available on our platform. Whether you're a beginner or looking to advance your techniques, we have resources tailored to your needs.

Additional Resources:

  • Video Tutorials: For a more in-depth understanding, here are links to some of my video tutorials where I break down the looping process step by step. [Watch the looping Series]

Remember, the journey of mastering the guitar is as rewarding as the destination. So, pick up your guitar, start looping, and let the music flow!


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