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RE: Fear of "canned" loops
While I have no philosphoical arguments with the use of “canned loops”,
there are some issues to address:
When I first started doing live, solo looping shows I relied heavily on
use of drum machines and fx processing (sometimes 3 drum machines
simultaneously!). As someone already pointed out, the use of a drum
does constitutes the use of “canned” loops.
I used these to help provide some textural/rhythmic diversity to the
performance. While I felt this was all well and good, and certainly
the challenge of programming complex and coordinating sequences, one thing
did notice was the audience’s apparent apathy with the use of pre-recorded
As Rick stated, there are audiences who have come to expect the use of
prerecorded tracks, and their added complexity, in a performance. They
to have no problem with the use/hearing of them. I wonder if these
audiences are somewhat “regional” (i.e. urban)? Or, if this is generally
found to be accepted when the performance is vocal-oriented (and thus
offering the most “human” of sounds for which the audience to relate to,
offsetting the automated quality of “canned” tracks)?
What I have found is that regardless of the use of live lops, canned
or sequencers in a performance, most audiences care very little about the
hardware used, but rather about the nature of the performance and its
Yet, my own experience has shown that a great number of audience members
my shows have been quite put off, even alienated, by the use of
sequencers/drum machines. In my performances, an audience which was
enthralled, or at least captivated, by a solo bass looping piece, would
immediately find something else to hold their interest the moment the drum
machines kicked on.
It would seem that most can accept, even if they don’t understand, a
device being used when they can “see” the original passage played then
looped back, yet, the sudden addition of textural, harmonic, rhythmic,
melodic, or even timbral complexities, which far exceed the bounds of a
“single” musician, confounds them; leaving them feeling a bit “cheated” by
the loss of a live performance.
I also found that rather than just kick starting a drum pattern, if I were
to physically tap out the part on my little machine the audience became
rather fascinated with the whole process. It seems there is a definite
relationship between the visual and auditory stimuli that an audience
This led me to my current set-up where I tap out rhythm/drum patterns on
bass using string muting, body thumps, alligator clips etc. creating
drum-like cadences and phrases which are then looped. Sure, it is
different than “true” drum sounds, but the overall effect is the same, and
this process seems to capture the audience’s attention, and imagination,
I think a similar situation arises with complex fx/signal chains where so
much sonic information is passed onto an audience that they cannot fathom
how it is all produced by one, two, or three musicians. Without
understanding they they simply assume much of it to be canned, and again
that feeling of being “cheated” of a live performance surfaces.
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