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Synchronizing Real Time Drumming with a Prerecorded Loop was Re: query 'real time live looping'

Hey Rachel
I read your queery on Loopers Delight and wanted to respond as  I have a 
of experience with the situation that you want to create for yourself and 
your band. I am both a drummer, bassist, keyboardist, percussionist and 
vocalist who has been a professional for many years so I've been on both 
sides of the problem..........being the looper or responding to  a loop 
I can't control myself, live.

Here's my take on the process for what it is worth:

First of all,

 I agree with the other great advice given to you.............the drummer 
has to have excellent monitoring of the loop........I'd recommend a 
extension speaker or even amp that is dedicated to them.   If the drummer 
cannot hear the loop, all bets are off.  The most professional drummer in 
the world cannot stay synchronized (as I embarassingly found out looping 
with my brother at my Dad's 80th birthday party this last 


Your loops are only as good as your own timing is!   I have literally 
learned more about timing from live looping than in all the hundreds of 
click tracked recording sessions I have played in or the myriad of master 
musicians that I have accompanied from other cultures.

All the devices, no matter how expensive are like this:        You get out 
of the device what you put into it.

That being said and done, you will have to practise a bunch to get the 
of recording (and more importantly truncating) your loops so that they 

Once that is accomplished and if you are really tight with a good sense of 
rhythm, this won't be too difficult, the next step is getting your drummer 
be able to play in sync with the loop and knowing what to do if he or she 
gets off of it (which is easy to do because we are human).

This is not as simple a process as just playing together for these reasons:

Human beings normally entrain with each other so that if one slows down 
a little bit, the accompanying musician will compensate so that
it sounds like you are playing together.  Even in really good rhythm 
sections we do a lot of this very unconciously.

If you analyze even the most competent studio group,  rhythm sections will 
have tons  and tons of very tiny rhythmic fluctuations from perfect 
metronomic time that are then compensated by natural entrainment.   The 
effect, of course, is that the audience doesn't hear these mistakes 
you are percieved as playing together.

When you make a rhythm guitar loop, however,   the tiny imperfections in 
your own timing are set into stone and you don't have the luxury of the 
entraining with the drummer............................it's all up to the 
drummer to play with the loop.

This is a lot more difficult than just being able to play tightly with 

If you get down to really micro analyzing what happens when a drummer 
to a guitarists loop is that the drummer will still be making those tiny
human mistakes that make a musician so much more interesting than 
to a strictly quantized midi sequence of samples.............they just 
got to know how to compensate when they either speed up a little or slow 
down a little too much each time the perfectlly repeating loop happens.

In the past I've posted a series of exercises to help drumset musicians 
indeed, anyone) learn how to not only play ahead of the beat or behind the 
beat but how to compensate in realtime if one goes to far to one side 
a click track, metronome or sequenced part.   This can, of course be 
to playing with loops as well.

I'll post it below.

Additionally,  I would be more than happy to e-mail with your drummer so I 
can explain it better...................or if we can find time, they can 
call me
and have a quick discussion over the phone.   If they want to talk to me, 
don't cold call me as I rarely answer my phone directly.  Let's just 
something over the web, first.

Best of luck.    I've never heard of a punk rocker using a looper live so 
I'm really excited that you will be breaking new ground in the looping 
Do you guys feel like coming to Northern California next October to play a 
bliztkrieg 30 minute show that uses your looping in it.  If so, I"ll book 
you into the Y2K6 International Live Looping Festival.  It would be a gas 
and a privilege to have you represent there.   There's on money in it
and it's done under the most primitive of circumstances (20 minutes to 
on stage, 10 minutes to load off stage) but it's an amazingly wonderful 
festival and very inspiring to most of the musicians who come to play it 
watch it..

Yours,  Rick Walker
            Y2K6 International Live Looping Festival organizer


Set a click track to a reasonably moderate tempo (say 90 BPM), so that the
click is playing audible16th notes (not quarter notes).

DON'T DO THIS IN FRONT OF THE REST OF THE BAND.    Call a one hour break 
the rest of the musicians.
Self conciousness or being put in the spotlight is antithetical to learning
quickly, in my opinion.

Next get the drummer to count out loud along with the click track and audio
hallucinate that it is ever so slowly slowing down.
If they've never done this,  just have them repeatedly count   "One  eee
and    uh" with one syllable falling on every click.

Have them try this for a while without playing to the track until they can
do it succesfully.
You can point out that you can actually hallucinate this phenomenon audibly
and that you will at some point reach a place where you just can't hear it
slowing down anymore...........................

Now have them trying to play to the click track and repeat the very slow
'slowing down' process until they reach the limit of how slow they can hear
(and consequently play) the metronome is going.

Now you ask them to purposefully try to drag the tempo down, letting them
know that this may get jerky and they may veer off of the

The challenge is to play as slowly as you can WITHOUT letting the metronome
get away from you.    Of course, the net result is
that the drummer will play behind the beat.

If the drummer is having problems with this.........you ask them to imagine
that they are very, very tired, or very,  very heavy or very depressed, or
lackadaisically bored, or very very hot.................a lot of these
emotional states are associated with going slow.
You can explain to them that when they are driving 60 miles per hour (sorry
about the kilometer conversion here) they can feel
really exhausted or very hot and still be driving at the same speed.    The
perception of the time it takes to drive somewhere changes
however from a time when you are excited or adrenalated or caffeinated, 

It is important that this exercise start at the normal tempo of the
metronome and then slowly drift to the very edge of the slowest that you 
percieve it's speed.

Once the drummer can do this successfully, the next frontier is to try and
get the drummer to let his or her tempo drift too slow
(so that the metronome gets ahead).  At this juncture, there is a strong
tenencey to try to jump back to the proper tempo
which will cause a glitchy mistake in the percieved playing by a listener
(who can't hear the click in the final recording).

You now get the drummer to play as slow as possible;    purposefully play
too slow (letting the metronome get ahead) and then
take as long as possible to drift back to the correct tempo.

Once this is done,  you do the whole thing over again, hallucinating that
the metronome is speeding up.    Each side of this exercise will take about
10 to 20 minutes.

After a period of time you can ask the drummer to quickly try and slow or
speed up to the furthest limit of still playing with the click.
One they can do that, now have have them

Go to the slowest they can play accurately to the click and at this point
ask them to 'feel' how it feels to be playing there in there body.
Have them now slowly accelerate until they are playing as fast as they can
without getting away (ahead) of the metronome.  Now ask them to 'feel' how
they feel while playing like this.   Amazingly, a person can have really
different emotional associations with
these places of playing relative to the click.     If they didn't know any
better, they would swear to you that they are playing at different speeds.

One tempo can feel incredibly different depending on where you place
yourself relative to the click track.     Cultivating how this feels to you
is a very powerful way of starting to understand the very basis of tempo 

Now you are ready to have the drummer to the final exercies:

Have them play to the click.......................then go to the slowest
that they can play and still be accurate.
Next give them one minute exactly to slowly speed up until they have 
the fastest that they can play and still stay accurate.

Encourage them to make this speed up as slow as possible.

Now give them one minute to slow down from the fastest speed.

Repeat both exercises in 30 seconds

Repeat both exercises in 15 seconds

Repeat both exersices telling the drummer to go from slow to fast and back
again as quickly as possible without causing any

NOW FOR THE FUN:       Record them doing this exercise and then play it 
for them without the click:

Voila..............you cannot even hear the difference in the track, 
how radical it feels emotionally or perceptually.

the whole point is to get them to make all corrections
gradually..................In this way, they will feel when the click gets
'away' from them
but the listener won't if they are relaxed about returning to accurate.


Turn on the click and tell the drummer:   "Don't think about
anything.............just play to the click"

In 45 minutes to an hour,  the drummer will be able to relaxedly and
perfectly play in time to the metronome.

NEXT FUN EXERCISE:      learning to play to a loop that is not
perfect....................a 'lumpy' loop if you will.

Make a rhythm guitar loop that is a little bit innacurate and have the 
drummer play to it until it sounds like the drummer is playing with the 
Make several of them.....................make some horrible ones with real 
'skipping lumps' in the truncation of the loop.
A well placed crash cymbal on the downbeat of a lumpy or innacurate loop 
frequently hide the lump.

The same games listed above can also do wonders to the feel and utilizing 
them can help the drummer to train him/herself to make compensations in 
they get off the loops timing by a bit.

Have the drummer play as slow as he or she can to the loop without 
'wrong'.   Now have them play as fast as possible without sounding 
The drummer can do this by, again, audio hallucinating that the respective 
loop is either speeding up or slowing down.

Again,  do this exercise over an over with varying degrees of 'lumpiness'. 
Now, just make the best loop you can and rock on!!!

good luck,   Rick Walker (www.looppool.info)