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Re: Looping and Mixing/Mixing Loops

Highly relevant thoughts, Philip! Mixing and live looping is closely
related, but still very different in praxis.

My concept for live looping is what I use to call "the musician
concept". For sound design I use what I call "the reverse engineered
mixing technique". What I mean with this is that I apply everything to
my live instrument input sound that you in a mixing situation would
apply to each of the tracks to be mixed. EQ, effects, compression,
even effect loops with the return channel side-chained by the live
input (my instrument). Many effects are quite subtle and dynamic
processing often synced to the looping tempo. The theory is to make
your instrument sound in a way that works well for layering. I
typically do all this to my instrument signal PRE loop, so every layer
I overdub into a loop may have different effects in order to blend
well as a multi layered loop.

There is also different concept for live looping that I use to call
"the re-remix concept". Many Ableton Live users fancy this concept
because Live allows you to treat separate parallel loops individually;
running each looper channel through its own mixer channel. This is
exactly how you do when mixing and you can achieve sonic perfection.
One records loops at different channels and then apply effects and
processing POST loop. My problem with this method is that it takes
quite a lot of time to get it to sound good any by the birth of your
masterpiece the audience might have gone home.

An important aspect of my "musician concept" is that when looping the
already perfected sound into just one or a few loops you are keeping
all options at hand for drastic rearranging on-the-fly as you perform.
For example, it is much easier to keep the show going when putting one
multi part loop into half-speed compared to putting five separate
parts loops into half-speed.

Of course, with my musician's concept reverse-engineered mixing
technique your strategy is crucial. It is possible to paint yourself
stuck into a corner. When that happens the only way out is to kick
Global Reset and start over from square one - if done as one move
while the music is going the audience will just hear it as a
break-down section or similar. Most important for my performance
strategy is to instantly tag musical parts to decide what kind of loop
I'll layer them into. These are the types of loops I have chosen to
work with:

1. Tonal loops that can be speed shifted, in order to create chord
changes, without too much rhythmic hassle. Often pad type sounding. If
using a polyphonic instrument I can create such a loop by just playing
a chord and record it, but if using a monophonic instrument I use to
overdub many notes to form a chord.

2. Atonal loops with percussive content. These loops are not being
speed shifted when I improvise chord changes by speed shifting a type
#1 loop.

3. Loops created for the purpose of poly rhythmic interaction with
another loop. Such a loop plays by a different length than the one it
plays against.

The above is the corner stones of my instant composing technique.

As for the noise issue you brought up I'm all for shutting up when not
playing and muting the input between played notes. On my Stratocaster
I play with the volume knob. You can mute between fourth notes using
the pinky on that knob. When using wind instruments and a mic I have a
volume pedal directly after the mic to mute the leaking PA sound from
getting into the loops. I even use this volume pedal for note attack
sometimes, when playing heavily distorted flute it is a must and part
of the instrument.

When playing an instrument with several audio signals I always keep
all inputs going plus all effect returns going to the looper,
following the what-you-hear-is-what-you-loop routine. Everything in my
live looping rig is set up for instant performance access. Everything
is PRE looper. The stereo looper output is totally dry, just with a
little compression added to make it groove better. The reverb and
delay effects heard are all recorded into loops. This makes it
possible for me to apply drastic on-the-fly cutting to the full mix, I
can play the mix instantly like you play an instrument, that's why I
call it "a musician based concept".

Greetings from Sweden

Per Boysen

On Fri, May 11, 2012 at 5:21 PM, Philip Conway
<Philip.Conway@bristol.ac.uk> wrote:
> Hello all,
> Some recent discussion on the list (when not heatedly debating Youtube
> sensations, of course) has focused not just on looping but also on 
> recording
> and mixing generally.  That there is a high level of expertise on these
> subjects in the LD community is perhaps not surprising but it raises some
> questions in my mind about the relationship between looping and
> recording/mixing.
> Since we're generally talking about LIVE looping then many of the 
> practices
> of recording musicians just don't apply - for example, we don't do take
> after take trying to make things perfect, we work with the imperfections
> inherent in performance, etc.  And yet, on the other hand, ultimately 
> what
> we're doing is recording and combining multiple layers of audio and so 
> many
> principles of 'non-real time' recording and mixing are very important.
> For example, I use a laptop, an Apogee Duet and Mobius hosted in Ableton
> Live to loop my guitar.  One problem I've struggled with is how to set 
> up an
> appropriate gain structure to keep the noise floor low (very important if
> you're using single coils!) while not clipping the inputs or eating up
> headroom in the software too quickly, using up space for further loops.
> With an instrument like an electric guitar that has a large dynamic range
> and can fill up the audio spectrum quite quickly I've found that
> compression, limiting and EQ are as essential to my setup as anything 
> else.
> But enough about me!
> What's your experience with this relationship?
> Do you 'mix' your loops as you go or simply adjust your technique to 
> achieve
> a range of sounds?
> Do you anticipate the needs of the audio you're about to record or tweak
> things as you go?
> Do you find that lessons learned in mixing recorded music inform your
> looping (or vice versa)?
> Am I just over-thinking the grand old art of the loop?
> Regards,
> Philip.