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 Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel? 
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Post Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
I played a gig a month ago where a drummer bought a suzuki Qchord to the gig to "play" a few tunes. At first I was curious, Ok drummerman show me what it does. Then he started "playing" which amounted to hitting the demo button on and old casio keyboard. He could then "strum" a pad and the toy would add emelishments to his general rhythm. I'm sitting there thinking "is this what you think I do" "is the audience going to think you are doing what I do?" As it turned out he was trying to make it look like he was "playing" the music people were hearing. And after hearing some of the comments after his "performance" it seems that he pulled it off.

I started getting angry. I like to think I'm a humble guy, but i put a lot of work into my playing (we all do) and I like to "really" play. No zillion overdubs, No autotune No qchord nonsense.

But what about backing tracks? drum machines? even loopers?

I'm curious how do you all feel about such things? I have some opinions on them, but I'd like to hears some of yours if you would like to share. Andy, already talked a bit about backing tracks on another thread and that's what got me thinking.

So how do people feel about this stuff as a listener?

Brett


Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:21 am
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Post Re: Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
I play from my heart and use the technology that help me express my musical language, loops or not loops

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Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:05 am
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Post Re: Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
Hi Brett,I'ld be a bit POed too,seeing that performance.I like loopers although I don't use mine much.Then theres the vst looper Mobius that some use.This takes time and practice to use because there's so much it can do.My point here is nothing is prerecorded you set up the program to do what is needed and you play as with other loopers.The whole perfomance is live.As far as backing tracks,Ive seen people use them sparingly and thought it to be ok.I've seen others use them through the whole gig and did not appreciate anything they did.I saw Rob Martino last year and he had no effects(maybe a touch of reverb) and I was blown away with the sound quality and performance.Myself I like using effects for the music I create, it can take your playing to a different level.


Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:45 am
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Post Re: Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
There are always more than one way to look at it.

Here are a couple important questions:

Are you trying to appreciate the music or the performance?
Is the looper trying to lie to the audience about his effort?

If you are only looking for music appreciation, the looping can help. It can also take away from the performance value when used as overtly as a crutch. Adrian Belew uses a looper for his live music, but only so he can play over the top of it, and is very obvious about his looping. The person you saw was indulging in subterfuge to appear more impressive than he is. One could make a similar argument about ZZ Top hiding a guitarist behind the curtain. They lie to the audience during their performance.

So I suppose the take home message is this:
Looping is a tool, and like all tools, can be used for good or evil.

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Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:05 am
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Post Re: Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
I'm more of a puritan at heart, especially considering what this instrument of ours is capable of doing; two, three, sometimes four simultaneous parts, all live in real time. Man up and do it yourself! We have in our hands the ultimate soloist instrument, and you want to have machines carry the burden for you? Sorry, that's just not for me.

There are some exceptions to this statement. Guys like Glenn Poorman seem to keep it all musical; creating something that's more than the sum total of the parts, a sonic soundscape. Glenn, Marco Cerletti, and a couple of other Stickists I've heard do this masterfully. Plus, Glenn and Marco can both handle solo, non-looping work with the best of them. It's the people who can't that I lose respect for. So much loop music I've heard simply cannot shake that "mechanical", cold feeling that comes along with it. If the human element isn't present, at least in some minimal way, it makes me want to turn it off and move on.

As far as non-Stickists go, my criticisms just get more harsh from there. I respect some guy on stage with a laptop and keyboard piling up loops about as much as I respect Milli Vanilli or Ashlee Simpson. Get real, people.

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Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:30 am
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Post Re: Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
I used to loop :arrow: It is a sad and at the same time empowering thing to say.
Sad because I love the potential, the art form but my looper(s) sit idle.

But is is empowering because I don't "need" it anymore and playing solo
is so completely involving that going through the trouble of setting up
a looping rig is, well, too much trouble :|

Will this change? I hope so; I think it is good to grow out of something only to rediscover it again down the road.

I can say the same as above about effects too.

I think Matt is right though about the Stick being the "ultimate solo instrument"
but looping and backing tracks have there place; Chemical Brothers, The Crystal
Method, Rick Walker and scores of other "experimental" and or DJ esk acts use samplers, loops and drum machines to astonishing effect.

Also using these "tools" for learning is obviously beneficial. 8-)

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Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:11 pm
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Post Re: Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
Backing Tracks & Drum Machines:
Sometimes I’m amazed at the number of times fellow musicians suggest that I use backing tracks. Personally I feel there is a certain “cheese” factor using canned music and playing on top of it. I have several good friends who do this, it breaks my heart. I like the tightrope of solo performance, the ability to change time & space. During performances I often string several tunes together, play improvisations in the middle of tunes, or completely alter the way I play something. This weekend “Little Wing” came out as a reggae tune! If I were playing to backing tracks, this would limit my expression severely. Plus, in my view, if you want the sound of a band, play with other living people, nothing is as rewarding and challenging.

Looping: This is a topic which is close to my heart. Before acquiring a Stick,when I was a guitarist, I used loopers extensively. I was fascinated by the possibilities that looping provided. Like many here, my first exposure to looping was “Frippertronics”, I even built my own loop rig out of two Sony Walkmans while still in high school. Then came the digital revolution and I had Oberhiem’s Echoplex Digital Pro and the Lexicon Jamman. I quickly came to the understanding that if you were going to do anything interesting using looping, you really had to work at it and approach them in a compositional sense. Glenn Poorman is one of a small handful of people I’ve heard who really make it work.

Then Loopers changed, they got cheaper and readily available, and they became phrase samplers. For me the feedback function was key, loops were really just very long delays altering over time. Now the majority of low cost loopers don’t have feedback, just phrase sampling and overdubbing on top of it. I see them used, misused, and abused often. As a audience member, I usually get bored quickly by the repetition, no matter how cleverly executed. There are exceptions, but generally, I find my tolerance level dropping lower and lower.

When I started playing the Stick, I shelved most of my effects and loopers. My musical taste took a turn. Like Matt, I feel a bit of a puritan. Besides, on the Stick you can loop (play a repetitive part) with one hand while playing on top of it with the other, whilst changing the feel, timing, even the volume in real time.
I still set up and make a great noise every once and a while, and I feel loopers, backing tracks and drum machines are great tools to practice with, but for all their potential, I feel like they inhibit my playing more than inspire it. That’s my personal view on the matter, I certainly don’t discount the artistic merits and inspiration others receive using these tools.

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Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:52 pm
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Post Re: Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
The payoff of executing your parts without looping is huge, to boot. Our songs are arranged to maximize the potential of two musicians, AND they're designed so we can execute them live. We often get asked if we are playing with loops or backing tracks, to which I proudly answer "No way". What you get is what you see. The listener immediately conveys a newfound respect for you and your hard work that you put into it. Then they buy your CD right there.

Dependency is also an issue for me. What if my music lived or died by the loop, and my rig suddenly went down? What are you going to do? People are waiting, arms folded and eyebrows raised. Nothing to hide behind anymore. You'd better be able to PLAY something, or you're toast buddy.
If you're sitting there with a Stick and an amp, and can't play a song without loops or overdubs, you aren't for real.


I don't have to worry about that. I back my shit up.

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Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:54 pm
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Post Re: Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
I witnessed a bunch of wankers participate in an "air guitar" contest, using a band's PA while the band went on break. To my utter amazement, the air guitar wankers captivated the audience far beyond what the band did (although the band was a really good, tight ensemble).

What does this have to do with the thread? Well, I'm inclined to give notice to cultural differences that do not value hard earned skills as opposed to an "app" that you can purchase. Remember the movie "Matrix"? The babe is on the roof with the hero. When asked if she could fly the helicopter, she replied, "not yet" and then proceeded to instantly download all the expert skill she needed, via her network connection. Voila! Hours and years of practice is for losers! Why suffer the tedium of developing virtuosity on an instrument when you can do a few mouse clicks, tap a few foot switches and Presto! You enthrall the audience.

I'm inclined to value the joy of muscle memory and spontaneity taking me to musical destinations that you can't fake with a digital device.

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Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:42 pm
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Post Re: Backing tracks? Loopers? How do you feel?
Brett, it's an interesting discussion, because we live in an age that is more distinguished by its technology than its art. It was somewhat unfair of me to voice my opinion of backing tracks in Japhlet's thread, as without any doubt, he is a player who can "back his shit up" (to quote Matt).

I definitely think there's a place for loops and sequencers in electronic music. Music which is born out of machines, begs to be performed by machines. The rigidity of quantized drums and arpeggiators is another colour on the musical palette. Having seen primarily electronic artists like Moby trying to replace samples with live musicians in concert, I'm not convinced that "real" is always better.

With recorded music I'm generally no purist; the end result almost always justifies the means. Producers with great creative vision and patience can achieve amazing results. The Beatles were great songwriters, but it has been well argued that George Martin was the real star of the band. Reproducing their sound in front rabid audiences was near impossible. Of course, there's also a place for truly "live" recordings. You wouldn't play a CD of Daniel Barenboim or Paco de Lucia and doubt that you were hearing a "real" performance. Even so, there's a fair chance that even top artists will have done 20 + takes and selected the best one for an album.

I have really mixed feelings about "live looping" and where it's headed. A lot of people seem to use Boss-style loopers to make up for a lack of something better to do. The fact that newer pedals quantize everything and allow you to store a lot of pre-recorded material only blurs the distinction between "live" and backing tracks. Some unscrupulous looping artists use this to its full advantage to impress uninformed audiences, with lofty statements like "nothing pre-recorded, all played live". Which it is...sort of. It's hard to get away from that most looped music has a "sameness" to it, unless it's used an occasional effect. I once saw (Australian blues guitarist) Jeff Lang use only ONE short loop during an otherwise entirely live concert, and it worked beautifully. But when Bruce Cockburn tours Australia with a loop station, I just think "someone is cutting corners", and I'd rather just hear his magnificent songs and guitar playing stand on their own. Yes, I'm still open to being impressed by looping; and it does happen from time to time. Just not very often.

As a musician, the use of iPods with backing tracks basically annoys me. It's a means for performers to cater to lazy venues with lazy audiences. But I understand and accept that people have to make a living, and sometimes you just have to play the system. No hard feelings. As a street performer, I have seen clear evidence that the general public don't give a rat's ass about "real" vs recorded performances. So while I'd love to agree with Matt about live playing being a selling point, by and large I don't think it is even near the top of most people's lists.

Cheers,
Andy

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Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:46 pm
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