When we practice Live Looping, we add to the instrumental game, gestures that should not interfere with the interpretation of the music. The choice of the tool is fundamental because it induces an interaction and particular constraints. A musician finds it normal to spend hours choosing and preparing his instrument, making scales … When we start making Live Looping, we must have the same requirement. I propose to explain here the system that I use and which stabilized about a year ago.
Needless to say, as a developer of Logelloop, I opted for the software solution. I must admit that it was Logelloop who took me to Live Looping and not the other way around! But if I’ve chosen to start developing Live Looping software at some point, it’s because I practice acoustic music and have always been surrounded by musicians playing acoustic instruments. And as such, I know how respect of timbre is the main criterion. Using a software looper means that you can even choose the preamps and converters that you will use. We are therefore completely free to build our own audio system. One is also free to choose the interfaces between the user and the looper, or even, if necessary, to build his own control systems.
I use Logelloop on a Mac, for reasons of robustness and stability against viruses for example, but also, I must admit, out of habit. My Mac is a 15 inch, because I have a lot of windows to look at during the concerts, and the computer is positioned far enough ahead of me and that I must be able to read instantly, at a glance what is on the screen. This is fundamental to the fluidity of my Live Looping. I also point out that my Mac has a fast processor, i7 and is equipped with 16 GB of Ram, because the loops are recorded in the RAM of the computer, so it takes a lot of space.
Regarding the sound card, here too I choose the best audio quality and robust manufacturing. Depending on the case, I use two different models. When I go on tour by car or train and I need a lot of inputs and outputs, I use the UFX (RME). When I take the plane, it is the UCX (RME also) that I carry! I use the same interfaces in the studio, the recordings of my concerts are compatible with those I make at home. One of the great qualities of RME cards is the TotalMix control interface that allows you to route any inputs sources to any output. It is in the TotalMix that I do the mixing between microphones and the outputs of Logelloop for the Ear Monitors and the sound system. Note that the loops heard in Ear Monitors are mixed in an auxiliary channel of Logelloop.
The choice of microphones is perhaps more important than that of the sound card. For Live Looping, the proximity to the instrument is necessary because you have to record the instrument without recording the other instruments or the noises of the room. But when the pickups are clipped on the instrument, the sound is often distorted. After several comparisons, my choice stopped on the model 4061 of the DPA microdot. It is an omnidirectional microphone, so it as no incidence on the timbre of the instrument. At the distance it is from the instrument (about 1 cm for the left hand, about 5 cm for the right hand), it captures very little sounds around and only takes the sound of the bandoneon. The 4061 also has the distinction of having an internal attenuation necessary for an instrument as loud as the bandoneon. Finally, it weighs a few grams and does not require feet, it is the best compromise with a remarkable sound!
To hear the bandoneon and the loops, not to waste time to regulate the monitors when one has only a line check before playing… All this led me to adopt the Ear Monitors solution. I chose a model that best respects the timbres, it is the EM32 (Earsonics, a French corporation). Incidentally, these Ear Monitors also serve me to protect me from loud sounds since they are completely closed and I can set the sound very weakly while maintaining excellent listening accuracy. This solution is much less tiring for the ears than the solution with a stage monitor.
The control of the looper, the footboard is almost as important as the bandoneon’s keyboard! Again, I had to do comparative tests, but I found nothing interesting in the existing equipment. Everything is too heavy, too big, too loud (the clicks of the switches). So we worked with Antoine Massot, Christophe Baratay and Mael Bellec to design the ideal solution. This is a homemade pedal, the core is an Arduino, programed in order to be “seen” by the computer as a MIDI pedal. The buttons are selected to be quiet, flexible and waterproof (dust and water). The pedal has 13 buttons, 12 switches, the last one is used to change pages. The second page may sometimes be useful for controlling the looper’s secondary functions. Each switch sends a midi note that is assigned to a Logelloop function in the project preferences. The keyboard is as light as possible and its size allow to take it in the cabin during a trip by plane. The thickness of the pedal is an important criterion, because it is necessary that the foot stays on the heel and is as horizontal as possible to control the accuracy of the support and avoid errors. The gap between the buttons should be the smallest, while avoiding the risk of pressing two switches at a time. The choice of shoes is also important, we prefer them without heels, thin at the end of the foot for reasons of precision and with thin soles for the best contact with the switches.
To control the settings of Logelloop, I first tried to use rotary button interfaces, without any real success, because it was not suited to what I wanted to do, I also tested a tablet with the Lemur application, that did not suit what I wanted to do either. Especially in the less contact that it induces with the public : the musician does important things, but which remain invisible to the public. So I adopted the Leap Motion which allows me to associate movements of hands in space to functions of Logelloop (I do not enter more in this as I speak a lot in this post).
For the Leap, as for the footboard, Logelloop allows you to make scripts (macros) that can be associated with midi commands. It is therefore possible to do many things at the touch of a button. This makes it possible to use very few different buttons during a concert, which has a significant impact on the workflow of the interpretation of the music.
I also connect an external hard drive to my computer to record the concerts using Logelloop’s “Output recording” function. This feature allows you to record all software inputs and outputs on separate tracks. The result of these recordings can be edited and mixed later in software such as Cubase, Logic, Pro-Tools …
Finally, the stands are made at home! For the feet and the pedals, I use a plywood plate 1 cm thick. Rubberized bolts allow me to adjust the height of my feet and the pedal according to the height of the chair that I find on the spot. The Leap is installed to the end of a threaded rod screwed at the tripod. The computer is based on a thin plate. All these stands can be dismantled in order to take the smallest possible space in the bag.