Musical inspiration can strike at any time. For some time now, songwriters have been recording audio notes on their smartphones to capture those moments of inspiration before they are lost forever. But what if you want to take it to the next level? With a loop pedal app, you can begin to build out your songs by layering multiple parts. Here are the best loop pedal apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad.
Looping has become trendy over the last decade. Artists such as Ed Sheeran, who use loopers live on stage, have given rise to a burgeoning musical hardware market. Loop pedals now come in all shapes and sizes, but before opting for something expensive like the Boss RC-300, it is useful to test the water with a more affordable, and portable option.
If you are new to the world of looping, it can be intimidating at first. Once you get your head around the concept, however, it can be an incredibly fun and creative process. A little history lesson to begin with. Back in the day, before digital recording technology made looping accessible, artists had to use multiple track recorders to be able to record and listen to two layers (or tracks) of sound at the same time. This expensive technology was resigned to recording studios. However, in the late 70s and early 80s, simple four-track recorders became accessible for even moderately successful artists who had a bit of cash in their pockets.
In the video below, you can see an example of how a looper can be used to write guitar parts for a song. The Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr, describes how once he had gotten his hands on a four-track recorder, he started to play around with layering lead riffs over chord progressions.
Fortunately in 2020, this kind of technology is now affordable, freely available, and accessible to budding musicians in the form of apps. Let’s take a look at some of the best ones on the market today.
There are a couple of things you need to consider when using these kinds of looper apps that use your smartphone’s microphone:
- Using headphones is essential: if you don’t use headphones, you run the risk of re-recording loops accidentally. If the sound from loop one comes out of your smartphone’s speaker, it will be recorded by any subsequent loops. This leads to a sloppy, echoed sound and is just going to tarnish your loop as a whole. By wearing headphones, you eliminate this accidental re-recording because the sound being played is not audible to the microphone. For the same reason, recording in a quiet room is optimal.
- Keep the volume low: this one is especially important when using amped guitars or other instruments. There is no point in cracking your amplifier and then trying to capture that sound with the kind of microphone that is in a smartphone. It is going to clip like hell, and won’t sound good at all.
- Calibrate: several loop pedal apps have calibration modes where you can adjust the app to create the optimal settings for recording. Make sure you do this before you start looping.
The good guys at Zuidsoft have created a simple yet effective looper for Android smartphones. LoopStation uses the microphone on your smartphone to record audio so you can essentially use anything as an input with this app. Acoustic guitars work well, but you can also plug and electric into and app and place your smartphone near the speaker to capture a more distorted tone. You can also layer vocals or beats with this, and the scope for creativity is endless.
One of the cool things about LoopStation is that it allows you to control the volume of each loop independently. This is a feature that most high-end loop pedals have. It means you can put down a chord progression then reduce the volume slightly so that your lead part stands out when overdubbed. There is also a premium version of the app ($4) which adds the ability to save unlimited recordings, merge tracks, change playback speed, and even add reverb to your sound.
Beats and Loops
A newcomer to the market, launched in April 2020, Beats and Loops takes the idea of looping on our smartphone to a whole other place. Stompboxes and guitar pedals are cool and intuitive to use, and the idea behind this product is to bring that same functionality to a smartphone app. Beats and Loops has been designed to turn your phone into a guitar pedal that you can control with your foot as you play. It’s a rather ingenious idea.
You can also use the Beats and Loops app to trigger drum fills and there is even a chromatic tuner baked in. The app costs $3.99, but for the feature set you are getting here, that is more than a fair price. The only downside to Beats and Loops is that controlling the app with your feet takes a little getting used, especially is you are used to stomping on regular guitar pedals. The urge to slam your foot onto your smartphone screen is strong at first, and that is never a good idea. Once you get used to waving your foot just above the display, however, this is a fun app that feels as close to a real looper pedal as you are going to get without having the real thing.
Loopy HD: Looper
Loopy HD: Looper has gained its fair share of fame in recent years, and rightly so. The app, which is optimized for Apple iPad, has even featured on NBC’s The Tonight Show, where Jimmy Fallon and Billy Joel used it to record a harmony. If you are looking for a professional standard app that can act as your looper, Loopy HD is the one to go for.
The feature set is impressive on this app. You can record up to nine loops in full stereo audio. Merging tracks is available as standard and there’s also an integrated copy and paste function for moving bits of audio around for the perfect composition.
Loopy HD: Looper can also act as a fully trainable MIDI control and MIDI clock send/receive, so you can use it for live performances as well as writing and experimenting with music at home. You can also share loops and session recordings via SoundCloud, Twitter, or Facebook, making it a good tool for working remotely with bandmates and collaborators.
This app is the most expensive on our list here, at $4.99, but it is easily the best value for money. For five bucks, you are getting a feature-rich app that can be used by everyone from hobbyists to professionals. You can download Loopy HD: Looper from the Apple App Store.
This is just a small selection of loop pedal apps available for Android, iOS, and iPadOS today. I decided to stick to the crème de la crème with this one, as there is a lot of junk out there in this market too. Stick to these tried and trusted apps and you will be looping tracks and writing original music in no time.
Do you know of any other great loop pedal apps I missed? Let me know below the line.