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I would like to practice playing solo by looping and mixing on the go, especially with a guitar.

For an example of that, if anyone knows KT Tunstall's performance of Black Horse and a Cherry Tree, in which she managed to loop the percussion and the supporting strums to free herself for the lead.

Any software to allow me to practice that? Windows and Mac suggestions are welcome.
Or should I invest in an expensive hardware looper like the one she used?

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closed as off-topic by Dr Mayhem Sep 18 at 14:12

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking recommendations for specific equipment are off-topic, because they are primarily opinion based. Instead, describe the required function and setting in which the equipment will be used, and ask what you should look for to achieve that." – Dr Mayhem
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

That's a great performance. Shopping recommendations are offtopic, however; see – Matthew Read May 5 '11 at 0:37
@MathewRead: If performance related, this isn't off-topic, IMO - if you read the link you provided yourself I think it's clear that the title is simply worded incorrectly as made eivdent by this in the body: 'Any software to allow me to practice that?'. People will have opinions, no doubt, but ultimately this isn't about recommendations but rather availability of a type of software. – Grant Thomas May 5 '11 at 10:26
@Matthew Read -- my intention was not shopping recommendation, but rather guidance to looping methodologies; I have no experience in that and in need of a place to start. – BeemerGuy May 5 '11 at 18:33

8 Answers 8

up vote 10 down vote accepted

My current favourite is Ableton Live. Once you learn the ins and outs of Live, it's one of the best for live performances (looping included) as the name would suggest. If you're playing using any kind of MIDI instruments, Live supports all VSTis; if you're playing a real instrument that you can pickup, amplify, mic up or otherwise record, then Live 8, which includes the Looper plugin, can simulate the way a guitar pedal looper works.

If you find yourself going this way, you'll find more traction on the audio Stack Exchange

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In addition to allowing on-the-fly looping, Ableton Live is a full recording and production suite comparable to anything else out there (and I would say superior, having used it for many years). – Rein Henrichs Jun 9 '11 at 17:40
There's also Cubase... #theDAWwar :D – AsianSquirrel Apr 30 '14 at 22:26

If you're on a Mac or Linux system, Sooperlooper is free (I believe the cellist Zoe Keating uses it). If you're on Windows, Mobius is another free option. I don't have experience with either of these programs however.

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You might also want to try open source ( – Turion Jun 25 '11 at 16:32
This! Live alone is great for performing with loops, but for actual live on-the-fly looping it is not the best tool for the job. Sooperlooper has a much better workflow for live looping. Zoe Keating does use it, along with Ableton Live for any pre-recorded tracks she is playing along to. I use the same combination and it's great; before I was using Live alone and it was good but sometimes frustrating. – Jonathan Van Matre Jan 15 '14 at 14:56

I know you asked for software, but here are a series of looping pedals that do this as well. They are not as full featured as things like Ableton Live (which is a great option), but they're intuitive to use, and much easier if you don't have a free hand (possibly because you're playing an instrument!). They may be more expensive than some cheap software, but they're much easier to use in a live environment or to stick on a pedal board for accessibility (if I have to drag it out to play it, I often don't). While you can spend $500+ on hardware, Boss and Digitech both have ~$100 options.

Check out:

  • Boss. Lots of options there. The 20 is pretty full featured and the 50 allows you to do complex song structures quite easily.
  • Digitech JamMan. They also have some selection in complexity / price.
  • Boomerang. Widely acclaimed in looper circles, but I've never used one.
  • Electro Harmonix 2880. Allows you to have multiple parts and mix them together. There's an additional pedal for easy on the fly control.
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Mainstage as part of Logic Studio also has a looper. I don't think it is as powerful as Ableton Live but it is another option. HOwever if I was going to use a looper for something like KT TUnstalls song then I would want a dedicated looper or a midi footswitch controller connected to a computer runnin

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Having tried several free options for Windows, my favourite one is AmbiLoop.

It maybe looks kind of crude here and there but I find it very useful mostly because of:

  • 8 tracks and easy switching,
  • a lot of hotkeys.
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Apologies for this sounding like a copout answer, but if you are wanting to record, I would recommend simply doing it in software, since you can monitor (hear) in realtime your looping, and immediately punch in and record it without having to deal with two separate processes and breaking your creative flow.

That said, I would recommend a hardware device only if you need something to be able to loop and practice and won't have your Macbook around, etc.

At the outset, you might consider investing in a simple but high quality A/D interface like: the Apogee JAM ( or Apogee ONE (

The JAM is an instrument-level input (it says it's for guitar/bass/etc but will work for any instrument), so if you are recording with a cable, which I assume you might be, working with a looper, then this would be an ideal way to get audio into your computer. Apogee is known for really high-end analog-to-digital converters in the pro audio world and they essentially are giving you a single converter in these products. The JAM also comes with cables to connect to the iPhone and iPad so you can use it with music apps on those devices, and there are looping apps for those, which would lend to practicing (and even recording, though it's virtually impossible to get a truly professional sounding mix coming out of those devices due to the limitations of the software). The ONE device also has an instrument-level input, but has a microphone input (with 48V Phantom Power), so if you are miking your instrument, this would be the way to go. I have used these devices before (they make some others with more channels, but in the same line) and others have been astonished at the level of quality coming out of the A/D conversion for the price. They also integrate perfectly with all Mac audio software and can even be used as your primary audio device for listening to music, etc.

So, on to my recommendation for your situation, software wise:

What I would recommend is Logic Pro X, or possibly Ableton (the Intro edition), since they are affordable. Logic Pro X is a much more capable and full-featured program, and should you decide you want to do more, like bring more instruments and more production elements into your works, it will give you room to expand in that area.

[Full disclosure: I own both programs. I have used Logic for about 20 years and Ableton for about 2 years. I like Ableton, but find that it is geared towards electronic music production. Logic covers both electronic music production as well as studio/audio music production (as a full competitor to Pro Tools), and out of the box has about six times the number of virtual instruments as Ableton, and even more in the way of effects, all of which are universally praised for being studio-grade and not requiring third-party plugins to make a professional sounding song.]

With Logic, or any sequencer, the first thing you want to do is familiarize yourself with how a sequencer works. It is a nonlinear editor program that records your performances. It has a lot of great features for managing your takes, punching in, and seamlessly gluing these takes together for production (Logic is more advanced in this area which is why I recommend it, too).

Logic also has a stellar plugin called Delay Designer. It is capable of designing delays to your heart's content. You can stack and arrange as many of them as you want, as well, and they are non-destructive. So you record your performances, and can choose to hear the effect in realtime, or turn it on afterwards, but either way, your performance stays the same. You can then experiment with changing variables to get exactly the right sound you want.

As for layering, this is where tracks come in. You add another audio track, and record to that track, also using Delay Designer or whatever effect(s) you want. You do this and repeat until you have your song.

There is also the concept in sequencers of setting "loop points", where you choose a region (say sixteen bars) and record over those sixteen bars, on a single track, over and over, and it will capture your performance on that part of the song every time it loops. You will be playing to a tick track that only you hear (in headphones), so you will know when it begins and ends), and can see it on the screen as well.

You then do some mixing–adjusting the levels of each track relative to each other (including panning and effects), as well as EQ and Compression, which are a bit more advanced, but very much worth learning about if you are going to be releasing songs.

Then you "bounce" your track (the term for doing a mixdown–mixing the complete sequence into a stereo file) which can be an MP3 or whatever you would like, and you have your music!

This is a simplified version, and there are many things to learn about this process, but what I've just described is how most musicians would approach what you are wanting to do. You need a sequencer, and you need a good looping/delay plugin.

I hope this helps some.

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I know the OP asked for Mac and PC, but you might also want to consider the iOS options. Currently at the top of the list is Loopy which has garnered a ton of media attention, with a new, improved version on the way.

If you want to see Loopy in action, I've always enjoyed this live video by Sophia Lewis creating a live looping performance using a bunch of cool iOS apps and her voice.

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I would also suggest Giada Loop Machine. It's a free (or better, Open Source) software used, among other things to perform live recording and live looping. You can also process the I/O with VST, in case you want to add some nice fx. Supported OSes: Windows, Os X and Linux.

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