How To Set Up A Loop Pedal

(Last Updated On: March 9, 2021)
Guitar player configure and setting the loop pedal on the floor.

My friend and I once watched a one-man show wherein the performer seemed to be having the best performance of his life. His instrumentals seemed to be a full ensemble, and my friend wondered how he did it. Well, I said, “He is playing along with his pre-recorded tracks and a looper pedal.” “Ah, I see,” my friend remarked, “but what is a looper pedal,” he asked. 

If you are a dedicated solo player, you might probably have used a looper pedal. A looper pedal is indeed an invaluable tool for most guitarists. It lets you record chord sequences and riffs and play them back in a loop. Moreover, you can add or overdub to this loop by playing over the top a second part which will eventually be added to the loop.

2 Major Types of Setups

When it comes to setting up your loop pedal, you got two setup types that you need to be cognizant of. These two major types of setup are the multiple pedal arrangement and the single pedal setup. Below is a short description of these two types of setups:

1) Multiple Pedals Setup

This type of setup consists of a pedal that comes with multiple loops. Into these loops, you can insert other pedals that let you change presets via the use of individual pedals. This setup type is also referred to as true bypass loopers. Some of these setups also come with a dedicated section with output to your preamp and input from the preamp, allowing you to utilize the four cable methods. 

This setup involves the case compressors, drives, and even phasers going onto the loops before the input/output. Afterward, the other effects follow, like the modulation, reverb, and delay in the amp’s effects loop. This type of pedal arrangement can go in the effects loop or before the amp or both.

2) Single Pedal Setup

This setup consists of a pedal that can record a short clip of sound that you can repeat afterward and harmonize with. These short loops will run after the effects that you want to be included in the loop. Thus, you can let the drives and effects go on the loop before the amp despite having a loop with reverbs and delays. 

If you want the loop to have the reverbs and delays because you want to alter them for your overdubs, then the looper should go in the effects loop after everything.


How To Set Up Looper Pedal on Signal Chain

There are several ways you can set up your looper pedal in the signal chain, depending on how you desire it to function. You can have the simplest setup by positioning it at your signal chain’s end. In this way, the looper will simply capture your exact pedal setup within the loop. It would not even react to alterations you do on your board. 

On the other hand, you can also place it between effects. This setup depends on what audio signal you want to capture. If you connect it through your effects loop, you can use the on/off of the modulation effects and reverb to influence the overall sound. 

At present, more loopers come with stereo potential. If you got a stereo delay or reverb or want to go straight to your mixer, you should utilize stereo looping. You can also use stereo looping for tracking separate mono instrument and vocal signals by merely hooking the looper into the mixer bus.

How Would You Arrange Multiple Pedals?

The way you order your pedals will indeed matter if you have multiple pedals. There are tons of rules that tell you how you should arrange your pedals. These rules, of course, are helpful, but in many instances, they often produce bad results. Moreover, you will read conflicting ideas about how you should arrange your pedals. So, how can you sift through these rules and figure out the best practices to follow? 

While relying on these rules can be very helpful, it will also be useful to learn how to set up your pedals on your own according to your needs. It will be useful likewise to note that some pedals should go early in the signal chain, while some need to go at the end. 

I would not hesitate to tell you that you should experiment with your arrangement and combination of pedals, especially if you have multiple pedals. As a keen observer, you will quickly learn the order that works best for your needs. You can go against the established or peddled-around rules. You can also rely on your gut feelings and ears to figure out the right combination and arrangement. 

In arranging your pedals, you will need two longer audio cables for connecting your last pedal in your signal chain to the amp and your first pedal to your guitar. Afterward, you can use patch cables for connecting your pedals together. You can buy these short cables in stores that sell pedals likewise.

Connecting Guitar Pedals Together

When connecting multiple pedals, you will need more cables. You will need three cables with two pedals to connect the guitar to your first pedal and the first pedal to the other pedal. Use the third cable to connect the last pedal to your amp. 

The patch cables are best for connecting your guitar pedals because they are short. With these short cables, you can keep your pedalboard tidy. If you have three pedals, you will need four cables, two long cables, and two patch cables.

Plugging Your Guitar Pedal to the Amps

Plugging your pedal to amp and guitar is relatively easy. You will need two guitar cables for this connection. Use the first cable to plug your pedal onto your guitar. Then use the other cable to plug your pedal onto the amp. Make sure that you plug the cable coming from your guitar to the input and the cable coming from the amp to the output. 

Most pedals will come with labeled input and outputs. However, the standard setup for input is always on the pedal’s right side and the output on the pedal’s left side. This arrangement, of course, is perfect if you only have one pedal. With two pedals at hand, you will need two long cables and one patch cable. 

It will help if you buy 10 feet long cables for your use. In this way, you can set up your pedal away from the amp. Such a long cable is helpful if you are performing on stage with your amp backstage. It will also help if you have an extra long cable in case one cable malfunctions.


Where To Place Each Pedal in the Signal Chain?

If you are looking for some rules to guide you on your setup, you can always check out the following rules about where each of your pedal should go in the signal chain:

1) No Universal Rule Exist About Pedal Placement.

If specific rules restrict your design, they can also limit you from experimenting with your setup. So, it will be best to remember that no single rule should govern how you should place the pedals in your signal chain. Instead, it is better to consider how your setup sounds. If it brings in the desired sound, then you did a great job in your setup. 

It will also be good to remember that the traditional arrangements of pedalboard were designed for certain purposes. You may follow the rule about how sound works in space. Yet, in the end, it will be good to follow your intuition. If it works, then it is the right arrangement. 

2) Know the Best Position for a Pedal in the Signal Chain!

It will help distinguish between pedals that should be in front of the amp and should be in the effects loop. Some pedal types function best when in a specific part of the signal chain. For example, if you are using an Octave Pedal, it will help position this pedal before the distortion.

3) Avoid Placing Effects Before Pedals that Add Volume!

Background noise is a major problem when it comes to the high-gain sounds of distortion. Moreover, pedals that usually add volume will also amplify the noise level of sound that comes before these pedals that add volume. Examples of pedals that add volume are Wahs, compressors, overdrive/distortions, and EQs.

Be Knowledgeable of How Sounds Occur Naturally in Physical Space!

It will be good to note that sounds occur naturally in physical space in a certain order. For example, you can create guitar amp distortion by turning up the amp to drive its circuits to overload. Echoes, however, occur when sounds hit ceilings and walls. Thus, it is reasonable to set your delay or reverb effects right after the other pedals.


Conclusion

Today’s market for musical instruments offers many options when it comes to compact loop pedals. Hence, you will never be bereft of options when you shop around for your loop pedals. If you have multiple pedals but don’t know how to set them up properly, you might not get the optimum results from your pedals. When setting up your pedals, you should ensure that you keep the noise level to the minimum. 

Moreover, you should achieve the best tonal flexibility for your setup. Besides, your setup should produce the most organic and natural tone that you can make. It is advisable that you experiment, for no single rule is enough to account for your pedals’ best arrangements in your signal chain.

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