Looping live instruments

Hey Elektronauts, I’m getting a project together where I am playing electric Bass, and with a friend playing electric guitar. We can get a nice rhythm down, dubby kind of bassline and some spacey guitar, get a groove going, and we want to use maybe a looper and some effects to take it to the next level. Do you think the Octatrack is best for this? I guess we want to loop the bass and/or guitar for example, so that I can then loop some further musical/rhythmic elements over the top, and then add live manipulated effects. We want to keep the feeling quite organic and live. Thanks for any input/ideas on how we could work this :slight_smile:

Sure you could use the Octatrack for looping.

On the one hand, since you guys play guitar shaped objects, you’ll probably want a foot controller, so there’s the additional expense of time and money to get the OT set up w/ foot controller for looping. The learning curve is a bit steeper than just using a simpler, dedicated loop pedal like one of Boss pedals, or perhaps the tc electronic Ditto or whatever.

OTOH, there’s nearly endless potential for experimentation w/ the OT once you get into not only looping on, say, Track 1, but also sampling the Track 1 audio into a flex machine on Track 2, then using the powers of the flex machine (LFO modulation of sample start, retrig, audio slicing etc.)… then routing audio between even more tracks, utilizing up to 3 LFOs on each track, building up effects chains (each track has 2 FX slots), etc.


Oh, and the Merlin document is a must-read for any potential OT buyer. Especially for those thinking of using it for looping. Several current-gen looper pedals let you record minutes of audio and loop it. The OT is not like that - I’d say up to the 15-20 sec. range is more realistic.


Thanks for the reply, the guide look like a great resource. 20 secs if sampling sounds limited but should suit our current ideas of looping a few bars to play over. I guess we can then use the Octatrack as mixer and FX box as well. Setting up a foot controller is essential for our live looping, but as long as I can get that working without issues I think it could become our performance hub.

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Max recording, without samples in Ram :
16 bits : 8m28s (508s)
24 bits : 5m39s (339s)

Up to 1m04s per track for 8 tracks in 16bits.

(You can check this available time in Memory Config, and in Recording Setup 1)

The Boss Rc 505 looper is much more simplier, with very long recordings (3 hours).


As explained in the Merlin document, the more RAM you use to loop audio, the less RAM you have to play with for the Flex machines. The Flex machines are a big part of what make the OT unique compared to looper pedals, so you don’t want to deprive them of too much RAM. Basically, if you don’t use the flex machines, you won’t be getting your money’s worth from the OT.

Audio streamed from CF cards (using static machines) OTOH are limited only by card capacity. So you could stream long audio files from the card.


When I look at the prices of midi foot controller for the OT, I start to consider buying a regular loop pedal to loop before the octatrack, and then I have my hands free for sampling and mangling


This is how I envision the use of the OT. Next year, when prices drop some more for the MK1 :hourglass_flowing_sand:

Hmm. Now that I think about it, the disadvantage would be that you had to follow the ot tempo right from the beginning, if you‘d want to bring in some other elements.
The great thing about the pickups is that the ot tempo follows your loop

It really depends on one’s specific needs and emergent workflow with loopers and particularly with the OT. Respectfully, I don’t agree with @GovernorSilver that if you don’t use flex machines on the OT, then you’re not getting your money’s worth from the OT. I save the OT RAM for pickups almost 100% of the time (I use a lot of static and neighbour machines in addition to pickups) and only very occasionally use flex. But everyone’s musical needs are different, so I understand those for whom flex machines are indispensable.

@drNate when you say “can then loop some further musical/rhythmic elements over the top . . . We want to keep the feeling quite organic and live.” Does that mean that you wan’t to ONLY live loop and don’t plan on using the OT’s sequencer? If so, I’d say there are probably better multi-track loopers for your needs. I mention this because the sequencer as a whole and how all the machines interact with it is really the main thing that that sets the OT apart from other advanced loopers.

And it does make a great effects box too :wink:


Ot can be slave, especially if you don’t record with it. OT worked well with Rc 505 for me. Rc 505 was slaved, and I always record with defined tempo. Rc 202 has almost the same possibilities with 2 tracks instead of 2. For home recording I prefer to use Ot only for the moment to avoid quality loss.

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Fair enough.

It’s really up to the OT owner whether or not the OT is delivering his/her money’s worth. If you want to use just the pickup machines (assuming the slave pickup machine bug(s) are gone) and chain some FX and are happy with the sounds- without using flex machines, that’s all that matters.

To me, flex is what elevates the OT to another level but again, that’s just my take.


It can be a super amazing looper but it wants you to look at it and operate it more than other loopers if you want to use it to its full potential. You can use it as a regular looper with a foot pedal, but if you really just want loops without thinking too much and using your feet, there’s probably better options…

If you end up using it you’ll probably want to stop playing your instrument and turn to the OT and play it a lot more than you would with a normal looper, but the stuff that you can do when you turn to it will be far more than what a looper would do. Using the OT I’ve become more of a crossbreed between traditional instrumentalist and electronic artist, I don’t play an instrument all the way through a song, I go back and forth…

With all the other stuff it can do comes learning how to use it, which is a lot more complex than a looper, and takes some time. It’s very rewarding what you can do with live audio once you get the hang of it, but again thats usually operating the OT from the unit, although I’m sure you could map some tricks to a foot controller or a controller clipped to a mic stand or something…

-flex capabilities-
You can use your pickup loops on flex tracks and not take up any more memory…
For example a pickup on track one and recorder buffer 1 loaded to multiple flex tracks slice/diced/etc… doesn’t take any more memory than just the pickup loop…
So basically all the flex tricks can be done with the sampled pickup material…
I often have about four pickup loops going ranging from around 8 seconds to up to around a minute, multiple sliced and flex warped remixes of the loops, a few samples loaded, and still half my memory free at 24 bit…


Yes that would be an issue for us, we want the machines to follow our lead, not the other way round. So our initial loop will set the tempo, with subsequent loops quantised to it. That could be tricky to set up with an external looper…

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We want to build up and manipulate loops taken from our instruments, it would be good if these could be quantised but different lengths. With the loops running it would free up one of us to play effects - riding delay etc to dub out and otherwise effect elements of the loops. I’m not sure whether the sequencer would come into play here - maybe adding some sequenced effects? We are trying to stay away from really obvious sequenced beats to keep things organic, but maybe some live sequencing of captured sounds.

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That sounds close to what we want to achieve. Do you have any videos posted? I would be really interested to see a performance. Also, any pointers for getting going? We would want at least two instruments hooked up for looping. Do you use a mixer or straight to Octatrack?

[quote=“drNate, post:14, topic:47123”]So our initial loop will set the tempo…That could be tricky to set up with an external looper…
If there is midi sync, I don’t know why it would be tricky. Even simplier !

I guess rather than tricky, more spendy then. I would hope the Octatrack would manage the looping for us, poss with a midi footswitch which I have already. But maybe we should look at a looper with midi sync if this was a better option.

Ot can do it, but it is not immediate. It’s the best looper if you want real time mangling, 8 stereo, tracks, multi fx…but maybe the worst for immediacy and simplicity.
That said, I sold my loopers and kept Octatrack only!

What is your midi foot controller?


As of yet I don’t have any videos, but I would like to start a live improv jam series on YouTube at some point, hopefully this winter. I’m entertaining the idea of making instructional videos, but I don’t know, we’ll see…

I do use a mixer before the OT, the mackie vlz4’s have a nice alternative bus feature where you press a button on a channel, and it reroutes from the mixers mains to the alt bus which I have sent an OT input pair. If your only using two instruments then you might not need one, but you need a way to convert the signal to line level before the OT.

As @sezare56 said the OT is the best and the worst looper. I love what it does and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it’s odd at first and definitely requires a lot more effort to learn than a simple looper…

As for loops of different lengths, I tend to stick with loops in multiples of 4 bars, 4,8,16,32…
The pickups work great for this, I don’t have much experience running loops of different step lengths and not sure how the pickups behave. I have experienced the OT switching tempo after recording a second loop that wasn’t a multiple length of the first one, as its way of “syncing” it perhaps. There’s a lot of settings though, it’s very possible I just needed to change them, and I didn’t look into it. Perhaps @tanburi might have some insight on this?

As for tips honestly my best one would be to download the manual before you even buy one and give it a read, it will give you an idea of the complexity that you would be dealing with compared to a simple looper and should give you a better idea of whether you want to dive in or not…