Practicing with loops

When most people think of loops, they often think of them as something only used in the production of songs. However, loops can also be used as great practice tools. To me, there is nothing more uninspiring than practicing to the traditional “tick, tick, tick, tick” of a metronome or click track.

Whenever possible, I’ll practice various drum beats along with guitar or bass loops, or record drum tracks on top of percussion loops. One exercise that I’ve found is great for accurately internalizing my time is playing to a 16 measure loop that has the last 8 measures muted. When the “1” of the loop comes around each time, you can easily tell if you’ve pushed or pulled too much on the time. I’ve even rigged up Logic, an old car battery, and some rusty clamps to send strong, electric shocks to my body anytime my tempo strays.

In the video below, Bob Reynolds takes the concept of practicing with loops and puts a twist on it. No, he doesn’t increase the voltage on his nipple clamps. In this case, he practices improvising over the jazz standard, “Out of Nowhere”, (a song normally performed in 4/4) using a drum loop in 7/8. The live drums provide a much more natural foundation to improvise over, while still supplying the consistent tempo of a metronome.