Using loops: a creative dilemma?

Some people feel like cheating when using loops. But is that really a creative dilemma?

In a band all band members are adding there own personality to the songs. When I hire a session musician, the feel, choice of notes and sound of that session musician is added to my music. Think about using loops in the same way. By using loops you’re adding color in sound and feel you would probably never be able to do all by yourself. Simply because you’re different, you’re not that other person, the session musician for example. You can only be yourself.

My main instrument is guitar. I am using some riffs and turn-arounds I have learned from blues players and guys like Johnny Guitar Watson, Leo Nocentelli of The Meters, John Scofield and many others. It is a nice thing to do, using such a lick, it can be seen as a compliment, a little quote. It’s almost as if you’re using a loop; a great little 1-bar thing which simply fits like a glove.

Some popular loops are used in many songs, the Amen Break for example. It is used by all sorts of artists, Squarepusher for example has used it in several totally different compositions. Sure, he tweaked the heck out of that loop, but the source remains to be that loop many artists have used as well. It doesn’t sound like cheating to me and it doesn’t make Squarepusher sound like somebody else. I can hear lots of Jaco Pastorius in Squarepusher’s music, but he’s not at all cheating because he creates some wonderful new music. Something I or Jaco have never heard.

Here’s a very interesting video about that famous Amen Break:

Also think for a moment about the fact that when you’re trying to compose and record everything yourself, you might end up sounding one dimensional. Sure, it is cool if you can play all instruments by yourself, it is great if you’re a great programmer, it’s great if you’re a sound expert. Yeah, it is great to be able to do all this stuff by yourself. But is that really important to music, that ego thing? Or do you think that music simply should sound right, whatever that ‘right’ does implicate? If you open your mind, anything can work, you’ll see. Just try it yourself!


I used to think that use of looped material detracted from the work. Lately, though, I come to believe that loops are just another paint for the canvas–a pastel, perhaps, instead of a watercolour.

frankly i am getting sick and tired of squarepushers’ worn out ‘vocabulaire’.
his music is still great , but i would rather hear him with a decent drummer.
lot’s of them out there! the amen break ah well…you can have it 🙂
nice documentary btw and hilarious voice over…this man doesn’t have any
emotion in his voice. incredible

Amen is worn out indeed, but Squarepuser has done many cool things with it. But somehow it’s not nice if we’re all are using the same loops, I do agree. There’s a balance between overly used loops, and well known loops. I hear a lot of loops being used on all sorts of hit productions and commercials. Sometimes that’s cool, sometimes not. It depends on the composer/arranger.

IMO, loops are only a creative dilemna when the producer has no creativity. I swear by them as song starters, background thickeners, foundational pieces and when I’m in a rut I’ll often peruse my loop directories to see if something inspires me. Its similar to how avid synth players and programmers cringe at the very thought of using presets. If you use loops, but don’t add your own touch to it, you’re going to be hard pressed to please anybody on our side of the industry. That is, unless you’re like me and do lots of cue music, then you can get away with that to a degree because of the sheer volume of pieces created. Even then I still have to add my own flavor to them.

I could only get this to play the first 15 minutes..but it raised a few questions.. there’s a lot talk about “The Winstons”..but no mention of the drummer who actually came up with the break! Sort of like listening to James Brown drum breaks..I mean, who EVER gives credit to the guy who actually played the groove..Clyde Stubblefield, Nate Jones, Melvyn Parker and so many others…even James at times..other than saying it’s a “James Brown” break..the men, especially the core riddim sections who are never credited, who helped engineer the funk in the 60’s and 70’s are really responsible for these sounds..

to me, the amen is a nicely retooled Funky Drummer. And having been there and learned my trade when this stuff was being made the first time, it’s amazing to me as well that a whole sub cult is based on one wee (albeit ultra fine) break..though as I was reading the other day about Rock music (capital R).. who would have thought in the 1930’s that a dumbed down white people version of African American blues would become the multi billion $$ industry it became?

As far as re-engineering, via, Rappie we have had this discussion before, no? The one camp who takes any Art out of perspective, out of its context..and throws it in with anything else..vs the people who say this is bullshit, that Art needs to be experienced in its original intention, its original context. I am usually over on the second side..When certain things are stripped out and reused without consideration for the source, they loose the “sauce”..the juice that makes music worth listening and grooving to.

btw, nice to be here, what a great site.

Yes, the old Motown players etc. were never mentioned. James Brown did the same thing. James’ big ego. I missed that point, good thinking John!

For the rest: I don’t mind remixing and re-use to much. It sucks sometimes, but some stuff is cool. Squarepusher did great things with the old Amen.

My focus is more on original content as well, but I can admire things to be used in the correct way.

Europe is waiting for you… you know that John!

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