10 Best Looper Pedals

and why you need one

Personal favorite

Features

USB Connectivity
Stereo Inputs

Unlimited looping overdubs
Expansion pedal ready

Digitech steps it up with the JamMan Solo-XT. This little beast gives you over 35 minutes of loops and 200 channels of memory. It has a slot for an optional memory card which allows you to expand your memory up to 16 hours of additional audio storage. The USB slot allows you to connect the JamMan to your computer to store and organize your loops for production or even setting up a performance.

Best Cheap Looper for practice: TC Electronics Ditto
Best Looper for Song Writing: Digitech Jam Man Solo-XT
Best live looper: Digitech Trio+
Best You can Buy: Boss RC-300
Best Looper+Delay: Electroharmonix Grand Canyon Delay

A looper pedal is one of the more versatile pieces of gear you can add to your rig. It can help you practice, compose, and jam at home, and add a new layer to your live performances on the stage.  There are a wide variety of loopers with many different features, so chances are you’ll be able to find one tailored to your personal needs and setup.

If you don’t know what your needs are, We’ll help you try to narrow it down

Looper Pedal Buyer's guide

A looper pedal is a composition, rehearsal, and performance tool that creates loops on the fly.  A loop is created by recording any segment of sound into the pedal. The pedal then automatically plays whatever was recorded, over and over until you push stop.  Once a loop is recorded you have control over what happens to it. You can pause, restart, add layers, and on some pedals change the tempo or add effects to your loops in real time.

Just like any effects pedal in your chain, the looper is activated by stepping on the foot switch to start recording and then stepping on it again to end the recording process and start looping what you recorded.  Tapping again will allow you to record new layers over the original looped material.

Creating good loops takes a bit of practice, but all the skills needed to create good loops are the same skills you will need to jam with any band.  With a looper, you can practice all these skills without making other people bored or angry, then when you do get on the stage you will be that much more confident.

Here is a version of Carol of the bells I arranged using my looper pedal:

Yes! Any pedal you own can be recorded into your looper. Some great pedals to use with a looper, in particular, would be: Delay, Octave, Harmony, Distortion, and Expression/Volume pedals.

PRO TIP: The looper can only record what it can hear. So if you want to overdub your loops with different effects, make sure they are all on the input side of your looper!

The features and abilities of any looper pedal will be determined by the maker of pedal you decide to buy. Of course, all loopers make loops, they will do the bare bones function of playing and repeating a sequence.  But, as you climb the price ladder of loopers, the features start to open up worlds of possibilities.

Below is a list of some important things to consider before you buy a looper.  You should decide how you plan to use your loop pedal and then decide on which features will best allow you to attain your desired results.

Memory Storage

Many loopers come with the ability to store one or more loops even after they are powered off.  The ability to store loops is a great asset to have and something you should consider. Quickly recording an idea and being able to save it to come back to later is very useful in song creation.  Sometimes when creating loops you will create something that is magical, and it can be painful to know that it will be forever gone once you pull the plug.

Another great use for stored loops is on the stage.  I have a few synth pad soundscapes in various keys stored in my looper that I can use for gigs when I don’t have a keyboard player.  It can really fill up some space and help song transitions.

On some pedals, you can even upload whole backing tracks, great for those solo gigs!

If you want to be able to store more than one loop, look for a pedal that has a memory bank.  You can easily switch between loops, with an expansion pedal if you don’t want to bend down. You can even switch between loops on the fly for A and B sections of songs.  The entry-level pedals will not have this feature.

Multiple Loop Channels

Multiple loop channels allow you to have two completed loops active at the same time.  You can switch between them or play them on top of one another. The benefit of having two loop channels instead of just switching between memory banks is that the loops will be synced to one another, and you can use them together at the same time. This setup will allow you to do things like bring a drum or bass track in and out or a vocal harmony part.  The only limitation is your imagination.

Expandability

May loopers are expandable in a couple of ways.  

  1. Memory card – a memory card will allow you to store thousands of loops, or a lot of backing tracks.
  2. Expansion pedal – Most loopers only have one switch.  To operate the pedal you tap the switch in different ways: Tap, double tap, tap and hold.  To make things a little easier to use, may companies have added a jack for an expansion pedal.  This pedal has 3 buttons that take the function of multi-taps, and add the ability to switch between loops with a tap of your foot.
FS3X DIY Pedal
Here is a photo of an expansion pedal I DIYed.

Tap Tempo

Loopers Equipped with a tap tempo function allow you to set a click track exactly as you need. This helps you get tighter loops that sit in the pocket better. Certain pedals will even time stretch the phrase to make sure the loop fits properly.  The tap tempo feature will also allow you to increase or decrease the tempo of an already created loop.

Built-In Effects

Loopers can come with built-in effects (like reverse, phaser, delay, pitch glide etc.). This can be a great option particularly if your budget allows for only 1 pedal. You can get more for your investment.  Effects are more important for creativity, if you are looking for inspiration, a good effect can be your muse.

Some pedals also come with a simple drum and click tracks built in.  These are great for rhythm practice.

USB Connectivity

USB will allow you to store loops onto your computer for future use or upload loops from your computer right onto your loop pedal.  This is great if you want to load a bunch of backing tracks onto your pedal to jam with later.

Size and power consumption

Loopers come in many sizes.  Make sure you have room on your pedalboard to accommodate the pedal you purchase.  Also keep in mind smaller pedals like the ditto, don’t always stay put without some velcro on the back.

Pedals also vary in their power needs.  If you are using a Onespot or other power supply, make sure you don’t draw more milliwatts that your power supply can put out.

Now let’s get to get to the Loop Scootin’ Boogie

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Let’s check out what a looper can offer and how it can be used. We’ll dive into the more useful options and give you some of the best products around to help narrow down the best looper pedal for your rig.

At some point on their journey, I will always encourage my students to pick up a looper pedal. Even the most basic looper can help you get the most out of any practice session.

In the video below, I am practicing soloing over a chord progression, everything you hear was created using only my guitar a looper pedal and a few effects pedals.

Improve Scale Practice:

It’s no secret that scale practice is a grind. It can get tedious and boring. But it is a necessary evil. Using a loop pedal to throw down a little chord progression makes scale practice a lot more tolerable!  You can even hear how scales sound over chord progressions at different rhythmic values, which leads to the next helpful way to practice with a loop pedal.

Rhythm Practice:

When working on a piece of music it’s best to break down any spots you are having trouble with and work on them in smaller chunks. A looper pedal is great tool to achieve this. Lay down a slower rhythm track and woodshed those tough sections over and over again.

Practicing with a looper, much like practicing with a metronome, will help you work on your internal timing, with the added benefit of hearing harmony at the same time.

PRO TIP: The great bassist Victor Wooten described to me how he uses a looper to improve on his timekeeping. He does this by recording a 4 measure loop. In the loop, he deliberately leaves large spots of silence. Victor will play during the silence, but stop playing at the spots where the loop has recorded notes. The goal is to lock into the time of the loop (without a click track) and play with the looper, making a cohesive improvisational line.

TC Electronics Ditto

Pros

  • Small Size
  • Easy to use
  • True Bypass

Cons

  • Can only store one loop at a time
  • Small pedals can be hard to keep in place

Small, heavy duty and true to its name. The Ditto has 5 minutes of recording time with unlimited looping layers. Plenty for practice sessions. A single button for start, stop, record, overdub, and edit. A Single knob controls the level of the loop. It has true bypass. So if you add it to your live rig it will have no effect on your tone when the pedal is off.

It’s a great pedal if you are looking for loops with no bells and whistles. Plug, play, repeat!

Boss RC-1 Loop Station

Pros

  • Stereo inputs
  • expansion pedal ready
  • 9V battery compartment

Cons

  • The button interface has 2 modes. Each mode is a different pattern for controlling loop edits. As a result, users have accidentally switched modes and mistakenly thought their pedal had malfunctioned.

The RC-1 Loop Station, like the Ditto, gives you the ability to record and store one loop.  This pedal is twice the size of the Ditto and comes with some extra features.  It gives you 12 minutes of loop time, Stereo inputs/outputs, and the option to add an expansion pedal (sold separately).  One other great feature of the RC-1 is that is can be powered by a 9v battery, this is great if you don’t have a pedal board with a power supply.

Besides the extra features this pedal offers you may want to consider the size and action of the switch.  The RC-1 has a much bigger target for starting and stopping a loop, but also needs a tad bit more force to engage.  This is due to the nature of the switch.  The ditto will require a little better aim when starting and stopping your loops.

I have come up with more ideas while experimenting on my looper pedal than I can count. If you are interested in creating original material, you can stick with a basic looper, they are great for developing layers of a song.

But, If you want to get serious about writing, you might want to look for more options in your looper. Factors like memory storage, upload capability, more loop channels, and built-in tracks will come into play.

Here’s a breakdown of my process for using a looper as a composition tool.

Once you come up with a solid chord progression or idea, record it into the looper. When the loop starts flowing the writing process can look something like this:

1) Listen through and solidify your progression

Decide if there is anything more you can (or Should) do that may improve the foundation.  Is the picking pattern solid?  Is it catchy enough?  Are you happy with the key?  You’re in the practice room with just you and your looper, Be Picky!

2) Write Melody Lines/Solos

Experiment with melodic contour and scales. Remember, the looper gives you all the time you need to make sure everything sounds exactly the way you want it. You don’t have a bandmate tirelessly playing the same riff section over and over while you fine tune your part.

Be the perfectionist you want to be!

3) Work out harmonies and countermelodies

Give those newly worked out solos some extra character. Loop your melodic line into your pedal. With the Chords and Melody on loop, you can finalize any harmonies you would want to include into your song.

Now is your moment to step out of the box. Thinking big picture. How does the finished product sound in your head? Is there a specific effect you are wanting? Start messing with sounds. If you don’t have a lot of effects on your rig, you may want to consider getting a pedal that comes with effects and a loop option.

4) Take your song to the band

Your ideas are finalized and your riffs, polished. You’re now ready to present to your bandmates.

Of course, it’s ideal to work out a new song with bandmates and fellow musicians. Unfortunately, there are a lot of times when you are struck with the mighty fist of inspirado and no band around.

The looper pedal has come to the rescue once again!

PRO TIP: Whenever possible: Always record! Even if it's on your phone. When it's time to go over viable song ideas you'll have them all at your fingertips. You will never have a “Hey! How did that one riff go?” moment again. Trust me. You will thank yourself in the long term.

Electro Harmonix 720 looper

Pros

  • 10 independent loops
  • Stereo in/out for enhanced usability... record two instruments at once
  • Expansion pedal compatible

Cons

  • No USB for computer storage
  • Some have reported playback glitches

This pedal brings a little bit more to the table than a basic pedal like the TC Ditto. It comes with the standard start, stop and overdub controlled by 2 buttons. What makes it stand out against the Ditto is that it comes equipped with 12 minutes of recording time and 10 loop channels.

In addition to the expansions, the 720 also gives you the options of playing your loops in reverse and half speed. This added level of creativity gives you the ability to fully dissect each phrase and get the most out of your music.

Digitech JamMan Solo-XT

Pros

  • USB Connectivity
  • Unlimited looping overdubs
  • expansion pedal ready

Cons

  • Single pedal system not idea for solo live performances (with or without a band)
  • I have the earlier version of this pedal, I had hot glue a piece inside, an easy fix but still a con

Digitech steps it up with the JamMan Solo-XT. This little beast gives you over 35 minutes of loops and 200 channels of memory. It has a slot for an optional memory card which allows you to expand your memory up to 16 hours of additional audio storage. The USB slot allows you to connect the JamMan to your computer to store and organize your loops for production or even setting up a performance.

Digitech even added the ability to chain multiple JamMan pedals together. Jamsync, as it’s known, knows when you have a chain of JamMan pedals linked together. The loops from each pedal will sync allowing multiple musicians to play and loop at once. A great feature if you have a writing partner or band that want to add loops to a live setting.

If you want to go all in and add a new creative level to your live performance, you should consider one of the higher level looper pedal.

Looper Pedal with Your Band:

If you already have a band but you want to add a new layer to your live show, consider using a looper to help bare the burden. Loopers can do anything from adding harmonies, backing rhythms, back up vocals and anything else you can think of.

Boss RC-30 Loop Station

Pros

  • Great for a live rig
  • 2 loop channels
  • XLR output for vocals
  • Tap Tempo

Cons

  • Readout could be easier to see. Tough to make out in stage lighting
  • Lots of button pushing to get through features
  • Price

This pedal has been driving my shows for many years. The Boss RC-30 boasts over 3 hours of recording time with 99 memory channels for internal storage. It also comes with a USB output for syncing with your computer.

The Boss RC-30 has 2 loop track channels. Channel 1 is a dedicated instrument line. Channel 2 comes with an XLR input for a microphone. Each of the channels can be independently controlled. Making singing and looping in real time simple.

The aux input on the back allows you to run prerecorded music (Like a practice piece or a demo that needs some production) into your looper. One press of the pedal and you can loop any section of the aux track.

If you want some more production and creative freedom, the RC-30 has built-in effects such as phaser, sweep filter, and tempo delay.

On my live rig, I make use of the RC-30 by recording our produced intros through the Aux input. When it’s time for the intros, I kick it on and cut it when we’re finished. Next song, next channel!

It readies the band and sets the initial tempo of each song. Everybody is on the same page and the show tightens up all around.

Solo Performances:

Maybe you’re a lone wolf or are interested in expanding your gig opportunities. A looper pedal can be the perfect band mate for a solo performer. You can lay down some nice acoustic rhythm tracks for a coffee shop run. Or, if you want to turn some heads, you can even throw down some loops in your channel bank, program some drum tracks and you’re off and running for one man show.

“How would that work?”, you ask? Well. . .

Digitech Trio+

Pros

  • Unlimited Storage Potential
  • 3 Independent loop tracks
  • USB Connectivity
  • Built in guitar and vocal effects

Cons

  • Under 4 minutes recording time may require some preparation when writing
  • Bigger learning curve

This piece of equipment is something special. The Trio+ works like the previous looper pedals. The magic happens when you record your loops. While you are recording your loops it is analyzing and learning what you are playing. Then, with the press of a button, the Trio+ will compose a drum and bass rhythm section that matches what you played.

It has 12 music genres to choose from and gives you the ability to set tempo and stretch the times of the generated band. Giving you complete control to dial in the right feel of your tracks.

The Digitech Trio+ is an optimal tool for writing and production. It may not be your final sound.

But programming a solid scratch rhythm track on your loops will give you a great sense of where you’ll want the finished product to end up.

The looper also comes in at just under 4 minutes of recording time. It comes with a micro usb slot and 8 gigabytes of memory. The card can be expanded up to 32 gigabytes of space as well. Everything can be saved through to your computer via USB to the free Digitech Librarian Manager app.

PRO TIP: Try to keep in mind that you don't have to stick to recording guitar into your looper pedal. Get creative. Experiment. Try recording vocals, synth, percussion. Anything and everything!

Well, there you have it. Hopefully, we were able to. . .Huh?. . .You like everything you saw above and can’t decide? You want it all?!

Alrighty Then! Let’s get crazy. . .

Boss RC-300

Pros

  • USB Connectivity
  • Unlimited looping overdubs
  • expansion pedal ready

Cons

  • High budget piece
  • Not an ideal beginner looper pedal - intimidating

There’s no other way to talk about it.

The Boss RC-300 was designed with live performance in mind. It comes with equipped with 3, independently controlled loop tracks. Each of these tracks has 2 pedals (record/play and stop). You can write, edit and overdub each loop and play them in any combination you choose. It also has an All Start/Stop button to control all loops simultaneously.

With three separate loop tracks per station, at 99 stations. Now that’s a lot of loops. Couple that with USB connectivity to archive your catalog and start again…Unlimited storage baby!

The RC-300 is stocked with guitar effects that include: distortion, flanger, phaser, and delay. It also includes a few vocal effects like a pitch shift and robotic sound effect. It can also transpose any of your loops one octave up or down in half-step increments. These can be controlled with the built-in expression pedal, for volume swells or increasing an effect into the loop.

I could go on. This thing is just insane.

This just in!

Electroharmonix Grand Canyon Delay

Pros

  • 16 mins of recording time
  • 12 delay types
  • Tap tempo
  • Fade out, reverse, and speed adjust

Cons

  • It's a big pedal
  • could be overwhelming and hard to dial in

Released in late 2018 the Electroharmonix Grand Canyon Delay is enough to make any guitar player drool.  This pedal takes everything that we love about the Canyon Delay and expands on it.  With 12 types of delay: ECHO, MOD, MULTI, REVERSE, DMM, TAPE, REVERB, PITCH, SHIM, SAMPLE/HOLD, DRUM, and DOUBLER plus a dedicated looper with fade out, reverse and unlimited overdubs, how can you go wrong.  

I can’t wait to use this pedal to its potential.

There is one other route you can take if you are on a tight budget, or you don’t see yourself putting a dedicated looper pedal on your pedal board.

Get a delay pedal with a looper function built in.  This is the option I have gone with on my acoustic rig, I mostly play rhythm through that board and I don’t have room for a looper.  Instead, I picked up a delay pedal that has a looper option, this way I can have a looper available to me if I need it, but it is not taking up space on my board.

The downside is most of the pedals out there don’t allow you to use the delays and the looper at the same time, but if you are not using it to produce lush delay-filled loops you should be fine, or you can always get another delay pedal…or 10.  

Here are two pedals (I have both) that are great delays, have great loopers and are not going to break the bank.

Electroharmonix Canyon Delay

Pros

  • 62 second recording time
  • Awesome sounding effects
  • Tap tempo
  • Stores one loop even when powered down

Cons

  • No USB connectivity
  • No loops with delay

I don’t think they could’ve picked a better name for this pedal. The kind of delays, reverbs and looping present will make you think you’re in the deepest place on the planet (fun fact: that’s the Marianas Trench)! A 62 second looper smoothly integrates with the 8 unique delay voicings and built in reverb. beast.  

I really love this pedal!

TC Electronics Flashback 2 Delay

Pros

  • Mash Technology expression
  • Great Delay options
  • Tone Print Channels

Cons

  • Higher price than canyon delay
  • The basic looper could be integrated with the delay channels more cohesively

The Flashback 2 is a great example of an effects pedal that has a loop built in. Along with a basic looper, it comes with 7 unique delay presets. The Flashback also has 3 “Tone Print” channels. These channels allow you to use their smartphone app to customize a tone. Then you can set it to one of the 3 tone prints for later use.

The coolest feature of this pedal is in the button. TC introduced the “Mash Technology” expression. What they did was add a pressure sensitive switch to the button. The harder you press the button of your pedal, the more your delay will pinch, expand, or warble in effect. The TC Flashback 2 gives you tons of creative potential in a one button pedal.

Final Thoughts

A looper pedal can help you with every facet of musical practice. It allows you to save ideas, learn difficult patterns, write new music and explore beyond your creative boundaries. Hopefully, we were able to help you narrow down your search so you can jump into the musical loop-scape with both feet! Whether you are a composer, in a group, or a one-man band; it’s safe to say getting a looper a great choice for every musician. You will without a doubt improve in both performance and composition.

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Article by:

Cody Walker

Cody Walker

Cody is a musician and content creator. He is a member of 3 national touring bands and is the owner of Soul Syphon Media, which assists musical artists and content creators across the U.S.

And

Mike Levitsky

Mike Levitsky

Mike is a Husband, Father, Pastor, and Musician. He is the owner, contributor, and editor of Drumsandguitar.com.

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