W. J. Melvin
W. J. Melvin Musician, producer, sound engineer, composer, chief of MIDI technology @beat_bars

Live looping with MainStage 3 - part 3

Live looping with MainStage 3 - part 3

This is the third and final part of the series about creating loops in MainStage 3 using the Loopback plugin. I will show you how to configure its parameters to be able to use it efficiently during live performances.
If you want to know how to record several different sound sources on one Loopback plugin - see part 1. Assigning and Mapping MIDI events to its individual functions is described in part 2.

Part 3: Configuring Loopback parameters

Open the Loopback plugin view and set the following options in it:
ManStage3 - Loopback plugin

  • At the top right, the ⚙ icon
    • Monitor: On
    • When Patch or Set is Selected: Do Nothing
      There is no point in setting other options when you have a footswitch
    • On MainStage Clock Start: Do Nothing
      Similarly to the above - you want to control the functions manually (or rather using your pedal)
    • Set Concert Tempo After First Take: ✓
      This is the most important parameter in this section - it causes that the tempo of your song will be selected based on the time from the moment of switching on until the recording of the first loop is turned off
      Set Concert Tempo After First Take
  • On the bottom bar:
    • Sync: Off
      This disables synchronization with the MainStage tempo and clock - in our case, it will be the best setting when this tempo will be determined based on the first loop
    • Snap to: Off
      When stopped, Loopback starts immediately, without waiting - this is the behavior you expect during performances when you control a looper with a footswitch, especially when the next option…
    • Play From is set to: Loop Start

Now let’s get to how it all works.

The first loop is crucial - it determines the tempo of the song and it will be the first layer of the backing track. The beat on this loop should be definitely outlined, but not necessarily with the help of drums or other percussion instruments. It can be bass, it can be a guitar (rather chords, not a melody).

  1. On the footswitch, press “Record” and start to play or make a rhythm. Do not worry if your song starts exactly “on one” or even earlier. Even if you are slightly late with the button, you won’t lose the first transient or off-beat - it will be played at the end of the loop.
    Just start playing and press the button on the downbeat.
  2. Press the same “Record” button a second time exactly “on one” of the next measure (bar) or the following one if you want to have more than one measure in the loop. Hit the first beat or chord of the second loop and stop playing. At this point, the loop closes, the beginning and end of the loop are set, as well as the tempo of the song. Loopback starts playing the sound from the beginning.
  3. Now you will be able to play the next layer of another instrument (or the same one). Wait almost until the end of the second loop and turn on recording again. You won’t delete what has been recorded so far - the next layer will be overlaid on the previous one. This time you do not have to (and actually you shouldn’t) press the button precisely “on one” - do it a little earlier, even in the middle of the loop. Loopback has already set the beginning and end of the loop, so precision won’t change anything here, and you will be sure that the first transient won’t be cut off.
  4. You can leave the Record mode on for subsequent loops. Just remember that every time the loop repeats, you record the next layer. When you finish building the backing track, press “Record” again (i.e. turn off recording, leave it playing).
  5. Play and sing the solo parts.
  6. At the end or in the middle of the song, if e.g. you want to mute everything after the climax, press Play/Stop.
  7. When after a few bars, played without a backing track loop, you want to go back to playing it, press Play/Stop again.
  8. If you want to build a new backing track from the beginning, press “Clear” and start from step 1.

Recommended equipment: MIDI Footswitch FS3.

Here is a demo video where you can see the result of the entire 3-part tutorial:

As you probably noticed, I did not describe all the options and parameters of Loopback. It is a plugin with huge possibilities and presenting them all would require over a dozen blog posts. My goal was to simply and comprehensively demonstrate the basic functions and the configuration of an external footswitch so that you can use MainStage 3 for live looping.

Till next time.

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