There are many different techniques you can use to improve your DJ sets. One of my favorite tools is the Loop. In this article, we will guide you through the three main ways to use a loop function.
Looping is a method of repeating a section of a track over and over until you stop the action. A DJ would normally loop in 4, 8, 16 and 32 beats.
Looping only really works with digital DJ software and equipment, and the software will need to know the Beats Per Minute (BPM) of the track to work properly.
The function is available in most DJ Software programs and on DJ Controllers. You will often find at least one of two methods for creating a loop; Auto Loop, where the loop will start for a predetermined duration; and Manual Loop, where you press an ‘In’ and an ‘Out’ button to define the loop length.
The DJ Controller works with the Software, and you can set the length of the auto-loop before hitting the button so that every time you want to use it, the feature is ready for your requirements. You can adjust this at any time.
1. Intro and Outro Loops
A great way to use loops in your DJ set is during the beginning and ending of tracks.
If you’re playing a track on Deck A and you’re ready to start bringing in the next mix, you can start a loop as the song is coming to the end. This is normally where the vocals have finished and you are just left with some of the drums, the bass and a little melody. Looping at the ending of that track gives it that extra length, so when you start the next track on Deck B, you have more of a mix of the tracks.
Similarly, this works during the beginning of a track. Deck B is ready to start playing, but you want to bring it in early to start the mix. You can set a loop at the beginning of this track at a point that compliments the outgoing track. Once Deck A is fading out you can cancel the loop on Deck B and let it play.
2. Using a Loop as a Sample
This method is best used when you have a four-deck controller. If you are mixing songs in the same genre – house, for example – and you find a section of a track that you love a certain instrument of, you can loop it in a similar way you might use a sample.
For example, Deck A and B are your decks used for mixing back and forth, and you might use Deck C purely for playing this looped section. Deck C could be a nice 8-beat drum loop, vocal snippet or guitar riff that works well over other tracks, or you might use it during the transition of the other two decks.
Of course, you can use a number of different loops for this method: you don’t have to stick to the same sample.
3. The Loop Roll
The Loop Roll can be a fun tool to use… occasionally. It definitely should not be overused!
This is where you use the loop slightly differently: Instead of using loops in doubles – 1 ,2 ,4 ,8, 16… beats, you would use halves – 1, ½, ¼, ⅛, 1/16…
The purpose of the Loop Roll is just for effect as it is more obvious. It creates a fun sound, but you really need to know how and when to use it. The best way to understand that is by listening to a mix that uses it, watching a demo video, and/or practising.
It can be a great way to build up to an exciting part of a track or a big ‘drop’, or just for an additional skill to show off during a mix.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
There are a number of ways DJs use loops in their sets. The three main ones are:
- Intro and Outro
- Using a loop as a sample
- Loop roll
Whilst not essential, looping is a great tool to enhance a DJ set. It can be used to transition between tracks, by looping the next track over the outgoing one. You can also loop a section of a track with an interesting feature, such as drum loop, guitar riff or vocals, which you can play over another track, almost as a way to make a remix.
DJs use loops in their mixes for a number of reasons. It is a useful tool to start bringing in the next track, or to lengthen the outgoing track.
Loops can also be used to enhance one track with a looped section of another.
Yes, in fact most DJs use loops for one reason or another. As one track is coming to the end, you can start the new track as a loop early on. This makes the transition more seamless to the crowd.
Yes, most DJs mix live. Whether the traditional turntables, or more modern CDJs and controllers, DJs mix and transition between songs live.
Often, if a DJ is playing a set - for an hour or two - they would have a playlist ready, and will have practiced every mix in that set.
The Loop feature is an excellent tool for your DJ skill box, and can really help when preparing an upcoming mix. It can also be overused. Have a practice and let us know how you use it.