On last night’s Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon had one of my all-time favorite singers – Billy Joel – on the show. They did something really, REALLY cool. They used an iPad looping app to create a 4-part harmony doo-wop group with just the 2 of them right there at the desk. See the video below.
I’ve been showing people how to sing harmony with themselves since I started this site. In fact, the desire to sing harmony with myself is the reason I became a recording engineer in the first place!
But back to Billy and Jimmy. What they did was use a looping app, which Jimmy Fallon mistakenly called “The Looper.” It was actually the app called “Loopy HD.” The way it works is that you record a short piece of music or a short beat, and the app lays it back over and over again until you tell it to stop. Playing the same short piece of audio or video continuously, over and over again is called “looping,” hence the name of the app. Then while the first loop plays back, you layer a 2nd loop over it (yes, like overdubbing), like a harmony.
The main difference between what Billy and Jimmy did, and what I do, is that I don’t have a time limit on my tracks. Nor do I have to set a loop time (when using Loopy, or any looping program, you have to set a loop time and all parts have to be the same duration or they wouldn’t stay together). That’s mainly because I’m not using looping at all with my harmonies. I simply record one track. Then I start a 2nd track and sing along with the 1st. Rinse and repeat. Billy and Jimmy used about a 10-second loop, enough time to record 4 bars of the “wimoweh” part of the song “the Lion Sleeps Tonight.
The first time I saw someone use a looper (though this was before the iPad) in a solo live musical performance was KT Tunstall doing “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” on The Today Show. It was just her, a guitar, and a “stomp-pedal” looper. She started out by recording her muted guitar strings for rhythm. Then while that was looping, she sang “woo-hoo.” Then while the guitar beat and the first “woo-hoo” were playing, she layered the harmony “woo-hoo” part. As soon as those 3 things were going, she just sang the song with her own 3 loops as her backup band! Pretty amazing stuff. The recording of the loops was part of the performance and took up only about 30 seconds before starting into the song itself.
Anyway, now you see the potential for hours of addictive fun using loops! Enjoy – but do not annoy your family and friends;).