Glastonbury Festival, 2017. Thousands of concert-goers were left confused when Ed Sheeran turned up to close the annual festival.

They thought Sheeran was using a backing track. This led the multi-talented English singer to explain on Twitter that what he was using was a loop station.

Here’s the kicker: Live Looping isn’t a “new” technology. It has been around since the 1960s.

While Sheeran left many laughing when he tweeted, “Please google,” we’re saving you the trouble by explaining what live looping is and how it’s transforming music.

Live looping in a nutshell. 

Live looping is the process in which a sound or track is recorded and then played back in real-time.

In order to achieve this feat, musicians use hardware devices called loopers (sometimes phrase samplers) together with a computer software.

The art of live looping has been constantly evolving since its first introduction in 1953, by instrument maker, Les Paul.

Yet, across the ages, the magic of live looping lies in the way it turns a single musician into a band.

Soul Syndicate is one such “band”, comprising entirely of a one man show.

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Image by Soul Syndicate.

The release of Immersio is the output of invested time, energy and money into rhythm creation with the available technology.

Although the track is a debut, the individual behind it is no novice musician but a seasoned singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist.

Those familiar with the Malaysian music scene will likely recognise his silhouette from the song’s official video, but for the sake of suspense, we will  not reveal it and let you keep guessing.

For the music tech geeks however, we asked Soul Syndicate to spill the deets on the software and skills-honing  necessary to produce Immersio.

Read on to get a glimpse of what seems to be the future of music performance.

What tools were involved in the making of this track?

Essentially and most importantly ableton 10 (running off my laptop) cause they have developed an awesome digital audio workstation (DAW) for recording and live looping. An Akai APC 40 which i use as a trigger to launch sections and samples in a song. My guitar, bass and a keyboard.

What kind of technology is necessary to create this type of music, is it machine learning? Do you record yourself playing a certain instrument such as the guitar for example and feeding the sound into the system before you layer them or do you pick from a readily available library?

There are a variety of ways to live loop. You could use looping pedals for example. I chose to use ableton live 10 simply because it has a unique DAW that eases with live looping and integrates well with trigger hardware. This allows may to play an instrument and record it on the fly and then hit a button and have that sample loop infinitely sobi can move on to play the next instrument. I rarely using existing samples.

How much skill and know-how does someone need to be able to recreate a similar track? How long did you personally take to learn it?

Haha. This is a tough question. Ultimately its how much time and dedication you put in to it or anything for that matter. I play multiple instruments, which is not necessary for anyone else, I just like to. Someone else could just play a guitar and pre program other instruments. For example Ed Sheeran.

Personally, to wrap my head around using ableton live 10 as a tool for live looping, I would say about 6 months to be able to comfortably use it to express myself.

Its like a dance,there is alot choreography. Moving from one instrument to the next, timing yourself to hit buttons. It is super challenging, I love it hahah.

How expensive is this machine? Has it been worth the investment?

Totally worth every penny. What ever I have spent I have made back from live shows already. Its worth while investment as a musician. If you are an enthusiast and you are wanting to explore something like this you can spend anything between Rm 1k to Rm 10k. It all depends on what kind of set up you want. I will admit my set is expansive.


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Image by Soul Syndicate.

Pop Music is notorious for its “machine assisted” output, and the widespread belief is that even bad singers and musicians can sound good with the help of these machines. What is your take on this? How do you see your track differ?

Its true. Nowadays, anybody can cut a track. Technology is so advanced. But that is the game in pop music now. It is not about whether you can sing well and whether you can write or play the music. It is about whether you have style and are popular and whether you are relevant in pop culture. The music is almost secondary. Don’t get me wrong, I think that that in itself is a tough job. Having people relate to your persona, especially in a digital world, is no easy feet.

For me personally, music is not perfect and neither am I. So I don’t quantize my playing.

I do use autocorrect on vocals but that is just trend nowadays. The autocorrect effects your vocals and gives it a specific sound that people like. Personally I record till my vocals are not pitchy.

In your music video, you appear to be in an event space – can this type of music be performed live or does it have to be a prerecorded track?

I can perform it live any where, exactly as I did in the music video. Just takes me about 15 minutes to set every thing up haha.

Might creating music with machines make you more of a DJ rather than a musician?

Well, DJs don’t play instruments and I was playing instruments and live looping. But then again once I have played a section and looped it, I filter and trigger samples as a DJ would. So I guess it some kind of weird cross over between the two.

What is the reason for anonymity on releasing this music? Is this some kind of experiment?

Its a side project that sounds very different from my music as C******** T******* the artist and I didn’t want to confuse my existing fan base.

As a seasoned musician, which is better, having many people jam to make a track or a one man show orchestrating it all?

Both are beautiful in its own way. Collaborating is awesome. Its a fusion of ideas and style and sometimes playing out the music exactly how you see it is equally as satisfying.

*** Cover image by Oscar Ivan Esquivel Arteaga on Unsplash

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