Ambient guitar resource.

Bookmarking here what looks to be a major-caliber resource, at least for someone as new to electronics as I am, for approaching the live-looping-delaying universe first called “Frippertronics” and later “Soundscapes”.

So there’s this YouTube channel Chords of Orion, which has this fairly substantial series on the -fu of “ambient guitar”.  Installment #1 is here:

I’ve made it up to about #10 in the series thus far, and will be reviewing more soon enough.  This fella seems pretty well thought out, and the landscape this suggests is starting to poke at my hindbrain a little more insistently.

What drew me to the series was this installment, which isn’t actually part of the series, but is absolutely an adjunct to it.

If I’m understanding him correctly, then the essence of the quintessential Frippertronic ambient soundscape, expressed in terms of the signal chain using modern gear, is the use of prepared guitar sounds (e.g., distorted, modulated, short-delayed, volume-swelled sounds) sent into a long (4-16 second) delay loop with adjustable decay, with secondary effects (e.g., wash delay, reverb) downstream of the loop.  (As the narrator says in the looper review, it’s delaying the loop, not looping the delay.)  He certainly seems to have the sound right!

What makes the TC Electronic Ditto X4 interesting, here, is that it can be configured to behave differently than almost all other loopers in its basic click sequence of the footswitch.  The usual looper behavior is that the first click of the footswitch initiates recording;  the second click terminates recording and immediately begins playback;  a third click begins overdubbing.  This is written on my old JamMan looper as “REC/PLAY/DUB”.  The X4, though, has a dipswitch that will instead make the sequence go “REC/DUB/PLAY”, instead:  at the second click, the loop begins anew with overdub open.  It’s critical in this case because that is essentially the exact same thing that the long-delay does:  in effect it created a “short loop” out of a “long delay”, with overdubbing continually open.  The X4 also has a “decay” knob that allows you to set the rate of decay of successive overdubs in the loop as it plays–which is useful both for adjusting the rate at which a live soundscape would evolve (i.e., “old” overdubs drop off as “new” ones are added on), and also for speeding up termination on demand.    One thing the looper can do that many delays can’t, is to set the loop length with the foot, which would seem to be a nice point of control.

Anyway, this all has me thinking about signal chains now, and I’m going to have to process on it a bit.  But man, the idea of having relatively simple access to the landscape of the soundscape?  Count me in!  🙂


Oh looky, here’s another YouTube playlist on ambient playing, from Andy Othling’s channel.  Bookmarked for homework!

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Kevin Wilmeth

Professional geek. Amateur human. Credible threat to musical instruments anywhere. (I can't help it. Ideas just invade my brain...)

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