Loop (music)

DIY hardware, Musicians' Diary

And the “footswitch project” ?

You may remember when I was trying to shortly explain how to make your own “DIY USB footswitch” for the sake of using loops on-stage… Here is the post I wrote a few months ago about this : https://astrakanproject.com/2014/01/22/building-a-usb-footswitch/

A quick reminder !

And this is what il looks like on-stage so far :

On-stage setup !

When we were touring in Portugal last summer, we had the idea of asking to someone working in a mold factory (a speciality from Leiria area in Portugal) to think about a way to build a transparent footswitch, with lights inside !

After some more accurate designing…

Designing the new footswitch using Excel
Designing the new footswitch using Excel

We finally got this ready :

The plexiglas footswitch !

The next step is of course making this fully fonctionnal, by adding all the switches, the cabling and… the colour lights inside !! Can you imagine this shining diamond on-stage ?

By the way, have you seen our new video of a Flemish song  ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJF1pP-C6V4


DIY hardware

The DIY table ?

Each gig you may have as a band may always teach you something… Last gig we had was so. This is the table that I use on stage for all my devices (computer, soudcard, desk etc…)


You may have noticed that there are many cables / sockets / power supplies around. This is that can makes life difficult when for some reasons I need to move all the stuff between the soundcheck and the show itself. This is indeed what happened at our last gig in Ipswich Library (UK). Therefore I had to find out a tip to solve this problem, that’s what I did today as soon as we got back from England 🙂

First, this is to fix the table feet :


in which I cut small holes in order to…


…insert a lower shelf as shown below :



Ok, as you can see, I have used various parts of an old chair and an old cupboard. But this has to fit in a (small) car in which you may still be able to sleep (with two guitars, two uds, a turkish saz, a fiddle, clothing for at least two weeks, a whole PA and a kid !)





Now let us have a look at the table in use, this is before the addition of the lower shelf :


And this is afterwards :


A close look from below should make things clearer 🙂


Now suppose I have yo move everything to quickly make room available for the band that will perform right before us :


A view without the top shelf :


And it works out !! 😉


§ Yann

DIY hardware, Musicians' Diary

Building a USB footswitch…

Actally, updating / upgrading the home-made footswitch, that I made a couple of years ago… (see previous posts there and there…). I use this footswitch to control my looping software “Live” on stage, since my hands are generally busy with a stringed instrument ! I must say that as far as I know, this kind of USB hardware doesn’t exist !

Pedalier - 03

As I wanted to get a more reliable hardware, and also more compact so that I can fit in my suitcase… So I started from a cheap USB keyboard…


After finding the suitable combinations of connectors (i.e. keys, actually), let’s design the stuff with a nice and clear sketch…


Then time has come for soldering…


The tricky part, soldering on the keyboard core :


Yes, this is a hard work :))


And after many tests and controls, the final result :




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DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Using loops on stage : Trying to find the right balance

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As we use a computer with pre-recorded loops on stage (this post), we realised that we needed (and that we still need !) to find the right balance between those two following extreme situations:

  • A : The computer only provides very simple loops such as a drone or a basic beat.
  • B : The computer provides the full set of missing instruments so that we play the songs as they can be heard from the album. B-statement in our minds is this :

I must say that when I had started loop programming, we were first very close to the A-statement. Later on, as I was thinking that my programming skills and experience were increasing, we got very close to the B-statement…

The kind of music we would like to play on stage is somewhere in-between. A-statement may not be sufficient since we are in most cases only two musicians on stage (Voice and stringed instrument, except when we have guests), whereas B gives the feeling that we are not really playing but that the laptop is playing for us. Some would call this “Karaoke” !

Our laptop, footswitch and instruments

So, we’re going back to A, but not as close as in the beginning, loops mostly consisting in drones and light rhythms. We do hope we’re on the way to find the right balance !

[ yann ]

Musicians' Diary

How do we play on stage ?


For quite a long time, we had the idea of playing with electro loops on stage, but we didn’t really want to hire an extra musician for that. I know for ages that many guitarists use loop pedals. I think these devices are suitable when you want to record and overdub guitar loops. But we wanted to be also able to launch drum loops, drones and samples.

I found out that the right solution for that was an amazing software called Ableton Live. This software enables one to set up full arrangements and to launch them on stage. But my problem was how can I use my hands to trigger on stage while playing guitar or oud…?

An Ableton Live set we use on stage.

The answer was that I had to use my feet of course ! Which means that I need a kind of footswitch. MIDI footswich ? Not even a MIDI port on my cheap soundcard. USB footswitch? I found out that what I was looking for didn’t really exists ! Then I found this interesting link:


That was the best solution ever ! To built my own USB footswitch myself using an old USB keyboard and the suitable footswitches. I found all the necessary components in a very in a rather fascinating area of Istanbul called Karaköy.

And I started to make it on my own…You can see the resulting system below :

My home-made USB footswitch.
My home-made USB footswitch.
On-stage setup.

We did several concerts with this system, and sometimes with hardly any sound-check. We must say that it works perfectly !

[ yann ]