More Help Needed For Examples of Loops in Music

Ok – here is some more thoughts on the formulation of loops in music. As before, I would very much appreciate any additional examples you can offer me. See my earlier posts for more thoughts. All of the music is cross referenced in Spotify – so give it a listen!

Contextually Placed: When a melodic loop is synchronically placed against a changing chord progression or bass line. In other words the melody stays the same, but the harmony/bass changes – altering the ‘context’ of the loop. Listen to ‘The Spirit Of Radio’ by Rush at around 2.34 – 2.52,  or listen to the beginning of Nixon in China by John Adams, or the introduction of Tubular Bells from between 2.09 – 2.32.

Polyphonic: Where at least two interlocking melody lines work contrapuntally together. This type of loop, often builds up over time, and has the potential to have melody lines in the bass, tenor, alto and soprano parts. For example, listen to the start of Act 1 Scene 2 of John Adam’s Nixon in China or the introduction of Tubular Bells, from around 0.50

Terry Riley’s In C uses a similar technique, with the whole piece being based on loops. In this case the musician decides how many times the loop is repeated.

This is also used in Rock – For example listen to the introduction of ‘The Faith Healer‘ by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

The Unison: When two or more instruments play the loop simultaneously. This could be in the bass or middle, but is more likely to be in the melody line. For example, listen to the start of Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield

Instrumental Layers: In certain types of music, each instrument actually plays a looped part in the construction of the composition. This could range from one or two instruments – for example the drums and bass, to the entire rhythm section. For an example of the latter – listen to James Brown ‘Get Up Offa That Thing.In this piece the drums, bass, keys, brass, vocals and guitars – all play loops!

Homophonic Loop: Where the loop is a chord progression. This could range from a heavy metal riff (in 5ths) – to chord progressions such Wonderful World by Sam Cooke.

Tension and Release: Some loops seem to combine both tension and release at the same time. For example a melody can repeat the same notes, but the lyrics can change. This gives the listener the essential mix of similarity (we love that) and difference (we love that too!). Listen to this track from Michael Jackson’s last album as an example of what I mean.

That’s about it for now, any piece suggestions much appreciated.

About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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