by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
For years, I’ve wondered what my life would be like with a looper pedal — but until recently, it didn’t occur to me to go out and buy one. I usually play with bandmates, and a second guitarist takes care of the solos (when I’m the singer) or the melodic rhythm parts (when I’m the lead guitarist).
But as I’ve found myself far north of Brooklyn, N.Y., with far less time and fewer resources to take a train into the city to practice with my beloved bass-playing pal Morgan and various others, I’ve found myself playing solo much more often. Because I’m a mom, time is more precious than ever — and free, creative “me” time is 1,000 times harder to get (without sacrificing time with my kids).
But a few weeks ago, as I was listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s take on “I Put a Spell on You,” I found myself imagining what it would be like to rip out a bluesy solo over chords that played in the background, like a second guitarist.
So I took the plunge — the $187 plunge, to be exact. I headed to the local Music & Arts Center in my town and purchased the Ditto Looper pedal. The thing is supposed to be so easy to use that the company that makes them doesn’t even bother including instructions.
Challenge #1: Getting Started
I thought I prepared adequately to incorporate a looper pedal into my life. I planned to get a tutorial at the store by one of the Music & Arts Center’s managers, and carved some time into my schedule for practice.
The tutorial went pretty well — except that I kept mistaking how many times I’d have to stomp on each of the knobs to start and stop recording my “loops” — sequences of chord progressions. Because there are only a couple of big knobs, a lot of stomping combinations is required to do various things — and it’s easy to over-stomp.
My instructor, a nice guy named Charlie, even let me film him setting up the looper pedal. Then he watched over me as I practiced. So far, so good.
I was convinced I was about to change my life.
At this point, any other musician dude who bought this pedal would have taken it home and jammed out for hours. For me, this wasn’t possible. It was a Friday afternoon, I had to pick up my kids from school and do mommy stuff, like make dinner, bathe my kids, and hang out with them (and my husband) for family movie night. And by the time said kids went down for bed, I was too exhausted to plug and play.
When I finally got an hour to myself on Sunday, my momentum was killed when the 9-volt batteries I planned to use were out of juice. Why hadn’t someone recommended I buy the adaptor? Fortunately, my adorable preschoolers were more than delighted to go with mommy to the music store to buy one. However, I couldn’t just go home and use it because my 3-year-old would have wanted to pretend my guitar cables were snakes (and it is not fun to take them away from him!).
Challenge #2: Finding Time to Practice
One week after purchasing my Ditto looper pedal, I FINALLY carved an hour out of my life to play with the damn thing. I had to watch my homemade video several times to configure my setup correctly, and I made several mistakes (stomping the wrong amount of time, etc.) before successfully recording my first loops.
When I finally recorded one, the levels were so soft that I couldn’t hear it (this shouldn’t have surprised me, because my second amp is just a Vox mini 5-watt amp, but still: it annoyed me. I want to sound like two guitars NOW … not in three months when I can finally save enough money to buy a decent-size second amplifier!!
Challenge #3: Feeling Kind of Regretful — but Hopeful?
I’ve come to realize, sadly, that the Ditto looper’s customer isn’t a guitar-playing mom. It may possibly be a weekend warrior dad, but it definitely isn’t me.
It’s for the dude who has plenty of extra time to fool around with pedals and pedal boards, without worrying about who will watch the kids.
Unsurprisingly, there are no demos of women playing the Ditto looper pedal on the company’s websites. Most of the reviews (like this one) and video demos are super positive, and sing the praises of this “low key” piece of equipment. They’re all written by men, too, from what I can tell.
I would love it if a soccer mom — or at least a woman! — would demo this pedal and how hard it is to use. Until that happens, I’ll be the token soccer mom and — hopefully soon! — post a video that helps another rocker mom feel bold and empowered.
Throughout spring and summer, I’m going to try to practice as much as I can with it — which at this point, means I’ll get to play with it about once a week. Hopefully, I’ll be proficient by the time football season rolls around (and my kids will want to watch football with their dad so I can play it).
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.