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The psychology of Elena Thomas is endlessly fascinating – to Elena Thomas at least.

I spent an hour in Fair Deal Music this morning. I planned to buy a looper. I was meeting Dan for moral and technical support, but when I arrived he wasn’t there. This meant until he arrived I was stood in this alien land not knowing what to do with myself, my body, my eyes, my hands. So I played with my phone and lurked, embarrassed. If I could play an instrument I would have done. But I can’t. What good is a shop full of instruments to someone who can’t play them?

I’ve met Jamie before, when I bought my mic and interface. He is great: knowledgable, and kind. Never at any point then, or today, once I got talking to him, did I feel stupid. This is clever, because actually, I know very little. I had done some research, and of course I am an expert in Me. This is how I was treated. Jamie asked the pertinent questions, and I am very clear about what I want to be able to do. I had done some research on the looper in question (BOSS RC-505 Loop Station,

“For the Avant Garde looper” it says on the box, for those interested in the specifics). We had a go at a couple of alternatives, but actually they were designed as pedals for use by guitarists rather than vocalists. I didn’t want to use my feet, or bend down. I wanted buttons. Also, the flexibility of performance use for some of these things, for the type of thing I wanted to do, wasn’t really appropriate. There are all sorts of practical use, logistical and technical reasons for me choosing this model over others.

Having said that, it was good to try the alternatives, even if only to confirm I had made the right choice.

Ok… So I want this piece of kit. I want to use it to write songs, and I want to use it to perform with, on my own, as an alternative to playing with other musicians. It will be a different type of performance to those with a band. It gives me independence too.

At the moment I have spent over £300 on a piece of kit, not knowing if I even have the capability to use it. You need really good timing, and good reflexes and responses.

I have unpacked it, put it on a stand, and have done that task of wiring things together…. Looper to amp, looper to power, looper to microphone. Amp to power… Erm…. The lights light up. I press some buttons, other lights light up. So far so good. I take out the manual and discover that there are different settings, depending on which type of mic I use. At that point, I didn’t know. I have since learned that the mic I originally bought is a condenser mic, great for recording. The looper I’m told works best with a dynamic mic, with not such a wide frequency range as the condenser… ( I think that’s what he said).


So, in the manner of the Elena Thomas known and loved, I unplugged everything and ran away.

I did this when I bought my interface. I had about six abortive attempts to get it working on my own before I actually managed to get all the settings right… Input/output, speakers/ headphones…why the hell am I getting all that feedback? And then I still took a while to become comfortable using it habitually.

So in the corner of my studio stands this new thing I’m scared of. Next time I will plug it in again, and get a little bit further in the process. Because I know which mic I’m using and now know it won’t blow up.

I’ve left it there in the studio and come home with the manual to read as an avoidance technique. (Yes, I know!)

A bit at a time, this shiny black box will become a familiar object. A bit at a time the shiny black box will become my friend. Eventually the shiny black box will become part of the practice, part of my studio landscape.

But we’re not there yet. I circle it, looking at it out of the corner of my eye, I approach it warily.