Watch Ed Sheeran perform live and it won’t be long before you spot his secret weapon: the Chewie 2 loop pedal.
A nifty piece of kit that with which, Ed happens to be quite the expert. But don’t just take our word for it. Even Roland, the(the high-end instrument manufacturer) has come out to describe Ed as a “master of looping on the cusp of greatness.” So to say the Chewie looper is partially behind his success as aglobal megastar wouldn’t be far wrong.
That’s because this one-of-a-kind looper allows Ed to do what most other artists can’t. Using the Chewie, he can pretty much perform his entire back catalogue, completely solo – vocals, instruments, the lot. Therefore, as fans will know, Ed Sheeran concerts aren’t what you call ‘conventional’. They’re just Ed – it’s very rare you spot him with a backing singer or additional instrumentalist. There’s also slightly more of a build up.
Thanks to it just being him and the Chewie, there is a considerable 1-2 minute gap in-between songs, as Ed sets his loops. Something that makes him as an artist, quite rare; the only other Loop Pedalists we can think of are KT Tunstall and Tash Sultana. So much so, that we’d actually say that Sheeran live is tough to beat – few artists manage to be anywhere near as organic. But (to cut to the chase), why does Ed Sheeran use a loop pedal? And should you follows suit? We investigate.
After something specific about Ed Sheeran & his relationship with loop pedals? Or just want the lowdown on his custom Chewie 2 loop pedal? Use the menu below to find all the info you need in 1 click…
How many looper pedals has Ed Sheeran had?
During his time as an international music superstar, Ed Sheeran has used multiple looping stations in his time. In fact, if our intel is right, his Chewie 2 is actually his fourth! So as you can imagine, Ed’s developed himself a bit of reputation for using them. Most probably why you’re reading this article. So without further ado, here’s the all the loop stations used by Ed Sheeran, including his Chewie 2 looper pedal…
Boss RC-20XL loop station
In some of Ed’s earliest videos streamed on SBTV, he can be seen at the helm of the Boss RC-20XL. Relatively small when compared to his latest Chewie Monsta 2 loop pedal, but nevertheless it did the job. This looper has multiple inputs for both mics and instruments, plus a sound bank that can store up to 11 loops. Not too shabby.
Boss RC-30 looper
The next loop pedal we saw Ed using, and probably the one most people know him for, is the Boss RC-30. This loop pedal was a step up from the RC-20XL. And while it still came with two pedals and was around the same size, it packed so much more in the way of functionality. This pedal featured a screen, built-in effects (from what we can remember, there were 6) and 2 track sliders. Want to buy an RC-30?
You can’t. Unfortunately if you want to get your hands on one of these, the closest you can now get is the Boss RC-500. A looper that’s actually a good deal better, only not as iconic as the RC-30. But anyway, after his success with the RC-30, it wasn’t long before Ed took his love for looping to a whole new level.
* You can spot the RC-30 in Ed’s live performances of ‘Small Bump’ and ‘Wayfaring Stranger’.
Chewie Monsta custom pedalboard
The Chewie is a whole other kettle of fish. For starters, it’s not an FX pedal (as above) – instead it’s a giant custom controller. So what you actually see during a live performance is Ed using the Chewie to program another controller (the Roland FC 300), which is hidden offstage.
Confused? Think of it as a midi controller. The Chewie pedal takes Ed’s input and communicates that to the FC 300, which then goes on to create the sound. Really, then, you could the Chewie a giant extension lead. One that Sheeran had specially built we may add, with the purpose of broadening his capabilities on stage. Arguably the main reason was to give a whole lot more flexibility when it came to outputs and looping.
Unlike what you get with standard FX pedals, the Chewie has multiple separate outputs for guitar, vocals and percussion. A simple, but all-important feature, which enabled Ed to add effects to each channel when performing live. In other words, refine his sound and elevate his live performances from an acoustic slant on each track, to being almost an exact replica. Very clever!
What’s more, the Chewie allows Ed to mute individual loops mid performance, allowing him to adjust the sound for the verse and chorus. Not the menu the undo function, which gives him the option of erasing the last overdub. The whole pedal itself was designed by audio guru, Trevor Dawkins.
Chewie 2 custom pedalboard
Since 2017 however, Ed has had a bit of an upgrade. His looper pedalboard has now being upgraded to a Chewie 2. And while we’re not exactly sure what the upgrade means, going off Ed’s recent live performances, it’s certainly not a backwards step.
Click here to check out Ed’s quick tutorial of his Chewie 2 pedalboard below…
How do you play the Ed Sheeran loop pedal?
Despite the Chewie being a controller and not an FX pedal, the way it’s played is pretty much the same.
One push of the pedal starts the recording and another brings the recording to a stop. In doing so, the Chewie 2 logo turns a different colour, to signify the change in channel. On the display you’ll see 4 main channels: Guitar, Boom, RC20 & Vox. RC20 likely being a hint to the Boss RC-20 loop station. That’s because within all the electrical gubbins of the Chewie 2, there is in fact an in-built Boss RC-20 looper.
But as for how to play a loop pedal – it’s a LOT more complex than just pushing a pedal. If you fancy understanding the basics and seeing how Ed layers his sounds, be sure to watch him demonstrate his looper technique below…
Why does Ed Sheeran use a loop pedal?
Okay, so we’ve established that the fact Ed can create a backing track using a loop pedal is pretty darn cool. But then of course you have to ask the question, why? Why does Ed use a looper pedal instead of making do with a backing track like the other 99% of artists? Did he just wake up one day and think “ah, let’s add a looper pedal into the mix”? Or is there a deeper purpose behind it?
And then of course, why invest what was most likely £1000s in a custom Chewie pedalboard? To help you get your head around just this, here’s a few reasons we think may be behind Ed’s regular use of a looper…
- Flexibility on stage – One of the main reasons we think Sheeran uses a looper (or now the Chewie pedalboard) when performing live is because it offers him so much more in the way of flexibility. Unlike with a backing track, Ed has far control over what he’s doing and (if he’s feeling brave) has the option to switch things up. What’s more, it not only gives Ed more connection with the track, but also the audience too, as they get to witness first hand how Ed builds up the track. What better way to engage your fans in your music? A point that rather conveniently brings us onto our next point…
- Brand & image – Using the Chewie isn’t just a great way to show off Ed’s music, but it’s also ideal for showcasing his all-rounded ability as an artist. Fact remains that not many artists would even know what a looper pedal is, never mind how to seamlessly operate one in front of 1000s of fans. So showing off the fact Ed is one of the few who can do so, does wonders for his image and personal brand. Plus, it also makes him stand out from the crowd, which in the music business is very rarely a bad thing.
- It’s in Ed’s DNA – We’ve been tuned into Ed Sheeran for time, and looking back looper pedals have almost always been part of his performances. Look over his back catalogue and you’ll struggle to find a song which Ed hasn’t performed using either his Boss loopers or his Chewie pedalboards. What better way to show that through all the fame and stardom, that Ed has managed to remain authentic to who he is and how he makes music. For that alone Ed, we salute you!
Does Ed Sheeran use backing tracks? Has he ever?
As far as we’re aware, every live performance Ed has done has been performed using either a loop station or his Chewie pedalboards. But that’s not to say he hasn’t endured criticism over it. A lot fo fans (particularly during in his early career) have taken to social media to criticise how he’s supposed using a backing track. All when the actual issue is that they’re not clued up on loop stations and pedalboards like the Chewie .
Something that we can imagine being immensely frustrating, especially when Ed really does put so much of himself into his performances – arguably more than artists with a band! So really, when he tweeted this after his set at Glastonbury in 2018, we were hardly surprised…
“Never thought I ‘d have to explain it, but everything I do in my live show is live, it’s a loop station, not a backing track. Please google x” – Ed Sheeran
Does Ed Sheeran still use loop pedal in 2023?
As far as we know, Ed still uses the Chewie 2 pedalboard in 2023. In fact, if you look closely in his recent performance of ‘Bad Habits’, you should be able to spot the Chewie sat just below the mic stand…
Will more artists use loop stations in the future?
Yes, we think so.
With the popularity Ed has received for his use of a loop station, we think you are likely to see more artists taking this ‘one man band’ approach to performing live. We’d say why is mainly due to how much musical tech has come along over the past 5/10 years. Midi and the use of controllers (like the Chewie) opposed to actual instruments, being one of the most major shifts.
And that’s because by doing so, artists have far more command over their sound. So in that respect, you could actually say that with a looper, they’re far more independent in what they do. They don’t have to rely on anyone. And no disrespect to bands, but a looper is also far more reliable. Being electronic, it remains perfectly in time (providing it’s set up right). Neither does it get hangovers, need feeding or come as a reoccurring expense. Loopers are a one-time purchase.
So while we’re not saying backing singers and instrumentalists are going to find themselves bankrupt overnight, what we are saying is that in the long term, the rise of music tech could lessen demand. Worth noting and perhaps a good reason to get well aquatinted with loopers. Ed’s been one of the first to do so and look at where it’s got him – it shows he’s a forward thinker. So much so that we’re interested to see how Ed will use his looper next.
Will there be a Chewie 3?
Enjoy this review of the Ed’s Chewie 2 looper & eager for more? Jump into all our latest Guitar Pedal Reviews, as well as tap into our know-how regarding Music Production Tech. Recently, we also published an article on the Best Distortion Pedals + another on the Wah Wah Pedals, which may also be a good read.
Or, if you’ve still got as burning question about the Chewie 2 loop station, keep reading to discover even more about Ed Sheeran and his relationship with looper pedals…