How to Use A BOSS RC-5 Loop Station [An Illustrated Guide]

Are you ready to start looping finally? The BOSS RC-5 is a powerful loop pedal with a lot of functionality in a compact unit. But getting started with it can be a bit complex because there are so many things you can do with it and seemingly so few controls.

I use the RC-5 every single day. I switched from the MXR Clone Looper because I, unfortunately, spilled coffee on it in 2021. It wound up being a bit of a blessing though because the RC-5 has way more features on it, features I didn’t realize I was missing, although, I didn’t know how to use it at all at first. But now I do, and I’m here to help you.

To use a BOSS RC-5 Loop Station, use a 1/4″ guitar cable to connect Input A to your guitar and output A to your amplifier. Use a center-negative 9V-DC power supply. Press the footswitch to record, and press it again to replay the loop. Press once more to overdub, and press it twice to stop playback.

That’ll get you started with the basics of this loop station. Keep reading if you want to use all of its complex and interesting features. You’ll be able to set up your own drum rhythms, save loops into memory, reverse your loops, and easily use this pedal for live looping performances. I hope you find this helpful because it took a hot minute to create.

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Table of Contents

Everything The BOSS RC-5 Can Do & How to Do It

Boss RC-5 Loop Station (with Andrew in it)  - How to Use the Boss Loop Station
If you’ve read my article on looping, you’ll already know that I love loopers.

1) Plugging In the Loop Station To Your Set-Up

The BOSS RC-5 Loop Station (on Amazon) will need a 1/4″ jack inserted into the Output A/B in order to work. If you’re using just a guitar, the RC-5 looper, and an amplifier, it’s quite easy. 

Connect your 1/4″ guitar cable to Input A on the right. If you’re using a stereo setup, you can connect the Input B as well (such as a keyboard). You’ll notice that the moment you do this, the pedal will turn on like what’s shown in the image below.

Connect 1/4" Cable - How to Use RC-5 Loop Station
I’ve hooked it up to a 9V adapter, but it’ll come with a battery that should at least get you started.

Connect the Output A on the left to your amplifier. If you have a stereo setup, you may connect the Output B, which could also go to a different amplifier/PA system. If you’re still a bit confused about the connections, refer to the diagram in the BOSS owner’s manual.

Connecting Output - How to Use the Boss Loop Station RC-5
You connect it just like this, the same way you would for any other pedal.

Where Should the Looper Pedal Go On My Pedalboard?

You have a couple of different ways you can do this, depending on your existing pedalboard. The most common way is to put the pedal at the end of your signal chain.

And this is definitely the way that I would do it. For example, if I were to use all of my pedals right now with the Loop Station added to it, here’s how it would look:

Signal Chain with the Loop Station - How to Use the Boss Loop Station RC-5
Here’s what my signal chain currently looks like with the pedals I have now – notice the RC-5 Loop Station on the end

This way, the looper will record the complete sound with all the effects, and then it won’t change even if you change the effects while overdubbing. For example, you could record a clean guitar rhythm, loop it, and then switch on overdrive and delay to do a solo over that. 

Update: my recommendation now is to put it in the FX Loop instead

The other way you can use the loop station is by putting it in the FX Loop of your amplifier. This is suitable if you want to use the Loop Station along with your other effects pedals rather than just a recorder. It will react to changes in your pedalboard – useful for some delay/reverb tricks. 

If you’re not sure what an FX Loop is, it’s basically a send and return on your amplifier that lets you insert post-FX pedals like delay and reverb into the signal path without affecting the other sounds. Here’s how to do it, except with the Clone Looper (the principle is the same).

Send/Return - How to Use the MXR Clone Looper
Run a 1/4″ instrument cable from the “output” to the “Return” on the amplifier’s effects loop, then run a 1/4″ instrument cable from the “input” of the pedal to the “Send” on the amplifier’s effects loop.
Send/Return - How to Use the MXR Clone Looper

For example, you could record a loop with a delay pedal and then play it back with a reverb pedal engaged to get an entirely different sound. You could use this as a frame of reference while you’re making adjustments to your sound.

If you’re in the process of crafting a tone, putting a looper at the very beginning of your chain (directly connected to your guitar) is a great way to modify the rest of your pedalboard while having a constant reference melody/riff.

2) How to Power the Loop Station

A Dunlop 9V Power Supply - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

Connect a center-negative DC power supply to the pedal power jack on the top. If you don’t have a suitable power supply get this one from zZounds, you can also use a 9V battery although I wouldn’t recommend it because batteries barely last 6-7 hours.

Connect Power Supply - How to Use RC-5 Loop Station

Additionally, the reason I recommend a brand-name power supply from zZounds is no-named power supplies – like the ones on Amazon – are precarious, in my experience. You don’t know what you’re getting.

They could overheat, stink, or maybe not work at all. In worst-case scenarios, they might even start a fire. BOSS, of course, recommends using their PSA-series adapter to avoid any power issues, however, I haven’t run into any issues yet using one from Dunlop.

Simply connect it to the pedal’s adapter jack on top. Even though I strongly discourage you from using a battery in your guitar pedal, I’ll show you how to do it anyway.

How to Replace the Battery in the Boss Loop Station RC-5

To replace the battery of the RC-5 Loop Station, use the thumbscrew to open the battery compartment lid. Insert a 9V alkaline battery into the compartment and replace the cover.

9V Energizer Battery - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
How the battery goes in your Loop Station. It’s surprising how pedal manufacturers haven’t figured out a better way to connect their batteries yet.

If you plug in an adapter while the unit is operating on battery, it will restart and switch to AC power. Turning the unit ON is as easy as plugging a cable into Output A. The RC-5 will power up and the LED screen will light up in white. It’s ready to start at that point.

If you’re planning on using the loop station for live performances, then I also recommend using the power supply. This will ensure that your loop station doesn’t run out of power in the middle of a performance, and is also convenient for powering your other pedals. 

Get the MXR Iso-Brick (on Amazon) which can power 10 different pedals at once. It’s the one that’s currently in my shopping cart and I know I’ll probably be getting it in a couple of days, I imagine. I’m tired of running out of batteries and adaptors.

That said, I could imagine there are cases where the 9-Volt battery option is convenient. It’s up to you.

9V Battery - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
These Energizer 9V batteries are the ones I linked to on Amazon

With a current draw of 170mA, it only lasts about for a short amount of time, even on a good set of batteries. It’s honestly crazy how short of a life 9V batteries have in the average pedal. I typically use these ones (from Amazon) if I decide to get them.

3) How To Create A Simple Loop with the Boss RC-5

Once you’ve made the connections properly and powered up the pedal, creating a simple loop is pretty easy once you’ve figured out the basics of using it.

How to Make A Simple Loop with the Boss Loop Station

To make a loop, press on the foot-switch just once so the red recording bar flashes across the screen. Make sure to press the footswitch at the same time as when you start playing that way you get a seamless loop.

How to Make a Loop - How to Use the RC-5 Loop Station
The red flashing display means it’s recording

How to Stop Recording A Loop With the Boss Loop Station

When you want it to stop recording, you have to quickly press on the foot-switch twice. In other words, double-tap the foot-switch (within one second). It’ll turn back to the normal home screen that indicates which memory bank you’re in.

Home Screen - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
The home screen of the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

The instruction manual takes it even further. It says that you have to press once on the last beat of the measure, and then once on the first beat of the following measure. I never had any issues without knowing that, but now you know.

How to Play the Recording in the Boss Loop Station

Now, if you want the pedal to start playing back everything you just recorded, you have to press it once. It’ll turn the LED display a green color instead of red.

Red is for recording and green is for playback. In effect, this is how you start jamming over something you made right away.

Playback Screen - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
Green is always the playback screen like what’s shown above.

If you’re new to looping in general, it’s important to get the beat right. Count to yourself, practice your rhythm for a while, and make sure to tap the footswitch on the beat, or else your loop might sound a bit off. This is an important tip, so I’ll share it with you.

If you want to record your loops perfectly, you have to double-tap the footswitch right as the lick you’ve made is about to repeat itself for the second time.

Explained another way, you want to kick the footswitch as a replacement for playing the riff the second time.

I recommend starting with short, simple chord rhythms or a simple arpeggio and getting the hang of timing your footswitches right. You could also hit the footswitch and then count to four afterward.

Keep in mind that you counted to four after you’ve begun playback. Once you’re confident about that, you can move on to more interesting, funky rhythms and start overdubbing as well.

As a matter of fact, I’m still playing around with simple loops at the moment. Overdubs are something I’m not super confident with, even though I use this thing all of the time.

Like I wrote in my other guide on how to jam by yourself, pedals are more for creative purposes and practicing for me, rather than for performances considering I’m not a live/performing musician.

If you’re struggling with getting the loop timing right, you could always just use the Auto-Record feature which I’ll talk about later in the article.

4) How To Overdub Loops On the Boss RC-5

A lot of people think the overdubbing feature is one of the cooler things about loop stations. You can layer multiple loops on top of each other to create complex soundscapes and textures.

To overdub a loop using the Boss RC-5 Loop Station, simply press the pedal while the previous loop is playing, ie, while the LED screen is lit up green. The LED will turn yellow to indicate overdubbing, and the RC-5 will record over the existing loop in the same memory slot.

The Overdub Bar - How to Use the Boss Loop Station RC-5
This is what your RC-5 will look like when it’s over-dubbing.

Once the loop is complete, it will playback along with the original loop. Remember that green means “playback,” red means “recording,” and yellow means “overdubbing.” But what about if you want to delete the overdub?

5) How to Delete the Overdub Using the Boss Loop Station

A) Press the footswitch once to begin playback.

Playback Screen - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
Again – what the green playback screen looks like

B) Press the footswitch once more to bring up the overdub indicator which is the yellow recording bar.

The Overdub Bar - How to Use the Boss Loop Station RC-5
Press on the foot-switch three times in total to begin over-dubbing. But if you’re in the middle of playback, rather than starting from fresh, you just have to press it once more.

C) Hold it until it turns the color green again.

Playback Screen - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

This will UNDO the last-recorded overdub. But if you have multiple overdubs, you’ll have to start the recording from scratch as there’s no way to select which overdub you can UNDO (it only works for the last recording). 

If you accidentally deleted an overdub, just hold the footswitch for two seconds again to REDO, and it’ll be restored. 

6) How to Use the Drum Machine on the Boss Loop Station

The drum machine on the RC-5 is a handy tool for creating rhythms and beats to accompany your loops. To access the drum machine, press the ON/OFF button under RHYTHM.

This will ‘arm’ the drums to play. Press it once more to play the drums, or you can use the footswitch. This will instantly start playing the standard groove at a default tempo of 120 beats per minute.

ONOFF - How to use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
The ON/OFF Switch to get start the drums

Watch the volume though because it can actually be quite loud. If you press the footswitch with the drums on, it would record your loop, but you can choose to turn the drums on and off. I’ll cover changing the tempo and drum kits next.

7) How to Change the Tempo on the Boss RC-5

The tempo on the Boss RC-5 can be adjusted to fit your needs. This is a great way to change the feel of your loops and create new rhythms. To adjust the tempo, the easiest way is to tap the TEMPO button underneath RHYTHM according to your beat.

A cool feature that not a lot of people know about too is that you can tap the tempo button according to the BPM that you want to set it at. For instance, if you tap the button at 120 BPM, the RC-5 Loop station will set the BPM to 120.

The button LED will blink accordingly to indicate your set tempo, and it will be displayed on the screen. For more accurate tempo changes, you can also press TEMPO, and then rotate the MEMORY KNOB to change the tempo value.

Tempo - How to Use the Boss Loop Station RC-5
How to change the tempo accurately on the Boss Loop Station RC-5

By pressing the knob, you can change the incremental values and use fractions like 100.5 BPM. The LED will blink to reflect your changes. The new tempo will now be applied to all of your loops and samples.

8) How to Change Drum Loops on the Boss RC-5

Adjusting the drum loops and the rhythm section on your Boss RC-5 is a great way to change up your sound. Like I said earlier though, watch the volume at first because it can be quite loud by default. I’ll show you how to change that too.

A) Click Memory > Scroll to Rhythm > Click the Scroll Wheel

Click Memory  Scroll to Rhythm  Click the Scroll Wheel - How to Use the Boss Loop Station Rc-5

Click the MEMORY button > scroll right to Rhythm, and then click the scroll wheel. To navigate to and from certain headings, you have to click on the scroll wheel. I would first change the volume Level though.

B) Adjust the ‘Level’ Setting to Change the Volume from 0 to 200

Level - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

It will start with ‘Level’, where you can adjust the volume from 0 to 200 and mix it with your own loop. Press the knob to switch the cursor over to the volume level, and then rotate it to get to PATTERN. Click on the button and then you can choose which pattern you want.

C) Flip Through the ‘Pattern’ Settings to Find Different Drum Patterns

Patterns - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

You can rotate it and enter all the different menus for adjusting your rhythm, which includes ‘Reverb’, ‘Pattern’, ‘Variation’, ‘Kit’, and a few more like ‘Variation Change’, ‘Beat’, and ‘Start’. 

You can flip through all the different grooves available under the ‘Pattern’ setting. I personally liked the ‘Shuffle4’ groove a lot. Each pattern has an A/B variation that you can select in the next menu. 

For clarification’s sake, to bring up the drum patterns on the RC-5 Loop Station, press the MEMORY button, scroll to the right to RHYTHM, click the Memory/Loop Level button, and then scroll to the right again until you get to the patterns.

D) Choose Kit to Change the Style of Drum Kit

The Drums Kits in the Boss RC-5

Within ‘Kit’, you can choose between the 7 available kits: Studio, Rock, Jazz, Brush, Cajon, R&B, and 808 + 909 (which combines two iconic synth drum tones). And the ‘Reverb’ setting lets you add or remove reverb from the rhythm sound. 

E) Use the ‘Beat’ Setting to Choose the Time Signature

Beat - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

The ‘Beat’ setting lets you choose the time signature, anything from 4/4 to 15/8 (if you’re feeling very progressive). And you can use ‘Var. Change’ to automatically variate the rhythm from A to B based on one measure or one loop. 

You can use ‘Start’ to change when the groove kicks in. I like to set it to ‘Before Loop’, then when I press the footswitch, it’ll play the drums without recording.

This way, you can practice your loop to the rhythm, and then hit the footswitch again to start recording. That helps me catch the downbeats more accurately, so my loop always stays in time, and I can record a full phrase with no issues.

If you want to dive deep, there are a few more options in the RHYTHM menu you can explore. You can turn off individual parts of the drumkit, such as keeping just the kick and the snare, and add fills into your grooves as well. 

All of this is great for practicing in addition to creative purposes. I’ve written a guide before on how to play along with drums, and I think that’ll help you with this.

For a better understanding of music theory, Punkademic’s Comprehensive Complete is what I always recommend via the All-Access Pass. Actually understanding basic rudiments and harmony will help your creativity big-time.

9) How To Store Many Loops and Samples on the RC-5

The Boss RC-5 Loop Station has built-in memory with 99 slots that can store a total of 13 hours of audio. That should be more than enough to store a host of loops and phrases for different genres on your device, so you can jam along wherever you go. 

A) Press SETUP AND MEMORY Together

Setup / Memory - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
Press the SETUP and MEMORY buttons together like what’s shown here

To save your recorded loop, press the SETUP and MEMORY buttons together (you’ll see ‘WRITE’ written underneath the word Utility).

Utility > Write - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
Navigate to Utility – Choose to Write or Clear Loops

B) Press the Knob to Write the File to Your Selected Memory Slot

Write Memory - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
After you press the knob to write your loop in the selected Memory slot, it’ll say “EXECUTING…” before finally switching back to the home screen.

Then, press the knob to write the file to your selected memory slot. You can also choose a different slot by rotating the knob.

One track is limited to 1.5 hours of audio, but that should be enough for most loops. You can easily save different loops across the 99 memory slots available, and this will include the overdub settings. 

10) How to Erase Loops With the Boss Loop Station

If you want to erase a loop from the Boss RC-5 the process is similar to storing loops and samples.

A) Press SETUP and MEMORY Together As You Did for Saving

Setup / Memory - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

B) Instead of Clicking on ‘Write’, Turn the Knob Until It Says ‘Clear’

Utility  Clear - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

Press the knob to clear the currently selected memory slot. You can also choose to clear a different slot with the knob. Note that you shouldn’t power off the unit during this time or some data might get corrupted. 

Clear > Memory - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
Clear the Loops by clicking the Memory/Loop Level button.

11) How To Start A New Loop (Without Overdubbing Or Deleting the Old One)

A) Double-Tap the Footswitch to Stop Playback

Home Screen - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
The home screen of the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

Once you want to stop looping or playing back whatever your loop is outputting, you’ll have to navigate to a new memory slot which is easy to do.

B) Navigate to a new Memory Slot with the MEMORY Dial

Writing to A New Memory - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

Rotate the MEMORY dial to the left or to the right to select an empty slot to record in. Any unsaved changes in the previous memory will be deleted.

C) Press the Footswitch to Record a New Loop

Recording Bar - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

Note, while recording a loop, you can hold the footswitch for two seconds to UNDO the recording (in case you made a mistake). This also works for overdubs, so you can undo an overdub. 

And if you accidentally undid a good loop, just hold the footswitch again, and you can REDO it. It works just like Ctrl + Z and Ctrl + Y on your laptop but with a loop station instead.

12) How to Connect the Boss RC-5 to Your Computer

A) Use a USB Type-A to Type-B Cable (Commonly Used for Printers)

Printer Cable / USB 2.0 - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
A trusty old USB 2.0 cable

You can connect the RC-5 to your computer if you’d like to transfer recordings between the two devices, but you’ll need a USB Type-A to Type-B cable like the one shown in the image (from Amazon).

Connecting RC-5 to Your Computer - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
Hold on though, because you actually need to have a power adapter/battery (because it’s not bus-powered), and you’ll need to connect your cable to the Output A as well.
Set-Up  Storage - How to Use the RC-5 Loop Station
I’d recommend using one of the 8″ pedal connector cables for this.

B) Download the BOSS Tone Studio

Boss Sound Studios - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
The buttons won’t come alive until you’ve connected your pedal using the guide I’ve shown below.

Once the pedal and computer are connected and configured, you can download and use BOSS Tone Studio. This will allow you to backup your RC-5 data, restore it in the event of data corruption, and transfer audio recordings both ways. 

You can delete and import files from the RC-5 this way, but you can also do it just with the file folders which I’ll show you in a second. First, let’s show you how to actually configure the pedal so you can get the BOSS Tone Studio to work the way it should.

C) Set Up the Pedal for Storing

Memory > Set-Up > Storage - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
Click Memory > Scroll to “Set-Up” > Click Storage

To set up the pedal as a storage device, you’ll have to go into the SETUP settings, navigate to ‘Storage’, and then select it to turn it on. After that, your pedal will show up as ‘Boss RC-5’ on your file explorer. 

Boss Rc-5 Data Files - How to Use the Boss Loop Station RC-5
The “DATA” file folder is where you can find all of your loops

You can use this to import loop phrases stored on your PC. Use them for anything you want really. What’s cool about this is that you can save a lot of loops. There’s no reason to delete things.

Another interesting thing about this is that you’ll be able to use the Loop Station as an idea recorder, that way you don’t forget. An iPhone is good for this too, but the Loop Station will be higher quality.

13) How to Use Hidden Features In the Boss RC-5

The RC-5 is quite an upgrade from the RC-1 in terms of features. Here are some of the nifty features in this unit, hidden underneath MEMORY settings. Each memory setting is independent for each slot, so you can experiment with different loops. 

To navigate to these additional features on the RC-5 Loop Station, you have to click the MEMORY button, and then press on the Loop/Level knob. This will allow you to scroll through each feature and turn it on and off.

Reverse Loop

You can use this to reverse the audio stored in the selected memory slot. You could, for example, create a spacey soundscape with multiple overdubs, and then reverse it for some fun experimentation. 

1-Shots

Turn this option on if you only want the looped recording to playback once. It’ll stop the loop after one pass. However, you can’t overdub in this mode. Not sure why anyone would want this setting, although, it’s a possibility it could be used for live shows.

Record → Overdub

If you’d like to switch to Overdub mode immediately after recording a loop, use this option instead of the default ‘Record→Playback’. 

In other words, when you double-tap the footswitch, you’ll begin overdubbing right away, instead of playing back what you just made. I imagine this would come in handy during live performances.

Dub Mode

Overdub Turned Off - How to Use the Boss Loop Station RC-5

Instead of overdubbing multiple times, you can set this to ‘Replace’, and it will replace the existing loop when you press the footswitch. In effect, you’ll essentially turn off the Dubbing feature by turning this on.

Auto Record

Auto-Record - How to Use the Boss RC-5 Loop Station
It took me a minute to figure out how to work the auto-record feature. Turns out that my guitar just wasn’t loud enough for the pedal to process the signal.

This could be the handiest feature on the RC-5 because it helps people who might be having trouble hitting the record button at the right time. Instead of recording immediately after you press the footswitch, it will only record when sound is detected.

If you still want to explore everything that your RC-5 can do, you could also check out the official BOSS RC-5 Reference manual. While the owner’s manual is just a quick start guide, this 24-page document details every clever feature found in the pedal.

Although, I’d say my guide does a better job, to be honest. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of why I wrote this. Manufacturer manuals are never as good as they could be.

On the other hand, I haven’t been able to figure out what the additional settings mean, ie, Start Immediate, Stop Immediate, Fade Time, and Measure Free. I changed them to other settings and I didn’t notice a difference. But I digress, let’s look at one last thing.

Understanding the Display of the BOSS RC-5

One thing that took a minute for me to fully understand was the Boss RC-5 Display. The display, for a second, I thought was just a neat little pattern of colors to look cool, but that’s not the case at all.

The display of the RC-5 Loop Station essentially functions as a visual metronome and count-in feature. The bars on the top represent the beats, and then the bar on the bottom tells you how long the loop is. Additionally, these bars change according to the BPM and time signature as well.

Display Bars Tempo and Beats - How to Use the Boss Loop Station
How the display feature works on the Boss RC-5 Loop Station

Important Things to Note About the Boss RC-5

1) Experiment to Find Your Sound

Remember, loop stations like the RC-5 are all about experimenting to find your own sound. While its primary functions are quite simple, it’s a powerful device that could create an entire funk ensemble or a hard rock ballad on its own. 

You just have to practice getting your loops right every time with a strong internal metronome, and you’ll become a one-man band. Or you could just use it as one of the best practice tools at your disposal.

Gear Mentioned

1) Boss RC-5 Loop Station (on Amazon)

2) Dunlop ECB-003 9VDC (on zZounds)

3) MXR Isobrick 9V Power Supply (on Amazon)

4) 9V Energizer Batteries (8-Pack on Amazon)

5) Punkademic’s All-Access Pass (on their site)