Sin­gu­lar Sound Beat­bud­dys

A DRUM­MER AT YOUR FEET? IT’S EI­THER A SADOMASOCHIST’S DREAM OR AN IN­NO­VA­TIVE PEDAL.

Australian Guitar - - Contents - BY PETER HODG­SON

The BeatBuddy is one of those ideas that are so ob­vi­ous and log­i­cal that ei­ther no­body had thought of it be­fore, or tech­nol­ogy had to catch up to the vi­sion be­fore it could be­come a re­al­ity. What­ever the case, it’s here now: the first drum ma­chine in a gui­tar pedal, giv­ing you hands-free con­trol of your beat while you’re rock­ing out, be it on­stage or at home. The project was ini­tially funded via an IndieGoGo cam­paign, which reached its tar­get of $30,000 within the first 30 min­utes and went on to be ut­terly huge. Ini­tially only avail­able on­line, the BeatBuddy is now dis­trib­uted in Aus­tralia by In­no­va­tive Mu­sic – the lo­cal home of Kem­per and Carl Martin ped­als – and there isn’t a bet­ter group of folks to bring this par­tic­u­lar pedal to Aussie play­ers.

LET’S NOT BEAT AROUND THE BUSH

The BeatBuddy is a MIDI-based drum ma­chine built into a pedal hous­ing. It’s a full stereo unit with 24-bit sound and a full-colour LCD screen, and there’s an op­tional ad­di­tional footswitch for hands-free song se­lec­tion, tap tempo, ac­cent hits, beat drops and more. The unit comes with an SD card loaded with ten drum sets and over 200 song styles with mul­ti­ple unique fills per song, and you can edit or cre­ate drum tracks on your com­puter be­fore trans­fer­ring them to the pedal.

The in­ter­face is very sim­ple. There’s a footswitch, three knobs for Vol­ume, Drum Set and Tempo, plus up/down/left/right di­rec­tion keys with an OK/ Tap Tempo but­ton in the cen­tre. Ev­ery­thing else is han­dled by the small multi-colour dis­play screen, which gives you in­for­ma­tion about which song is se­lected, which sec­tion of the song is cur­rently play­ing, the tempo in beats per minute (BPM), the time sig­na­ture, vol­ume level and cur­rently se­lected drum kit. On the right side of the unit, you’ll find left and right inputs for pass­ing a sig­nal through the pedal (say, send­ing your gui­tar pro­ces­sor to a PA via the BeatBuddy) and an ex­ter­nal footswitch jack, along with a vol­ume thumb­wheel for a head­phone mix. On the other side are the left and right out­puts, a mini head­phone jack and a MIDI sync jack. Across the top are the nine-volt power sup­ply in­put jack, SD card slot and USB jack. Add the ex­ter­nal con­trol pedal and you have the abil­ity to add ac­cent hits and drum breaks, plus foot con­trol of tap tempo and hands-free scrolling through songs.

A RO­BOT WITH A HU­MAN FEEL

Once your songs are in the pedal, the BeatBuddy does more than sim­ply play your file back like an au­dio player or back­ing track. Be­tween the pedal it­self and the ad­di­tional footswitch, you can start a beat, add a fill or three, go from verse to cho­rus, add a cym­bal crash or tom hit when­ever you want it, plus much, much more. You’re not just play­ing along with pre­re­corded back­ing tracks – you ac­tu­ally in­ter­act with it to trig­ger per­for­mance changes, bring­ing a sense of life and ex­cite­ment to your per­for­mance even if you’re just one mu­si­cian on­stage. Have you seen how nuts the gen­eral public goes when they see some­one like Ed Sheeran us­ing a loop pedal with an acous­tic gui­tar? Well imag­ine do­ing that, but also hav­ing a drum­mer at your feet as you im­pro­vise a whole bed of loops against a full drum per­for­mance that you can con­trol at will.

The stock beats are not quan­tised, so they have the nat­u­ral feel of the drum­mers who

orig­i­nally played them, with the ben­e­fit of very well-recorded drumkit sam­ples to send them through. This is huge, be­cause noth­ing takes you out of a real mu­si­cal mo­ment faster than too much per­fec­tion. The BeatBuddy keeps that dis­tinctly hu­man el­e­ment in­tact.

The in­ter­face is very in­tu­itive, and in no time, you’ll find your­self improvising and in­ter­act­ing with the pedal like it’s al­ways been a part of you. The only down­side is that you can’t cre­ate new beats within the pedal it­self – how­ever, you can make them in other soft­ware and im­port them into the BeatBuddy. Son­i­cally, the kits sound great. And the screen gives you a clear dis­play of the progress of the bar cur­rently play­ing, so it’s re­ally hard to lose your place.

ONE MAN BAND

When test­ing the BeatBuddy, I fired up my Les Paul equipped with the A Lit­tle Thun­der neck pickup, a de­vice in­vented by Andy Alt that gen­er­ates a bass-like sig­nal from the bot­tom three strings of a gui­tar, and sends it to a sep­a­rate amp. Us­ing my DAW in­ter­face, I sent a reg­u­lar gui­tar sig­nal to one chan­nel, a sim­u­lated bass sig­nal to an­other, pro­cessed them both through dif­fer­ent amps in IK Mul­ti­me­dia Am­pli­tube 4 and sent the BeatBuddy’s stereo outs into a stereo track with my favourite drum bus ef­fects – a big, warm, ‘70s-style drum sound. I be­came an in­stant power trio and an un­holy riff­ing ma­chine – if I had a looper pedal and didn’t suck as a singer, I would have been able to take things even fur­ther.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

And that’s re­ally what makes the BeatBuddy so much fun: it’s not just a pas­sive sound source for you to play along to, it’s an in­ter­ac­tive one for you to play along with. Whether you’re a solo per­former, a gui­tar teacher or you just want to have a more sat­is­fy­ing mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence around the house, it’s a great tool for in­spir­ing new mu­si­cal ex­plo­rations.

RRP: $599

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