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Gear Review: BeatBuddy Pedal Drum Machine

Gear Review: BeatBuddy Pedal Drum Machine

What happens when a guitar player runs out of (patience for) drummers? He creates the Beat Buddy—the love child of a guitar pedal and a drum machine.

Sleek, compact, easy to use right out of the box, the Beat Buddy is a MIDI-based pedal drum machine that enables musicians to easily control the beat hands-free.

Just by pressing a pedal, you can start a beat, insert fills, transition from verse to chorus, throw in drum breaks , trigger accent hits such as hand claps or cymbal crashes and a whole lot more.

It is a stand-alone performance tool, and can work with any instrument or array of instruments. Just plug it into your sound system and off you go.

Beat Buddy comes with an SD card loaded with 10 drum sets and over 200 songs styles to choose from, in more standard and even some less common time signatures. Mixing and matching is a great option for traditional AND off-beat sounds (think folksongs with a heavy metal drum kit). If you’re looking for a particular sound, you can find it here.

Beat Buddy’s beats are organized into ‘songs,’ each comprising ‘song parts’ (such as verse or chorus). Each song part has a main beat loop, an accent hit and multiple fills associated with it. When transitioning between song parts, the song parts are played in order until the last song part is played, and then it goes back to the first song part.

You can combine the songs, drum sets and settings any way you want, and store your project on the SD card. In addition to the pre-loaded content, you can download more content from their online library, create your own content with the included software, or share and discover user-generated content on their community forum.

However, because the Beat Buddy is not a traditional drum machine, you cannot create new beats with it. BUT, You can do that yourself with other software and load them into the Beat Buddy as MIDI files.

beatbuddy2.jpgBeat Buddy makes it easy to keep track of where you are in your song, and what is currently playing. The easy-to-see display screen of the unit at your feet scrolls a “Beat Indicator,” which knows the time signature in which the Beat Buddy is playing, and displays a darkened bar moving across the screen in sync with the tempo, indicating where the beat is in the measure.

In addition, the background of the screen is a color-coded in accordance with what is playing: for example, fills are yellow, a transition beat is white. The display indicates the style, genre, time signature, what part of the preprogrammed song is playing, which drum set has been selected, volume and BPM.

The biggest complaint I’ve heard about drum machines is that the beats sound fake. The Beat Buddy folks say:
“The included beats are non-quantized recordings of real drummers (not programmed) and the drum sets include the highest quality samples at up to 15 dynamic levels and polyphonic support, making the BeatBuddy sound natural and realistic. The BeatBuddy also solves another reason drum machines often sound fake: in most drum machines, when one drum loop follows another, the end of the first loop might conflict with the beginning of the second, eliciting a jarring beat a real drummer would never play. This never happens with the BeatBuddy because it can detect when such conflicting beats would occur and adjusts the loop transition accordingly, so no matter what you decide to play, the BeatBuddy plays continuously and naturally.”

I agree. Being a solo singer-songwriter, and a bit of a neophyte when it comes to electronic equipment, I appreciate that I can get some unobtrusive, natural sounding percussion support for my live shows, and that I can control all aspects of the beat RIGHT FROM WHERE I’M STANDING, with the touch of a toe.

Breaks, fills, tempo, and I can do it on the fly. Even for me, simple and straightforward.

The national retail release date is November 20, 2014. Projected price is $349, with free shipping in the U.S. Beat Buddy comes with a power adapter, SD card, and USB cable. The computer software will be a free download. the footswitch and MIDI cable can be purchased separately at the Beat Buddy website.

Find out more at mybeatbuddy.com/

Singer-songwriter Laura Zucker wins audiences over with a hard-won perspective and a positive spin. The powerful imagery of her songs and stories ring so true you might think she’s read your diary – and you’ll find yourself humming her infectious melodies for days to come. She’s a two-time finalist in the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk competition in Texas, 2013 West Coast Songwriters Association Best Song of the Year, and has received numerous accolades and awards from the organizations around the world. She has released four CDs of original songs with the latest, Life Wide Open, released in late 2013. Find tour dates, music and more at LauraZucker.com

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