Review: Beatbuddy Drum Machine Pedal — Video


I’ll try my best to refrain from making drummer jokes, but I will say that finding a good one is probably harder than hitting all six numbers on the Powerball lotto.

That’s the reason why drum machines were invented, but one dig against drum machines is that it’s nearly impossible to improvise live with them. Instead you have to remain in lockstep with pre-programmed songs and beats.

The Beatbuddy drum machine pedal has changed that, however, allowing musicians to engage intros, fills and rhythm changes as they see fit, with a simple tap of the foot. It’s like having a drummer who can read your mind and is completely at your own control—a concept never imagined possible until the Beatbuddy came along.

FEATURES Unlike a standard drum machine, which can be pretty intimidating to operate and program, the Beatbuddy is refreshingly simple and straightforward to use. The entire unit is housed in a pedal format that is slightly larger than a standard Boss- or Ibanez-style pedal. Front-panel controls consist of a master volume knob, a rotary drum-set selector and a tempo/pattern selector control. The latter two have push functions for engaging the selected kit or pattern. There are also four cursor controls that surround a tap-tempo switch. The large LCD display makes it easy to see vital info, such as style, pattern number, time signature, volume level and bpm (tempo).

The Beatbuddy pedal can be hooked up by itself to a mixer channel, or you can incorporate it into your guitar rig and send a blended signal to an amp or sound system. The pedal provides stereo inputs for the latter application as well as stereo outputs. A 1/4-inch jack for the optional Beatbuddy footswitch controller expands hands-free control of fills and patterns. There’s also an 1/8-inch headphone jack with its own volume control, a MIDI sync jack and a mini USB jack. All pertinent data is stored on an SD card, and the pedal ships with a 4GB SD card pre-loaded with a multitude of patterns in various musical styles plus 10 different drum kits.

PERFORMANCE The Beatbuddy differs from most drum machines in that it’s designed primarily for performance instead of programming beats. In addition to the excellent selection provided on the included SD card, a huge variety of rhythms are available for download using the free Beatbuddy Manager software. You can also program your own beats and songs using General MIDI files and create custom kits using WAV audio files.

Using Beatbuddy live couldn’t be any simpler. The first tap of the footswitch engages an intro and then the playback automatically switches to the first rhythm pattern. A second quick tap engages a fill, or if you hold down the footswitch a transition is engaged until the footswitch is released. When you want to end a song, a quick double tap engages an outro. The display is color coded, so you always know which mode is engaged: red for intro or outro, green for regular pattern, yellow for fill and grey for transition. A scrolling metronome even lets you keep track of the beats for each measure. Users can quickly navigate the menu to select new patterns, styles and kits for the next song.

The drum kits sound like real drums, and the patterns aren’t strictly quantized, so they have the flow and groove of an actual drummer instead of the lockstep precision of a machine. Best of all, Beatbuddy won’t eat the last slice of pizza, borrow money or hit on your girlfriend.

MANUFACTURER Singular Sound,

Provides hands-free control of intros, outros, patterns, fills and transitions with simple taps of the pedal’s footswitch.

The provided 4GB SD card comes with hundreds of patterns in a wide variety of styles, plus 10 drum kits.

THE BOTTOM LINE As the first drum machine that musicians can improvise with in live performance, Beatbuddy significantly opens up new creative possibilities for solo performers as well as practice and songwriting applications.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.