Since the dawn of the 808, musicians have often had a love/hate relationship with drum machines. Plagued with complexities, difficult learning curve, poor dynamic range, and – yes – a high pricetag, drum machines have caused compromise for creativity to many consumers. BeatBuddy, designed by Singular Sound, is the first drum machine to be offered in a stomp-box pedal format. It is also one of the first products of its kind to be targeted towards the live performer. It enables hands-free live control over beats and grooves, creating what is essentially a live drummer in a compact package. Fills, transitions and accents are all possible in real-time.
Besides the pedal itself, the BeatBuddy ships with an instruction manual, power supply, USB cable, SD card loaded with 200 songs, and a dual-1/4” stereo patch cable for connecting the optional BeatBuddy extension footswitch – a two-button latching/momentary pedal for added control over accent hits, stopping/starting and pausing grooves. Parameters for the footswitch are also customizable via the BeatBuddy’s internal settings. On the outside, the BeatBuddy features stereo I/O connectivity, a 1/8” output and volume contol for headphones, a 1/4” input for the additional footswitch, and on the front panel: a tap tempo button, illuminated color display screen, and three rotary knobs for output volume, drum set selection, and tempo.
Out of the box, you have ten drum sets and 21 beat styles to work with, all of which feature fills and transitions. After selecting a song, drum set, and setting tempo, you’re ready to start! Tapping the BeatBuddy once starts the song, with a one-bar intro fill into the first groove. During the groove, you can punch in a fill at any time. Most often you will cycle through three different fills. Holding down the pedal transitions with a fill into the second groove, also with a cycle of three fills. Hold down the pedal again to transition back to the first groove. Tapping twice takes you to an outro fill.
The user-friendliness of the Beatbuddy is highlighted by its purpose to not be distracting during performance. All you have to do is remember a couple of stomp patterns, rather than have to tap dance around multiple functions. When I actually used it during a song, I didn’t feel pressured to be exact with a machine, as one might be with a time synched effect such as delay or tremolo — and especially so with a loop pedal. Since the pedal is keeping time, if your fill accent is not exactly on beat it will still come in on time. So, if you get a little lost in your own performance, the Beatbuddy won’t!
Customization of grooves and patches is integrated through the BeatBuddy Manager, available for download from BeatBuddy’s website, mybeatbuddy.com. There is an ever-expanding library of kits and grooves available for download. You can also import and export your own MIDI files, offering sharing capabilities over the BeatBuddy community of users.
BeatBuddy produces real drums by real drummers, tracked specifically for the BeatBuddy at Grooves Recording Studio in Miami, Florida. And although the drums are tracked to tempo, the samples are not quantized, providing a “human” feel to groove playback.
Gone are the impediments of tabletop drum machines with a slew of buttons that often result in programming stoical samples. Gone also are the obstacles that hinder being able to perform live with a machine. The BeatBuddy provides a user-friendly counterpart to our friendly neighborhood drumming friends – as a practice tool, a live beat, or an influence to your next creation.
Street price: $299
– Christian Ace