Tuesday, 30 May 2017

BeatBuddy in smaller worship settings - Review

Help - one of my drummers is missing!

I'm fortunate to be part of a larger church with a number of very gifted musicians - but many are University students and so aren't always around. I also play at smaller events where I may be playing alone or with another one or two people. Recently, two drummers moved away to new jobs. Simultaneously we had a Spring and Summer without a number of other regular drummers - with people being away, busy or unable to play every week.

What was the solution to our beats problem? One student leading worship used our kick drum with the pedal to drive the songs during a recent worship time - with another student playing foot tambourine mic'd up (with a condenser above his foot and a ton of reverb on the channel).

A friend at a church near me started using the BeatBuddy pedal over a year ago for worship. The church is smaller and their drummer isn't always available. The solution is the BeatBuddy which is a bit like having a drummer contained within a foot pedal (and additional footswitch if wanted).

The BeatBuddy - https://singularsound.com

The BeatBuddy (BB) uses recorded and real drums and these are stored on an SD card provided. The one provided is 4GB but others have successfully used up to 32GB cards. The BB comes with a ton of presets within folders in various genres such as Blues, Funk, Rock, Techno etc. So within each of the presets (for example 'Blues') you will have a number of different beats - usually around eight. You select one of these and then you can play back that beat. Navigation is fairly simple clicking the arrows on the pedal.

The BB sounds very good without any mods and therefore can easily used 'out of the box' as soon as you receive it. You also have a BeatBuddy Editor (Mac or PC) which can be downloaded from the BB website (singularsound.com) and this allows you to do various things such as modify the beats, create new folders (effectively acting as Set Lists) and even import other beats created via any MIDI editor (click for a link to the BB forum explaining how to do this). This means you can use MIDI files out there (or create your own) to play back specific songs. You can also buy new kits (and new songs) from the BB website.

The Basics

The basics are this: to start the beat, you click the pedal once. Unless removed via the software, the BB plays an intro of 1 bar. It then automatically plays back the first beat. To use a fill, you click the pedal again. There can be 2-3 fills in-built (you can change / add this via the Mac / PC editing programme). If you hold down the pedal it plays the transition. When you let go of the pedal, it automatically goes into the second part of the song. A double-tap leads to the outro, usually of 1 bar.

So the pedal has essentially 6 parts:

1. Intro
2. Part 1 of 2 of the main beat
3. Fills
4. Transition
5. Part 2 of 2 of the main beat
6. Outro

Drum Kits

The other thing to note is that you have a list of genres - Oldies, Pop, Punk, World etc. When you select the patterns within those genres / folders, you can also amend the drum sounds within the pedal directly but only temporarily (at least that's what I've found).

For example, if I'm using the 'Rock' kits, when you select on an individual pattern, you'll see that there will be a 'drum set' shown not he screen. In the rock kit, the drum set is the rock drum set. But you can change that, so you play back say the Rock 1 pattern, but with another drum set (for example the brushes kit).

Going away from that and returning to the Rock 1 pattern, you'll find that the drum set has gone back to the rock set. But if you then go to the software and copy the Rock 1 kit into a new folder, you will have the option of saving the Rock 1 pattern with another drum set. Once you synchronise with the BB pedal itself, this will be available as one of the 'folders', alongside the existing folders.


Onto the actual drum patterns. There are a range of patterns which should cover various types of songs and genres. Admittedly as ever with all products, there are some that you won't ever use but they are there for your help. There are some varied time signatures as well - the usual 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 but also others like 12/8 and more - many found within the 'Odd time' folder. There are also beats with a swing timing as well.


There is an option of an external footswitch. At the moment, the BB firmware allows for only 2 assignments on an external pedal. By clicking down the Drum set and Tempo buttons, you go into a settings menu which allows you to define an external footswitch if needed. You can also select what action you want an external footswitch to do - for example tap tempo, move to another song etc.

The default action for the left switch of a footswitch is an accent (again what the accent is can be changed within the BB software on Mac or PC). So in a song, you can click for an accent such as a cymbal crash at the start of a section etc.

There are two options for footswitch selections for when the BB pedal is stopped - so you can assign the left switch to one thing and the right switch to another thing. You also have two selections for what you want the footswitch to do when the BB is playing - so my right switch is set to end a song - as it can be a bit tricky to double-click to end a song (you can easily end up doing a fill instead etc).

Worship That Flows

OK, so one area that you'll need to think ver carefully about is the flow in worship. As a worship leader, this is an essential part of leading people - making them feel at ease and transitioning between songs naturally. We have extended times of worship at every service and ministry at the end, so flow is important so as not to break the Holy Spirit working through worship. The same is true of anyone leading a service - sensitivity to people and especially to God is a pre-requisite. Without this, your service will break down into a series of songs! Nooooo!!

The BB needs to be used sparingly therefore - and likely in combination with a keyboard player or with pads, so these can give time to load up the next song on the BB.

The other thing you will need to consider is getting rid of intros and outros on the BB. Sometimes they're quite distracting as often we'll have a click into a track - or have just the acoustic start a song and the drums build. This is much harder to do on the BB, without using a metronome / click. So just be aware that your worship leading practice and skills will need to consider new elements if you use the BB.

Other Downsides?

The downside is that you can't individually assign 3 actions. I have the Digitech FS3X footswitch which has three switches on it. The third one simply does what the first two individually do, but together). So if the left switch is set up to do an accent and the second one is set up to tap tempo, clicking a 3rd switch will accent and tap tempo.

Presumably there are only 2 options because the BB external footswitch only has 2 switches. But this should be extended to 3 options in my opinion - or more. Now, you can set up more using MIDI but the trouble with MIDI footswitches is that they tend to be very large (for example having 8 assignments). On smaller stages this is impractical, especially if you're using other pedals - for guitar / vocal effects / triggering samples / using OnSong etc.

There is a mod called the 'Norbert Hack' which involves voiding the warranty - by drilling another hole into the pedal, soldering onto one of the diodes inside and opening up the option for a 3rd switch to be used with the pedal. You can find this mod here - http://forum.mybeatbuddy.com/index.php?threads/norberts-beatbuddy-hardware-hack.2109/

One other downside I've found is that the crashes on the Rock Kit are way too loud relatively!

Worship Songs

So what have I used / what do I suggest? Here is a very brief list, partly taken from the BeatBuddy forum, partly from the list on Singular Sound and partly from my currently limited experience..! These will just give examples of what to use. Note these are all beats already on the BB.

10,000 Reasons - Matt Redman: Blues2. Tempo 81bpm.

Be Thou My Vision (3/4): - Odd Time 4 (6/8 sounds like 3/4) at 90bpm.

Be Thou My Vision (4/4): Country 5. Tempo 100bpm or in and around that tempo.

Cornerstone - Hillsong: Funk 4 with Brushes drum set. Original tempo is 71.5. I've got at 74bpm.

Forever (Give Thanks To the Lord ) - Chris Tomlin: Pop12. Tempo 118bpm

Guardian - Ben Cantelon: Techno 4 with standard kit. 106bpm

Here For You - Passion / Matt Redman etc: Funk 3. Tempo 85bpm or around that.

How Great Thou Art: Brushes 1 at around 110bpm for a driving kind of rhythm

This Is Amazing Grace - Jeremy Riddle / Phil Wickham: Rock9 at 100pm is one possibility (use the standard kit if the ride is overpowering).

Can also be done with Country 8 as per suggestion on forum. 106bpm.

They also suggest Techno 1 with Rock kit which gives it a more driving sound. I also replaced the first transition in Techno 1 with the transition from Techno 4 (Fill 13) as the Techno 1 transition is a bit over the top. I further replaced the excessive outro with the same fill as the intro. 106bpm.

We Have Come - United Pursuit: Techno 2 with brushes drum set. 87bpm.

In general you can find a good beat within the Blues 1-2, Brushes, Rock (loud cymbals), Funk, Pop and by slowing down Drum & Bass.


The BB is a brilliant bit of kit. It can also link via MIDI into OnSong which is incredibly useful albeit slightly complex to set up.

The ability to have basic drums in a pedal is fantastic. The capacity to then amend within the software, create your own set lists and import MIDI signals to use with the BB kits is exactly what's needed. You can also purchase excellent other drum sets and songs from the online store.

The one thing that is missing is the ability to customise a bit more within the software / firmware and the limit of only 2 foot switches. Aside from that it's a great tool.

Just be aware that you need to practice your stomps and you need to create set lists beforehand for individual songs. In this way your worship will be enhanced on the songs you choose to use kits. Just keep things varied and creative - the same songs with the same drum patterns can become a bit monochrome. So a few changes here and there will enhance and enrich worship!

*Note I have no affiliation with BB or Singular Sound and bought this pedal myself.

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