The BeatBuddy Mini is a compact drum machine that can sit on (or off) your pedal board and, perhaps more importantly, in-line with your pedalboard and amp (meaning you only need one amp). The BeatBuddy Mini also has an outboard footswitch for additional control. Despite its size, there’s a lot of functionality in this pedal.
Three things to note about the BeatBuddy Mini: First, when strapped into my signal chain, I didn’t notice any degradation of my tone, so use without fear. Second, the pedal has its own independent output; when cranked, it was able to compete with my guitar’s signal at its loudest (overdrive boosted by fuzz). Third, cranking the BeatBuddy often meant cranking the kick drum, and I was a little worried about how much low end I was pumping through my guitar rig, so crank with caution.
But the BeatBuddy doesn’t just provide kick drum; in some settings, such as “Mambo,” it eschews a drum kit entirely and switches to a percussion ensemble. And that’s really the BeatBuddy’s greatest strength—the amount of diversity it offers.
In addition to the Volume knob, a second knob allows you to select from 24 different genres, which determine the type of beat. As you might imagine, this variety covers a lot of ground. But push down on the button and you can scroll through five variations in each genre. Most are unimaginatively titled (“Punk” 1–5), but some are pretty descriptive, like “Batukada.” Some are pretty repetitive (see “Punk” 1–4), but others offer a fair amount of diversity (such as the “Jazz” subsets and “Punk 5”). Allow me to do the math for you: that’s 120 different rhythms, ranging from the obvious (“Blues,” “Country,” “Funk,” “Hip Hop,” “Jazz,” “Metal,” “Oldies,” “Punk,” “R&B,” “Reggae,” “Rock,” “Techno”) to the. . .less so (“Brazil,” “Brushes,” “DnB” [Drum ‘n’ Bass], “Mambo,” “Marching” and “Odd Time”). Click the knob again and you can change the tempo.
I was surprised by how easy it is to use the BeatBuddy—tap the switch once for a cymbal crash, hold it down for a fill that transitions into a chorus, hold it down again to transition back, and give it a double tap to bring the entire beat to an end with a fill. That may sounds complicated, but if you consider that you get a fill before a chorus, you can begin the transition and still hit, say, your overdrive pedal, in time. Put it another way: If I can do it, you can do it.
Of course, that assumes you even want to use the BeatBuddy for accompaniment. The tones are perfectly fine for practice (or busking), but they probably won’t beat your favorite plugins, and if the BeatBuddy sounds better than your actual drummer, then you’ve got a problem. What I really liked about the BeatBuddy Mini was the way it allowed me to leave my comfort zone: selecting the 5/8 time signature under the “Odd Time” setting immediately inspired me to come up with an unusual (for me) riff. Ditto one of the deeper “Jazz” settings. It would be easy—and fun—to just sit down and play along with the BeatBuddy and challenge myself to write along to different beats outside my wheelhouse. Also, although my time is quite good (he wrote modestly), as is my drummer’s, accompanying an inhumanly steady beat provides a different experience for a player, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed just syncing up my own playing with the BeatBuddy’s precise tempos.
At $150, there’s a lot of bang for the buck in here, so if you could use an accompanist at home—or just want to stretch your playing a bit--the BeatBuddy Mini could be your, uh, buddy.
What we like:
A lot of variety at a reasonable price.
None, but sound quality isn’t great, and the need to scroll and select makes the BeatBuddy Mini a little cumbersome for live use.