The Beat Buddy Mini is a pretty ingenious little device, containing what is essentially a drum machine in a standard size pedal. It comes pre-programmed with over 100 songs, in 24 different genres, on 9 different drum sets (according to the box). Each song has a couple parts to it – a one bar intro, a verse and a chorus beat (with a different fill for each), a one bar transition, and a one bar outro – which you can access using the single button on the pedal (tap once to start, once for a fill, hold to transition to the next part, double tap to end).
I’m gonna start with the shortcomings of the pedal, just to get it out of the way. I think the design and concept of the pedal is a great idea, and will be incredibly useful for a great number of needs – but some of the execution could use some work.
The first thing I noticed about the pedal is that the output is in mono. I suppose most live application is going to be in mono anyway, but if you were thinking otherwise, I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed. It includes an adapter for headphones to convert them to mono. The next obvious issue I discovered was the accent (accessible by a separate, not included momentary footswitch) – the accent switch plays a cymbal, all by itself, no kick drum, and the cymbal sample sounds TERRIBLE. Not just that it was an ugly cymbal to begin with, but it sounds like it’s just a low-res, low-sample rate degraded sound. I could really use a better sample, and to have a layered kick sample with it for some power.
The drums in general don’t sound too bad, but no one would mistake them for a real drummer sitting in the corner. I haven’t tried the full-size BeatBuddy, which boasts “professional-level sound quality”, so I can’t compare the two, but I imagine it must be a bit better. The 9 drum sets claim is a tiny bit misleading – although it is technically true, each kit is locked to the style of music it accompanies. I don’t think I would necessarily want to change any of their choices, but just be aware that if you wanted to hear the metal beats played on the jazz kit with brushes, you’re outta luck.
I’m also a bit stunned that it can’t be run on batteries. I’ll explain why further down, but I think of all the pedals I use, this one could use a battery box the most.
The BeatBuddy Mini is limited in comparison to the full-size one mainly in terms of the upgradability and customization options. There’s no slot for a card to upload more songs, no adding additional sounds or anything like that – it is what it is, and that’s that. Of course, it’s half the price of the deluxe model, so you can’t expect all the same functionality.
So who is the BBM going to be the most useful for? I think that’s a tough question, because it’s an unbelievably indispensable tool for a wide variety of musicians. The first to come to mind is the busker. Having a drummer in a pedal ups the quality of your subway performance immensely (except for the fact that BBM will NOT run on batteries – what? Why? I get that batteries are a pain in the ass and bad for the environment, but this is one place I think it needs it – street performers rarely have access to a power strip). Pair the BBM with the A Little Thunder pickup for some bass sounds on the fly, and you’ve got yourself a full backing band!
The second best use for this is going to be the practice room. Having a drummer to play with is generally a lot better than a metronome, and having a wide variation of styles to play with will invariably make your practice easier, more enjoyable, and more natural. Adding a looper pedal would make for an unstoppable combination- instant band. No more YouTube backing tracks – make your own endless jams.
Really, anyone can use the BeatBuddy Mini – rappers, cellists, glockenspiel-ists – the possibilities are endless. It’s strength lies in its simplicity and functionality, which renders most of my complaints about it sort of moot, and many of which would be solved by simply upgrading to the full-size BeatBuddy – but at the same time, I’m not sure I would need to. I like the idea of having instant drums, and I fear that I would get lost in the more powerful controls and programming and never actually use the thing for the aforementioned purposes.
In spite of this, here is a list of some things I would like to see added:
- every subgenre of metal (LOL)
- stereo output (even just a single stereo jack that could be split)
- battery compartment
- more than 5 songs per genre (could it really take that much space? It’s gotta be all MIDI files right? Those are tiny.)
- I’m no engineer, but I bet they could add a mini USB plug on the side so you can at least swap out songs to the internal memory. Like, the chances of me using the Marching genre are pretty close to zero, and I can think of some that would be much better uses of that space. I don’t think I’d need a whole Flash card worth of memory like the full size version, but just to be able to use what it has more effectively.
All in all, I think the BBM achieves it’s goal of being a stripped-down version of its older sibling, and as long as you get it with the understanding of its limitations, it can really benefit your musical experience in a great number of ways. Most of my complaints were nit-picking a bit, and the fact is that there is nothing else like it on the market. I think that the optional footswitch is really important for live use, as having access to accents and tap tempo is going to be very important to use it effectively and quickly.