Why use BB instead of a JamMan (etc) Looper and free backing tracks?

I’m new to the BB concept. I just learned about you on a Facebook thread. So here I am.

I’ve played music professionally and as a hobby for over 40 years. I have 2 shows that are different from each other that I can do as a solo player. One is a blues show, and I sing a mixture of blues covers and original blues songs. I also do another type of show where I can do all straight ahead jazz standards (All of Me, Satin Doll, Green Dolphin Street, etc).

I use studio recorded backing tracks and a Digitech JamMan looper pedal. I have 2 x micro SD cards for the JamMan. One is loaded with about 70 blues backing tracks or all different keys and tempos. All of my blues backing tracvks were free and copyright free, downloaded from an older University of Iowa music department web site. The instrumentation is electric (sometimes upright) bass, drums, sometimes rhythm guitar, and sometimes either piano or hammond organ depending on the track.

The other micro SD card is loaded with about 70 studio recorded backing tracks of a jazz combo doing jazz standards. The jazz tracks were taken from Jamey Aebersold playalong CDs (copyrights paid at purchasing the CDs…), and transferred to the JamMan using the free Digitech JamManager software. (The same way I also transferred the blues tracks…). That software transfers the WAV or MP3 on your computer or laptop to a loop on the JamMan. The loops are then assignable and can be called up using a Digitech FS3X footswitch.

With the JamMan Solo XT Looper pedal, and the micro SD cards, I have hours and hours of music. I can play two completely different shows, and then only repeat certain songs at my discretion by using the footswitch to call up the preset loops (i.e. the installed backing tracks from the micro SD card).

Downloading the free blues backing tracks only took my time. I’m not sure how many of the jazz CDs I have to make up 70 songs. Less than ten I think. Then there was some fiddling around time to get the Digitech JamManager software to put the backing tracks onto the micro SD cards.

For an amp I use a Roland Cube Street EX (the 50 watt version of the Cube Street amp…). It has 2 channels, one is specified more for a microphone but will also take instruments. The second channel has some Roland modeling (which isn’t that great) but has a chorus effect to die for, LOL. There is also a separate line with its own volume control in I can use to come straight off the JamMan. The Cube Street EX is a very light 22lbs., and has a speaker stand mounting hole at one end. That makes it nice to sit it up next to my chair so I can reach the knobs and don’t need to stoop over to the floor for controlling the amp.

I have a small pedal board that I Velcro the JamMan on to, along with some other favorite pedals. I have a pedal tuner, a couple different over drives, a delay, and depending on my mood, I swap in other pedals of different flavors such as phasers, flangers, chorus, etc, etc. It all packs up pretty quick and is very portable. And I can create quite a bit of sound with that small 50 watt amp. It works as both amplifier and stage monitor at the same time, so that is all I carry for a guitar amp and a P.A. Plus, restaurants love me because I only take up a very small space in the corner somewhere. Whereas other solo guys I’ve seen take up an incredible amount of table space. In the restaurants, if they can fit in another table full of people, that means more revenues for them for the night.

Sooooooo… all that said and now you can see what gear I use and some of the ways I use it, how could I implement a BeatBuddy to my act? I have most of the regular instruments covered (including drums) with my backing tracks. But I can envision a few new songs or some different material that is more drum or percussion based (enter a Santana moment… haha).

So, like I said, I am new to BB… and some of you folks have been with it for some time… What do you think, pro or con… is it something I would use and get enough use out of for the money it costs to buy one plus the time it takes to learn how to master one… or should I pass and just keep doing the backing tracks thing?


Backing tracks have become a little cheesy…well they always were.With this you have authentic drum kits easy ability to manipulate the songs to suit live performances and your own arrangements of covers or originals.I cant find one negative thing on the internet written about this pedal its incredible.Usually I search and if say 80% good reviews I get it this was 100% and I wasnt dissapointed.The ability also to buy albums with beats and drum kits that are incredible.Drum Kits like Ludwig Vintage for that beautiful deep sound ala Fleetwood Mac.The beauty for me the awesome recorded drum kits and the of course the beats that you can manipulate at will via the midi editor.It was all a bit daunting at first as Id never done the midi editor thing before but theres plenty of help on the forum and after a month or so things will start to make sense if you’re new to editor cut and pasting parts of songs to suit.Example my trio do covers but we put our own slant on them so I edit the beats and kits accordingly.
Go for it buy it

Thanks for the input Anthony. I agree that some backing tracks are cheesy. The ones that are the cheesiest and stale, almost monotone and emotionless are usually the ones created by MIDI instruments and some type of computer or synthesizer generated sound modules. I never liked MIDI music all the way back to when it first hit the scene in the 1980s. The sound modules synthesizers used whether it be Korg, Yamaha, Roland, etc, etc always sounded like computers. Some came close, but still not the real thimg. Then synthesizer technology started including real recorded samples, and the synthesized instruments took a turn for the better.

All 140 or so of my backing tracks are recordings of real musicians playing in the studio. The blues tracks I have were recorded by the University of Iowa’s music department. They aren’t labeled by any specific blues standard, there are simply all types of tempos, in many different keys, and many different rhythm patterns. The jazz tracks I have are also recordings of real musicians playing the changes to jazz standards. None of what I have are the cheesy type, because I specifically searched for real recordings and not MIDI created instrumentation.

I did not know BeatBuddy used real recording samples. Many drum machines use synthesized MIDI instruments that sound close but always seem to have a distinguishable something about them that sounds fake. Phil Collins comes to mind as an artist that utilized a ton of MIDI instrumentation in his music in the 1980s. He was very popular, and sold tons of records, but I never liked the fake sound of the instruments he used and I was never a fan.

I have upwards of 11,000 backing tracks on my home computer. At one time when I realized what I could do with backing tracks and a looper pedal, I was on a quest of sorts to see just how many were out on the Internet. For sure, the number is nearly limitless. And 90%+ of it is free. There are some places that sell backing tracks but you have to hear them first. They might promise the world to justify the sale, but they can wind up being MIDI generated gleep-glorp-goop. There is s huge difference between the MIDI generated ones and the ones recorded in a studio. That 11,000 also only included musical styles I was interested in, mostly just blues, rock and jazz.

I also play music at church and the Facebook post that brought me here was talking about using a BB for Praise and Worship music. I thought I would be slick and post about how easy it was to find contemporary Christian music backing tracks. I was astounded to see that there is very little if any CCM tracks for free anywhere (at least in a few brief Google searchings). It seems the CCM industry likes their copyrights and loves its money (evidently). You have to buy most any kind of CCM backing tracks for ridiculous amounts of money. I assume this is where the churches are also getting the chord charts for the songs. I have played for 2 major Mega churches, and they both had the same type of PDF chord charts, which in my opinion were crap. I would create my own charts with the correct chords over the syllable of the words as they were sung on the recordings. I was astounded to see that a lot of the chord charts in the (what is it called “CCLI” copyright domain thing for CCM music…) are completely terrible. A lot of times they will write out one verse, give you the chords sort of close to where they belong in the verse, then for the next verse you are on your own.

I teach guitar as well as play, and I also show my students how to make correct lead sheets for any song they want to learn. The creation of the lead sheets starts the learning process for the song, and by the time they have made a lead sheet, using just the lyrics and chord symbols, they have started to memorize the song from start to finish as well. I have them do this because (say) in 5 years time they want to come back and relearn a song they had made a lead sheet for, they won’y have to do the same thing again, plus the notation used to create the lead sheet is common to all my type of lead sheets, and it causes a memory spot making it easy to remember what you did way back when by looking at the lead sheet years from now.

Another thing I tell my students the lead sheets are good for, is that they make it possible to get any musical group up and running a lot faster. If one guy brings all the lyrics and chords, all the musicians need to do is take a look, follow a long, and if they are even half way competent on their instrument, they can follow simple chord names. Even if the song has complicated chords, there are only 3 chord categories in life… Major, Minor and Dominant 7th… every chord of the billions available fit into one of those categories. So, if it says “Am7b5” to make it basic and doable at first you can just do an Am.

Back to the Praise and Worship thing… they are asking ridiculous prices per song for their tracks. Then they are charging per song and per PDF for the crappy chord charts. I saw prices anywhere from $2/song for the tracks, to $10/song for the same song on other pages. This is an industry in love with money. Unless of course you want the old fashioned pipe organ and Hymnal kind of music… there was a TON of those types of tracks for free. But as far as Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, etc, etc, stuff contemporary churches use to add music to their worship services… plan on shelling out huge amounts of cash, and buyer beware of the icky chord charts. I have this vision of Jesus chasing out the money changers in the temple…

So, I write my own worship and Christian songs. And for now and for as long as I breathe, ALL of my music will be free to be used in any church anywhere on the planet. But I am just a Joe Nobody. I don’t have a muti-billion dollar CCM industry behind me to promote my stuff. I don’t think I would even want to be involved with an industry so cloven to the love of money. I had never given any thought to it, and have sang all of these Hillsong, Tomlin, Redman, etc, etc songs in church for years. I had no idea how far dug in that industry had become in charging churches for the copyright fees to play those songs. There is just something not right about that, when we are serving God, encouraged to give of our time (for free) at the churches to help out… but then someone somewhere has to stop and have respect of persons, in that only the copyright owners of these songs can use them in church services? Only man could invent such a thing.

I think it was the backing track site that had them at ten bucks each song for CCM songs that got me going. BY the time their CD is in the bargain bin, you can buy the entire CD for less than ten bucks.

So as far as using backing tracks for Praise and Worship, it has a huge cost. Only the rich need apply. The poor could not possibly afford to pay ten bucks per song for backing tracks just to buy some rich CCM musicians next yacht. In some ways it is a pathetic culture we live in… one of the richest anywhere in the world, and one of the greediest and most selfish anywhere on the planet at the same time.

Let me compare…

I have a friend who lives in India. He has been in the ministry for 28 years. He has pioneered 34 churches almost single-handedly with no help from some major mega church in the US (etc). He has also founded a Bible college. He is graduating ministers from the college that go into the ministry and in the places where they preach they do not eat because the countryside is so poor. They go without eating to serve God. This is the same world we live in, but in a different place on the globe. For that same ten bucks my friend could feed dozens of people. Or he could get Bibles into the hands of many in their own native language of Hindi or perhaps Telegu.

I was sending my friend Bibles in the native to his region Telegu language on PDF format. After I had sent him several different ones, he wrote me back and told me that where he lives it is very poor, and that 95% of the people do not own or have access to computers.

I am certain CCM has had an enormous impact in helping get the Word out to the world for Jesus. But they have created their own limitations by installing such strict copyright inclusions and demanding such ridiculous fees for their tracks. It is so tightly grasped by the throat for money, it seems like they are strangling themselves. If these things could but set loose and set free to be used by anyone anywhere without the ridiculous charges, how much more could be done for God? But the sad thing is, they seemingly think they can sell their version of God. I hate to break it to them but God is not for sale. God isn’t just the God of the Capitalists, he is the Savior of the entire world, of people who live under every government type. Capitalists understand selling CDs and controlling profits with copyright laws. A lot of the CCM industry folks are very good Capitalists.

I’m sorry, but if one of these CCM musicians came to my church, I wouldn’t dote on him or her anymore or treat them any different than old uncle Joe who comes and plunks on the piano and has what might be said by some not much talent at all. But I know uncle Joe loves Jesus with all his heart. As in the Bible, if two come to our house for dinner, one being a poor person dressed in poor clothes, and one who is rich in fancy clothes, it is a sin to treat the one above the other. (James 2:9). Wow, James has a lot to say about this kind of stuff.

James 2:6 “But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?”…

Wow, you mean like the fear of being dragged into court for not paying copyright fees for religious music? Hmmmmm

Makes one stop and think about the real motives behind the ridiculous fees and such. And that seems to be it, dishonoring the poor by making it so difficult to get to use the music.

Maybe we don’t need the CCM artist’s music?

Where is it written that we must pledge alliance to the flag of the Hillsong Tomlin Redman etc etc Contemporary Christian Kingdom of the World??

OK< so the BB has true drums inside… and I am a one man solo act. What then do I do for bass and/or any other instruments? I’m thinking a drum machine and a single electric guitar is gonna be kinda cheesy, too… Id there a way to add bass parts to BB?

You really need to spend some more time browsing thru the Resources section as it’s chock full of song’s with bass, keys, horns and things. Check out rhe Resources and the drum kits sub-section. There’s something here to float everyone’s boat :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah, I guess… this is like I’m into even knowing about BeatBuddy for less than 48 hours… never heard of this thing before… so what it can and can’t do is a learning experience.

OK< so… checked out resources… and all I find is cheesy sounding, unrealistic computer generated, MIDI manufactured backing tracks… they sound like the music tracks from the original 1980s Nintendo console… ewwwwww… if you had actually read my post I don’t use icky sounding stuff like that in my sets. I have backing tracks that are actual instruments recorded in a studio.

I guess the MIDI stuff might be dependent on a decent MIDI sound module to play the MIDI files through, not the Windows/desktop sound card generated goop I am hearing when I click on the MIDI sound file to review it… So, I assume you have to buy a decent MIDI sound module to use the MIDI tracks… (???) Either that or they just plain sound cheap and cheesy and that’s that. Right now the resources section does me no good whatsoever. I have (if you had read my post) 11,000 backing tracks. I don’t need any more songs or resources. Of the 11,000 I have, some are great and are made with real instruments in a recording studio, some are “ok” or good and still recordings not MIDI files, some are medium and are MIDI files, and some are poor. The poor ones are generally MIDI files that when played back through the Windows media player sound like a 1980s Ninitendo game console. Plus, there is little to no dynamic “human” feeling to the MIDI stuff. Humans play with dynamics, feel, and emotions, whereas computers blare goop into your ears in monotone, basically all the same volume all the time. That gets irritating to listen to live, and isn’t anything I would sit down in front of other humans to play.

I think maybe for a combo that is trying to replace a drummer or add a drummer to something that there is no drummer in… BB might be the ticket.

I still don’t see an advantage over quality, studio recorded backing tracks. Everything I have and use is studio recorded minus the electric guitar and lead vocals.

BB seems to be a cool product and does cool stuff in a small package… but I don’t think its for me.

You’re right its probs not for you

Hey Jam Handy,
The beat buddy isn’t really a backing track device, although some people do use it that way to a degree. It’s meant to be used like an instrument or loop pedal; just something else you play while jamming guitar and it feel and sound like a natural accompaniment. Drum beats are broken down to intros, outros, parts and fills and controlled by you. With a little skill, you can make this a fluid and dynamic part of your live performance. I use it in quite a minimalist way, often removing hi-hats and sticking with some Cajon beats just to fill out my sound.

Personally I dislike backing tracks; I watch musical performances because I admire talent, skill and creativity. Listening to someone jam or sing over a backing track does very little for me; it’s pretty much Karaoke. I’d rather just listen to a CD than someone emulate it. But if you’re into that kind of sound, then yeah maybe the Beat Buddy wouldn’t suit your style.

I also agree that it’s probably not for you.
…about the “cheesy sound”, it’s not the BB. The BB takes the midi timing data (which your computer would pipe the “Nintendo” sounds) and plays WAV drum samples to it and the samples are non quantized so it sounds very natural.
As far as Worship goes, it would be a better fit for a church with a band that has no drummer.
What makes me love the BB is:

  1. ease of use: I was comfortable with it in about 10 minutes.
  2. easy of programming: the manager software makes it drag and drop simple
  3. Sound: 24 bit engine is better than CD quality and the recorded samples are gorgeous.

I totally get @Jam Handy 's complaint about the cheesy-ness of what we have on the Resources section. I, unfortunately, am a creator of some of that. Generally, we take existing midi files, and then convert them to a single track that can fit some mapping scheme we have devised for the BB. So, of course, they will sounds like cheesy 80’s midi tracks. Many of them ARE cheesy 80s or 90s midi tracks. What I love about the BB is that I can have a machine that plays back some version of backing tracks in a foot pedal format, AND, I can also program it to be able to play tracks that are flexible enough to not be stuck with one set arrangement. I can go through a jam loop as many times as I wish, then go to an outro. I like that. Maybe I could do that with a newer JamMan. I couldn’t do it with a Gen 1 JamMan, and I couldn’t do it with the GNX4 JamMan feature.

And, I also get that there exists a contingent of users who want to use the BB only for its drumming capabilities, and that is awesome as well. It is a very realistic sounding drummer.

On the other hand, I have seen several requests for a device with the functionality of the Beat Buddy but which uses wav or mp3 files for playback. If @Jam Handy has come up with a way of pulling that off with a JamMan, my hat is off to him, and I think he really has something going there. If he would be so kind as to share his methodology and set up, I’d be very interested in seeing what he has.

" I use studio recorded backing tracks and a Digitech JamMan looper pedal. I have 2 x micro SD cards for the JamMan. One is loaded with about 70 blues backing tracks or all different keys and tempos. All of my blues backing tracvks were free and copyright free, downloaded from an older University of Iowa music department web site. The instrumentation is electric (sometimes upright) bass, drums, sometimes rhythm guitar, and sometimes either piano or hammond organ depending on the track.

The other micro SD card is loaded with about 70 studio recorded backing tracks of a jazz combo doing jazz standards. The jazz tracks were taken from Jamey Aebersold playalong CDs (copyrights paid at purchasing the CDs…), and transferred to the JamMan using the free Digitech JamManager software. (The same way I also transferred the blues tracks…). That software transfers the WAV or MP3 on your computer or laptop to a loop on the JamMan. The loops are then assignable and can be called up using a Digitech FS3X footswitch."

@Jam Handy[/USER] I am currently going through the same question. I’ve been working with my Beat Buddy now for some months. [USER=6180]@Phil Flood[/USER] and [USER=2327]@persist have been SUPER HELPFUL with all my questions, but I’m wondering if my style is more to just use MP3s at this point because I don’t currently do any improvisation with my tracks. I just play the whole track.

I’ll of course keep the Beat Buddy around for when I DO want to start improvising, but for now maybe I just need an MP3 player??? :confused:

I also like that the Beat Buddy has midi in/out for syncing to effects and a looper etc… The Jam Man does not have that. This is especially useful when using delay.

My question for @Jam Handy is how do you read what song you are on with the Jam Man? The Beat Buddy has a really nice screen to show you which song you’re on.


Hi @Jam Handy . I agree with all comments on here and this conversation really gets to the heart of what we are all trying to achieve as solo / duo / drummer less / artists.

Firstly I’m not a huge fan of backing tracks, no matter how well they are recorded. They may very well suit what you are doing with your restaurant gigs but from an audience perspective its not that entertaining, unless of course you are a world class vocalist and can take everyone’s attention away from whats happening in the background. It is called “live music” for a reason. Sorry.

I also agree with what you said about the material in the resources section (no disrespect to anyone). I think a lot of those tracks are great for jamming and practicing to but I wouldn’t be happy using the the midi bass tracks live.

I think the important thing to get is that when we play solo (or in a duo), we are not supposed to sound like a band. If the booker of the gig expects a band they should hire a band! I really believe that a small production should sound small, or at least different to a band. That doesn’t mean we cant be interesting.

Even using a drum machine live may be a step too close to Karaoke world. I’ve been trying to get away from using real drum kits sounds to lessen the obvious fact the budget didn’t stretch enough to hire a drummer. Also, Im not a huge fan of acoustic drum kits paired with acoustic guitars. To me that combination highlights the fact that the bass is missing. I’ve recently been experimented with using some of the percussive kits and particularly like a kit called “Ben Cajon Kit” which can be found in the resources section (when they get their website working again). I midi sync the Beatbuddy up to Pigtronix Infinity Looper, programming simple midi drum beats and layering acoustic guitars. It took me a while to put this all together but I have now performed a dozen or so shows this way and I think I am on to a winner.

So to answer your question, the Beatbuddy wont replace your backing tracks. But it can open up new ways to perform and allow you a significant amount of control over the arrangements. It makes a powerful combination with a looper. But if you’re happy with what you are doing, and you are getting all the bookings you want, why worry. if it aint broke dont fix it.

The other thing you could do is do both. Perform your simple songs with some really simple beats, (sometimes I only use a kick drum accompaniment). And do your bigger stuff later in the evening.

Anyway, good luck with the journey.

Some interesting points johnnyrock. Many of us who do either a solo or duo act, struggle with trying to cover all the bases (rhythm, lead and bass) without it seeming canned. I find the BeatBuddy drums to be one of the least intrusive in that regard, but not on every song. When I use the BeatBuddy, the crowd can see me hitting the pedal for accents and transitions, which I believe adds to the vision in the audiences mind that it is an instrument I am playing in its own right.

When I joined my current group, we had a lead guitarist, a former mandolin player who had switched to ukulele but who could carry a great rhythm with his mandolin chop style, and me playing bass. It was a good balanced sound when the lead guitarist didn’t over play ( a well known temptation of both lead guitarists and bass players ). Since losing our ukulele player, I switched to rhythm guitar to fill the rhythm section, but not having a bass player now, really leaves a hole in the sound. Occasionally we have a sit-in bass player, and I really notice how much better it sounds. I’ve considered going back to base with the Beatbuddy for rhythm. So far, I’ve been too lazy to learn to program bass into the BeatBuddy. Of course, some of the creator content in the resources section are great if they fit your needs.

Fast Heart Mart - my Jamman Solo only only has a digital readout number for what song you are on, so you somehow have to have a list written down to refer to.

Really well put,