Archive for January, 2014

The BeatBuddy Is Truly Amazing!


Quick note: You can still get a BeatBuddy for $199 if you join the crowdsource campaign by February 4. After that the unit will retail at $399. For more information, go to mybeatbuddy.com.

I introduced the BeatBuddy drum machine pedal several weeks ago and have provided regular updates on this incredible device that I believe will completely shake up the market once its released and people have started using it. Originally, I didn’t pay too much attention to its extraneous features other than the MIDI sync – I want to use it with a sync-able looper – but when considering all the features that come with the pedal itself, it’s more of a drum machine “system” than just something you plop on your board. You can certainly do that, and admittedly, once I get mine, I’ll forgo all the peripheral stuff and just gig with it.

But once the dust settles from my excitement about this new toy, I’ll turn to the system management stuff. For instance, the BeatBuddy comes with PC and Mac software that provide you with the capability to manage practically everything in the device. You can create folders, song lists, and even add and edit entire songs! Check this demonstration out:

For my solo gigs, I can see setting up a folder with 5 or 6 songs set up specifically for the tunes I play in my gigs. With the optional foot switch controller, it’ll be easy to choose the song I need, then just go to town. But if I have special requirements (like for my own songs that I perform), I can use the software to create a custom song, then store that in the list as well. I can even add my own 16- or 24-bit WAV content myself! So the BeatBuddy isn’t just some single-dimensional drum machine playback device; it’s a full-on system that will change the way you approach your performances.

I was just thinking that I could use the BeatBuddy with my church band when we don’t have a drummer. Now THAT would be totally awesome. It would be a bit tricky to train all the musicians to follow the BeatBuddy, but I think with practice, we’ll be able to really rock it up!

Here’s another instructional video the BeatBuddy guys put together to demonstrate how you use the unit and navigate through its menus, plus using a dual foot switch for added control. This thing is absolutely easy to use!!!

To follow and get regular YouTube updates, go to the MyBeatBuddy YouTube page.

As I alluded to above, I think the BeatBuddy is going to turn the market on its ear. How it didn’t win a NAMM “Best In Show” award is beyond me. But looking at the list, it’s mainly mainstream manufacturers and some obscure ones. That’s too bad, because if this unit gets into big box retail stores, it’ll sell like hotcakes; of that I have no doubt. Everyone I’ve been talking to about this unit wants one. Oh well… maybe they’ll get the award next year.

In any case, if this is your first time hearing about this amazing device/system, check out their site at http://mybeatbuddy.com!

And just to be clear, I’m not at all affiliated with the BeatBuddy guys, but the BeatBuddy holds so much promise for me that I can’t help sharing my excitement!

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4.75 Tone Bones - Almost perfect but not quite


Polarity J3

Summary: Made out of one of the hardest woods in nature, the Polarity J3 pick produces a warm, but also “spanky” tone that is perfect for leads.

Pros: I’m a big fan of natural materials for plectrums, and the J3 doesn’t disappoint with its feel in the hand. Natural materials also tend to not squeak when striking a vibrating string. As far as sound is concerned, I dig the sound that this pick produces – A LOT!

Cons: My only concern with this pick is its lifetime. I took the picture I supplied to the left after playing with the pick for about an hour on various guitars, strumming and playing solos. If you click on it, you can see where some of the Carnuba wax has already started wearing away, so I’m not sure just how long the pick will last. However, I’ll have a better idea after I gig with it this coming weekend and will post a follow-up article. NOTE: This is a fairly small nit because I only put a few hours of playing on it, and note that the only wear was the wax coating. The wood itself didn’t have any wear on it.

Price: $29.00 ea


  • 1.3 millimeters thick
  • 7/8″ wide X 1″ long
  • Handmade
  • Magnetic

Tone Bone Rating: 4.75 – If I didn’t have the initial concern that this pick might have a short lifetime, I’d give the pick a 5 Tone Bones as it plays and feels and most importantly, sounds great.

As with most gear I write about, how good it feels, plays, and sounds is a matter of personal preference. That also affects what I’d be willing to pay for gear as well. So based upon my initial experience with the Polarity J3 pick, though the pick is on the pricey side, I’d make an investment in it just the same. It plays and feels and sounds fantastic. Is it something I’d use for general use? Probably not, simply because despite the wood being extremely hard, it’s still wood, and will most probably wear at a quicker rate than harder materials. I certainly wouldn’t use it for rhythm playing with a Strat that has vintage-style pickups with the poles that protrude. I nicked several Red Bear picks on my Strats, so I never play a Strat with a Red Bear pick.

But for leads? This is a great pick for that. Here’s a little ditty I put together last night to demonstrate how it sounds (I used my Slash L Katie May through a Fender Twin AmpliTube model):

I already have the perfect application for it. As of late, at my solo gigs, I’ve been making a lot of use of my looper to create live tracks that I can improv over. The “backing tracks” are usually recorded finger-style or using a variation on a clawhammer technique, and most of the time, I just hold my pick in my hand. This is a perfect pick to use for that application, and it’ll get a lot of use; especially this Friday and Saturday. So I’m looking forward to playing with it!

I love a number of things about this pick.

  • Being a rigid pick, it has a relatively fast attack, as compared to standard flexible picks. Even for strumming the quick response helps to stay in time.
  • The pointy tip produces a nice, bright tone, but the wood helps balance that out with some warmth in the mid-range.
  • Amazingly enough, I was expecting to have a bit of friction because of the wood. But it’s so hard that it slides over the strings quite easily, but the awesome thing is that it’s just soft enough so you don’t get that ugly squeak when you’re hitting a vibrating string, as you often get with hard plastic picks.
  • I was a little dubious about its size when I first got it, but after playing with it for just a few minutes, it’s extremely comfortable to hold plus, there’s a lot to be said about holding natural and natural-feeling material.

Will it last?

That’s really the big question, isn’t it? Despite being made of a hardwood, it’s still wood, and wood is somewhat delicate. Only time will tell if it holds up. As I mentioned above, I was a little concerned about the wax coating wearing so quickly after just a little bit of time playing the pick, but the wood was absolutely intact, so my feeling is that as long as I keep the scope of how I use it fairly narrow, this pick should hold up for a long time.

Overall Impression

I’m diggin’ this pick, and will use it this coming weekend at three gigs, so I will get a really good idea about its durability. But as it stands now, I’ve put in a few hours of playing with the pick on acoustic and electric guitars, and even used it with my bass. This is not a pick that I’d use for strumming; not that I’m concerned that it’ll break, but because of its size and shape, it just seems to be made for doing solos.

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Australian Bulloak Pick

When I first heard about these, I was admittedly rather incredulous about the prospect of a wooden pick. But after going to the Polarity Sound page, and checking out their offerings, I’m extremely intrigued. I’ve played with all sorts of picks made with different materials from milk-protein polymer to acrylic to high-velocity plastic to ceramic, etc. Can’t say that I’ve played anything made from wood, so this pick really makes me wonder.

They currently make a single style of pick that is similar in size to a Dunlop Jazz 3 – they call it the J3. And at first blush, you might think, “Ho-hum, just another pick,” but there are two things that distinguish this pick from others:

  1. The picks are made of extremely hard wood; either Lignum Vitae or Australian Bulloak
  2. The picks are magnetic. Yup, magnetic. They even come with a magnet that you can put on the inside of your guitar body, so you can place the pick when you’re not using it.

From what I could tell from the video, the picks produce a nice, chime-y, bright tone. I thought it would be a bit warmer, but given the hardness of the wood, it’s not too surprising. In any case, I’ll hopefully get one of these in for review, and I’ll let you know what I think of it, plus a bit more technical stuff in detail.

A question in my mind is: Just how durable are these picks? I’ll have to flesh that out once I play one, but chances are with the hardness of these woods, they’ll probably hold up for a long time and so long as you care for them properly. I imagine they’d be similar in durability to Red Bear picks (made from milk protein polymer).

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No, the artist is not a big name. In fact, he seems to be a lot like me – just a simple solo artist. And that to me is a much more useful demo as opposed to a big name who’d probably only use it in the studio. With Fernando Perdomo, the artist doing the demo, it just feels more real to me because he’s a guy that I imagine would be truly using the BeatBuddy in a variety of venues.

Mind you, the demo is not just some guy performing a song. Singular Sound, the makers of BeatBuddy, also have an inset frame that shows what Fernando is doing during the song. This could even be used as an instructional video.

Anyway, here’s the demo:

I dig what he says at around 4:30 where he asks, “How many great guitarists have you seen that are really great… but they have no rhythm. This is a rhythm trainer…” That’s a really important point that he made. I’ve played with and mentored several young players over the years who’ve got chops that are far more advanced than my own humble chops. And one of the first things I’ve had to teach them was how to maintain their tempo. The BeatBuddy is perfect for that because the tracks are complete songs, not just single loops. So what it’ll help train is maintaining a good tempo in response to changes in a song. I can’t tell you just how invaluable that is!


David Packouz (Founder) contacted me this morning to say that they will be at NAMM. If you’re going to NAMM this year (I’m jealous if you are as I’m working), the BeatBuddy guys will be in Hall E, Booth 1285. I have to tell you that if I was going to NAMM, this is the first booth I’d go to because of the impact I foresee it will have on my solo act.


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Persistence Pays

The feel-good story of the year is of 32-year-old Bracken Kearns, recently called up from the minors. Pretty old for an NHL rookie, right? But his is a story of persistence and never quitting on his dream. Here’s a guy who played 593 games in the minors; that’s right 593 games. As defenseman Dan Boyle put it, “You hear of guys playing a couple of hundred games – but 600, that’s a lot of years down there…”

Since he got called up last week, Kearns has scored 3 goals, and has been a factor in other scoring chances. He works hard and has a great sense on the ice. He’s a coach’s dream – at least from where I stand. I’m hoping he won’t be going down again. And he probably won’t if he keeps up the great play.

So what’s the point of mentioning a hockey player on a guitar-related blog? It’s the persistence that struck me and prompted me to share this here. As Kearns spoke of never losing his dream, “Maybe when I was younger – 18 or 19 when guys were getting drafted. But not since I’ve turned pro. I just think I’ve slowly gotten better each and every year.” I see a lot of his journey in my own journey as a guitar player and performer. I don’t have a musical pedigree or any degree for that matter. But I always believed; I always stuck to my dream of performing, and I kept working at it over the years to the point where if I had the time, I could be gigging full-time.

But my own journey aside, this story of Bracken Kearns’ persistence is a lesson from which we all can learn. We live in a society of instant communication, instant fame, instant everything, for that matter. We have shows such as “American Idol” and “X Factor” where people compete for a few weeks and get international recognition overnight. To me, these shows perpetuate a trend of the impatient got-to-get-it-now attitude brought on by the instantaneous-ness of our society. I see it all around me in my career as a software architect. I work with a lot of Gen-Y kids who expect to make six-figure salaries within just a couple of years of getting their degrees. What they don’t realize is that in order to get the six-figure salary, they actually have to have accomplished things – real things that have made an impact.

One could argue that this is simply the folly of youth, but I’ve been in this industry for over 25 years. It’s a lot different now than it was 20 years ago. But not to be a curmudgeon, I’ve mentored several young engineers who are willing to put in the work and learn my own personal mantra: A career is something you build, not something you’re given. And a huge part of building a career is being persistent, and sticking with problems until you’ve exhausted all possibilities. To me, that’s the earmark of a successful person.

And the same goes for music and guitar. I’ve seen so many folks over the years pick up a guitar for a few months then give it up. Getting even reasonably good at playing guitar – or any musical instrument for that matter – requires persistence. You have to practice, you have to push yourself to learn. It’s not easy. The wankers out there will tell you it’s easy. Don’t believe them. And though you might be discouraged at times, keep on working at it. One day you’ll have a breakthrough. Then another. Then another. Who knows? It could lead to a career in music if that’s where you want to go with it. Just remember: Earning something is far more satisfying than something just handed over to you.


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