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.

Patterns


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.

Footswitch


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.

Conclusion


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.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Free Worship Backing Tracks

Over the years, I've probably put together over 100 backing tracks for worship songs. Obviously backing tracks aren't flexible (unless someone's controlling it in something like Ableton Live). You're limited to the format of the song you've put down, which not everyone likes.

There are also various options like the TC Helicon Voicelive 3 Extreme which mean you can add numerous backing track elements and then trigger playback via the interface or separate footswitch.

But set backing tracks can have their place!

So here's our Youtube link to our Youtube worship backing tracks - some you may like, some you may not. But they're there to inspire, even if they inspire you to write your own better ones!


Latest one is Bethel's incredible 'Take Courage' -



Our Worship Backing Tracks Youtube Playlist

Here's the link to our backing tracks on Youtube. Just wanted to put this link up as always want to inspire and help others in worship - so feel free to use or ignore :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWrsZZDupVs&list=PLOBi-HWvRc_fbichLy8_H_3AyHADAvNjH 

More Free Worship Pads - Spacey Worship Pads

A bunch more worship pads uploaded to Youtube.

These are only in the keys of G, A, B flat, B, C, D and E

The link to our Pads playlist is - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6K429HuBcs&list=PLOBi-HWvRc_c07fBQ7WR2B7-UMOifY2sr 

Spacey Worship Pads in G



Spacey Worship Pads in A



Spacey Worship Pads in B flat



Spacey Worship Pads in B



Spacey Worship Pads in C



Spacey Worship Pads in D



Spacey Worship Pads in E

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Free Worship Pads / Synths

Created a few worship pads (staying on the root note mostly, but with harmonics and notes within the key). Been using these in worship when I'm playing on my own and don't want to use backing tracks.

Thought I'd put them online as others may benefit from them. Haven't done them in every key but please comment if you'd like another key and I'll do my best.

These are free for personal use in church / worship / events etc but are not for resale. The copyright remains with us. Thanks!

Update March 2017 - Pads added in keys of B flat and F


Worship Pad in Bb


Worship Pad in F


Worship Pad in C




Worship Pad in D


Worship Pad in E


Worship Pad in G


Worship Pad in A


Worship Pad in B

Monday, 26 September 2016

Zoom G5N Review - plus Zoom G3X comparison too

Having posted about the Zoom G5N and its flaws, I had a mood shift. Instead of carting around a huge pedalboard with loads of great pedals on for your average worship service, I decided to try the Zoom G5N and its simplicity - and light weight!

The Line6 HD500X (and its equivalent) is a great pedal but it is ridiculously complex. Yes you can get good stock sounds but the Zoom G5N scores highly in that you don't need to spend ages flicking through menus to get good sounds (or get a degree in programming while using a microscope to access the HD500X's small screen)...


The Zoom G5N is pretty simple to use. There is a menu screen at the top; four individual screens across the main body of the unit. Each of these has a click on-click off pedal. Underneath these is a tuner button, a scroll left button, a scroll right button and a tap tempo. An assignable pedal on the right can act as things like a volume pedal / way pedal etc. There is also a 'master level' knob on the top right with a booster and tone knob underneath.

The unit has around 99 stock sound patch setups - these can include up to 9 simultaneous effects. Zoom have put together these stock sounds so you can have an easy setup to get different types of sounds - whether it's a 'rock' sound, a metal sound or some weird psychedelic type setup. Fortunately there are very few of the nonsensical sounds you can get in the average multi-effects unit!

You are able to save you own patches and to edit and save the existing effects within the patches. To change these you click on the Memory / Stomp pedal at the bottom of the board. On the top screen you will then see the list of effects that make up the 'patch'. This is the equivalent of your traditional analogue pedalboard with pedals daisy chained together. The individual effects can then be changed by scrolling through the 'type' buttons above each of the four screens. You can edit the parameters for each effect by twisting any one of the four knobs under each of the screens. You can then scroll through the individual effects you have by using the 'scroll' pedals at the bottom of the unit.



In the image above, I set up my own mini pedalboard for a worship service. At the top of the board you can see the individual effects I've used (and the order). On the four LCD screens below are the current four effects selected. You can see which ones are selected on the top screen (highlighted). On this board I have a tubescreamer emulation (TS Drive), a 'Sweet Drive' which I think emulates the Fulltone OCD. I've then got the rocker pedal setup as a volume switch. There's a delay, reverb and tremolo after the pedal. On each delay/reverb etc effect you can turn on 'tails' so the effects carry on with the volume pedal down (where available). I keep tails on for swells.

On a later setup, I added a compressor ahead of the TS drive (to act as a boost etc). I also added in another delay.

I have mainly used my amp so didn't set up any Amp or Cab emulations, but these can be done if you don't have an amp with you - see here - https://www.zoom-na.com/sites/default/files/products/downloads/pdfs/E_G5n_FX-list.pdf (note the amp list has been updated, unlike this download).

I did use an amp for a recent gig as wasn't allowed amps on stage. Due to the often-found processor overload, I found I was only able to try two amp modellers - the FD-B-M and the FD-DLXR. The FD-B-M was incredibly noisy without any ability to lower the gain. The FD-DLXR was also pretty noisy (the PA guys put a noise reduction on it, which didn't help with swells!) but was needed. The sound wasn't bad to be honest but it had way more noise than my Fender Blues Jr amp.

The Sound Quality

Like the excellent G3X, the reverbs are pretty good and the delays are too. I used the Mod Delay and it really gives a good modulated (almost slightly detuned) decay. The analogue delay was also pretty good.

But it's in the overdrives that the sound quality either shines or lacks. So what about the G5N? Well, the G3X overdrives are honestly pretty awful. I've seen some people say they managed to get good sounds from the G3X but I have no idea how! The Zoom G5N was quite a pleasant surprise. The TS Drive does sound quite accurate with that slightly midrange bump and the Sweet Drive does sound sweet, giving a fairly transparent overdrive sound. I put my separate EHX Glove pedal in front of it and the Glove + Sweet Drive stack really well. The Sweet Drive was my go-to sound at church (putting the overdrive setting up very high).  I also played with the Gold Drive and was pretty impressed with that too.

Obviously as ever with these units, in order to match the bypassed volume of your guitar to the amp, you have to turn the overdrive effect volumes down from about 65 to about 20!

Now don't get me wrong. These don't sound as good as the original pedals. There is also a definite (albeit slight) tone suck. If I run my EHX Glove into the G5N (with no G5N effects on) and to my amp - and then compare to the EHX Glove pedal direct to the amp, there is definitely more life, more body and more colour without the G5N. However, the difference is slight and there's no way that 95% of people in your average church (or crowd) will notice any difference compared to an analogue boutique pedalboard!

Usefulness of the Zoom G5N

Having had huge doubts about the G5N (due to Zoom weirdly removing the XLR output), I'm pretty impressed with the G5N. It's about 1/4 the size of my pedalboard and about 1/5 of the weight! It's easy to scroll through the pedals, the tuner is great and the proper tap tempo is a brilliant addition. I still do have one or two problems with the volume rocker (as on the G3X) where often you have to turn it to 'off' then to 'on' and back to 'off' in order to mute the pedal. But I've learned to live with that. I've even started using the G5N without the EHX Glove ahead of it.

I like the simplicity of the pedal and the ease of use of the menus. The sound quality is pretty good and for the £220 I paid for the G5N, I'd highly recommend it. I'm also happy that unlike the G3X, the G5N is packed with useful effects and not the silly useless effects that no-one ever uses! I still wouldn't use things like the Octave pedal which doesn't track even one string let alone six (get a POG for that). But chorus, tremolo, reverbs, delays etc are great. And the overdrives work well too. I haven't used the distortions or fuzz so can't comment on them too much.

What could be improved? Well, things like the particle verb, the shimmer etc that are offered by Line6 (or even other Zoom pedals) would be a nice addition to the G5N but I'm guessing that Zoom want to keep their snappily titled 'MS70CDR' pedal sales up - this being the only Zoom pedal that does shimmer type effects. That would be a great pity though. I'd rather use my Boss RV6 for shimmer as it's better than Zoom. I would however use the Zoom shimmer if it was on-board the G5N.

The other thing that could be improved is simply the lack of on-board memory / processing power. This becomes an issue very quickly - meaning that you potentially won't be able to have all the effects you want - and I'm sure you won't get nine effects on a regular basis. If you get this problem (and you will), you'll get a message pop up saying 'Process Overflow. Change Effect.' (See below).



For example my board was set up like this:

Compressor > TS Drive > Gold Drive > Volume pedal > Analogue delay > Church reverb. The next effect was a Mod Delay which was fine. However, if I replace that Mod Delay with (for example) any of the amp models or other delays / some of the modulation effects / some of the compressors / any of the other overdrives, the 'Process Overflow' problems reared its head - meaning that the G5N has run out of processing power. I was surprised quite how easily this happens and this is quite an issue in my view.

The flip side is that Zoom promised to bring out new sounds every month and they have been faithful to that. More than that, they've made more of their own patches (think of patches as a series of effects) and asked various guitarists to do the same.

In terms of cases, I bought a Gator GK-2110 case which fits the G5N quite well (with a bit of extra padding as you can see in the pic below!)


What about comparing to the G3X?

Well the individual effect controls are the same. However, on the G3X you get more control over individual effects - often getting 2 'pages' of options rather than just the 4 options to control each effect on the G5N. The G3X also has some other controls if you care to look for them. In some respects the G3X is a bit more random in its layout (certainly 'behind the scenes'). However, the G3X gives you an XLR out, which the G5N doesn't.

As mentioned above, the overdrives are a definite improvement on the G5N (from the G3 / G3X). There are fewer effects on the G5N but that's because there's less 'fluff' - fewer pointless effects no-one really uses. The G3X is probably a bit more 'experimental' and the G5N knows a bit more what it is - really being aimed at dialling in effects easily and simply. Both pedals are actually pretty good. I will now use my G3X for acoustic and the G5N for simpler electric setups in worship. 

The G5N is an improvement with the easy tap tempo button and having the ability to easily scroll between effects and see which effect you're looking at more easily. The screens are bigger and easier to see in varied lighting. The G5N looks a bit more the part, whereas the G3X is smaller and looks slightly less professional (if that matters to you!) It has good big pedals and footswitches that look resilient enough (having said that my G3X has been used all over and survived nicely!) 

So there we are. I can't say whether each effect on the G5N accurately reflects the original effect it was intended to reproduce but I'd recommend having a go and seeing if it works for you. Yes you will lose some tone but it's there to make life simple, easy and lightweight and it does that very well.


Thursday, 4 August 2016

Review of Mainstage and That Worship Sound's 'Worship Guitar Essentials' by Andy Hood

Keys players have for some time known that Mainstage is a top piece of software to use. When you see a keys player on stage with a Macbook sat on the top, it’s because they are using Mainstage to control their sounds (at least this is the most likely scenario).

Mainstage is a piece of software made by Apple. It creates a much more useable interface to the sounds of Logic Studio and Garageband for the live musician, allowing multiple presets or patches to be saved into specific concerts, so all your sounds for that set are in one place and you just select the one you want for each song.

Guitarists have rarely fully embraced an all digital sound. Rightly or wrongly insisting that analogue amps are going to be better. The fact is though, that a few years ago, yes, digital modelling of guitar amps sucked! It sucked big time! But now, digital modelling has caught up (with products from brands like Line 6, Digitech, Zoom etc all having good offerings), and to the ears of the vast majority of people, there is little to no difference.

If you already own a Mac, then Mainstage (which currently costs £22.99 in the App Store on your mac) is a great way to try out digital modelling and to use live. All you need is an audio interface (some thing like this is fine  http://www.dv247.com/computer-hardware/behringer-u-phoria-um2--207603) plus a reasonable set of speakers / headphones  and you’re good to go.

Mainstage gives you access to a huge number of amps and cabinets all modelled from some great amps. They don’t tell you which amps they are modelling but from looking at the images of the amps there are clearly some great amps from Vox, Marshall, Fender and more. There are also a host of effects pedals you can build a pedalboard with, as well as access to all ofthe studio effects built into either garageband or logic (depending on which you have installed on your mac). Which can lead to some great sounds. However as with all of these things you have to learn how to use it and it can take a while to get the sounds you want. I spent some time doing this and found a few sounds I like, however I haven’t got hours to spend tweaking sounds for it, so I set about looking for some patches I could download that would at least have me most of the way there. Enter, thatworshipsound.com - here I found their Worship Guitar Essentials Package (https://thatworshipsound.com/patches/bundles/worship-guitar-essentials/) which for $20 gives you 6 mono and 6 stereo presets which sound amazing and are fully customisable to try out yourself. Check out the sounds on their youtube video below:


I have found some great uses for these sounds - especially the ‘Frozen Verv’ sound - I used this leading worship on electric on the song ‘One thing remains’ from Bethel. This sound was really atmospheric, gave a kind of pad sound and filled the sound out amazingly.

The possibilities are really endless with mainstage for guitarists. I’ve now started running my acoustic through it as well and adding a studio compressor and some great reverb to fill out the sound.

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This content was written by Andy Hood. A worship leader and guitar teacher in Exeter. Check out his website http://www.exeterguitarlessons.co.uk

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

EHX (Electro Harmonix) Glove Overdrive Pedal Review

The EHX Glove is a pretty unique overdrive/distortion pedal. With MOFSET semiconductors, the pedal aims (and manages) to bring a wide range of overdriven sounds that are very tube-like, without being too harsh. Modelled perhaps after the Fulltone OCD, this pedal manages to bring a rich tonal sound for around £50.

EHX Glove


Here's how EHX describes it on their website: http://www.ehx.com/products/od-glove 

Rich, overtone laden sound that doesn’t get muddy. Responsive controls that take you from sparkling, clean boost through brown crunch and all the way to thick, saturated hi-gain. Advanced features like Tone Shift and selectable 9 or 18V internal voltage for surgical sound sculpting. The new OD Glove delivers overdrive and distortion with impact, and the modern player in mind.

So how does it play in practice?

Well, I absolutely love it. I listened to clips of this and the Crayon and am so pleased to have chosen the Glove. I play it through a Fender Blues Junior (with upgraded tubes and a Greenback speaker) and they work together beautifully. Said to be able to get that classic British rock crunch sound, I found this was a pretty accurate description but probably does a slight disservice to the range of the Glove.

It fits perfectly with my (now very sadly discontinued) Visual Sound Open Road and has a similar kind of tone. Howeever, the Open Road sits much more as a tube-like transparent sound. While the Glove aims for this to some extent, it does bring its own character. It is not a harsh, fizzy, or too fuzzy pedal but doesn't go as 'clean' or as 'transparent' as some may want it to, especially if you want to simply use it as a boost.



However, the overdrive is pretty smooth at lower levels. Some people have bought this looking towards that kind of Marshall distortion sound and certainly the pedal does nod in that direction more than a traditional overdrive pedal but without fully nailing the sound. Without a doubt this brings a thick and sustained sound that you'd hope for and doesn't lose character at high gain, certainly in comparison with some other EHX pedals. There's also a selectable 9v or 18v setting inside the pedal.

As you'd expect, this doesn't have the midrange cut through that you'd find on the Fulldrive or other tubescreamer type pedals. Nor does it act as a heavy driven metal distortion pedal as you'd equally expect. But it does what it does very nicely and with an excellent build quality. This thing is solid as a rock and won't get damaged anytime soon - as with all EHX pedals.



This is the kind of settings I use with the Glove pedal (often having the gain up a touch as well). I also leave the Tone Shift setting to 'On'. I have also managed to use the guitar volume to clean up very well with the pedal - another brilliant bonus. I haven't done a demo video as to be honest my playing can't compare with some of the videos online - listen to them and see if it's for you.

Overall, for £50, this absolutely blows the cheaper pedals out of the water sonically. It's rich, musical, retains a smooth tone and gives you that British tube amp classic crunch sound. Absolutely stunning.