Review – Beat Bug & Tempo Ref
As a drummer, our one concern is to keep everyone in the band on time. This is not a very easy task, especially when you are getting into the music, and the energy is flowing. So how does a drummer refrain from speeding up or slowing down in a performance . Obviously practice makes perfect, but for added support, how about trying the Beat Bug, or Tempo Ref. These are both devices made by the same company (one smaller than the other), designed to display your tempo throughout the song – in real time! But does the beat bug device really do the job, or is it just another gimmick to make people believe they will perform better. Here’s what I had to say about it!
How The Beat Bug Looks
Before I go too much into detail here, I just want to inform you all that the Beat Bug and Tempo Ref are the same tool, just different sizes, so they look the same. The device is a small black box that kind of looks like a pager. There is a dial on the top where you can turn up and down your Db threshold. Beside this is an input for the sensor that comes with the Beat Bug. On the front of the beat bug there is only a 3 digit display which tells us the tempo we are playing at. The Beat bug came equipped with an adhesive Velcro strap so you can stick the beat bug on your kit if desired. I wouldn’t recommend this unless it was mounted on a stand, or another unimportant part of the drum kit, as the adhesive may take your finish off. The sensor that comes with the Beat Bug, is a small dime sized pad attached to a long chord. On this sensor, is a patch of foam that is meant to help the vibrations get absorbed into the sensor. The Beat Bug doesn’t have the most professional design; however it was a solid build that comes with everything you would expect.
How The Beat Bug Works
So how does the beat bug work? Well, this is nothing like a metronome – a metronome tells you what tempo to play at, this tells you the tempo you are playing at already. It does this by measuring your hi hat beats, and determining the tempo by reading quarter notes off of your snare drum. Sounds pretty cool eh? Well there are a lot of things that could interfere with this, but we will get to that later. With the device, you get a small clip that you attach to your drum. This is done by unscrewing one of your tension rods, and sticking the lug itself through the clip. This clip will hold the sensor to your drum.
The beat bug sensor is placed underneath the clip on your snare, (foam side down). Adjust the threshold knob to accept more volume. Now that you have everything set up, its time to start measuring your tempo. Like I said before, this device is supposed to measure your tempo by reading your quarter notes. Every pulse the sensor reads determines the BPM, and displays it on the front panel of the Beat Bug. It may jump around and take a few moments to read, but it does eventually find your tempo. This is all there is to it!
Hits and Misses
Well, as you probably have guessed, there are a few misses that this Beat Bug has. The first is obvious – what if you play a fill or roll, or do not play straight quarter notes? This is a big flaw in the device that you cannot fix. Playing faster chops and ghost notes s on the snare will cause the Beat Bug to go crazy on you, most of time by reading 255 BPM. This is a problem at first, but the device is to remind you what tempo you are playing at in general, so after your fill, you can look back to see if you have sped up during it. Another miss of this device, is its sensitivity. Although you can adjust the threshold, you cannot adjust it enough to be able to use on a practice pad. I tried setting this up on a Sabian Quiet Tone practice pad, (just like a snare) which is a pretty loud pad, but could not get a reading. One of the best features of the Beat Bug would be to help you practice your rudiments and other chops within certain tempos. This was not possible, as it requires quite a high volume before any signal gets read. The third miss of the device is the clip that you have to hook up to your snare. First off, it is a hassle to take off a tension rod, second off; it makes it hard to tune your snare back to its original sound. This is because having a wire in the way restricts the ability to fine tune with your tension rod.
The Beat Bug is not all miss though; there are some great features to this device. The big one I could think of is having a constant reading of your tempo during a show. A lot of times during a live performance, drummers speed up. With the Beat Bug you can see where you are at, and adjust your speed to that. Even though the reading is choppy at some times and not very accurate, you can get an idea of your general tempo and slow/speed up if necessary. The Tempo Ref is a smaller version of the Beat Bug. This is perfect to have in your pocket so that before each song you can tap the sensor until you get the right tempo to play at. This way you will know exactly what speed to start the song at, taking away the need to speed up or slow down during the song itself.
All in all, the Beat Bug is a nifty little device that has its place in a drummer’s toolbox. Although this tempo reader may seem like a gimmick, it is not at all useless. Practicing should be done with a metronome, while live shows could be accompanied by the Beat Bug. If you are a drummer that has problem speeding up during shows, fills, and solo’s, and you have a few extra bucks to spend – pick up the Beat Bug. However, if you are looking for a device that will tell you your tempo whenever you are playing, stick to your internal clock.
By Dave Atkinson
Related content you may also be interested in...
Improve Your Bass Drum Speed And Control - Many drummers have amazing hand speed and control, but still find it difficult to master basic single strokes on a double pedal.
Yamaha Flying Dragon Double Pedal - Trying to find a solid set of double kickers for a good price? The Yamaha Flying Dragon series may be what you are looking for. With a solid background, Yamaha easily holds up with the competition.
Evans Bass Drum EQ Pad - Does your bass drum have too much resonance? Many drummers try to keep a pillow or towel up against the head to help deaden the sound, but this can be inconsistent.