GoBeats review – Positive Grid give us a taster for the iOS AI drummer

Download from iTunes App StoreGoBeats logo 1Positive Grid are well known within the iOS music making world for their highly regarded guitar rig/amp modelling software with BIAS Amp and BIAS FX being the current flagship products. Having started with iOS, they are, however, one of the few iOS developers that have attempted to ‘go the other way’ and expand their product line into the desktop world. Equally, they have also moved into hardware and their latest product – the BIAS Head amplifier – is an ambitious undertaking, especially as they are entering a market already occupied by some established big-hitters such as Line 6 and Kemper.

They have also stepped outside the pure guitar-based products with, for example, the Final Touch iOS mastering app and some rather nice processor plugins for the desktop. However, on their website, there are also details on an upcoming project – AI Drums – a new sort of virtual drummer app for iOS and that is slatted to arrive in Q4 of 2016. The interesting thing about AI Drums is that it ‘listens’ to your guitar performance (play a riff or strum some chords) and will then attempt to cough up a suitable drum part….

GoBeats - an app that creates a drum part after listening to your guitar performance.

GoBeats – an app that creates a drum part after listening to your guitar performance.

…. all of which makes the appearance of GoBeats from Positive Grid – it arrived as a free app on the App Store a couple of days ago – rather a surprise because it is an app into which you strum a few chords or play a riff and it attempt to generate a suitable drum part for you to then play along to.

Easy drummer?

In use, GoBeats is about as simple as things can get. On launch, you simply tap the large circle icon in the centre of the screen and then start playing your guitar. The apps detects what you are playing through your iOS hardware’s microphone and, when you tap the circle for a second time (to signal you have stopped playing), your get a rather cheesy ‘nice playing…’ comment, and can then trigger playback of GoBeats drum part suggestion for your guitar part.

In essence, that’s about it….  The audio plays back through your iPhone or iPad speakers (or headphone port) and, if you open the Settings page, then you can adjust the time signature (3/4 or 4/4 are the options) and the tempo. And, as far as I can tell, if the guitar performance you give it initially is a little more complex (maybe two song sections as opposed to a single riff or chord progression, for example) then the resulting drum part also tends to contain more performance variations. Once the groove is created, GoBeats just keeps playing until you stop it.

And, aside from being able to adjust the volume (the ‘circle’ slider that surround the central icon), that’s pretty much it in terms of features. There is no Audiobus or IAA or AU support, no MIDI in or MIDI out (the latter would be good if you could send it to your MIDI sequencer for editing/playback), no choice in terms of the drum sounds (just a fairly standard rock-style acoustic drum kit) and no Ableton LINK. There is also no way to save the drum performance for later recall. The app is universal, requires iOS9.0 or later, is a 215MB download and, as mentioned above, if free.

Once you have performed your guitar part, GoBeats will generate a drum performance for you to play along with.

Once you have performed your guitar part, GoBeats will generate a drum performance for you to play along with.

And because it’s free, you (a) have little room to complain about the fairly streamlined feature set and (b) might have a pretty low expectation of the results. In fact, in terms of (b), I quite enjoyed what the app produced. OK, sometimes it tried to offer me a drum performance that didn’t really ‘work’ musically for me….  it gave me a drum part that I just didn’t like with my guitar part…  but, frankly, when you play with a real drummer, you would experience the same thing on occasions (just as the drummer might not think your latest guitar idea works over a drum groove he has written).

I did find I got better results when my original guitar part was well defined….  give GoBeats a wall of fuzzy 5th chords and it doesn’t really have a great sense of rhythm to then identify and build upon. However, give it a nice clear riff or chord progression, and the app’s AI stands a better chance or generating something useful. And, of course, if you don’t like the drum part suggestion, then just have another pass at the guitar part

Once the part is created, you can adjust the tempo.....

Once the part is created, you can adjust the tempo…..

GoBeats vs AI Drums?

When you look at the promotional blurb for the upcoming AI Drums, it is clear that it is intended to be a much more sophisticated product than GoBeats… more features, more drum sounds and more control. So, if AI Drums is still slatted for later this year, what is GoBeats for?

Good question….  and the obvious suggestions are that Positive Grid are (a) interested is seeing users reactions about the product concept, (b) perhaps involving users in a bit of voluntary beta testing (and hoping for some feedback) and (c) hoping to catch peoples attention with the basic idea so they are more likely to pay attention when AI Drums is released.

Positive Grid's website suggests that AI Drums will be a much more sophisticated offering when it finally appears.

Positive Grid’s website suggests that AI Drums will be a much more sophisticated offering when it finally appears.

I can see the sense of all three of these possibilities….  and, while GoBeats is not going to win any prizes for iOS music app of the year, the underlying concept itself is interesting. If AI Drums delivers that concept is a more sophisticated – and iOS music production workflow-friendly fashion – then I can see it being a very attractive proposition for many guitar players; a virtual drummer that generates drum parts based upon your guitar playing rather than you having to assemble ‘patterns’ to build the drum performance for your song.

All that said, GoBeats itself is free and, if taken as simply an ‘instant practice’ tool while you work on a song idea or three, then it’s well worth auditioning even if you then set it aside until AI Drums itself arrives.

In summary

I’m fairly sure GoBeats is a bit of an experiment by Positive Grid and a precursor to the planned AI Drums. In its current format, it is perhaps limited to the ‘occasional practice tool’ category (and, as a free app, there is no shame in that). I am, however, intrigued enough by the basic concept to now be looking forward to AI Drums. That is, I suspect, what Positive Grid might be hoping…..

GoBeats


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    Comments

    1. Yes John. I reckon this may turn into something real good. Drums, drummers and programming have been something that has given me nightmares for, well since i first got a band together, I first got a digital standalone recorder and now an I pad. I find the process tiresome and unproductive in the digital realm and when I do find something it usually ends up not quite what i wanted, to complex, to busy or just not simple enough. I find most drum apps/loops, and I’ve got plenty, too busy. I want simple, uncluttered drum loops.
      I tried Go Beats but it had to get a bit busy, not to busy mind you, so there may be hope for the likes of me with their new app. It does look promising and there is a market for this. Garagebands drummer is great and if only I could open it in Cubasis that may do. Anyway I look forward to drum heaven sometime soon.

    2. therealdmt says:

      This is both good and bad.

      An app like AI Drums would have been a godsend for me when I was starting out, with lots of rock ideas but no way to do drum parts (I didn’t know any drummers — well, I knew one and kind of another, but noise complaints from neighbors had the, afraid to practice by the time I got to them). I ended up going in an acoustic guitar direction, which was very cool, but not all of what I first had in mind.

      Anyway, now I finally can play drums and have a practice space, and then this crap comes out! Beyond that, what happens to the value of real music, made by a real, you know, musician or group of musicians (“Well, I inspired the drum beat through my guitar playing…”, lol). I dunno — I‘ve always hated programming drum loops and all that, and playing a drum part perfectly in addition to all the other parts is so much work (not to mention mic’ing up a drum kit), I’ll probably (surely, if it’s any good) use this upcoming AI Drums too, but…but we’re losing something.

      When anyone can create, without the need to develop skills and hone them, then practice, maintain and apply them, what is the value of creation? Especially when the “creator” is only creating a part of something and the rest of (perhaps the majority of) the creation is simply “filled in” by a program.

      Well, whateva.

      Peace, out.

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