By Carolyn Heneghan
Have you always wanted to learn how to play the drums like a rock star, but never had the cash for a live or electronic drum kit? Now there’s an iPhone, iPod, and iPad app that puts the kit right at your fingertips—with teaching tools and lesson demos to boot—so you’ll be well on your way to jamming like a professional.
Yamaha’s latest iOS app, Song Beats, teaches you how to play like your favorite drummers and lets you play alongside your own virtual backup band while covering all your favorite songs. You can customize accompaniments and drum solos, and learn, practice, and master even the trickiest beats as you go along.
The kit’s setup resembles any typical eight-piece drum set. There are three cymbals, the foot-pedaled hi-hat and crash to the left, and the ride cymbal to the right. The snare is to the left of the bass drum in the center and the three toms are positioned two above the bass and the lowest tone to the player’s right.
When you’re ready to start messing around, you simply select a song and push play for a count-off. The music begins, and the drum lines are highlighted with glowing circles to signify which drums to play and on what beats.
To match the song, tap the drum right as the glowing circle reaches the edge of the drum. The rings move out from the center or travel up the foot pedals, depending on the instrument. The timing takes a minute to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be grooving right along with the beat.
While you’re getting used to the different rhythms and drum patterns, you can slow down the tempo to suit your current playing ability. The app’s A-B looping feature allows you to section off portions of the song to play on repeat for practicing more difficult beats in a song.
You can also use the Drum Mute and Drum Only function to mix and single out certain drums and cymbals to create more novice-accessible performances, or to customize the overall sound of the song you’re playing. Muting also comes in handy for personalizing your backup jam band and changing around the instrument sounds you want to play with.
With each song, a small video button in the lower left-hand corner accesses a recorded video demonstration of the song’s drum performance on an electronic kit, so you can follow along and pick up some tips.
Below the drum set is a panel containing the name and time stamp of the song you’re currently playing, in addition to a scrolling score to mark the time in conjunction with exact rhythms and beats. Clicking the Menu button, also on this panel, pulls up toggle options between the player, your music library, the app’s built-in music shop, and more information about the app and your account.
Your library will initially include 10 built-in demo songs—8-Beat Basic, Rock Shuffle, and Slow Blues, among others—as well as five lessons and ten drum patterns. You can also play along with any Yamaha MIDI songs that you already own, such as those downloaded from Yamaha MusicSoft, by using iTunes File Sharing to upload them to the app library.
The app’s music shop—currently available only in the US, UK, and Germany due to copyright restrictions—contains more than 1000 songs for you to choose from a wide selection of genres. You can find anything from decade-specific pop and rock to waltzes, jazz, and movie soundtracks, and tracks are available as an in-app download for $2.99. If you register your Song Beats app with Yamaha, your first download is free.
If you’re ready to test out your drumming skills, download the free Song Beats app from Yamaha and rock out with all your favorite tunes.