5 Best Drum Machines for Guitarists – Standard & Pedals

Author: Liam Plowman | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Whether you’re a songwriter, live performer, or enjoy on the fly improvisation and jamming, a good drum machine can be the perfect accompaniment to help boost your creativity and turn your solo guitar tune into real music.

But for many of us guitarists, delving into the world of drum machines can seem like heading into alien territory.

So to help you on your buying journey, I’ve gathered up 5 of my favorite guitar-friendly drum machines which are all simple to use and can be easily integrated into your pre-existing guitar setup.

Best Drum Machines for Guitar Players

1. Singular Sound BeatBuddy Drum Machine Pedal

One of the first things you’ll notice about the BeatBuddy is that it doesn’t look like a traditional drum machine.

To make it more accessible to the solo guitarist it’s been packaged in a familiar stompbox format and can blend in right alongside your other guitar pedals.

One of my big struggles as a songwriter is getting inspired by just the sound of a lone guitar, this pedal allows me to arrange and place my ideas along to a real song structure.

You can pick from any of the 200 pre-baked songs that span all the most common genres.

These songs will have a unique beat for each section of the song. Such as verse/chorus/bridge, etc.

Once you’re ready to transition to the next part of the song, just hold the footswitch down and it’ll automatically switch on the next bar.

This format also works for improvisation or jam sessions with other musicians. And because you can trigger fills with a single foot tap it really raises the bar on how realistic you can make a solo guitar live performance sound.

While this is great for just general playing and ideas, the simplistic interface cannot accommodate sequencing your own patterns if you were so inclined to make your own beats.

But the good news is you can use their BeatBuddy Manager software to program grooves, or you can import premade MIDI grooves into the pedal via the included SD card.

2. Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner

Pedalboard integration is all well and good, but what if you’re an acoustic player who doesn’t use pedals or an amplifier?

The Boss DR-01S may be the right choice for you as it works as a completely standalone unit thanks to its inbuilt speaker.

It’s ideal for the home user who just needs some pleasant-sounding rhythmic percussion to support their acoustic playing.

While you can technically use it live through the in-built line out, the small speaker and low volume output really place this as a home-use kind of unit.

The DR-01S has a very nice assortment of organic sounds such as shakers, congas, maracas, and tambourines.

While this does make it somewhat genre limited as if you’re after more of a rock sound, it’s perfect for anyone who wants more traditional or Latin-styled percussion.

Likewise, it only has 4 in-built common signatures. For the average player, this is perfectly fine. But if you are someone who enjoys odd measures and time signatures, you’re out of luck here.

The Boss DR-01S is visually pleasing with its nice wood trim, it also has possibly the best user interface I’ve ever seen on a drum machine.

Everything is clearly labeled and accessible, even those who have no prior experience using drum machines will have no trouble getting everything they need from it!

Sound-wise everything is pleasant and serviceable. While these are not sounds you’d end up using for a studio album recording, for the home solo guitarist they are more than adequate.

3. Alesis SR-16

If you’ve had previous experience with drum machines or drum sequencers, then the Alesis SR-16 is going to feel very familiar.

Its visual style and layout are more akin to that of a traditional e-kit drum brain.

Designed with songwriters in mind, its portability makes it a strong consideration for guitarists who want a feature-complete drum machine that isn’t going to take up too much room in the studio.

The SR-16 was originally introduced in 1990, yet is still in production over 3 decades later thanks to its distinct set of iconic drum sounds which are still widely used in modern professional productions.

Although the drums themselves sound good, there are only 50 pre-baked drum patterns so you’ll need to spend some time programming your own.

One issue I had with this unit is that it’s not easy to integrate into a guitar rig without using some kind of external monitoring system.

This is because drum machines that are not specifically designed for use with guitars can damage guitar cabinet speakers due to the low-sub frequencies they produce.

So you’ll need to ensure you have an alternate means of monitoring this unit.

The user interface is clear and most functions have their own dedicated button which kept navigating around menus to a minimum and I could spend all of my time being creative with it.

Ultimately this is best suited for studio use and for guitarists who utilize a DAW in their setup where they can run the drum and guitar signal into their monitoring system independently from each other.

4. Korg Volca Beats

Korg has been on fire over the last decade with their Volca units. These small synth units give everyone access to authentic analog hardware, even if they’re on a budget.

Having a full-analog drum machine at this price point means there have been some fairly noticeable compromises when it comes to build quality.

The plastic outer shell feels fragile and the wobbly knobs feel like they will easily break off if you kicked them on a pedalboard by accident.

But if you can look past this, you’ll quickly find this is an extremely functional unit that has all the parameters you’d find on far more expensive guitar drum units.

Programming patterns using the step sequencer is very intuitive and even if you’re not a drummer you should have no trouble making some great-sounding patterns.

There’s also a nice midi-in feature so you can gather up your favorite midi drum lines and trigger the Volca beats using them.

It integrates nicely into a pedalboard but operating it can be an issue as it’s designed to be controlled with your hands, using your feet is bound to break something.

It’s a fantastic tool for jamming, improvisation, and experimental sound design as passing these lush-sounding analog drum sounds through your modulation pedals allows for endless creativity.

But as a songwriting tool, despite the inbuilt sequencer, it leaves a lot to be desired.

5. BeatBuddy Mini 2 Drum Machine Pedal

Guitarists often have to make do with using drum machines and samplers that haven’t been designed with the guitarist specifically in mind.

But Singular Sound has made a true guitar drum pedal that’s even more guitar-friendly than the original BeatBuddy.

The BeatBuddy Mini 2 strips the superfluous functions and makes it even simpler to operate than its bigger brother.

At first glance, you wouldn’t be blamed for mistaking it for a distortion pedal as it has a traditional guitar pedal shell and control format.

The ¼” jack placement allows you to use regular pedal cable connectors, and the big rounded stomp button means you can step on it with shoes on and it’s not going to break.

I found the screen and LED lights helpful as they gave me all the information I needed about which part is playing and what I can trigger next in such a way that even when placed on a pedalboard in a dark stage, it was still easy to operate.

Much like the BeatBuddy, you can queue up drum patterns and then use the singular stomp button to trigger a drum fill and move it onto the next section, making it work great as both a songwriting tool and a live performance unit.

There are 9 drum kits and over 200 patterns that span any genre you could want.

But do keep in mind, unlike the BeatBuddy 2, there is no SD/USB integration meaning you cannot import your own beats and samples, nor can you program custom grooves using the BeatBuddy Manager.

Yet for guitarists who don’t want to mess around with programming, this is a blessing. You can just stick it on your pedalboard, pick a genre, and you’re away!

Routing a Drum Machine

The majority of drum machines have not been designed with the guitarist in mind. So using a drum machine with your guitar requires some consideration to be put into how you wish to integrate it into your setup.

For most guitarists, the most convenient place to put a drum machine is straight in front of the amp alongside all the other pedals as it gives you a nice eagle-eye view of the controls.

However, depending on where you place it on the signal chain, the drum machine will interact differently with the rest of your equipment.

Here are a few of the common places you may wish to place a drum machine along your signal chain:

Before Other Pedals

Placing the drum machine at the start or somewhere in the middle of your pedal chain means that each effect that comes after the drum machine will have that sound applied to the drums too.

For example, if you place the drums before a delay pedal, it means that delay will then be applied to the drums. 

This can be very fun to play with from an experimental/sound design perspective, but not ideal if you want to hear just the raw and authentic drum sounds.

At the End of the Pedal Chain

Placing the drum machine at the end of the pedal chain means that the drum sounds will not be affected by any of your pedals.

The drum sound will feed directly into your pre-amp, completely dry.

However, this only really works if you are playing on a clean tone.

This is because the drum sounds will pass through the pre-amp, meaning your amplifier's distortion is then going to then be applied to the drum sounds.

In the Effects Return

To solve this, if your amplifier has an effects loop you can bypass the pre-amp distortion by sending the drum machine directly into the effects return.

This will inject the drum machine’s sound right before the master volume, meaning no effects or distortion will be applied to the drums.

Running the Drum Machine Independently

This is the most ideal way to run a drum machine, but it also requires the most equipment.

Unless a drum machine has been specifically designed with amplifier use in mind, they can actually be harmful to speakers as they will produce low sub-frequencies that guitar cabinet speakers are not designed to handle.

So keeping your guitar rig completely separate from the drum machine and having it run into its own set of speakers is the cleanest and most fool-proof way to utilize it.

Jamming, Songwriting, and Live Performances

Another important consideration when picking the right drum machine for you is what you’re looking to use the machine for.

Perhaps you want a tool to assist you with writing and arranging songs, or maybe you need to use it live for your one-man band performance.

Depending on what your intention is, there are certain features you might want to look out for.


If your goal is to use it at home and help get some inspiration for that next killer riff, you should look for a drum machine that integrates well with your pre-existing guitar setup.

It should also have as many pre-baked grooves and sounds as possible so you’re not having to spend time programming things yourself and can get straight to playing.

This is where something like the BeatBuddy can excel as it is integrated into your pedalboard and all you do is hit the button and have instant great-sounding drums.

If you’re an acoustic player the Boss DR-01S is also an ideal choice thanks to its built-in speaker which allows it to run independently.


If you’re a songwriter you might want to utilize more than 1 drum beat and work in some fills.

So here something like the more advanced Alesis SR-16 is a good choice.

It has a powerful in-built sequencer that allows you to create your own patterns and arrange them into a song format.

It will then play the song structure you have specified without requiring any input from you, leaving you free to just play.

Live Performances

If you wish to integrate a drum machine into your live performances your focus should be primarily on a great interface that’s as easy to use (and as sturdy) as possible.

You’ll need to be changing beats on the fly so having a complicated interface with too many buttons is a recipe for disaster.

So here a pedal format drum machine like the BeatBuddy Mini 2 works great as it has a tough outer shell, a super clear interface you can understand from a distance, and a nice big metal button you can stomp on without damaging the unit.

Enhancing Your Guitar Experience

Adding some drums to your playing is the quickest way to turn a simple guitar riff into an inspiring piece of real music.

While the drum units specifically designed with guitarists in mind are limited, providing you put some thought into what you’re looking for there’s a product out there to suit every kind of use case.

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About Liam Plowman

Liam is a British musician who specializes in all things guitar, audio, and gear. He was trained as a guitar technician at the Oxford Guitar Gallery and currently teaches at multiple music schools across the UK. Key skillset includes purchasing unnecessary guitar equipment and accumulating far too many plugins.

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