Every so often, an innovative and easy-to-use piece of technology comes along that makes me (and everyone that I show it to) grin from ear to ear and get right down to making music with it. Digitech’s brand-new Trio Band Creator is most definitely in that category. Designed for use primarily with guitar, the Trio can analyse up to three different chord progressions and, having worked out the key, time signature (3/4 and 4/4 only), length, tempo, number of bars, feel and constituent chords, it instantly creates, plays, loops and varies bass and drum parts that fit those sequences. On top of that, those parts can be played in any one of seven different Genres, each of which contains 12 distinctly different Styles, nine in 4/4, and three in 3/4. That’s a pretty impressive performance by any standard.
Setting up the Trio can be as simple as plugging in your guitar and a pair of headphones to hear your mix of speaker-emulated live guitar (with or without onboard effects), drums and bass. Alternatively, you can send the amp output to your guitar rig, and simultaneously use the mixer output to route a mono drum and bass mix to another amp, DAW, PA, or some such.
When used alone, both the Amp and Mixer outputs carry the same mono mix of live guitar, bass and drums. In the Amp output, the drums and bass are EQ’d for playback through a guitar amp, whilst the guitar signal in the Mixer line is speaker-emulated. Plugging in a set of headphones (or a stereo lead) mutes both Amp and Mixer outputs. If you want a stereo mix with only bass and drums from the headphone output, you’ll need to rig an A/B pedal so that your guitar signal will bypass the Trio after the learning process has ended.
Teaching the Trio a chord sequence is as simple as picking a starting Genre and Style, selecting an empty Part, tapping the footswitch to enter Learn mode, playing the progression and tapping the footswitch on the first downbeat of the repeat to start the bass and drums playing their parts. At this point, the fun starts and your smile will widen because you’ll now have an inventive bassist and a rock-solid drummer playing along with you. You can then experiment with any Genre and its Styles until you find a combination you’re happy with. You’ll also find that the rhythm patterns vary, with the drummer in particular getting into little fills and embellishments.
When teaching the Trio its part, you do have to play cleanly and precisely and to stick to major, minor and seventh chords, in 3/4 or 4/4 time, with no more than one chord per quarter note and without syncopation. Depending on the tempo that you teach at, the Alt Time button will give you half or double time, and you can further refine that with the Tempo knob.
Although you can play well over a minute into each part, the longer the part is, the more potential there is for error. Therefore, ideally, you need to keep each part as short as possible. A nice touch is that, if you’re working with a verse-chorus-bridge song structure, you’ll find that the intensity of the bass and drum parts is optimised for Part 1 as the verse, Part 2 as the chorus and Part 3 as the bridge. On playback, you can use the Trio’s footswitch to move between the individual Parts on the fly, which is useful, but the optional FS3X footswitch enables you — hands free — to switch between the Parts, step up and down through a Genre’s Styles and to set Learn and Play modes.
Provided that you stick to the rules, teaching the Trio a chord progression works every time and, as long as you bear in mind that the Trio isn’t a drum machine or a looper, and that it can only remember the last progression in each Part, you won’t go far wrong. Think of the Trio more as a particularly obliging and skilled bassist and drummer who are always up for a jam or a gig and who can switch genres, styles and the occasional time signature in the blink of an eye.
The bass and drum kit sounds are excellent and you can explore and exploit the differences between Styles within a Genre as well as those between intensities over the three Parts to get the perfect sound and feel. The online-only manual lists the Genres, and the Styles within them, in great detail and contains all the operational details and diagrams that I just haven’t got room for here.
The Trio isn’t a replacement for an auto-accompaniment program like Band-in-a-Box or Impro-Visor in the same way that a Portastudio isn’t a replacement for a DAW. However, like a Portastudio, it’s the Trio’s immediacy and ease of use that make it so much fun to make music with. Your bassist and drummer friends may not like listening to you raving about the Trio, but they’ll get used to it. Mine are going to have to! Bob Thomas