When you've got your hands full trying to play guitar, put your feet to work with these pedal accessories from Vidami and Elgato.
You can learn how to do just about anything by watching videos online. Or I should say, you can find videos online claiming to teach you almost anything. Whether you can actually learn from all of them is debatable.
That being said, whether it's cooking, home repair, tech tips or, in my case, learning to play guitar, there's no end to the online lessons at your disposal.
When I got my first electric guitar last year, I turned to online lessons to learn how to play it. I started with Fender Play, which I had used previously when I was trying to learn the ukulele.
I also tried looking up free lessons on YouTube, and there are a lot of great videos for beginners out there to help you get started.
Regardless of the platform, I kept running into frustrations with needing to take my hands off the guitar to navigate whatever video player I was using.
Soon after that, I started seeing ads on Instagram for the Vidami, a foot pedal designed to solve this very problem.
Vidami sells two different versions of the looper pedal: the original Vidami, which connects to your computer via a USB cable, and the Vidami Blue, which features Bluetooth connectivity and added features.
At its most basic, the USB version of the Vidami ($150) is designed to duplicate some of the keyboard functions you would use to control a video player, but to operate them with your foot instead of your hand. It works with YouTube in a Chrome or Safari browser, and with over 35 other music teaching platforms from teachers like Marty Music, Guitar Lessons 365 and Justin Guitar.
Vidami is designed to blend right in with your other guitar pedals and features five buttons that look and function just like the switches you'd find on some of your favorite stompboxes.
These buttons control the play/pause, back, forward, speed and loop functions in your video player. Did you even know you can loop part of a YouTube video to make it play over and over again? I didn't until I started using this pedal.
So now you can press play on a video, follow along with the lesson, rewind and fast forward as needed, slow it down and even repeat sections -- all without removing your hands from the fretboard or putting down your pick.
For many people, that may be enough to help you get your hands off the keyboard and back on your instrument. But Vidami didn't stop there.
The Vidami Blue costs $230 and has all the same functionality as the original Vidami pedal, but in a wireless package. Bluetooth allows you to connect not only to your laptop or desktop computer but also to phones and tablets .
Plus, it's added support for sheet music apps and tab sites like OnSong and Ultimate Guitar Tabs so you can turn pages and scroll through songs hands-free.
There are even settings for helping with recording music as well. Vidami Blue supports many digital audio workstations, or DAWs, including GarageBand and Pro Tools. Configuration settings and button assignments for those various uses are available on Vidami's website.
For example, if I'm recording my guitar in GarageBand (though trust me, there's not much point in recording anything I can play yet) I can set up and get my hands ready to play, hit play to start the prerecorded drum track, then press the record button for my sweet guitar part. Again, doing it all with my feet, leaving my hands free to shred.
Well, maybe someday.
Though the Vidami and the Vidami Blue might be the first foot pedals designed by a family of musicians to assist with learning guitar or another instrument, they are hardly the first foot controllers for a computer on the market. There are a number of foot controllers out there for accessibility uses, transcription, MIDI instruments and more.
Coincidentally, around the same time I was reaching out to Vidami to get some demo units of its products, I saw that Elgato had announced a new product: the Stream Deck Pedal.
As the name implies, Elgato Stream Decks (not to be confused with the Steam Deck) are used by a lot of streamers and gamers, as well as other kinds of video professionals. I have a Stream Deck of my own that I use when editing and streaming, so I was familiar with how you can customize the buttons to serve a variety of functions.
Where Vidami has five buttons on its pedals, the Stream Deck Pedal ($90) only has three. You need a USB cable to connect to your computer, so it's not as tidy as the Vidami Blue. I found the design of the Elgato pedal to be a little more comfortable to use and that the larger buttons were easier to find without looking. There's also an option to install rubber stops if you want to use the large middle button as a footrest when not pressing one of the outer buttons.
Within the Stream Deck software, there are a lot of built-in functions that you can assign to the buttons, and a huge selection of plugins available for download. Though the pedal pairs nicely with a desktop Stream Deck, it can be used on its own. As it turns out, the Stream Deck Pedal can be configured to perform many of the same functions as the Vidami pedals, and many more.
By adding the Hotkey function to each of the pedal's three buttons, you can assign the keystroke you want each one to activate. To use the Stream Deck Pedal with the YouTube player, it's a matter of assigning the YouTube keyboard shortcuts you want to each of the pedal's buttons: K for play/pause, L to skip forward 10 seconds and J to back up 10 seconds.
I feel like those are the basic functions that I would use the most often, so if you're not concerned about loops or speed controls, this might be all you need. I also found the larger pedals make it easier to find the button I'm looking for, compared to the smaller switches on the Vidami. And, when I'm not practicing guitar, I can put the Stream Deck Pedal to use when I'm editing for work as part of my video-editing setup.
As you've probably figured out by now, these pedals could be used for a lot more than just learning how to play guitar. Since they're already set up to control YouTube videos, you could use them for any kind of tutorial, especially anything that requires you to use your hands.
One use I thought of was in the kitchen, when you're trying to learn how to cook something, but don't want to get your dirty hands all over your iPad or mouse. The Vidami Blue would be especially useful here.
I've also thought about taking up knitting. I could see it being really helpful to sit with my yarn in my lap and the needles in my hands while I navigate the YouTube player with my feet. Or, if you're a crafter and like to watch videos while you're working, the pedals can work for that too.
I like to have something on TV while I'm sewing, something I can listen to even if I'm not paying attention to the screen. The YouTube keyboard shortcuts work for a lot of other video players too, like Hulu , Netflix and HBO Max. You will need to install the HBO Max/Go Shortcuts extension for the Chrome browser for that one, though.
I've already talked about all of the plugins available for the Stream Deck Pedal, but I also found a way to customize the Vidami pedals to be used for other things.
Karabiner-Elements is a keyboard customizer for the Mac that allows you to create your own shortcuts, and it can be used to assign new functionality to the buttons on the Vidami pedals.
For example, a lot of programs use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move forward and backward in whatever you're doing. Using the Karabiner Event Viewer, I can see that the computer recognizes Vidami's forward button as the close bracket, or ] key.
To create a new shortcut, go into Karabiner-Elements and add a new modification to change the close bracket key to the right arrow key. You can do the same and change the open bracket, or [, to the left-arrow key.
Now those buttons on the Vidami will let you navigate through Keynote slides, Apple Music tracks or just about anything you can come up with that uses the arrow keys. Karabiner can do a lot more than that, so check it out if you want to try out some more advanced shortcuts.