There's something rather comforting about the wind-up metronome, with its notched pendulum, pyramidal shape and hollow ticking, but it's not without its limitations. Eventually it winds down and additionally, it's not very portable. These shortcomings have been effectively circumvented with the advent of digital and smartphone app metronomes, but then there's the third thing: the audible tick.
The Soundbrenner Pulse wearable metronome, developed by three musicians, semi-professional orchestra violinist Vini Tiet, rock drummer Julian Vogels and pianist Florian Simmendinger, aims to put paid to all three: it's light, it's portable and wearable, it's digital -- and it's silent, relying on pulsed vibrations against the musician's body via a haptic motor, rather than audible ticks or clicks.
"With a vibrational metronome, the musician can literally feel the beat and play along naturally. It is the way that teachers often teach music to their students as kids -- by tapping the beat onto the wrist or hand of the child who is learning to play," Simmendinger explained. "The SoundBrenner Pulse is the digital device that does the same thing, in a much cooler and more intuitive fashion for musicians of all levels. This form is also way less intrusive than the audible metronome, which produces an annoying clicking sound."
The Soundbrenner Pulse -- over a year in development with the feedback of over 100 musicians, and currently seeking funding on Indiegogo -- looks just like a large wristwatch, with colour-changing LEDs, with a strap that allows the user to fasten it around an arm -- or a leg, if engaging in very frenetic arm activity, such as drumming. The disc can also be removed from the strap and placed in a pocket if that's more comfortable.
Inside, it contains a haptic motor -- the most advanced the Soundbrenner team could get their hands on.
"In the beginning we wanted to utilise the hardware of smartphones and smartwatches, but soon had to realise that it was not sufficient for our purposes," Simmendinger said. "In order to build the vibrating metronome, we had to find and utilise the most advanced haptic feedback technology available today."
This motor is able to achieve vibrations three-to-five times stronger than other smart devices, the team said, delivering punctual and crisp beats that the user will definitely be able to feel. The capacitive touch interface allows the user to turn the device on and off with different touch gestures, while tapping out a beat sets the Soundbrenner Pulse to vibrate to that beat -- a highly intuitive feature.
But the device also has a few other tricks to put up your sleeve, far beyond the metronome. For a start, it includes a Bluetooth module that connects it to your smartphone app, which in turn allows you to control the device, set the rhythm and create presets.
This module also allows it to communicate with other Soundbrenner Pulse devices, allowing an entire group to synchronise to the same beat.
"Using a smart device allows us furthermore to do a couple of really cool things, like Multi-Link where we can synchronise the vibrations of several devices for an entire band, so that they can all stay on the beat and play much better music," Simmendenger said. "The companion app also allows us to add features that are critical for musicians such as the Smart Music Coach and the Rhythm exercises that help musicians play better and motivate them to practice more regularly, both of which are very valuable to musicians of all levels."
This Smart Music Coach provides the user with achievements for, say, practising every day for a week, or the user can set their own goals; while the rhythm exercises help the user develop a better sense of rhythm.
"Following the beat is fundamental to playing great music. It's difficult for beginners and even for the most accomplished musicians who are aiming to achieve perfection. When you wear the Soundbrenner Pulse against your skin, you can literally feel and internalise the beat you want to follow, and it becomes the most natural feeling in the world," Simmendinger said.
The Soundbrenner Pulse is currently being offered as a reward for a $129 pledge on Indiegogo; retail will be $149. You can check it out on the Soundbrenner Pulse Indiegogo page.