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Soundbrenner Pulse - Smart Vibrating Metronome: A Comprehensive Review

What is the Soundbrenner Pulse?

The Soundbrenner Pulse is a wearable device designed to help musicians of all genres to develop their skills and to unleash their musical potential. Its purpose is to provide the functionality of a metronome, but instead of providing rhythmic audio, something that’s often undesirable, perhaps overly distracting, or even just irrelevant to the creative sound desired, the Pulse – as suggested by the name – provides a series of rhythmic vibrations. Therefore, you’re able to keep time without having to hear (or see, if desired) anything outside of what you’re creating. It keeps your time keeping low-key, private, personal, and in many cases – it helps you move forwards with your playing.

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Who is it For?

Simply put, anyone who wants to make music. Rhythm is essential in most genres, it is the pattern, the shared timing and movement of our surroundings. Just as the heart beats consistently, rhythmically, to keep us alive – music must breathe in order to thrive and captivate; it must flow from a similar source of energy.

Whatever instrument you play, whatever your role or musical desires may be, the chances are that rhythm and time keeping are going to be crucial, particularly if you want to collaborate or jam with other musicians – a lack of rhythm in this case can sound quite unpleasant. As a musician and guitar teacher, the concept of the Soundbrenner Pulse was hugely appealing to me on first hearing about it. To my knowledge there wasn’t much available at the time that provided all of the benefits of a traditional metronome but without the awkwardness, and with a much sleeker, more subtle appearance.

From a teaching perspective, the Pulse could potentially change the way people learn music. You naturally come to adjust to the rhythm applied by the watch, and so your playing will, in theory, follow the right patterns from the start – leaving you free to focus more intently on your theory outside of this, or on your chords, your scales, your accuracy, your speed, your creativity.

I was particularly interested in the device for personal reasons as when it comes to performing solo, perhaps more-so as a songwriter, first and foremost, there’s often an inclination to follow one’s own sense of timing, which can make it difficult to record or remix or collaborate when you start to branch out and away from yourself. When using a loop pedal, the Soundbrenner Pulse can be worn and set to the exact time signatures of the songs you wish to practice or perform, so the worry of extended pauses or rhythmically lacking output is essentially taken away. The same goes for practicing any songs or compositions that you’ve come to know well. Focusing on the pulse of the Pulse, as it were, will allow you to master the intended timings, and therefore develop your professional playing skills to a much greater level.

Ease Of Use

The Pulse itself is a fairly simple device, you charge it as you would most others these days – USB, straight into your computer while you work. It’s easy to operate, and although the vibrating rhythm is likely to come through as fairly unusual to many guitarists, pianists, and otherwise solo musicians, it’s something you very quickly get used to and can adapt to if the desire to improve is there. The idea is to free you of any timing concerns, to make certain you’re practicing at the right pace, consistently, and so eventually you’ll naturally be playing at a flawless pace throughout anything you choose to perform.

The added benefit of this product is that for group sessions, if everyone in the band wears a Soundbrenner Pulse, you can sync them all together and have a shared playlist loaded and ready to perform or practice with. For new or upcoming bands, it takes away the hassle or worry of trying to get things sounding as tight as possible within a short space of time. It doesn’t take away the need to be in time with one another, nor does it magically give you an unwavering sense of rhythm – you’ll still need to play and play and play to get that mastered – but it does remove the finger pointing when it comes to who’s speeding up or falling behind during a jam.

Admittedly, there may be an element of distraction to the Pulse at first, but this is something that can be fully controlled once you master the accompanying app, and that’s not a difficult thing to do. As a vocalist, it’s invaluable when practicing, particularly when alone. And indeed for guitarists, to feel the rhythm or unspoken beat of the track you’re working on is huge. For many people, the Pulse is likely to be a pretty powerful breakthrough in modern music making.

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Music Theory

For classical musicians, and those wishing to develop and perfect their knowledge and skills within music on the whole, there’s a good chance the device will be a prominent helping hand – especially when it comes to mastering those complex pieces and getting use to the often fast pace required to execute effectively. The idea of touch being the aid as opposed to sound or sight is interesting – over time, particularly when wearing the watch on your leading hand, it’s likely that you will naturally connect the rhythm of the device to the rhythm of your fingers, so the more you wear and activate the Pulse, the more a part of your natural playing the rhythms will become. It makes a lot of sense, and it’s far less intrusive than some of the more traditional, occasionally irritating metronomes that can be downloaded as single apps or plugins.

Customisation

The Soundbrenner Pulse App allows you to control and customise your device as far as how intense each vibration is, how frequently they occur (i.e. every beat, every 2nd, 3rd, or 4th beat) and whether or not the device’s light and colour scheme is to be activated. When you’re performing, the light scheme is likely to distract audiences from what you’re doing, and possibly make them question your ability. At home as well I found the light scheme to be a little distracting when concentrating on playing a particular piece, despite the initial enjoyment of the feature. As stated, you have complete control of this, and if you want a minor vibration, with no visual accompaniment at all, you can set the device accordingly.

You can also wear the device completely out of view if desired. The Pulse comes with two straps, one that is designed to fit most wrist or arm sizes, and one that’s a little larger and can be worn on the leg or further up the arm. The team also introduced just last month the Soundbrenner Pulse Body Strap – this lets the user strap the Soundbrenner Pulse around their torso, including their chest, shoulder, back; pretty much wherever they choose. The Body Strap is available separately at $29 via their Website.

The company have considered it all when designing this, and it’s clear that the musician, the artist, regardless of instrument choice, has always been at the centre of their construction. The Pulse is easy to use, and simple looking so that most physical functions are activated either by single or double taps or holds on the device face, and by turning the wheel surrounding the face.

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Music Production

From a pianist and producer’s perspective the Soundbrenner Pulse is an inspired concept and good premise for perfecting your playing in a solo setting, particularly where volume may be an issue. It could take a while to get used to, but once you’re comfortable wearing the watch and have loaded your track timings and rhythms up to the app, the potential for improvement is heightened and it could well be a useful asset to many aspiring musicians.

As a member of the Soundbrenner community the company regularly inform you of updates and new ideas that are in the pipeline, so to get involved is to be on-board with any future developments. They’re a company who are very passionate about this product and about music and music education in general, so there’s likely to be a lot more to come from the product and the app. Production wise and in terms of live sampling (Ableton Live, etc), the Pulse comes with downloadable DAW tools for the more advanced user. Again, this is something the company seem to be regularly working on, and their connection with their audience means that all suggestions and possible improvements are taken into account.

The Downside?

The primary downside for me was that the device didn’t have an actual watch incorporated, a fairly irrelevant point to make, but it’s something I found myself repeatedly considering. It’s not a watch you would wear outside of playing, writing or practicing, so there’s a chance it could be forgotten at those essential times as it’s such a small piece of equipment. However, this really reiterates the fact that Soundbrenner designed this with a very specific focus. The device has a singular purpose, they saw a potential problem in modern music making and developing, and they’ve considered every possible way to solve that problem, all the while keeping the tool for doing so as basic and simple to use as possible. They’ve kept it relative to music at every step, and that’s a respectable quality; it also means you’re less likely to suffer complicated functional issues further down the line.

Battery Life…

If you’re using the device consistently, and playing for the appropriate amount of time required to truly perfect a performance, throughout the week – you’ll have to charge it fairly regularly. However, for me – at no point in the lead up to this article did the Pulse run out of juice part way through a session. Obviously, if you set the vibrations to the more intense end of the spectrum, with the lights flashing relentlessly, you’re likely to lose power a lot sooner.

The Sounbrenner Pulse is currently available at $99 – head over to the Soundbrenner Website to order or to find out more about it. The pack you’ll receive includes the device, the charging platform, an extensive yet pocket sized user manual, two watch straps (one regular, one large), some stickers, and a Soundbrenner plectrum (instant points in my book for those last two elements). Find & follow Soundbrenner on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Youtube to stay in the loop.

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Rebecca CullenMusician & writer with an MA in Songwriting.


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