Feel the music. Feel the time. Feel and focus on the music. In a nutshell, that would be plenty of a review. When I first heard about a wearable metronome, I raised my eyebrows. I grew up with a mechanical wind-up metronome, and its click was comforting until it became akin to white noise. The attitude was just as varied as the metronome tempo through countless hours of practicing. From the satisfaction of playing to the timing to the frustration of playing off the timing – though the latter may have been purposeful at times, depending on the day’s mood, the click could be stimulating or irritating, too loud or too quiet.
There is plenty of criticism around the use of metronomes. In answer to a specific question related to the use of such a device, Arianna Mazzarese, who is not only the violinist of the cross-over duo Golden Salt but also an alumna of a notable music conservatory, said in a Q&A, “The ideal would be not to go away from timing because our heart takes us elsewhere but to be able to express ourselves within the timing. Study with the metronome, and when you are in control, you can leave the metronome.” American composer Daniel Gregory Mason pointed out that “the use of the metronome is ‘dangerous’ because it leads musicians to play by the measure or beat instead of the phrase, at the expense of liveliness, instinct, and rhythmical energy.” These views underline the value of intuition, subtleties, and style compared to a metronome’s fixed, constant pulse.
I have always used a metronome as a reminder, akin to a lookout reminding me to stay within a timing parameter without scolding me when I stray, provided I would feel my way back into the measure or time signature in the next iteration. My relationship with the metronome falls into the in-between “use but do not be bound to” category. Eventually, my device use faded and stopped altogether (I know, I know). I started with a mechanical metronome, then nothing for almost forty years, until this year when I put my hands on a wearable vibrating device: the Core. The difference is in how you experience a metronome (though the German Soundbrenner Core is much more than just that).
The Soundbrenner Core came in an appealing and sturdy box containing the Core watch strap rig, a charging cable, a silicone strap and body strap, a magnetic tuner mount, and earplugs. The setup was a breeze, and it took little time to realize how to use it. Focusing solely on the vibrational metronome, you can easily adjust BPM, time signature, subdivision, and set accents and have a customizable light visual reference. The included straps will allow you to feel the beat on your wrist, arm, ankle, thigh, shoulder & chest – it can be as concealed or evident as you wish. It is incredibly lightweight. A note of caution to those with implanted medical devices (it may interfere) or some conditions which may worsen (because of the strong vibration).
The Core fits the production line unobtrusively and efficiently. While MIDI support is officially in beta, it works better than expected: the Core will easily sync via Wi-Fi to various Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) such as Ableton, Logic, Reaper, etc. Though the time signature, subdivision, or accent cannot be transmitted, they can manually be matched between the DAW and the mobile app. When using multiple Cores, you can sync them together so that everyone feels the beat together.
In a future post, we will see how it is an accessory that stands out, makes things more straightforward than anticipated, and is surprisingly accurate and versatile – from using the magnetic tuner on a guitar to monitoring sound levels through the built-in dB meter (alerting when sound levels are risky to your hearing). And yes, the Soundbrenner Core has some additional though basic smartwatch features: it shows date, time, and time zone, allows to set the alarm, go to airplane mode, display smartphone notifications and calls, and can be used as a timer and stopwatch. All the things a musician does not necessarily need but are nice to have in their basic form.
Core has a few drawbacks, such as battery life and draining the phone battery via the app –un-synch it when not in use (you can still use it as a basic watch). It is not a cheap device, yet it is worth the investment to feel the beat and appreciate the metronome’s quiet presence, which eventually becomes second nature – making it very practical for teachers and students alike, from beginners to professionals. If you want more information or to see it in action, please visit Soundbrenner’s site. I am off to feel the beat. Have a great Friday!