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Tapping out a beat: Pulse Surface Controller

Posted by bryanh on Feb 21, 2012, Categories: Mobile News

piezo microphones

Piezo microphones convert pressure into sounds. Image: strbn/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Anybody who knows musicians probably knows the drummer who is forever beating a rhythm on any surface available. A new musician-developed device that allows users to turn any surface into a drum — or any other musical instrument, for that matter — was recently launched. It allows drummers to play in a more organic fashion than with most other computer-based systems.

The Pulse Surface Controller system

The Pulse Surface Controller is a device and supporting software that was developed by musician Stephan Vankov. It includes a piezo microphone — one that generates sounds in response to pressure stimulus — that can attach to most flat surfaces via a suction cup or Velcro strips. The surface then becomes a drum head when tapped. The device plugs into a computer’s microphone input. Taps on the surface are recorded as MIDI messages that can be converted to any musical instrument via separate softwares.

Previously only for do-it-yourselfers

According to Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music, piezo microphone controllers are not a new concept. In the past, however, they have been specialized do-it-yourself devices. The Pulse Surface Controller, selling for $59 in the U.S., makes the technology affordable and accessible to almost any musician or ambitious air-drummer.

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More like real drumming

Most computer-based drumming programs involve a keyboard or a small touch-pad for input. The Pulse Controller seeks to create for a more organic interchange between drummer and computer.

Creator Vankov explains:

“The Pulse Controller was born out of the belief that as computer-based musicians and performers we should not feel relegated to a grid of small 1×1 inch pads or a keyboard to create our rhythms and provide pulse to our music. Controllers, once intended to give us the immediacy of playing an instrument, often end up feeling more disconnected and distracting. With the Pulse Surface Controller System, controlling percussive instruments has a more visceral, immediate quality… that generates notes in predefined musical scales the user can easily extend into the melodic domain, to tap into an inspiring world of happy accidents.”

Mac version available now

The software included with the system contains a large array of settings for mapping MIDIs to other musical instruments. The Pulse system currently only supports Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.7. According to Geeky Gadgets, there is a M4L version that will support Windows available by request. The system is compatible with Cubase, Ableton Live, VST plug-ins, Pro Tools and any other software that that accepts MIDI files.


Geeky Gadgets
Create Digital Music

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