Feeling the Beat

A Novi musician and inventor develops a device that allows bass players to ‘feel’ their notes.
Musician using Back Beat
Yerko Sepulveda in Novi invented BackBeat that allows bass players to sense their riffs.

These days, many concerts and other musical performances are becoming more intimate experiences between musicians and audiences, rather than huge events at large venues. With the transition, Yerko Sepulveda, a bass player who lives in Novi, started noticing his relationship with the sound waves themselves was changing, and he was having trouble hearing the notes.

Over the past 10 years or so, Sepulveda explains, bands have removed amplifiers from stages to free up space so entertainers have more room to move around. But bass players, who rely on the amps to “feel” notes that are too low to hear in group or performance settings, faced a problem. “In that range, the frequencies are as much felt as they are heard,” Sepulveda says.

Enter BackBeat Technologies in Novi, which produces a device that plugs into a bass guitar and is attached to a musician’s guitar strap (literally on his or her back). The smartphone-sized product vibrates with the notes, so bass players can once again feel what they’re playing.

Sepulveda, who invented the device, has a degree in aeronautical engineering. He started working on the project in 2016, and a year later a prototype was ready for testing.

To raise funds for manufacturing his new product and to build awareness of its value, Sepulveda launched a Kickstarter campaign last year. At the same time, he teamed up with Oakland County’s Tech 248, a nonprofit hub that assists technology startups with marketing and business plans. He hoped the Kickstarter campaign would raise $25,000, enough to make devices for bass players to use and review, but it raked in $130,000.

After the success of his campaign, Sepulveda enlisted the help of Oakland University’s Mobilization Zone, which integrates faculty, students, facilities, and regional government offices into an entity that can mobilize expertise to promote economic development programs. The group’s Ideas to Business effort also helps entrepreneurs analyze the market potential for new products or services. Sepulveda also received assistance from OU INC, an Oakland University-based business accelerator that works in collaboration with Michigan Economic Development Corp. Michael Long, executive director of OU’s Mobilization Hub, says the incubator offers support services that small businesses don’t typically have access to, such as marketing, sales, and financing.

“Yerko’s gotten this device into the hands of people who can really understand (and appreciate) its power,” Long says.

The product has since moved on to the big leagues; bassists who play with Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake, among others, are now using BackBeat. Sepulveda says the $299 device is available in two colors, black or white, at GetBackBeat.com.

Next up, Sepulveda plans to develop similar devices for drummers, keyboard players, and guitarists. “There’s a lot of opportunity for customizing for different instruments,” he says.