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AMP Projects Page: Latest First

The following page shows the progression over the last four years. Initially as a "proof of concept" to create a "musical prosthesis" simply using inexpensive and easily available components. There are four separate approaches.

A: Create devices purely for fun and educational purposes.

B: Devices that have therapeutic potential (including data logging to support meaurable outcomes).

C: They can be based either in in a therapeutic or day centre setting.

D: Stand alone home use and if necessary, supported by a carer. This gives more opportunities of use and intervention.

Actuators ~

large Red Push Button Finger Drums Pressure Pads 4 Small Buttons 4 way joystick

These are the most

important parts

Button Actuator Single Medium Pink A pair of foot switches Medium button orange single Actuators Varous IR sensor
They are important because actuators provide the interface to make music accessible.
The instruments below simplify sound creation.

Devices that work outside the lab.

Sound inventions, in reverse order of creation.

A diversion from my usual application of music tech. The good folks at Festive Road (MK) asked if their 50th anniversary mock up of the Lunar Lander could be wired for sound. Answer yes! Pressing the big blue button at the lower front plays various Apollo 11 sound bytes.

It uses an adaFruit SFX board with 12Mb of memory, a pair of old HiFi speakers and a Class D 20W 12v battery powered amp. The SFX board uses a separate 4.5v battery supply but a 5v regulator could have been an alternative.

50th Anniversery LEM - wired for sound

"Top Box"

This has been designed to enable the headrest of a wheelchair play either chords or percussion.

Based on an Arduino UNO and a Sparkfun Music Shield. 3.5mm jack sockets are used to match the 3.5mm plugs on the Jelly Beans. RHS sockets ~ chords, LHS sockets ~ percussion.

The top control changes instruments. The bottom control alters sustain.

Top Box and Jelly Bean Switches

Proximity Box: MIDI

This was developed for testing out the suitability of different materials that can be used with proximity sensing. e.g. if copper tape is stuck under a table, how thick a layer of would can it detect a hand touching the surface?

Proximity Tester
The Talking Table AMPS The Talking Table

Tone Circle and / or Circle of Fifths. A proof of concept to demonstrate music theory.


Circle of Fifths

Planxtone aka the Polyphonic Plank.

A Proximity Sensing Keyboard. Created to test a range of concepts e.g. proximity sensing, key shifting, octave shifting and instrument changing..



Touch Sensitive White Board

Pictures and sound files can be changed with minimal or low cost resources.

The board uses capacitive sensing (like a tablet screen). It has up to 12 "hotspots" that will trigger any kind of sound (MP3 file). It could be a single note, a song or a single word or a poem. Associated pictures can be hand drawn and laid on top of the sensors. Sound files and pictures can easily be changed. It's aimed at supporting the development of speech skills in children with autism. Article.

This template shows how to arrange sound files with the "hot spots".


Table Flute

A polyphonic MIDI derivation. It looks like a table top, but is actually a polyphonic electronic flute.

Table Flute

Electric Leaves
These were created by making sensors out of hardboard, emi copper foil and white gaffer tape. Paper leaves were printed out and stuck on top. Sound tracks were recorded and loaded onto a "Bare Conductive" processor board that has an integrated micro-controller, MP3 and MIDI CODEC and Capacitive senor. Touching a leaf would trigger a sound.

Electric Leaves
Proximity Board

Touch sensitive devices~ Proof of concept ~ testing out various ideas.

Cardboard pianos and phonemes at the very least
The idea is to have a base board with copper strips. On top of this you can stick an A4 printed sheet with either images or words. It can utilise either MIDI or MP3 triggers. Therefore if you touch on "Hello" it say "Hello". Break up "Hello" into "Hel" "lo" . Run you finger across to slowly or quickly to concatenate the phonemes that give you "Hello".

This is working fine now as a kind of "paper tablet". It has now been extended to having A4 sheets stuck on a wall connected by a thin wire. It seems to work more reliably with the "Bare Conductive "touch board" when you leave the PSU plugged in, probably as it helps to give a better path to earth.

Air Guitar Drum


This is the latest project. The intended recipient was someone who could benefit from an interactive form of music and movement. The current solution was to combine aspects of the Medi-MIDI and the mini drum synthesizer along with a range finder of some sort. Therefore if you come within range of the device various percussion, chords or tones can be generated.The test bed shown below was used to experiment with different sensors. I'd had some trouble with the ultrasonic (US) sensors picking up stray pulses so decided to try an infra red detector. These (for the moment) appear to lack stability as well as having a maxim range of 1.8m (in reality 1.4m usable). I returned to the US range finder and experimented with different timing windows and now have reliable results. The mini HIFI amp, Arduino processor, music shield, 9v battery box, green LED, speaker, instrument and mode selection switches have now been shoe-horned into the box on the left.

mini MIDI drum kit

Mini MIDI Drum Kit

After an article in the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) magazine a request came in to design an interface that could help someone to play a kick drum without using a left foot. Initially the focus was on creating more realistic percussion sounds using the dedicated channel 10 MIDI sounds rather than the more generic offerings (Especially to create the kick drum sound). The next problem was how best to trigger the drum. Initially a 3-axis accelerometer was tried attached with sticking plaster to the jaw. This worked but you could not move the rest of the body without triggering additional random responses .I decided against attaching additional detectors as it would have made the software too complex and eat up a lot of R&D time. An ultrasonic range finder was also attempted with a similar outcome. The client themselves suggested something you could bite on. This inspired me to talk to my dentist's dental technician. After some experimentation a small pressure sensor was sandwiched between two strips of dental plastic. This worked fine. Except the plastic rapidly abrades and then allows saliva to leak into the sensor, therefore not a long term solution. By chance I spotted a tooth switch on a photographic supplies site. These are used by sky divers to activate cameras and keep their hands free for manoeuvring. The tooth switch worked okay. The big button yellow button is to experiment with the kick drum by hand. The smaller buttons can be programmed for other percussion such high tom, snare, crash symbol etc. The tooth switch plugs into the jack socket. There are also line and MIDI outputs.

Sound Blanket Sound Blanket
Update October 2016: This survived around 9 months. It is now in the process of being rebuilt using the Adafruit SFX card. The 4 cell battery unit is being replace by a single 9v cell. This will reduce the overall weight and reduce kinetic mass and energy.

This was built along the "prescription" principle. A local charity requested a device for a student with autism. The person in question felt more comfortable and at ease with certain sounds. These sounds were captured with a field recorder and copied onto a SD card. The card was then plugged into a Bare Conductive combined processor and synthesiser card. A small amplifier, speaker and battery holder were added into the mix. One design specification was that it had to be strong enough to be trodden on but light enough not to cause damage if thrown. This was achieved by using a domestic chopping board appropriately cut to shape. For safety the output sound level (velocity) was limited in the software so as not to cause any hearing damage should the speaker be held close to the ear.In hindsight I would have used an Adafruit Audio SFX card which combines amplifier, codec and processor all on one card but at the time I had not not got a handle on some aspects of the user interaction in the Adafruit device..More Detail


Medi MIDI with data logging

This is both a simpler and more complex device! It's musicality was restricted to only 4 percussion; 4 chords; 4 tones though still with 6 instruments.The rational being that in a clinical situation 4 music sounds would be sufficient in a recovery phase. This device is capable of data logging.That is, objective baseline measurements can be made of interactions with a patient. To facilitate this it is fitted with a software metronome. The associated LED can be Red, Green or Blue when below, on or above the beats per minute setting. Data is extracted via the USB port. The metronome instruments can be altered as can the time signature.

Below Speed
Green LED
Test Bed Test Bed
This was put together to give a more stable and reliable arrangement for wiring connections. It has half a dozen tactile buttons, some jack sockets and rotary selectors plus a build in battery. Electronics are provided by an Arduino Uno and a Sparkfun music shield. It has been variously fitted with ultrasonic and infrared rangefinders to make an air drum as well as evaluating software builds.

TypewriterMk3 The Typewriters (3 versions)
This moved the "Bread bin" test bed into a more ergonomic design. The key design factor in this instance was to make it simpler for a carer with only elementary music skills to in turn enable a person with an impairment to participate actively in music. Thus the instrument selections are directly in line with the buttons that activate those instruments. Equally on the rear panel the jack sockets mirror the front panel buttons. An "off the shelf" HiFi amplifier was mounted at the front which includes volume and tone controls. Typically it took only a few minutes for therapist and or members of the general public to "get the hang" of how to operate the "typewriter" squawk box".

Jack Sockects
The Electric Bread Bin The Electric Bread Bin
The main idea behind the "Electric Bread Bin" was to make a fully self-contained "Squawbox". This had onboard amplifiers, music shield and Arduino Uno processor. Six chords and four percussion sound (with six instrument selections could by played using the front panel buttons -selected on the rear panel). The most important part is the actuators which can be plugged into the rear panel. Some examples (but not all) can be seen above.
Bread Bin rear Buttons
BreadBin Rear Jacks Sockects
Chock Box Chock Box
One intention of this project is to make the use of assisted music technology available outside of the clinical or therapist environment. This idea arose from hearing a case study where a patient had received some successful therapy but there was no follow up when they were sent home. This gives rise to the concept of generating a "prescription" where a simplified device , nicked named a "Squawbox" could be sent home to facilitate continuing therapy supported by a carer. This has the ability of giving 4 percussion, 6 harmonic chords each with a range of six instruments. This also used the "Sparkfun" "Music Shield" i.e. MIDI capable. It can output to another MIDI enabled device or an external amplifier. For the latter an ordinary pair of computer speakers would suffice.

The NoteDuino The NoteDuino
This was a "proof of concept. Sound capable "shields" had become available so it was possible to dispense with the external electronic keyboard and/or syntheser.The shape and presentation indicate the mix of music and electronics. This now allows for 4 chords and 4 percussion sounds. The software was redesigned to be poly-chordal i.e. multiple chords can be played simultaneously (over coming the earlier "blocking chord" problem. Four instruments are available for selection for either chords or percussion. Two selection modes are used. One is binary, the other is resistive ladder.

A Musical Prosthesis
Having proved it was possible to control a MIDI capable electronic keyboard from an Arduino the next step was to make something that was usable "in the field". The device shown on the left allowed the use of 2 percussion actuators and 4 harmonic actuators. It was also possible to select different instruments. This was tested on an ex paralympion who had great fun creating percussion sounds with their left foot. They also said their muscles had got tired to which the assisting occupational theraphist said "good, that also means you are doing some cardio-vascular excersise as well!"

However it was a bit of a chore carrying the guitar, electronic keyboard and separate amplifier and actuators as the subjects flat was about 800ft from the car park. Additionally the set up was based around a guitar operation. Thus it could only sound out with a single actuator pressed. Pressing two gave rise to what I called the"blocking chord" problem.
Solderless Bread Board Bread Board
The initial project was constructed on a standard breadboard using an Arduino UNO, a 5 pin DIN socket and a 220ohm resistor.
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