The Acessible Music Project



Narrative: Comments to  contactamps@btinternet.com

Feb 2024

Re-visiting an XYZ accelerometer but with added Music Instrument shield. Just experimenting with a bass drum with loudness linked to velocity of movement.

Jan 2024

Good bye fallen Gwynhaff old friend. Hope you fly again another day.

There is many a town and city carnival and parade that will no longer be enriched by Festive Road's mechanical marvels.

Oct-Dec Wieird flue / cold bug.  
Sep 2023

A tip to independent designers for making control and patch panels quickly and cheaply. 1: Printout control panel on any drawing package onto A4, 120gm photo paper. (Leave a dot in the middle of the circles for pilot holes to be drilled).2: Laminate the photo paper. Stick to either 3ply or 2mm aluminium plate. 3: Drill pilot holes (use a bench drill if you have one). Enlarge holes as required with a bigger drill. Voila, one reasonably smart panel. Add controls, jack sockets, wiring and electronics to suite.

Top Box Mk2 Front Panel
Aug 2023 Topbox Mk2 is now turning into reality! Early part of consruction. TopBox Mk2 01
Aug 2023

A great afternoon with Tom Billington of Electric Umbrella fame, figuring out how to turn plywood and coach bolt umbrellas into accessible musical instruments, figured out! With help from an ATmega32U4 microcontroller, VS1053b music synth and MPR121 proximity sensor!

Elelectric Umbrella
July Another insightful meetup with Northampton's Inclusive Music Ensemble. Have to confess I'm getting very nerdy over push button switches. Concave or convex, microswitch or read reed rely, long or short travel, 20mm, 40mm, 80mm or 125mm diameter, hair trigger or resistive, fixed or floating, red, blue . . . . . . . .Or .. maybe a proximity sensor instead, . . . . hmhhh but they're not tactile. . . Push Buttons
June 2023

Updating TopBox Mk1 to nominally Mk 2. Low learning curve to operate. Enough chords to play a wide variety of popular tunes. Aimed at supporting music therapy at home. I suggest using music therapy methodology on a daily basic could support the gaining / regaining of fine motor skills.

The big change is using an Arduino Mega rather than UNO. This gives many more usable inputs.

Apr 2023 Dragon Voice FittingControlBox_DVMk2

New sound effects unit now installed in Gwynhaff. The previous version had all the electronics and switches all in one box. A more modular, interchangeable system is now in place with the electronics and push buttons separated out.

Apr2023 Mk4 SFX unit underway to make a more reliable dragons voice. sfxmk4



A trip out with my open source music tech, musically marvellous machines with the Northampton Music service aka NMPAT. Cannot show the students but it was an inspiring day to support fine motor skills. NM>APAt1
Mar 2023

Nine degrees of freedom up and running on a breadboard. Currently just using the XYZ accelerometer. It now fires out different notes via a MIDI interface. The note being dependent on orientation. The 5 pin DIN allows connection to a MIDI enable keyboard. Alternatively the Sparkfun musical instrument shield converts the MIDI signal to a audio signal on the 3.5mmm mini jack.

Feb 2023

A very, very stimulating time this afternoon with the good folks at Northampton Music And Performing Arts Trust. Many good ideas swapped on the use open source tech to support making music more accessible and inclusive. Brain is brimming over with 
concepts. Need to sketch out new designs quickly. Feel tired and energised at the same time!


Feb 2023 Home page given a refresh.  
Jan 2023 Investigating the potential for 9 degrees of movent sesnsors ( 3-Axis Gyroscop, 3-Axis Accelerometer and 3-axis magnetometer)  
Jan 2023 Working on a "Parsing routine" to convert ABC Notation for use in a MIDI translation in my base stations. There is a raft of royalty free folk tunes out there that could be embedded into these base station.  
Jan 2023 Upcomming Open Day at Festive Road around February half term.  
Sep 2022 At Festive Road Sept 2022 Field testing again at Festive Road (Kiln Farm, Milton Keynes, UK). In good company with their mechanical marvels.
Apr 2022

Harminder Voice Box

This is another perambulating mechanical marvel from Festive Road. First use of the generic module.


A MK III voice box. Analysing failure modes from earlier devices I now use a 5 Pin XLR cable to attach to the control box on the steering mechanism. This won't disconnect under vibration. For the line out, phono sockets are fixed to an epoxy base, so they cannot vibrate and rotate when Harminder is traveling and eventually brake the wired connexion.

Again using an Adafruit SFX.

Sep 2021 SFX Unit V01

Built around the Adafruit SFX.

Spring loaded connectors make for easy but reliable re-assignment.

Diode added to protect against reverse polarity of supply voltage.

5 pin DMX for single file triggers.

1/4in and 3.5mm for step next file triggers.

Phono output.

Sep 2021 AMPs Generic SFX Beginnings of a generic SFX for use in a variety of situations, such as perambulating creatures.
Sep 2021
Festive Road Heritage Day Sept 2021
Out and about field testing at Festive Road Heritage Day, along with their perambulating menagerie and mechanical marvels.
Sep 2021 You think you know things. Looking to convert all my actuator devices to off the shelf tech. e.g. using microphone cables which are cheap as chips. Hadn't realised XLR 3 pin cables do not pass through the earth from cable socket connectors.  
Feb 2021

AMPs Test Bed V3

New test bed rig being developed to aid faster proto-typing.
Dec 2020 Dragons Voice: Gwnnhaff the dragon now has a voice, again using an Adafruit SFX card. All contained in a small self contained box fitted to the handle bars. The speaker and amplifier are inside the neck. Powered by an onboard 12v supply. There is a 5v regulator inside the control box to supply the SFX board. A micro switch on one of the cycle wheels triggers a suitable "thump" to simulate a heavy footfall. Dragons Voice Gwynhaff the dragon from Festive Road
July 2020 Thanks Covid 19, lost a few months there. Starting to power up soldering irons, 'scopes etc., nope, have to wait a bit longer  
COVID-19 stopped play.
Dec 2019
SFXFestive Road LionAMPS Actuator
The Festive Road Lion (Archie). A literal road test of assitive music technology. Helped to "roar" courtesy of an Adafruit SFX board in the sandwich box, controlled by one of my actuator boxes.
Oct 2019 Sound Circle WIP Amps Taking shape Just need to add wires and parts.
Aug 2019 AMPS TNMoC1 AMPs at TNMoC AMPS at TNMoC

Sound Bytes at TNMoC during the bank holiday Bytes Festival.

Presenting contactless keyboards, floor guitar, table drums and talking whiteboard.

Aug 2019 Sound Bytes at Festive Road August 2019 Field testing AMP's hardware and software (Sound Bytes) at a Festive Road Open Day
July 2019 Festive Road LEM

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.


July 2019 Octal Shepard Tones This is a prototype "Octal Flute". based on the "Tone Circle". It will be easier to hand around in group activity sessions.
July 2019 Double Sided Percfussion This will turn into a double sided percussion instrument. The object being to promote interactivity.
July 2019 Polyphonic plank Mk2 A Mk II version of my polyphonic plank. These are designed as perception challengers in how a musical instrument can be created and used.
Nov 6th 2018 I've decided to create a "drain drum" along the line of devices created by the "Blue Man Group" over in the US of A. This will have three short drain pipes with embedded range finders and will hopefully be velocity sensing ( new functionality for me).

This should solve a request for help from around 12 months ago.

Still TBA July 2019

Wed 12th Sept 2018 External Supple via 2.1  =+ve centre Fitting the internal power supply required changing the external 2.1 mm power socket. This had an extra pin to allow connecting to either internal batteries or external PSU. Counter intuitively it is the ground that changes over not the "live" 9v - 12v rail.
Wed 12th Sept 2018 Built In Battery Supply Chassis 9v battery casing added.
Wed 12th Sept 2018

AMPS Typewriter Mk3 New control panel

Lepai module replaced with class B amplifier and external volume control incorporated. switch , LED "On" light added plus fuse. Fuse is there in case NiMH batteries added which can dump large currents under fault conditions.
6 / 12th Sept 2018

AMPS ~ Typewriter3

AMPS ~ Typewriter3 ~ Amplifier swap

Swapping out the Class D amplifier module I have sourced via Amazon. They have a tendency to cut out unpredictably. Its is being replaced by a Class B amp sourced from Rapid Online. This required adding an it's own tone control. Whilst I'm at in the "Type Writer" version of the squawk box is being modified to run on batteries only. Thus switch, LED and fusing added as well.

Borrowing test kit and expertise from MK maker space, audio amp is spiking the Vin to the Arduino. Appropriate capacitors added to remove spikes.

July - August 2018 These last few weeks has largely been taken up with research and development. This is mainly looking at more reliable amplifiers that can be consistently sourced. I've found some on line sources such as Amazon to be unpredictable. e.g. available one month and then vanished another month. Not much good from a maintenance point of view.  
20th June 2018 Top Box plus jelly Bean switches A new lightweight base unit. Push buttons have been dispensed with to make construction easier and more reliable. Good quality 3.5mm sockets now replace the quarter in jack sockets. Actuators such as the "Jelly Bean" switches plug into the appropriate chord (RHS)or percussion sockets (LHS. The large rotary control changes instruments. The small knob varies sustain.
Tues 29th May 2018

TFH Ketboard Top






TFH Keyboard

1980's assistive music technology. Handed to me as a bit of a challenge by the good folks at Festive Road. Originally used by Macintyre some years ago. The battery was totally dead, no charger, speaker broken away from the grill, rear control panel split.

Essentially a giant "Stylaphone" crossed with a "Makey Makey" but circa 1986 style. I guess the coloured dots were used with some sort of simplified notation system.

Add in a new battery, clean up all the contacts, remount speaker, fix rear controls and it all burst into life again.

You have to hold onto an earth wire with one hand whilst touching the metal squares with the other. Polyphonic but monotonic.

The LHS board is a frequency divider, next is the master clock and the RHS panel is volume control and amplifier.

Mon 21st May 2018

Electric Umberella - Metal Music Sequencer

A Metal Music" sequence using a "Makey Makey " to interface to lap top. Created by Tom Billington. Touch any metal object triggers of a sound sequence.

Some collaborative work with Electric Umbrella. A truly inspiring group of people that get full engagement with their students using a mix of conventional, and assistive music technology.

Our floor and finger drums went down well, along with my "big button" chords.

Fri 27th April 2018 Top Box Bread boarding

Prototyping on a "breadboard". The main task is to extend the normal sustain feature in MIDI. This in turn is will support triggering chords or percussion when there is only left and right head movement available to operate "jellybean" switches. The blue circuit board is an Arduino UNO micro-controller acting as a MIDI controller. The red board is a MIDID synth based on the VSLI 1053 MIDI / MP3 codec chip. The coloured tactile buttons are there just to test out functionality of chords and or percussion generation.

Sun 1st April 2018 At TNMoC today doing my Sound Bytes demos's. Reflections, Circle of 5ths to technical, bring back the table flute, The talking table goes down well.  
Tues 27th March 2018 Proximity sesnor based MDI controller A MIDI controller test rig using proximity sensors. Touch and release thresholds can be set with the red and green variable resistors. 4 different instruments can be selected. This unit was developed to test the dielectric effect of different materials. In addition it can be used for temporary display, say a singing christmas tree.
Mon 26th March 2018 Circle of Fifths Circle of Fifths - Progress, hardware done and some basic software with a simple scale added. This was created as a demo for STEM events.
Thursday 22nd Feb 2018 Today saw a visit to the Music and Drama at Expo. There was a good talk on "gameyfying" a music lesson. Some innovative ideas using straws and plasticine to explain legers lines etc. Generally disappointing in the lack of material to support people with disabilities. A highlight though was John Kelly with his "Kelly Caster" doing a good Billy Brag improv.
Tuesday 20th Feb 2018

A very satisfying morning. With help from our Jenn, took a car load of my prototype, assitive music technology over to MacIntyre MK this morning. Very heart warming to see how INVOLVED they got trying talking tables, polyphonic planks, floor drums and other gadgets. Some learning points:-

  • The talking table needs to be narrower so that people in wheel chairs can reach across.
  • The polyphonic plank (planxtone) needs to be less sensitive so that it does not interact with materials in the table underneath.
  • The wide choice of actuator buttons is useful, though for this type of interact ice session only two chords or percussion is needed.
  • The separate floor drums would benefit from being combined into one unit. This would facilitate people in walkers or wheel chairs using them.
  • There was a request for a "mini squawkbox" for one of the students to take home. A two chorded (A and E") MIDI based guitar should do the trick.
Friday 16th Feb 2018 Tracy Watson from Secklow Sounds came around to find out more about the project. She is doing this as part of a wider use into the health aspects of music. Judy from Carolina Music was also present to give an insight into the use of conventional music techniques to make music accessible. Interestingly enough this meeting stemmed from a discussion at the Woburn Sands Summer Fete last year.
1st Feb 2018 It is always refreshing to be in the company of good people. Met up with the Woburn Sands Rotary group.On the whole they seem to "get" the concepts behind assistive music technology. Having some tech to play with, e.g. the polyphonic plank and the talking whiteboard went down well. I need to smooth out some of the tech talk as I do not want folks to be shut out if some of the concepts are difficult to comprehend.
30th Feb 2018 Yet another good meeting of creative minds at DM Labs makerspace. The Planxtone well received (aka the polyphonic plank). They understood it's use asa proof of concept demo. The new Skoog was tried out, seems more stable, here's hoping for them. A steam punk style bowler hat was also proffered up, employing conductive cloth plus a 9 degrees of freedom sensors and variable resistive rubber band to generate sounds depending on the attitude of the hat and it's wearer. The was also a copper clad pyramidal sound generator.
29th Jan 2018 Presentation to be given to MK Rotary at the Hilton on February 1st  
2nd Jan 2018 AMPS: Talking Table A Talking Table: Spare wallpaper is used as a re-usable background. Sound files and pictures can be changed to suite any occasion.
31st Dec 2017 Amps: Talking Table, gubbins

A talking table using capacitive sensing as a proximity sensor. The processor board can also play MP3 sound files.



13th Dec 2017
After feedback on the tactile aspects of Planxtone, I decided to inlay the sensors on the circle of 5ths. This has turned out to be time consuming because of the cutting properties of MDF. MDF was used initially as its electrical properties facilitate sensors to be hidden underneath. I've found plywood makes sensors less sensitive (properties of the glue?). I decided to put the sensors on the front because of their visual aspect. So next time if I inlay it will be plywood! All part of the learning process.
2nd Dec 2017
Reading up on on Teensy 3.2. Appears awesome, but need to actually test it out and see if it actually delivers.
29th Nov 2017
New challenge. This is to create an instrument for someone who is deaf and partially sighted. So I'm thinking haptic.
27th Nov 2017

Some experimentation with MIDI to make it more flexible in sound generation. Being able to pan left and right would be useful. This would allow Ch1 to fire out on left channel and C2 on the right. There are a lot of cheap stereo class D amplifiers around and splitting make for easier construction.Also got neopixels up and running, but that is for another day. code snippet for Arduino / VSLI 1053B

talkMIDI(0xB0, 0x0A, 0);//0 is channel 1, balance 0 = left, 127 right, 0A pan sends Pan message
talkMIDI(0xB1, 0x0A, 127);//1 is channel 2, balance 127 =hard right, 0A sends Pan message

23rd Nov 2017
Cof5 Purple
Adding some colour. It would be nice to either colour code or "swirl" the paint like a cyclone, but I want it up and running for Xmas Bytes at TNMoC. 28th to 30th Dec.
21st Nov 2017
Now fully working. 4 instruments, Keys of C, G, D and F major and 5 octave shifting.
11th Nov 2017
Circle of Fifths 01
Started work on a "Circle of Fifths device. 2ft square MDF board and a dozen rectangles of chopped up PCB.
9th Nov 2017
Running my pin test routine showed up a number of problems on the Planxtone hardware. Rotating the resistive network switch showed it had developed a fault. i.e. on the 6th position it was shorting the 5v rail to earth. As a work around the switch was reduced to 5 selections. There was a problem that the binary selection on pins 6-7 was showing a "short" between the two. This turned out to be some conductive ink from a prior use of the board was shorting the pins out. Sorted by a thorough clean.
31st Oct 2017
Revamped web site structure

August 2017: Sound Bytes at TNMoC during the Bytes sessions.

Sound Bytes Sound Bytes Sound Bytes Sound Bytes
Explaining open source technology.
Floor Guitar and a hidden desk drum
Polyphonic Table Flute
Summer Bytes Sound Bytes Sound Bytes Sound Bytes
Talking Whiteboard
An assortment of devices

The PlanxTone

Different Table Drums