Projects: Assistive Music Tech devices that work outside of the workshop.

See below the evolution of devices ove recent years. Initially as a "proof of concept" to create a "musical prosthesis" simply by using inexpensive and easily available open source components. There are four separate approaches.

  1. Create devices purely for fun and educational purposes.
  2. Devices that have therapeutic potential (including data logging to support measurable outcomes).
  3. They can be based either in in a therapeutic or day centre setting.
  4. Stand alone home use and if necessary, supported by a carer. This gives more opportunities of use and intervention.

Some devices are also created as "perception challengers" that traditional form factors do not have to be adhered to.

Dragons VoiceDragons Voice

Festive Road based in Milton Keynes asked if I could add sound to their drogon. The "Dragons Voice" box was the result.

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.

Gwynhaff the Festive Road Dragon
Sound Circle WIP 50th Anniversery LEM - wired for sound Top Box and Jelly Bean Switches

The Sound Circle, an update on the Tone Circle. This will be easier to pass around a group session.

It can also be monophonic or polyphonic as well as being able to change instruments

A diversion from my usual use of music tech. The good folks at Festive Road (MK) wanted their 50th anniversary mock up of the Lunar Lander wired for sound. 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 amp.

"Top Box" This has been designed to enable the headrest of a wheelchair to 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.

Proximity Tester AMPS The Talking Table

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

The Talking Table This was designed as an activity for a play group.It uses capacitive sensors under 120 cm x 54 cm sheet of 5 ply. The idea is to match an image with the sound. The 54 cm width is the same width as a sheet of wall paper. This allows for a change in patterns, pictures and sounds.
Circle of Fifths Planxtone
Tone Circle and / or Circle of Fifths. A proof of concept to demonstrate music theory.This was subsequently reprogrammed to play in the key of C. It proved fairly successful at a session run by the Electric Umbrella Group. As it was a little unwieldy because of its size(60 cm x 60 cm)and shape, a handier version has been constructed (See Sound Circle above)

Planxtone aka the Polyphonic Plank. A proof of concept as well as challenging conventional form factors.

A Proximity Sensing Keyboard. Created to test a range of concepts e.g. proximity sensing, key shifting, octave shifting and instrument changing. The detection sensitivity has been set fairly high, which means notes can be triggered by moving a hand 1cm or more above the keyboard. They keys are made out pf blank printed circuit board.

In the software listing it is possible to see mathematics involved in changing the musical key or shifting the octave up and down.

Table Flute eBoard

Table Flute A polyphonic MIDI derivation. This proved very popular when run of my occasional "Sound Bytes" demonstrations at the national museum of computing. Largely because itt looks like a table top, but is actually a polyphonic electronic flute. It surprises people that you can turn an ordinary table top into a musical instrument. One of the objectives of the Accessible Music Project is to demonstrate that you do not have to be tied into traditional form factors and shapes when creating a musical instrument.

Touch Sensitive White Board This was aimed at supporting the development of speech skills in child with autism. In this case taking part in the sone "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". Pictures and related sound files could be changed. MacIntyre Article ~ The Inventor and Us"

Electric Leaves Electric Leaves

Air Guitar Drum
These were created by making sensors out of hardboard, emi copper foil and white gaffer tape and paper leaves. Sound tracks were recorded and loaded onto a "Bare Conductive" processor board. Capacative sensing triggers a sound file. Air-Drum-Flute-Guitar A vary portable device to support music and movement for the subject. It uses an ultrasonic sensor to pick up the movement.
Medi MIDI TypewriterMk3 The Electric Bread Bin

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.
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".
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 below.
mini MIDI drum kit Sound Blanket

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
Update October 2016: This survived around 9 months. It been 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. 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..More Detail

The NoteDuino Test Bed
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. Four instruments are available for selection for either chords or percussion. Two selection modes are used. One is binary, the other is resistive ladder.
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.

A Musical Prosthesis

The original concept. A box containing an Arduino micro controller programmed to be a MIDI controller. This could then be interfaced into a standard electronic keyboard. Pressing the large red foot switch would then play chords or percussion depending on the setting of the "Musical Prosthesis." The availability of "Music Shields", which piggy back the micro controller meant the electronic musical keyboard could be dispensed with.

Actuators ~ These are important as flexible range of switches to trigger notes, chords or percussion when plugged into, or built into a base unit.

Are rang of techniques are available e.g. ON / OFF switches, pressure pads, ultrasonic and infra red range finders, capacitive, microwave, Time of Flight, Accelerometers, Light Dependent Resistors, Back Scatter devices to name a few.

large Red Push Button Finger Drums Pressure Pads 4 Small Buttons 4 way joystick
Button Actuator Single Medium Pink A pair of foot switches Medium button orange single Actuators Varous IR sensor