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Being differently-abled should never stop anyone from playing music. In fact, making music can improve communication, interaction, and self-expression. Creative solutions exist for those unable to play traditional instruments. Scroll down to learn more about the innovative devices that help musicians with disabilities play again!
Developed by musician Imogen Heap, the gesture-control MiMU gloves are a wearable device that allows musicians to compose and perform music by making gestures. The gloves track the position, direction, velocity, and posture of the hand. They can be programmed to trigger and perform custom musical functions.
The device allows people of all ages and abilities to make music and perform live. According to Heap, the gloves could help with better “expressive music-making for people that are not currently able to fulfil what’s in their head”.
Skoog is a box-shaped accessible instrument that you can press or squeeze to make sounds. You can play it with any part of the body, which makes it an easy instrument for those with severe learning or physical challenges. It improves motor skills, coordination, and control while helping develop musical expression and communication skills.
The Skoog is fully customizable via the Skoog app. You can also use it as a controller in Ableton Live or Garageband.
EyeHarp is a musical instrument that allows you to play using your eyes or your head. The gaze-controlled device combines eye-tracking technology and computer software in the form of a color-coded wheel set to a pentatonic or heptatonic scale.
EyeHarp gives paralyzed people the opportunity to take part in musical activities and even play in ensembles with other musicians. As on a traditional instrument, one can play melodies, chords, and arpeggios, and learn songs from beginning to end.
Soundbeam is an interactive MIDI device that uses ultrasonic beams to detect movement and turns it into sound. One can play a melody by moving their hand closer or farther from the beam. The software comes with a variety of instruments, backing tracks, and sound effects and allows a complete musical performance.
Soundbeam has been extensively useful for people with conditions such as severe learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, and others. It has also found use in music therapy and care homes.
While not directly intended for disabled musicians, Moog Theremini is the perfect device for anyone regardless of age or physical and mental abilities. The Moog Theremini is a combination of the Theremin and the Animoog. You can control it with hand movements and it has a large selection of electronic sounds.
Depending on the selected scale which can make it impossible to play a wrong note, it allows musicians to focus on the exploration of pitches, effects, and expression.
At only 3 lbs, you can play the Theremini anywhere near a power outlet. You can even use it as a MIDI controller.
TouchMe is a MIDI controller that can turn any conductive object into a musical instrument. It allows you to play on fruits or flowers but you can also play with a friend, by holding both ends of TouchMe and touching each other’s skin.
TouchMe works with a phone, tablet, or computer. One can use it within a DAW or simply use Playtronica’s online synths. There are many scales and modes to choose from, and similarly to the Theremini, one cannot play a wrong note.
The device is a perfect way to engage in peer interactions and thus improve relationships and communication in children and adults with disabilities.
Subpac is a wearable device that looks like a vest and transfers deep bass frequencies onto the body to create an immersive experience. Particularly useful for hard-of-hearing individuals, it transforms a musical piece into a full-body experience.
Often used in traditional mixing and mastering settings, it can also provide another dimension to music for electronic musicians and producers suffering from hearing loss. It works with any DAW and can connect to your computer via Bluetooth.
Adaptive instruments are modified musical instruments that can be played in a different way than the way they are usually played. They make music activities accessible to people with motor disabilities.
For example, an adaptive electric guitar can have the exact same look as its traditional counterpart, with the addition of buttons or switches that simplify gestures. It can also look totally different if it’s an adapted one-handed electric guitar.
Adaptive instruments come in a variety of shapes and allow people born with disabilities or those who suffered an injury to play and continue playing their favorite instrument.
Anja Drozdova is a Swiss-Russian musician and music teacher. She focuses on finding creative ways to engage students during piano and music theory lessons by using different mediums such as technology and visual arts. Anja also writes electronic pop music under the artist name Mlkshk. Her music is inspired by everyday life, scenes from childhood, and imaginary places, shapes and colors.
Soundbrenner is a company dedicated to helping musicians stay focused on what truly matters: their music. By creating innovative devices, such as Soundbrenner Pulse and Core, our goal is to deliver the best possible practice experience for musicians. Click here to find out more.
Got a question about Soundbrenner wearables? Reach out to us at [email protected], we’re happy to help!
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