Tag Archives: music

Spare Tyre Band: a group of disabled musicians making a big noise, and their own instruments

Two weeks ago Guy Llewellyn shared his experience of starring in the Big Band featured in the 2016 Paralympics Superhumans advert. Here, Amy Smith, from leading  participatory arts charity Spare Tyre, tells us about another musical ensemble: The Spare Tyre Band.

The Spare Tyre Band members do not simply play their instruments. They make them too. 

The Spare Tyre Band: “It’s Like It’s A Part Of Me!”

My name is Amy and I work as the General Manager of Spare Tyre. Spare Tyre is a leading participatory arts charity based in London. For me, meeting the Spare Tyre Band has been one of the top highlights of working here.

The Spare Tyre Band features disabled performers who have learning difficulties. Each band member plays an instrument they’ve created from recycled materials.

“The Band is loud, and proud”

Band member Paul and Spare Tyre Artistic Director
Band member Paul and Spare Tyre Artistic Director Arti Prashar at Lewisham People’s Day

I first met the Spare Tyre Band in Catford. We had arrived for Lewisham People’s Day on a warm Saturday in July and I stopped by the station to pick up Band Member Chirag on my way. Even though we had to travel there independently, we met up so we could find our way to the park together.

The Band is a loud, proud and creative way for people with learning difficulties to make their voices heard. It allows them to showcase their skills to the world, and helps challenge prejudice about disabilities and learning difficulties.

The programme is challenging and encourages performers to stretch themselves. The physical activity of the rehearsals and performances is good exercise in a supportive and fun environment.

“I feel amazing, I feel I’m reaching out. It’s like it’s part of me… Spare Tyre Band gives me a focus and a meaning” – DJ, Spare Tyre Band member

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DJ, Jack and Jocelyn performing at Wandsworth Arts Fringe

Meet the Instruments

We love to be as creative and inventive as possible when we make our instruments.

We are very proud of our tubular bells made of old copper pipes. We have also got four large drums made of old industrial spools. We also have dozens of smaller drums and trumpets made from plastic tanks, sweet tins, bottles and plastic piping.

We love to discover and learn about new instruments from all over the world. For example, one instrument we use is the akadinda – a wooden xylophone originating from East Africa. Usually with a xylophone you strike the tops of the pieces, but with an akadinda you strike the ends to make a more beautiful sound.

Making Music, Making Instruments

At Lewisham People’s Day, the team performed their set of 20 minutes. They played ‘Our Beat Speaks to the Heart’ and everyone’s favourite: ‘Fish and Chips’.

After a little break, they got out a huge picnic mat and everything we’d need for the drop-in Instrument Making Workshop: brightly coloured tape, ribbons, dried beans, plastic piping, bottles, and carefully taped cans and tins.

Anyone can come join in, and make a shaker or a drum out of recycled materials. We all sit down together and build and decorate the instruments. Then we have a jam session, with everyone playing together.

The workshops have a strong ethical and environmental message, as well as a creative one. They are a reminder that anything can be reused and turned into something fun.

Bigger and Better

Since March, the Band has gathered every week to build more instruments, compose new material, and rehearse. The performance schedule is ambitious and professional.

Three band members put their hands and wristbands together
Chirag, Scarlett and Amy put their wristbands together at Lewisham People’s Day

Summer 2016 has been a busy run of outdoor festivals all across London. As well as Lewisham People’s Day we hit Wandsworth Arts Fringe, Redbridge Green Fair, Fairlop Fair, Wandsworth’s ‘Get Active’ Festival, and The Streets in Ilford.

The Band’s sound is loud, rhythmic, and infectious. The beat will always get the audience up on its feet.

Members of the Band often travel together to support each other in the journeys across London. We meet at local stations and catch trains together, or just walk together to find the Festival site.

As everyone knows, London is a huge city. But travelling all over London together makes everyone feel more confident and independent.

“We are always looking for new members to join”

The Spare Tyre Band will be forming again in Spring 2017. We are always growing and looking for new members to join.

For more information about Spare Tyre and the Band visit their website.

Know of any other Bands for people with complex needs? Or ever seen the Spare Tyre Band perform? We would love to know what you thought!

Get in touch with ideas or comments on Twitter or leave a comment below!

Instead of venting my anger towards people, I’ve put it into a song – Smiiffy the rapper

Smiiffy is a 21-year-old rapper from Birmingham who is looking to challenge attitudes and raise awareness of mental health and disability.

For 30 Under 30, he spoke with us about how he is using his music to spread awareness of mental health and what he hopes his music will achieve.

It’s really important to be open about impairments as it can help break down barriers and end stigma.

I have Bilateral Perthes’ disease which means my cartilage is degenerating. It’s quite painful now and again but I’ve learnt to live with it. I’ve had around 15 operations and probably a lot more to come in the future.

I also have depression, anxiety, memory loss and probably a long list of everything else!

I’ve been quite open about it, however I haven’t always been confident in talking about it. I always had the fear of being rejected by people if I told them. Lately, I’ve become a lot more comfortable from support online and have opened up a lot more.

Smiiffy, a young disabled man, smiles by a microphone

I find comfort through using humour and writing music. My music is all about my experiences but I sometimes also write songs about experiences of people I’ve met.

Knowing that there are people listening to the lyrics and finding them relatable is brilliant.

You wouldn’t believe I have anxiety when I perform on the stage, everything just kind of goes away. I’m in my element and absolutely love what I do.

An exclusive rap for 30 Under 30

It’s time I show some clarity

I face facts and reality

Every single person is perfect the way that you are

Don’t let any physical or mental issue break who you really are

I’ve had shackles on my wrists and I’ve been scared to speak

I’ve had times where I’ve let tears take over my cheek

But now I’m stronger than that, that’s what you call unity

And when I feel this strong there’s nothing that anything can actually do to me

You can see more from Smiiffy on his YouTube channel and by following him on Twitter.

Smiiffy is sharing his story as part of 30 Under 30. Throughout June, we have been sharing one story a day from disabled people who are doing extraordinary things. Visit our website to see all of the stories in the campaign.

Deafness doesn’t have to be a disability – Abbi

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Abbi was born with a genetic bone disease called osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as ‘OI’ or brittle bones. Following learning BSL, she has set up a YouTube channel where she covers popular music in BSL.

As part of 30 Under 30, she talks about losing her hearing, how she started her YouTube channel and recalls surgery she had to regain her hearing.

Both my mum and I have OI which, aside from making our bones fragile and prone to fracture, has also led us to develop a plethora of related disorders. We both underwent scoliosis fusion surgery as teenagers, we both have arthritis and limited mobility (although my mum walks, I now use a wheelchair), and we both have otosclerosis, a degenerative hearing impairment.

I began wearing hearing aids around the age of eight. Within six years, my hearing had deteriorated to what’s classed as a ‘severe’ loss. I could no longer hear male voices at all, even with powerful hearing aids, and survived life in the hearing community through lipreading, guesswork and a bunch of magnificently patient friends. I was a huge fan of music and played several instruments, even though I had no hearing in the lower frequencies and could only understand lyrics if I saw them written down.

My mum grew up in a world where disguising her disabilities made life easier, so when it came to teenage rebellion, I embraced my disabilities as much as possible. I spent a lot of time learning about sign language, deaf history and the deaf community, and eventually signed up for BSL evening classes at a local school. I even convinced mum to come along, too!

Abbi, a young disabled woman, smiles as she sits in her wheechair

Songs and signing

To tie in with Adele performing at Glastonbury, Abbi has created a BSL cover of one of her most popular songs.

We had a wonderful BSL teacher, Jill Hipson, and after finishing our Level 1, Jill agreed to continue coaching me and a classmate through to Level 2.

As part of our study, Jill introduced us to sign song, which I instantly recognised as the perfect way to preserve the music I loved so much, even as my hearing continued to deteriorate. The first song I recorded – ‘Lucky’ by Britney Spears, of course – was clunky and awkward, but when I uploaded it to YouTube I received a huge amount of support, both from BSL users and from other learners like me. That was a huge source of encouragement to me, and a great way to broaden my understanding of the language.

I’d finally found a way to reconcile both my deaf and hearing worlds which, as a shy, anxious teenager in an increasingly unreliable body, was a massive boost to my confidence. My YouTube channel really took off just as my physical health declined. In hindsight, having such a positive experience of one disability really helped me in the transition to using a wheelchair full-time.

Since ‘Lucky’, I’ve recorded over 50 videos and gained 8,000 YouTube subscribers. I’m not fluent in BSL and I do make mistakes, especially as my hands don’t always work as well as I’d like, but the YouTube community has been incredibly supportive. Not only have I received lots of really helpful constructive criticism, I’ve also had some truly moving messages from both d/Deaf and hearing people all over the world and established genuine friendships. It’s incredible to think how the internet can facilitate such connections which, twenty years ago, would never have been possible.

An alternative way of experiencing the world

In 2011 and 2012, after much deliberation, I decided to undergo two risky but thankfully successful stapedectomy surgeries, which restored most of my hearing. Learning to hear again after ten years was fantastic, and actually fuelled my desire to keep recording sign songs – the more of the song I could hear, the more I wanted to sign!

I recently began to lose my hearing again. Despite having previously worn hearing aids every day for ten years, now that I’ve experienced the luxury of ‘real’ sound, I’ve found adjusting back to ‘hearing aid sound’ difficult. I wear my aids at work, but as soon as I leave the office, they go straight back into their box.

I consider myself incredibly privileged to have experienced both hearing and deafness; facing hearing loss as an adult, I’m taking my time figuring out what that means to me. Deafness doesn’t have to be a disability; for many, it’s simply an alternative way of experiencing the world. I hope my sign songs demonstrate how enriching and expressive that world can be.

Head to Abbi’s YouTube channel to watch more BSL covers of popular songs.

Abbi is sharing her story as part of 30 Under 30. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

This World Music Day, record breaking pianist Nicholas McCarthy shares his incredible story

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Nicholas McCarthy is a British pianist. Born without a right hand, he was the first left-hand-only pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in London in its 134-year history. 

As part of 30 Under 30 he chatted to us about his journey to success and talks about breaking barriers, his love of music and his advice for other young disabled artists. 

Here’s an extract from the full blog which we’ve shared on Medium, along with some of Nicholas’ music. 

I didn’t play piano until I was 14. I saw a friend of mine play a Beethoven piano sonata in assembly and I just had one of those moments where I thought “Oh my God, that’s what I’m going to do”. I had a small keyboard from years before so I got my parents to get it out of the loft and started really slowly learning. One day, my dad shouted up “Nick, turn the radio down” and it was actually me playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. So I said “It’s not the radio dad, it’s me” and there was a deathly silence from downstairs. Then they said “Do you want piano lessons? You’re quite good actually love!” — and of course I said yes.

After a two years of lessons my piano music teacher said I should go to a specialist school. My friend who played that Beethoven piano sonata had been to a specialist piano school with very high standards and I really wanted to go there. I knew I needed to audition so I rang up the headmistress. I remember it like it was yesterday. She said: “To be honest I haven’t got any time to see you because I don’t know how you can possibly play scales without two hands”. Being a cocky 15-year-old at this point, I replied: “I don’t want to play scales. I want to play music” and she put the phone down on me.

In my head, that was my one chance of becoming a concert pianist and I felt completely shattered. This woman, sadly, couldn’t think outside the box and I thought “That’s it, poor me”. Reality isn’t like that, there are many paths around things. I found a different way.

That wasn’t the only barrier that Nicholas has had to overcome. Head over to Medium to read about the path that he did take, which led to his record-breaking success at the Royal College of Music and performing at the London Paralympics 2012.

To hear more from Nicholas, visit his website and his YouTube channel.

Enjoy live music? Why not join Gig Buddies!

It’s not always easy for music fans with learning disabilities to get out to gigs. But Gig Buddies, a volunteer project run by the charity Stay Up Late, is changing all that. Director and co-founder, Paul Richards explains how.

Gig Buddies was one of those ideas you assume someone must have already thought of. We were wondering if there was a way to make use of the spare seats in people’s cars as they travelled to gigs, and whether people with learning disabilities who love the same music could occupy those seats.

That would give people with learning disabilities an opportunity to, not only see live music but also extend their social networks beyond typical care settings.

It was an idea that developed, and we spent around a year laying the groundwork for the project before it launched in Jan 2013. We conducted some research to find out what the barriers were to people getting out. We found the reasons were things like having no money, being low in confidence, not being able to access public transport at night, not knowing what’s going on, and not having anyone to go with.

But what we also found was there was a real desire for people with learning disabilities to be getting out there.

What makes a good Gig Buddies volunteer?

We also thought about why people didn’t volunteer, and we decided it was largely because they didn’t have the time or didn’t know what to do. So the idea behind Gig Buddies was simple: it was about turning something people enjoyed doing into a volunteering opportunity.

There are really only two requirements: you have to be a nice person, and you have to have an interest.

We have volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a diverse range of interests. While Gig Buddies started out being about live music, it’s now grown to include things like the theatre, nature walks, church and sport. The point is that participants are in control of choosing their ‘gig’, whatever that may be.

One of the key aspects of Gig Buddies is that it’s all about relationships. It’s about enabling socially isolated people to develop friendship circles, and we spend a lot of time meeting with everyone – participants and volunteers – to find out what their interests are.

We ask that every volunteer commits to at least one gig a month and also meets up for a coffee once a month with their buddy to plan the next trip. All our volunteers receive training and on-going support once they have been matched.

The other core principle of Gig Buddies is about enabling people with learning disabilities to make real choices about the way they lead their lives, and to pursue interests they enjoy in their local community. At Stay Up Late we often get asked why we don’t organise more events for people with learning disabilities. Our belief is that all events should be open to everyone, including people with learning disabilities. This is something that underpins our work.

What’s next for Gig Buddies?

We now have over 60 participants and 60 volunteers, and a full waiting list. We are committed to developing our project in Sussex.
However, we can’t run the project beyond Sussex, as its strength of relies on relationships. So we’re aiming to share it.

Our first pilot site is in Sydney, Australia – with ACL Disability Services – and it’s attracted a lot of excitement over there. Several other large cities also wanting to get involved. The second pilot site is in Midlothian, and being run by Thera Scotland.

The next step is to work with organisations who share the same ethos as us, and this year we’re planning to invite another 10 organisations to work with us and set up Gig Buddies in their locality.

There’s a lot more I could write about the project, but it’s probably best left to one of our participants, Bella to tell you about it. Bella has a mild learning disability, depression and anxiety. She has had a Gig Buddy for a year now, and has gone to lots of gigs.

Bella says: “Before I had a Gig Buddy, I felt like I was lost at the weekends. I had never been to a music gig before, but having a Gig Buddy has meant that I’ve discovered new music. It means that I can travel to Brighton, which I couldn’t do before. Once you start going out you are more able to do other things – it improves your confidence.”

For more information about Gig Buddies visit the Stay up Late websiteStay Up Late is a small Brighton based charity that promotes full and active social lives for people with learning disabilities.

“Access in the UK infuriates me” – Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil set up Why Not People as a way of providing accessible music events to disabled people, who are too often excluded. Here she blogs for us and tells us why it’s so important to her. 

I am delighted to say I am someone who works alongside Sophie Morgan, Patron for Scope and Director for my company Why Not People. Sophie and Scope both embody everything I stand for… which is a passion to improve the lives of disabled people.

I started my company Why Not People because I’d grown up surrounded by disability, having some experience with it myself also, which really allowed me to see first hand, how disgraceful access in the UK is. It infuriates me. We are not a developing country, we are advanced and privileged. We have all the tools necessary to build an accessible Britain. One of the main places I knew I could help was with music gigs, given my career at Radio 1. Gigs are a rite of passage that should be open to be enjoyed by everyone. From every age, colour, race, creed and capability. We put on big, fully accessible gigs where everyone is welcomed and nobody will be sectioned off in the corner separated from friends and family.

Sophie was my first ambassador, and has been our force of inspiration and energy, because she is sick and tired of being denied a world she s fully entitled to. She’s had such an incredible life and career and is an example of how we all need to get involved and work together to change our world. There is no point just waiting for someone to fix things, we need to campaign. We need to support companies that promote access, so that other businesses, venues and government members will realise this is a business, and something worth paying attention to.

Sophie doesn’t believe in being cast aside. Nor do we at Why Not People, and nor should you. Please join us in this important cause.  Things are finally changing. I hope to see you out with us someday soon.

Head to Why Not People to see what we’re about.

Lots of love, Jameela x

Pssst! Disabled people like going to gigs

Disabled people, like anyone else, often want to see live music and arts performances. Whether it’s at a gig or festival, the issue of accessibility at these events is a hot topic right now, and we’re very glad!

Colourful flags flying at GlastonburyAccessible ticket sales at gigs and festivals have increased by 70% in the last year, according to research from Attitude is Everything, a charity that works to improve access to live music in the UK.

So here’s a little round-up of some great events happening this summer, which put accessibility right at their heart.

Why Not People

Sophie Morgan and Jameela Jamil smilingThe brilliant Why Not People are taking over our social media for the day tomorrow, to raise awareness of their accessible music events. They launch on 1 July, and they’ve got some amazing acts signed up including Tinie Tempah, Coldplay, Mark Ronson and Sam Smith, to name a few.

Their founder, Jameela Jamil says: “Why Not People ignores the notion of limits and discrimination and caters to all people for all walks of life. It is a chance for us all to party with the people we should have partied alongside all along. With accessible venues, the finest talent on the planet, we promise to put on gigs, events and club nights that you will never forget.”

Fast Forward Music Festival

A Paraorchestra consisting of seven musicians holding various instrumentsThe Fast Forward Music Festival will feature a flagship performance by the British Paraorchestra, the world’s first professional ensemble of disabled musicians, alongside the Inner Vision Orchestra, the UK’s only blind ensemble. The  festival aims to give its musicians, who are at the top of their game, the respect and critical attention they deserve.

The festival will also feature a mixture of seminars, workshops, open rehearsals and more celebrating of disabled arts and artists.

Disability Rocks

Young boy with Down's syndrome in red t-shirt at a festivalDisability Rocks is all about having a positive experience through music and arts.

They produce and deliver disability and family friendly festivals, including a range of live music, theatre and arts, with a few interactive workshops thrown in for good measure.

They have two more events coming up to finish off their summer tour – in West Yorkshire and Essex. Get your tickets!

New Forest Spectrum

A large house set in a field with lots of treesThis is the first ever British music festival for people with a learning disability, set up by two New Forest-based charities.

Set in 65 acres of woodland, they will be providing a safe environment where you can dance, watch bands perform, get involved with fun workshops, and eat some lovely food.

Although this one isn’t about making mainstream events inclusive and accessible, this seems like a step in the right direction. What do you think?

We hope this has got you excited for a summer of fun in the fields! Let us know if there are any accessible events happening near you.

“With music there is no barrier” #100Days100Stories

We first shared the story of Truth, a young rapper with cerebral palsy, in July 2014.  We’re republishing it here as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories project.

Truth is a 23 year old rapper, songwriter and producer from New Jersey. He moved to the UK at the age of 12. By the age of 14, he had began writing and recording his own music. His debut album is released on 10 August and tells the story of his life not only as a struggling rapper but as a disabled man.

Hi guys, I’m Truth and I have cerebral palsy, however, that isn’t what defines me. There’s more to me than that. I make music and by this I don’t mean I’m in a marching band. My weapon of choice is the microphone and I try to use it to tell stories, to entertain and to evoke emotion. Some of the songs I make can be seen as controversial but that depends on how you listen to them.

The majority of my songs are about what happens to me and people like myself on a daily basis. Things which, in my opinion, seem to be glossed over. Shop and club owners using health and safety law to take away our sense of humanity and equality. People asking how we have sex and people refusing to give us job opportunities.

Young disabled people don’t really have a voice in popular music and society doesn’t really know how to accommodate us. Where do you send a 21 year old that just wants to get out and do something with their life?

Music is my escape. With music there is no barrier. There is only one requirement: can you bring it?

My album entitled ‘Don’t Diss my Ability’ comes out 10 August and will be independently produced and released by myself. I want to ask people to buy it because I think the message needs to be heard and I will use any proceeds from it to fund a UK live music tour where I can really allow society to see things from our perspective.

If you’d like to know more about me and the music please visit:

Find out more about 100 Days, 100 Stories and read the rest of the stories so far.

Making technology work for disabled people

New technologies aren’t always up to scratch for disabled people.

Mainstream devices can be highly adaptable but don’t do a great job of meeting disabled people’s needs. Technology designed especially for disabled people can be very good at meeting needs, but is often expensive and doesn’t do everything a mainstream device can.

So as part of BT’s Connected Society programme Scope, BT and the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Inclusive Design explored how we can start to close this gap between mainstream and disability-specific technology.

Our report Enabling Technology (PDF document) found that the key to creating enabling technology is, wherever possible, to support disabled people to create their own solutions.

This means focusing on the person, not the system  – on adaptability and flexibility rather than rigid codes and standards.

It can be a difficult shift to make for manufacturers and service providers, but creating ways to bring disabled people ‘closer’ to technology can have real benefits, bringing down costs and increasing independence.

Here’s three key ways we think this can happen:

1. Adapt mainstream technology

By far the best way to use technology to support disabled people to live more independently is to adapt already existing mainstream devices.

Sheni using the pop-up readerAn example is the ‘Pop-up Reader’, an innovative prototype inspired by Sheni – a visually impaired singer who needed a better way to read written lyrics.

Sheni already had a smartphone, so the team built a cheap, easy-to-make stand to hold her phone – and the page – in the right place. Crucially, it also folds up and fits into her handbag.

Crucially, this simple, easy-to-make stand costs a few pounds to make – compared with between £500 and £2000 for a specially made device.

Find out more about the Pop-up Reader, or even try making your own.

2. Build easy-to-tailor products

To make technology work for every disabled person, it makes sense to tailor devices as much as possible to suit individuals. Building this approach into product design is often the best way to achieve this.

To show what we mean by this, we created a new approach to computer hardware called ‘Tailored Touch’.

Using cardboard, a cheap circuit board and paint that conducts electricity, Tailored Touch can be used to build a range of things like keyboards or a computer mouse.

Lyn, a musician from the Paraorchestra, had a number of challenges using her instrument through a touch screen device. She struggled to control the instrument accurately enough to play live with the rest of the orchestra.

So the project team worked with Lyn to build a new musical keyboard, using only cardboard, paint that conducts electricity, and a cheap circuit board. Christened the Lynstrument, this approach completely changed the way she plays live through her computer.

Lyn using the Lynstrument

This approach can also be used to enable anyone who struggles to use traditional interfaces – such as  a mouse or keyboard – to get online.

Learn more about ‘Tailored Touch’ and the Lynstrument, and make your own device.

3. Measure accessibility using timed task completion

Online services such as shopping or banking can be really helpful for disabled people – but they aren’t always fully accessible.

Although most sites now meet accessibility standards, our research found that some disabled people still struggle to use these services.

This is because there are so many different technologies disabled people use to go online  that it’s difficult to continue updating rigid codes and standards. This means that even if designers tick all the boxes, they may still end up with a website that isn’t completely accessible.

So our report argues that we need more responsive ways of measuring the accessibility of digital services, focusing on the person not the system.

One way to do this is to time how long it takes a disabled person to complete tasks online compared with non-disabled users of the same site. If it takes longer for a disabled person to finish a task, the site just isn’t accessible enough.

Our report sets out a clear philosophy for involving disabled people far more in the way technology is designed, used and evaluated by supporting disabled people to create their own solutions.

We’ll be doing more on the theme of technology over the coming months, so watch this space and get in touch if you want to find out more. We’d also love to see your videos and photos of building these ideas – so get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.

Meldreth Manor School and The Skoog

Guest post from Petrina Lodge, Head of Education at Meldreth Manor School.

What is a Skoog?

See a Skoog below, and then read how we are using Skoogs at Meldreth Manor School to enhance our students’ communication and IT skills, their self-awareness and sense of control over things in their lives (cause and effect) and, importantly, to have fun!

This is a Skoog.

This is a Skoog. It’s a completely new kind of instrument. But it’s not just one instrument, it’s lots of instruments in a multi-coloured box of technology.

The Skoog is an exciting new musical instrument designed to empower those unable to play traditional instruments. The Skoog is a soft, squeezable object that simply plugs straight into your computer or laptop’s USB port. By touching, pressing, squashing, twisting or tapping the Skoog you can play a wide range of instruments, intuitively.

Simply touch, press, squash, twist, or tap to play the Skoog using any part of your body!

Designed to adapt and fit with your own natural movements, the Skoog sets you free to explore sounds and music in your own way.

By adjusting the Skoog you can challenge yourself and grow as a musician. Whether you have very limited mobility or bags of agility, you can make your Skoog fit your style.

Meldreth Manor School and skoogs

I think this is one of the most exciting technological developments for disabled children and adults of any age, for some time. It has been designed for accessibility for even really severely disabled children and adults, challenging each user at their own level.

At its most simple, this is a touch/sound response user-friendly cube, with different settings of sensitivity: the whole of the side of the cube, the button and area around it, are sensitive to touch of different types and pressures. It can be set to produce one sound per touch or multiple sounds depending on where it is touched, and how hard. It requires a USB connection to a computer – which doesn’t have to be sophisticated though it doesn’t work well on small computers such as notebook. It needs a long USB cable so that the PC or Laptop doesn’t end up on the floor, though The Skoog is very durable – it can be thrown or dropped or bounced and it will simply respond with sound.

Add to this that it can be used with a MIDI interface for as many sounds as you would want, and any sound-effect can be included in this, the fact that’s it’s recordable and can be programmed to suit any child or adult and played at any level, and you can see how exciting it is.

Playing with backing music

Students can play their own sound or play along with any backing music or other students: the musical key of the Skoog can be changed to fit whatever music is being used. All files can be saved using ‘Wave’ as one of several options.

More able students can use scores which consist of blobs of the colour of the face of the cube, linked to length for duration. Interactive scores are available which fill in the circle when the note has been played.

Lastly, but by no means least, the Skoog can be used to record sound – of any sort, from voice to vocalisation, to instrument: the sound file can be amended, so the Skoog can be used to help with Speech and Language therapy for working on vocalisations, and adapting them with students for greater clarity and understanding, or in articulating two separate sounds into one – such as blending sounds.

Words (and tunes) of songs can be pre-recorded for one word or phrase on each face of the cube and the student can repeat the song by getting the sequence correct.

The touch can be adjusted from very sensitive (so the sound is easily produced) to much less so, where there is much more control about producing the sound, whatever it is.

We are seeing really encouraging responses from students with very varied abilities.

Notes written by a music technologist

“I think there is a lot of potential for Tony to become a terrific Skoog player. He (then) played some distorted electric guitar by pressing and rocking the Skoog backwards, forwards, and to the sides. I opened a video on YouTube of Jimi Hendrix and Tony played along with the electric guitar. One of Tony’s favourite bands is The Rolling Stones, so we found a video of a live performance from them and he thoroughly enjoyed playing along…”

Tony is a teenager who has a life-limiting condition which is causing a gradual decline in his mobility and use of hands. Creating a sense of achievement is vital to Tony’s well-being, as well as helping maintain his fine motor skills.

And another excerpt, this time about our student called Kieran:

“I found him a clip from YouTube of David* playing saxophone for Van der Graff Generator and gave Kieran a trumpet sound on the Skoog. Kieran used his left hand mostly but also the right hand when encouraged to do so. He clearly enjoyed the session…”

* ‘David’ is David Jackson, our Soundbeam specialist who runs Soundbeam sessions at Meldreth Manor School for all our students.

The opportunities for using The Skoog are endless, watch this space!