Music + Access

Access-driven design for music

Open-source electronics and upcycled materials present new possibilities for removing barriers to music. From hacking a guitar to controlling a computer, to forging a theremin out of tinfoil, these instrument-making workshops demonstrate how new and adapted musical instruments can open up access in novel ways.

In the spirit of the Disability rights slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us”, we hope to create a platform that amplifies the voices of Disabled folks as innovators, rather than imposing solutions.

Building upon the idea of empathy in design thinking, and moving toward conversation and inclusion, we are working directly from lived experience.  Our collaborative design challenges are set by professional Disabled musicians, and similarly we hope to engage diverse groups who might not yet have the opportunity to self-select as makers or music technologists.

We have developed a selection of open-source tools that will be available to try out and modify before and after the sessions: 3D printing, sensors that can be incorporated without the need for circuit design, and software with various access routes (see https://instrumentmaker.org/ for examples).  All examples will include easy-read versions, and we are working toward screen reader and switch access. 

By the end of each workshop, participants can expect to produce a sensor-based instrument, using code that can be transferred to a mobile app of the physical version.  Our instruments can be played with small or large movements: for example, the same sound could be controlled with a finger gesture or the movement of a dancer across a room.

No musical or technical background necessary, just a willingness to explore sound and engage with accessibility!  There will be opportunities to make music throughout, ideally culminating in a jam session for those interested. We want to know how we can make these workshops accessible to you: please get in touch with suggestions, concerns, or access requests.

These instruments-making workshops are part of a new project under the leadership of Charles Matthews and Gift Tshuma. The approach is inspired by the Drake Music DMLab community in the UK, and builds upon Education Makers’ recent gamepad + access workshops.

Explore our resources here: