Making musical instruments - REMAP - Custom made equipment for disabled people
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Making musical instruments

  • Ian D Midgley
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(posted by Susan Iwanek)
William Longden is the founder and co-director of a charity called Joy of sound, which specialises in the delivery and development of inclusive music and arts activities for disabled people.

William is currently writing his PhD research project, very much focusing on bespoke design of music instruments for impaired and disabled players. He has several Remap year books that show examples of Remap’s design interventions to enable disabled players to make music, and would very much like to know of any more that are out there.

If any member has done a project of this sort, please let William know about it at and/or post information below. William will happily credit you in anything he puts in his research project or his website (

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6 responses to “Making musical instruments”

  1. John Del Mar says:

    Memory a bit hazy, but believe Bedford panel in conjunction with me developed some fixture to help a Viola player.

    John DM

  2. Dick Lucy says:

    I was involved with a girl who wished to be able to play a guitar but her hand was missing from a stump about 6″ below the elbow.

    To solve this I used a small trophy cup (won by my father for building sand castles when 10 years old) cut the base off and fitted a a vacu-van stopper (used to preserve wine in bottles only half used) and used the vacuum pump provided with the stopper to make a vacuum in the base.

    This when sucked onto the stump it provided a firm metal point to attach any fitting that was suitable for plucking the strings.

    I have not followed up the success but her father was going to fit a knife of some sort to it to enable her to use a knife and fork.

    I suspect that she would not be able to strum very fast as this uses the wrist movement plucking.

    Just another musical mention.

  3. Ken McMullan says:

    Belfast panel designed an item for an eight-year-old girl who was born with digits 3, 4 and 5 missing from each hand. Her primary school class was about to learn to play the recorder. This requires a full compliment. The client was keen that any adaptation or device built should not be conspicuous; she, naturally, wanted the instrument to appear as normal as possible.

    One of our panel members had at that time embarked on making a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) accordion for his wife. It was suggested that an electronic recorder based on the same principle might be feasible.

    A recorder manufacturer sent us three recorders and one was fitted with a set of pushbuttons up the front and back. Combinations of these buttons were sent to a microcontroller which translated them into a MIDI signal sent to an electronic musical keyboard to generate the sound. This allowed one and a half octave range.

    (The client was very amused when it was demonstrated that she could even play the drums on her recorder!)

    Having taken part in several school concerts, we sadly lost touch with the client, who moved house without providing a forwarding address. We still have the software and the user guide and the prototype may still be knocking about somewhere.

    This case is traceable as number 02/BE/181, and the device won the Remap Award 2003.

  4. Chris G Gibson says:

    The Doncaster panel was asked to produce a device that could stimulate severely impaired children at a local special school. It was found that whilst deaf children could not of course hear music they could feel the vibrations that resulted from musical or other sounds.

    The panel produced an horizontal ‘sounding board’ which was driven by two large loudspeakers below it. The child lay on the board and music could be played to the speakers producing vibration to the board. There were some large switches which could interact with the Midi sound source so the child could modify what was happening.

    This project appeared in the 2004 Remap handbook, and was winner of the second prize (page 9).
    I have attached a couple of photos of the ‘Vibro-acoustic board’.

    We produced an additional device at the request of a children’s hospice in another town.

    Unfortunately this project was almost completed when I joined the Panel, so I have no first hand experience of it, but if it is still in use I could enquire of the school where it is, if you need further details.

  5. Laurence Fletcher says:

    Hello William.
    I worked on a project for a client that, due to her disability, was unable to use the expression pedals on her digital piano. The solution was a chin-operated device that replaced the piano damper (sustain) pedal. The device used a pressure sensor and some simple electronics to generate a variable voltage representing pedal depression.

  6. Ian Cole says:

    Hi William, I modified a high stool which my client used for playing his saxophone when seated. It consisted of a small hinged tray which the client was able to rest the bottom curved tube of the sax. on. This tray was fitted at the front of the stool and hinged down when getting on or off of the stool, when seated the client could latch it into the upper position, the tray was then between his legs at the correct height such that when the sax. was resting in it, the mouthpiece was comfortably at mouth height.

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