I have been working on several prototype accessible instruments. These range from mechanical and gesture-controlled hardware devices, to software instruments. Below is some information on the ongoing development of two of these instruments.
LSR.HRP (Laser Harp):
The laser harp (LSR.HRP) is a standalone digital string synthesiser. Instead of physical strings which would ordinarily be plucked by the user, the LSR HRP utilises 7 bright green laser pointers. To play the LSR HRP, the user interrupts the laser between the transmitter (the laser itself) and the receiver (photocell resistors). When the laser line is broken, this triggers a value which is processed, filtered and subsequently triggers a note.
The synthesis engine is a simple string synthesizer, similar to a ‘Karplus Strong’, developed in PureData and hosted on a Raspberry Pi. To ensure musical flexibility, the synthesis engine allows users to select a scale to which all of the lasers are then mapped. Scales and key are selected via encoders on the front panel of the LSR HRP, with a basic LED screen providing navigation information.
The instrument has been designed to enable users to play it in an upright position, with the added slot-in base, or laid flat as a table-top device.
TCH.PNO (Touch Piano):
The TCH.PNO uses capacitive touch control to trigger notes. The touch pads are large and are not set out like a piano. Rather, the key and scale can be selected by the user, and each pad is then assigned to an appropriate note.
Several revisions of the TCH.PNO have been designed, with different input methods (assignable keys, traditional piano keyboard, floor mounted), which would enable users with different abilities and requirements to engage with the instrument.
Synthesis is again managed by a Raspberry Pi, although a more sophisticated ‘brain’ may find itself being used once working prototypes have been developed.