It's more than Accessibility, It's accessing Abilities!

Assistive Tech Blog

Music for All!

As an assistive technology professional, I have done a lot of evaluations and consultations for school age students. Almost all of these evaluations look at accessibility and how students can access the curriculum and for good reason. One of the things that is not considered are ways for students to express themselves creatively. We don’t look at tools that allow them to express themselves artistically or musically. One area that I am always exploring is different ways for students to express themselves through art and music. Luckily there are a lot of tools out there that allow students to access the artist within. This blog will focus on some of the music options that are available.

If a student can’t hold an instrument, play an instrument, read or write music; how can they express themselves musically? Well, there are many options that are out there that can provide them opportunities to be a musician. This post will look at five options that can unlock the musician inside - Skoog, Skwitch, Beamz, Garageband and iPad apps.

Skoogmusic www.skoogmusic.com makes 2 great tools - the Skoog and Skwitch which provide music opportunities for persons of all abilities. The Skoog is an accessible hands-on music interface for the iPad and iPhone. It is a tactile, squashy foam cube that acts as a Bluetooth controller for your iPad. It has multiple points of access and is pressure sensitive (which is configurable). Skoogmusic has 3 apps available on the app store that work with their Skoog - Skoog, Access iOS and Skratch. The Skoog also interfaces with Garageband and other apps that support virtual MIDI. Skoog interfaces with Spotify or your iTunes library so you can jam along with your favorite artists. The Skoog Songbook feature has color-coded notes so students learn to play a song by following the on-screen color-coded notes. Skoogmusic also has great on-line resources such as color coded song sheets so you can play along with your favorite songs as well as a selection of lessons and ideas for your classroom.

 


Skwitch is a new product by Skoogmusic. Skwitch is a musical instrument that connects to your iPhone and turns it into a music creation tool. It’s easy to create your own music by pressing the Skwitch in different places. The student controls the expression and pace. Students can even create their own songs. Both the Skoog and the Skwitch can also be used to teach coding, but that is another blog post.


 

Beamz is an interactive music device that is controlled by laser beams. The student plays music by interrupting the laser beams. No matter when the beams are interrupted, the music is always in harmony. The Beamz allows users of all ages, physical and cognitive abilities to play music using hundreds of musical instruments, sound effects and songs. The Beamz works with Apple computers, Windows and iOS devices. On the Apple OS and Windows, the music can also be controlled with keystrokes which means it can also be controlled by switches using a switch interface. The Beamz software can be accessed by eye-gaze using Tobii eye tracker. Beamz connects wirelessly to an iPad. On the iPad, you can use the Beamz controller to play music or use the iPad. You could also use switch control to play Beamz. Beamz has an extensive library of songs and genres to choose from. Beams also has many educational resources and bundles available.

 

Garageband for iOS is a music creation app that enables students to create their own music. Garageband has been around for a while, but the Live Loops feature provides students the ability to create songs on the fly. When you select a Live Loops template, it opens up a screen with a grid containing different instruments and loops. To create music all you have to do is select a loop or column to start it playing. You can tap on additional loops to add to your song. When you tap on a loop they don’t start or stop as soon as you tap them but they wait until the beginning of the next bar to begin. This assures that your loops or music are always in sync. There are lots of templates or styles available from traditional Chinese to Dubstep. You can even create your own templates. Because this is an app made by Apple, it is fully accessible to those students using switch control and with Voiceover.

Lastly, there are a wide variety of music apps available for the iPad that provide students the opportunity to play and create music. I will provide a more extensive list in the future, but because it is the Christmas season I want to mention one of my favorite apps - Holiday Bells. The reason I like Holiday Bells is because of its versatility, options and simplicity. It also sounds really good. This is a handbells app. There are several ways to use the app. You can select Jingle Bells where you simply tap on the screen or shake your iPad to play the jingle bells. In the handbell mode you can play a handbell by tapping on the screen or shaking the device. You can also select the tone or note you want the iPad to play. So with several iPads, you could conduct a hand-bell choir. In the Handbell Set mode, the user chooses a song, and then follows the snowflakes on the screen to tap the corresponding bells and play the song.I love this app!! Did I say that it is only .99?

Holiday Bells App

Holiday Bells App

 

So as you can see there are many options out there for students to play, create and express themselves through music. With so many solutions available, there is no excuse not to find the right tool or instrument for that musician in your life.

Mark Coppin