12 June 2024

Musical Instruments for all

By Lark Music

It is well documented that learning to play music isn’t just a fun hobby, but a way of developing our brains. It is a way for us to grow and is a form of therapy. In the words of Julian Lloyd Webber, “You never hear anybody say I wish I didn’t play a musical instrument!”.

So why should anyone be excluded from this?

Fortunately, Tim Swingler and the team at Soundbeam have been working for the last 30 years to ensure that everybody has an opportunity to become a musician, regardless of any challenges they might face.

Soundbeam is an ingenious way of using technology to overcome one of the boundaries faced by musicians with limited mobility. It is a ‘touch-free’ musical device that turns physical movements into sounds and music. Using cutting-edge sensor technology, Soundbeam translates any physical gestures into musical notes, enabling people of all abilities to create music.

Soundbeam has transformed the field of music therapy, and music in special education, empowering individuals to express themselves through music. With Soundbeam, anyone can create music, regardless of their capabilities, opening up a world of possibilities in terms of inclusive music-making.

Q. So, how does it work?

Q. How did you come up with the idea?

Soundbeam was originally conceived by composer Edward Williams (who most notably created the score for the ground-breaking BBC series ‘Life on Earth’) as a way to add a ‘live’ musical dimension to contemporary dance, giving performers the means to create musical and sonic material with expressive gesture. It quickly became apparent that the technology would have major implications in the field of assistive music technology for people with special needs.

Q. What results has Soundbeam had so far?

Over 5,000 schools, adult centres, elderly care facilities and community music projects in more than thirty countries are working with Soundbeam. There is a wealth of published academic material attesting to its efficacy, and a rich variety of films illustrating Soundbeam’s role in therapy and performance across a broad range of abilities and ages.

Q. What has been your favourite success story so far?

Cop out answer: the next one! (I think I’m indebted to Louis Armstrong for that response.) I am always delighted and thrilled to see a new clip posted.

Q. What challenges do you face?

Soundbeam is now in its sixth iteration. The challenge with previous versions was partly the perception that the technology was too complicated (unavoidable with a piece of kit that can do so many things) and also the “I’m not musical” mindset of many teachers. Soundbeam 6 is as ‘plug and play’ as you could wish, and we also like to encourage users to see themselves as part of a global family; we encourage our customers to stay in touch and provide a full programme of ongoing support and training where required as well as sharing examples of good practice as widely as possible.

Q. How can companies like Lark Music help? What can ordinary people do?

Like this article, anything that helps to spread the word is helpful.

Q. What do you have planned for the future?

We are constantly adding to the menu of musical presets which include music across a range of genres and styles including flamenco, rock, jazz, reggae, dub step and classical. We are grateful to have had the input of a number of celebrated professional musicians and bands who have generously contributed to this evolving process.

Q. If people are interested in how Soundbeam can help them, where can they go?

Contact Adrian Price: adrian@soundbeam.co.uk. We have a dedicated studio space in Bristol and a comprehensive demonstration over Zoom is easily arranged. There is also an abundance of material on our website, www.soundbeam.co.uk.

More than just insurance

We’re proud to play an active part in the musical community to help support and encourage musicians from all backgrounds and abilities to enjoy greater access to music.

Find out how we support musicians here.