Using Touch Boards in Music Workshops

This blog post is part of a series of technology-based pieces from the Exchanging Notes project, in which we will share resources that have worked well in our accessible music sessions at Belvue School.  See this post for an overview of what we have been using so far.

A circuit board connected to paper symbols using crocodile clips.
Folk music sessions with a Touch Board linked to familiar symbols for lyrics.

The Touch Board is an affordable device created by Bare Conductive, which can be used to turn anything conductive into a musical instrument.  Up to twelve objects can be connected using crocodile clips or conductive thread. These can be used either as an on/off switch or a proximity sensor (think mini-theremin).

Unlike other similar devices such as the MaKey MaKey, there is no need to connect two points together to make a circuit, and having been set up once, there is no need to connect it to a computer – just a speaker and a phone charger/battery pack!

The Touch Board has been popular on the Rhapsody in Ealing/Exchanging Notes project at Belvue School, as it has provided opportunities to create custom instruments or create sounds using lyrics or graphic scores, combining painting, sculpture, and movement with music.  Not to mention the ever-popular culinary experiments with banana keyboards and musical pancakes!

Young musicians in the post-16 class have created this video to demonstrate setup of the Touch Board (here we’re using it in “piano” mode):

Using the Touch Board has helped build confidence in both staff and young musicians by opening up opportunities to play to strengths in other areas, such as visual arts.  It first made an appearance during our R&D sub-project (read about our Touch Board-based Lazy Susan here), after which the school acquired their own unit to be used independently.  This has led to a great deal of work on customising resources on other media, including iPads (see this post for more information).

Here’s an example of how we have been using the Touch Board in one of our final improvisation sessions at Belvue School.  The group had been working upon non-verbal improvisation on percussion instruments for the majority of the term, and in this instance were learning new rhythms and challenges presented by playing without always touching their instruments:

This blog post will be updated with more information and video as we go through the project archives; watch this space for more!