Research & Development news from Drake Music

Today I spoke to Gawain Hewitt who is National Programme Manager for Research and Development at Drake Music. This is the first in a series of blog posts where we will explore Drake Music’s R&D work, what is involved with it and all the exciting news and developments we have to share.

Gawain works closely with a community of developers, hackers, coders, makers and some musicians to support and stimulate the development of new accessible music technology.

Recently we held the first of a new regular monthly hackmeet for our R&D community and these will now take place regularly on the last Wednesday of the month. These are closed sessions, but if you are a coder or hacker and are interested in getting involved with us, we also host a full Hackday where the tech community come together to work on a single problem for a period of 24 hrs, with prizes for the best ideas. We will be announcing the dates for our next event very soon, so watch this space.


There has been lots of exciting activity going on within our R&D work recently, here is a quick round-up of the latest news and info:


We have been working with Kris Halpin to test the Mi.Mu Gloves. If you haven’t heard about this project then you can read all about it in WIRED. They are musical gloves which have enormous potential for use as an accessible instrument and we are involved in developing and testing them. You can also read Kris’ blog for updates on how he is progressing as he learns how to programme and control them. They are a complicated piece of equipment, but already they are having an impact on how he sees his music-making and where his creative career will go.

Kris Halpin and Imogen Heap
Kris and Imogen


Gawain recently spoke at the inauguration of Music Hackspace‘s brand new space in ContainerVille in London. The London Music Hackspace is a place to share thoughts, knowledge, technologies, processes and aesthetics on music and audio and are one of our regular partners in our R&D work.

He also ran a session on accessible music making at one of their regular events and said “It was great to meet a new group of people and talk about why it’s so important that new musical instruments are developed and to share examples with them of the sort of products we’re supporting – like the new instrument being built by Mo & Zen – to give them an idea of what can be achieved.


In other news, we have some very exciting announcements coming soon and are working hard at finalising all the last details now. Keep your eyes peeled for the date of our next big Drake Music Hack Day and also for details of a project with Furtherfield which is about using internet to facilitate creative collaboration for accessible music making. Watch this space for full information!


A recent development in our R&D work is that two of our R&D community have just been awarded prototyping support to develop their products further, so they are ready for testing:


The first is an ultrasonic musical instrument being built by two developers who are an active part of our DM R&D community – Mo & Zen. Mo was the winner of the first Drake Music Hack Day and the product they are working on is a descendent of his winning entry. The product they are working on turns movement into musical notes and will be very small and powered by a battery. It will open up opportunities for a wide range of people to make music with simple movements and gestures. The prototyping support will enable them to take their work from the early concept stage through to a product which is ready to be tested.



The second is the brainchild of professional musician John Kelly, who Drake Music have a long-standing relationship with. He has come up with a new idea for an accessible guitar/software controller which will allow him to perform with a guitar in a fully accessible and integrated way. Currently he uses software apps such as Garage Band, but finds that this puts limits on his musical practice. His new prototype will look, feel and play very differently, allowing him to be fully expressive in his music. The idea is still at the very early stages, but it is proposing to use the guitar body & strings in conjunction with software to create an accessible instrument.

See below for a video John made explaining the idea.

As you can see, we have a full programme of activity all designed to explore how experimental and fluid approaches to technology can help push the thinking in this sector forward and – ultimately – to develop new musical technologies which can open up access to music for everyone.

Thanks for reading, keep an eye on the blog for our latest announcements and for the next update on our Research & Development programme.

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