Soundhouse Special Access Kit

Music-making for children with disability

Banana Keyboards and iPad Technology

A very significant long term program has been the Special Access Kit Project using the Banana Keyboard. This was first invented in 1992 to assist children with disability to access meaningful music-making. The cornerstone was the design of the Banana Keyboard as shown below.

Elliot playing the banana keyboard in a music therapy session provided by Challenge - supporting kids with cancer.

Many programs and projects using this technology have been developed by music therapists, teachers & aides in order to enrich the lives of those who would otherwise be unable to participate fully in music programs. Some of these have won Arts Portfolio leadership awards.

More recent technological advances have seen a significant increase in its capability and ease of use. These include:

  • The ability to use an iPad to control the sounds using a program called Thumb Jam
  • The addition of Bluetooth wireless connectivity with the iPad, making it much easier to use, and less susceptible to cable damage
  • The possibility of installing rechargeable battery packs to make its operation completely wireless.

Fifteen locations using the Banana Keyboard have been identified to receive these upgraded Special Access Kits, and training has been delivered to support their use. This has been made possible through the generous support of Yamaha Australia, supplying the Bluetooth wireless midi adapters, and from SMA funds supplying the battery packs.

There has been considerable interest shown by music therapists in other locations to expand the rollout of Special Access Kits, together with the wireless and battery upgrades. 

We are currently identifying resources for a second round rollout, and will be seeking industry and donor support to enable this to take place. It is anticipated that another 12 facilities could be supported for a total cost of approximately $2500.

Adrian Alexander
Chairman, Soundhouse Music Alliance

Elliot Playing the Banana Keyboard.

Hassain Playing the Banana Keyboard.

“Hussain loves using the banana keyboard in joint physiotherapy and music therapy sessions. It allows him to work on moving and controlling his arms and head whilst doing something he loves and is really motivated by. His face lights up when he can hear the different sounds he is making by activating his head switch and moving his hands on the keyboard. He has worked out that if he moves his hands along the keyboard there are different sounds. At one point he liked the sound he had made, he tried to replicate this using his hands purposefully on the keyboard”.

Claire Georgiadis, Physiotherapist and Key Worker - Yooralla
Music For All Australia (operated by Soundhouse Music Alliance - a registered charity with DGR status) has a belief that music-making is fundamental to the development of young people, and that its impacts span intellectual and skills development, alongside cultural awareness and well-being, to name a few.

Music For All promotes the right for all to:

  • express themselves musically
  • learn musical languages and skills
  • participate in engaging music programs independent of their circumstances.

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