Rhythm Sticks

These objects are the result of a psychological investigation into familiarity and the use of transitional objects for people living with dementia. With conventional instruments being intimidating to the amateur player the Rhythm Sticks offer physical and mental support utilising the archetype of a walking stick and introduces a musical application. These were created in response to the insight of how residents contributed during sessions by tapping their walking sticks on the floor in time to the music.

How does it work?

By tapping the stick on the floor, the Cajon/trolley is played by the music therapist to lead the session.

rythm sticks

sticks alone

anton cajon

Piano Zimmer Frame

Familiar objects that utilise long-term memory are an excellent tool in encouraging people with dementia to participate during music therapy sessions. Like the Rhythm Sticks, the Piano Zimmer Frame offers an opportunity to liberate a stigmatised product by turning it into an assistive musical instrument.

How does it work?

The Zimmer frame becomes a playable MIDI controller, this uses a piezo sensor and computer software that converts acoustic impulses into MIDI messages.

sensor on zimmer


Pass the Parcel

An object centred around giving and receiving gifts to encourage interaction through collective contribution to make music. This offers people with dementia an opportunity to participate during music therapy sessions in an easy way helping them to connect with the person they choose to pass the parcel to, this has helped to establish new and build upon existing relationships within the care home. This focuses on inclusive design with it’s subtle athritis-friendly feature to increase grip making it easier to hold.

How does it work?

As the parcel moves from person to person new layers (instrument loops) are activated creating a backing track for the group to sing along to.

Electronics Engineer: www.laurencefletcher.co.uk

pass the parcel lift copy


This prototype is being funded and supported by the More Than Profit programme, which is a UAL Social Enterprise support programme (More Than Profit is run by SEE/Student Enterprise & Employability in partnership with UAL DESIS Lab and the UK Social Enterprise Charity UnLtd).

logos funding

The Un-intimidating Ukulele

This was created to understand how objects are recognised in relation to sound and music, the aim of this was to find out how people with dementia would react to different objects making different sounds. All complex components such as the strings, tuning keys and frets were removed to make it less intimidating and easier to play by simply touching it. The conclusion suggested that long-term memory was the most effective way to associate these relationships to assist with introducing new concepts. 

How does it work?

Using the same technology as the Piano Zimmer Frame the vibrations absorbed through tapping are turned into music by converting acoustic impulses into MIDI messages.

Guiro Stick

Making subtle changes to existing objects helps people with dementia to feel comfortable with contributing during music sessions, the Guiro Stick uses aesthetics and decoration to conceal the fact that it’s an instrument.

How does it work?

Running a drum stick along the ridges of hardwood creates a percussive sound like a Guiro.

guiro stick

guiro in use