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Case 1
Sense Scotland

This case study provides an in depth report for 2 clients at Sense Scotland.  The clients were selected because of their uniqueness and the researcher’s personal interest in their development. It should be noted that no participant reacted adversely to the Skoog.

For ease of explanation the following case study and discussion have been written from a first-person perspective with the names of all participants being changed for their protection.

Music provision can provide an outlet for unique, individual expression and can open a huge potential for people with disabilities to truly express can play a crucial role in providing an emotional outlet for people who are non-verbal to communicate by other means.‘    (Sense Scotland, 2010)

Sense Scotland is an innovative organisation which regularly utilises new technologies for music and art. Although I visited Sense Scotland over the 6 week research period, due to the drop-in nature of activities, I was only able to work with each participant once.

Andrew is a deafblind service user who communicates through sign language. I was only able to have one session with Andrew but he immediately touched the Skoog and recognised that the sound was coming from an external source by placing his hand on the speaker to feel the vibrations. Having poor hearing, it was useful for Andrew to be able to feel the source of the music so I connected the Skoog to a large bass amplifier to increase the volume and provide him with a larger speaker to explore.

Andrew favoured deep, staccato percussive sounds so I alternated between the xylophone, bass guitar and drums. Andrew could sign the different colours of the Skoog’s panels which was an effective way to stimulate and further involve him in the session. Andrew had previously gained a lot from Sense Scotland’s Tenori-On due to its touch and light-based interface. He was given the Tenori-On (connected to a separate sound system) while I played the Skoog on the bass guitar setting. The lights were turned off to increase the visual effects of the Tenori-On while a member of staff accompanied us on an electronic keyboard.

Andrew appeared to be intrigued by the varying sound sources for the Skoog, Tenori-On and keyboard (the amplifier, the sound system and the keyboard’s speaker respectively). The visual effect of the circular lights on the Tenori-On blinking in the dark room was striking and this clearly motivated Andrew to try different patterns while holding it close to his body. Andrew often reached out to touch the Skoog, keyboard and output sources to reinforce his concept of the causes and effects of each sound.

While this type of music session could be overpowering for individuals with special needs, Andrew seemed immersed in the combinations of sounds, the variety of textures of instruments and the atmosphere of the darkened room. While Andrew played with the Skoog at the beginning of the session, it was mostly used to compliment the Tenori-On and keyboard with Andrew listening closely to their respective sounds.


Gary has full bodily movements but has some communication and learning difficulties. He is interested in music and enjoys listening and performing when given the opportunity. Unlike the other service users, Gary is able to walk freely around the room and choose his own instruments. The music room was filled with an assortment of resources and Gary tried his hand at most.

When Gary was introduced to the Skoog, he instantly picked up, shook and squeezed it to make sounds. He identified the names of the instruments he recognised and smiled while using the Skoog. Gary experimented with the Skoog in a number of ways without instruction and, because he liked to press the panels firmly, I was able to adjust the sensitivity of the Skoog to a low setting. Gary noticed that the wind instrument sounds required more pressure to play than others and smiled when he squeezed the Skoog hard enough to create a smooth note.
After using the Skoog, Gary began to try other instruments. When he began to play, I would assist him, play along or try to integrate the Skoog into his performance. For example, when Gary sat at the drum kit and began to play, I encouraged him to try hitting other parts of the kit. I then placed the Skoog between the floor toms so that Gary could trigger other sounds at the same time as playing the drums. Finally, I accompanied Gary on guitar and began to sing as he continued to hit the drums and the Skoog with the drum sticks.

This process developed with Gary playing a keyboard, electric organ and percussion while the Skoog was either used to compliment or accompany his performance. Gary also enjoyed playing the Skoog on the acoustic guitar setting while I played and sang The Name Song.

At the end of the session, Gary returned to his seat and we played a noise-recognition game where I would assign animal noises to the Skoog and he would attempt to identify them. This successfully integrated a knowledge application dynamic into an educational music environment. With Gary, this game was both enjoyable and challenging and he seemed surprised to hear such a variety of sounds coming from the Skoog.
Overall, Gary controlled the direction of the session while I used the Skoog to encourage the sense of exploration and creativity that he has in abundance.


The case studies demonstrate that the Skoog can benefit a range of service users with a variety of disabilities. It was also found that all the participants were able to use the Skoog regardless of how severe or complex their needs. The ability to customise the Skoog to the needs of the user was vital to the success of this project and members of staff at all three centres were highly complementary of the Skoog:


‘It’s very user friendly and it seems to be accessible for a wide range of people who can make meaningful connections between music- making and their own actions. It’s great to see a piece of music technology which is very robust and can be used vigorously without tentative supervision...The simple colour-coded contact points are attractive to many people with whom I work.’

(Sense Scotland, 2010)

The Skoog provides access to the music-making process in many ways and the case studies highlight its ability to be used in conjunction with other resources. For example, Andrew was able to use the Skoog alongside the Tenori-On and sessions with others often included traditional instruments. The Skoog can have therapeutic properties to help service users develop their skills in many ways. For some the Skoog can play a key role in demonstrating new ways of music-making, versatile in promoting free musical expression as evidenced by Gary who was enthusiastic and appreciative of this opportunity.


From Watson, E. J. (2010). SKOOG MUSIC: NEW MUSIC TECHNOLOGY FOR SPECIAL NEEDS (Unpublished Master's Thesis) University of Edinburgh.