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Lunchtime talk write-up
Posted on Fri 24 Feb 2017


The Kellycaster: a story about the development of an accessible guitar

Drake Music create a space for technologists, disabled and non-disabled musicians to work together to find new pathways for accessible music making.

Gawain Hewett

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Gawain Hewitt

Drake Music

Drake Music create a space for technologists, disabled and non-disabled musicians to work together to find new pathways for accessible music making. During this Lunchtime Talk, Gawain Hewett introduced the DMLab programme, an innovative collaboration between Drake Music and the Maker community. Gawain shared the story of the Kellycaster, an accessible guitar designed and developed with musician John Kelly

My five headlines are:

1. John Kelly is a disabled singer and musician who wanted to be able to play a guitar live on stage. John outlined his key requirements for a guitar: reliability, easy set-up, not too many buttons and precision. These access requirements have been integrally designed into the guitar from the beginning of the process, rather than as an add on.

2. The process of developing the Kellycaster began with a hackathon. John set the brief, DMLab brought together a team of enthusiastic technologists and musicians, Gawain bought an old guitar to hack and they explored the software and hardware possibilities. By the end of the day they had a proof of concept.

3. Since the hackathon, the team have been developing the Kellycaster through an iterative process continually testing its usability with John. As well as developing the software, they have been experimenting with different shapes and materials for the hardware and have chosen aluminium and maple wood.

4. There’s a dichotomy between designing something bespoke that meets the needs of one musician and designing something generic that is accessible for many people. A mainstream accessible instrument route is particularly useful for education settings. DMLab are interested in exploring both pathways.

5. Drake Music are really keen to run a hackathon in Bristol. The response from the audience made it very clear that there is enthusiasm and we would really welcome this, so watch this space.