Hack Projects

Music therapy students, Berklee faculty, and others have started to brainstorm potential hack projects based on clinical needs. Some of these ideas—all created by Berklee's music therapy students, unless otherwise noted—are below, organized by category.

Music Therapist Productivity

Comprehensive Music Therapy App

Group Members: Chris Rooney, Melodie, Charlie Giomariso, Amanda Picciche, Gina Buckner

Idea/Applications: The idea is for a complete, comprehensive app for music therapists to use on a day-to-day basis. The app would be available on all devices (iPad/iPhone/computers) and would include a calendar, space for analysis, a complete list of assessments available, complete list of songs, and client history. There is also hope of having a standardized assessment and site report template in this app. This app could be modeled after medical record software, wherein the MT would have access to each individual client’s files, treatment plan, session notes, goals, and objectives

With regard to the comprehensive list of songs, it was discussed that this be available in a database that was sorted by potential goals, genre, target age group,and  song length. Modeled after iRealB, but geared especially to the music therapist. There is also an idea of a data-tracking plug-in, which could be used to discretely count responses,. as MT sees fit. The hope is that the data would automatically sync and input to the assessment.

Easy Lead and Lyric

Group Member: Emma Byrd

Idea: Giant binders and books are heavy, cumbersome, and tend to fall apart at the worst times. Furthermore, they’re impossible to quickly navigate. Unfortunately, there will never be a day when music therapists won’t need access to lead sheets. Easy Lead and Lyric will help music therapists easily create, organize, and share lead sheets, lyric sheets, and maybe even quick mp3s of the songs. It’s important that the program include formatting options and be easy and quick to use. The lead sheets may be turned into lyric sheets for clients. Finally, the program should allow sharing of these lead sheets between music therapists.

Musical Preference App

Group Member: Nicole Herrera

Clinical Need: Music therapists who could use a more accurate system of forming different repertoires for different clients and organizing these different repertoires.

Idea/Applications: An app that can take people’s musical preferences, and compute a database of music relevant to the client’s preferences. This would cater more directly to the music therapist for sessions in which music is being picked that the client likes. Instead of researching a whole list of music that the client will maybe hopefully know and enjoy, this app will generate related songs and artists. Songs can be “favorited” so that the app becomes increasingly more accurate when it comes to picking a client’s favorites. Different “users” within the app can be created when dealing with several different clients.

Musical Instrument Apps

Wheelchair-Accessible Floor Piano

Group Member: Brie Mattioli

Clinical Need: Wheelchairs are invaluable tools that have revolutionized how individuals with physical limitations can move around and be more independent. Wheelchairs enable these individuals for significant practical reasons, but why not use them for more fun and interactive musical activities?

Idea/Applications: Similar to the floor piano activated by jumping on the keys, a wheelchair-accessible floor piano would likely be circular in structure, allowing someone to trigger sound and lights by rolling over the keys. This type of interactive music making would enhance the music making experience for individuals with physical disabilities. A good way to approach this project might be to coordinate the speed to the duration that the person rolls; using this as a way to map out pitch, and essentially play.

Interactive Musical Instrument App

Group Member: Philip Didlake

Clinical Need: Music instrument apps are a common tool for music therapists with clients who may not be capable of playing an instrument. The need is for an app that draws the client into the screen without losing the social interaction between the other clients and the music therapist.

Idea/Applications: This app would use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect with the other Ipads and Iphones in the room or nearby to create an interactive music-making environment. The camera could also be used to project the faces of the other clients on the screens of the other players. Cues might also be incorporated to trade back and forth, generating musical games, solos, and turn-taking.

Sensory/Motor Skills Apps

Feat Beats and Palm Pals

Group Members: Deon Mose and Rosemary Ramos

Clinical Need: Individuals with gait issues and other motor limitations can use self-­determined music as motivation and reinforcement when using a walker or other assistive device.

Idea/Application: This idea is meant to address both gross and fine motor functioning, with specific focus on gait issues. The basic idea is for a patch on the bottom of a client’s foot that activates music at a specific tempo (90, 100, 110, 120 bpm). These patches would be programmable with client-preferred music at the specified tempo. This technology would also be applied to a walker with resistive wheels; the more you move, the more music you hear. Possible technology to adapt: Amazing Slow Downer and pacifier.

Individuals with Severely Limited Motor Skills

Group Members: Kalli Jermyn, Arthur Terembula, Shelby Marnett, and Marina Maiztegui

Clinical Need: Individuals who have severely limited motor skills may have trouble participating during sessions. When the music therapist prompts some individuals to press a switch, for example, they may have the desire to participate, but are unable to move easily, which can prevent them from being able to interact during the session.

Idea/Applications: Create an application using Apple devices such as the iPad and its built-­in camera to detect eye movements and facial expressions. Some of the technology to make this possible can already be found in apps such as Umoove and Eye Tracker. Eye Tracker is expensive and therefore not easily accessible. Umoove, however, is free and also allows you to make your own application compatible with Umoove here.

Pain Relief and the Deaf Community

Group Member: Hope Braley

Hack: Create a small device that can easily be attached to each client in a session that picks up sound and turns it into a vibration that allows the client to feel the maximum benefits that vibration holds. Enhancement of vibrations can help suppress pain for those with certain autoimmune disorders or diseases and can also be used for people who are deaf so they can experience and enjoy music even more. The device could pick up a guitar, piano, drums or anything being played live and immediately translate that sound into a unique vibration. The inspiration came from being in a drum circle and experiencing the amazing pain-relieving and calming effects of Native American drums whose deep vibrations impact the body directly.

Creativity Apps


Group Member: Brie Mattioli

Clinical Need: Individuals who have the gift of synesthesia are known to experience two senses simultaneously. For example, when they hear a trumpet, they may see the color blue. Synesthesia is a very rare trait, and so far there is no agreement upon what each synesthete believes he or she sees. (One may say a trumpet signifies blue, while another may be strongly convinced it is yellow).

Idea/Applications: For synesthetes, to create a color/sound pallet that records what sound they associate to a specific color. As of now there is no way of recording the intricate variances that people who have synesthesia experience with their exceptionalities. This pallet would serve as a template to collecting data for how synesthetes view their world through their unique gift. For example, if one person believes that a soprano voice, or the letter "A" signifies light pink, then it would be interesting to record that data via an electronic color palette, and see if another person with synesthesia believes the same.

Emotional/Music Creation App

Group Member: Purvaa Sampath

Clinical Need: This app is designed not just for patients with stress-related or emotional disorders but also for people who need a way to express themselves musically. It can be used as a stress reliever or as just a tool to unleash creativity.

Idea/Applications: Users have the option of choosing an emotion that they feel at the moment. Based on the choice, music starts playing; it's more ambient and minimalist in nature. Depending on how the user touches the screen, the music will change. For example, if he rapidly taps the screen, the pace of the music gets faster or if he uses all his fingers to tap the screen, there are more instruments that start adding to the existing music. The screen responds visually too. The aim is to give users a way to express themsleves musically, even if they’re not musicians. Since the music will prerecorded, it’ll be an endless variety of combinations and layering that’ll make the difference, therefore creating a unique experience for each user. This technology can be compared to an app called Strange Rain.

Visual Art and Music

Group Members: Stephanie Chan, Carley Cusack, Grace, Isabella Iatarola, Kevin Leong,Florence Panasiewicz, and Carly Saitelbach

Clinical Need: There is a need to enable individuals with motor limitations to participate in music. Using body movements to "paint" music, these clients are given more opportunities to be an active part of the music therapy session. There can also be a barrier with clients who display tactile resistance and clients who are unable to play instruments. The idea is to allow these individuals to participate comfortably and easily.

Idea/Applications: There are many applications that incorporate music and art. However, none are music therapy-specific. Our idea is to use a music therapy -pecific platform, like the Soundbeam, and combine it with visual art to create an integrative therapeutic arts software. Soundbeam is a hands-free device that detects motion and translates it into music. This software combined with art programs could be helpful to the design of this tool. Soundbeam is unfortunately expensive, and the goal here is to make the program cost-­effective as well and relevant to music therapy goals. Soundbrush is an app that lets individuals use finger­painting like movements to create music.

Mood Regulation/Coping Apps

"Music Genome" for Emotional Content

Group Member: Theodore Murphy

Clinical Need: Often music therapists are tasked with providing music that directly symbolizes a certain element of human experience. Music therapists need to take into account the emotions that the music embodies, client preferences of music, and potential therapeutic applications for effective music therapy experiences. Though each individual’s experience of a piece of music will be subjective, easy access to culturally accepted and understood underlying themes of pieces could direct music therapists to new music that could enable therapists to connect with their clients as authentically as possible.

Idea/Applications: Hackers could develop an application or algorithm that would allow users to search through a wide database of music based on keywords dealing with emotional experience or a certain situation, much like Pandora allows users to discover new music similar to a user’s preference based on the Music Genome Project, or how users input a series of terms in a reverse dictionary to find the most effective word that describes what users need. Search terms could be as wide as “break up” or “loneliness” to ones as specific as “abusive relationship” or “lost identity.” This would help music therapists build repertoire that more effectively addresses client experiences and facilitates authentic connection with clients.

Iso Principle Radio Station

Group Members: Stephanie Platzer, Jeremy Cohen, Forrest Paquin, and Emily Higgins

Clinical Need: This application works to promote emotional self-­regulation.

Idea/Applications: The idea is for a radio station that operates off the basis of the iso principle and promotes emotional self-­regulation. The user will input his/her current mood (detected by a personalized color palette or heart rate monitor), preferred genre, and desired mood. The app will then choose a song that matches the current mood. Each song thereafter will have qualities that are progressively closer to the desired mood. For example, if an individual with an affective disorder is feeling manic and indicates that they have a high heart rate, the first song may have a fast tempo (around 150 bpm). Each song after that would be progressively slower and more calming. If possible, each song would fade into each other in an effort to create seamless transitions. This would ideally be an app for an iPhone or Android device.

Other Hack Ideas

Hacks for People with Visual Disabilities

Generated by: Chi Kim, assistant professor of music therapy
Problem: There are many talented blind and visually impaired musicians, but there are situations when their visual disabilities make it hard for them to participate in both performance and music-making processes. Peformers with visual disabilities cannot read scores. People with low vision can enlarge the score to a certain degree, but this process can be lengthy and costly, and some might have to enlarge scores to such a degree that they can only display one measure per page. Much of the equipment and software used in music production is not accessible to people with visual disability. Some screen readers help, but a lot of new software using cross-platform widgets don't translate well.

Potential Hacks:

  • Learn new music more effectively either through manipulation of audio or print score in real time.
  • Follow the conductor's visual cues in an orchestra or ensemble setting.
  • Interact with non-native OS widgets on various user interfaces.

Suggestion: A free open-source screen reader called nvda, relies on code written in python. People can write plug-ins for the particular screen reader. Both IOS and OSX have a built-in screen reader called voiceover.

Existing Projects

A few hardware or software products aim to tackle these problems.