Individual Project 2021
Master's Thesis
Enhancing the potential of music therapy.
During this project I investigated the field of music therapy and aimed at developing a music making device which is specifically tailored for this application. With the help of experts I tried to reduce the obstacles that keep people from experiencing active music making while maximising the positive effects of music therapy. During my process I conducted qualitative research with professional therapists and made use of extensive prototyping and user testing.
Music Therapy
In music therapy experts tap into the inherent power of music and creativity
by using simple instruments to create music with people in need
At the moment music therapy is being used in different settings. In hospitals it can help people who have to deal with great amounts of pain. But it can also be used for neuro-rehabilitation for patients with brain injuries or dementia.
It is used in classic therapy sessions in order to treat anxiety, behavioural issues and other mental health problems.  And music therapy can also happen at home, where it can be a tool to deal with stress, find balance and build resilience.
session roadmap
Not every session is the same since the therapy is navigated by the therapist
according to the specific needs of the patient but generally it roughly follows this structure:

central questions are:
How does the sound make me feel?
How was my music perceived?
How did I perceive others?
Music therapy is dialogue.
Music therapy at the moment makes use of different classic and meditational instruments,
all of these are analogue while the potential of digital instruments is not used yet.
Idea Exploration
Early ideation sketches were used to explore different ways of interacting with
the device as well as different ways of arranging notes and tones.
Wizard of Zoom
In order to evaluate the directions I had to find a way to convey the ideas to experts via video calls.
For this I chose 6 directions, made quick cardboard mock ups and produced clips with sounds laid over them.
With these I was able to show how the devices would work and how to interact with them.
User Testing
For further evaluation I decided to make interactive prototypes that can be tested with people.
These prototypes should enable people to experience first hand what the concepts do. For this I chose
three directions to prototype and additionally used other some dummy objects to try out.
Functional Prototypes
For prototyping I hacked computer keyboards and used different softwares to let them trigger sounds.
The Playground is an object that has different sounds and insturments spread out on its surface and lets you
explore and play. The Draw & Play lets you draw a shape which then changes the timbre of the keyboard.
And the Strings 2.0 aim to try out certain haptics as well the limitation to a pentatonic scale.
Toba is a musical instrument designed specifically to enhance music therapy.
The intention of the product is to give the user intuitive access to a wide range of expressions and
facilitate improvisation as well as dialogue with the therapist, thus increasing the therapeutic effect.
In the therapy setting
In a therapy setting, Toba can be used by the client to let go and enter a meditational
state while improvising and focusing on the emotional experience.
The therapist can use the App to record the improvisation including the ambient sound. In this way
singing and verbal comments are captured as well. This recording can then be played back and
be used as the base for dialogue and reflection.
Toba has a large interactive play area which is divided into two tactile areas.
Each of these areas has two base timbres that blend into each other seamlessly.

The different timbres are represented in the surface pattern.
Different textures further distinguish the two areas.
Light Guidance

In order to help the user navigate the surface, a feedback feature can be turned on via the Toba app.
This lets the surface light up wherever it is touched before the light slowly fades out.
This feature is optional since some of the clients may find these lights distracting.
The internal speakers are placed inside the cavity and oriented towards the user.
This creates vibrations which let the user feel the sound.
Toba App
The app lets the therapist organize sessions, record and play improvisations and take notes.
The improvisations can also be exported and sent to the clients phone for them to listen to later on.
Charging Base
The charging station puts Toba in an upright position when not in use. This adds to the sculptural character of the device which makes it more inviting to touch and play. Toba has charging contacts inside both openings. This way there is no need to pay attention to which way it is put on the charger.
Toba is an instrument specifically tailored for music therapy.
By limiting the possibilities in some ways and giving more freedom
in others, it facilitates improvisation and exploration.
Furthermore Toba improves the connection between therapist and client by
facilitatingdialogue and helps reflecting upon the emotional experience.