From beat-making workshops in Brooklyn to one of California’s largest school districts, a new wave of educators and music therapists are embracing emerging music tech to reach young people in fresh ways, tapping into the emotional awareness and intellectual benefits that music making imparts. These innovations have additional importance now, as many students have seen major disruptions to their school and home lives due to the pandemic.
Artiphon, a company at the cutting edge of music technology, has been designing new musical instruments and apps that make music more approachable for people of all ages. Their newest product, a handheld all-in-one instrument called Orba, is being adopted by teachers and music therapists eager to use new tools to deliver the cognitive, emotional, and social benefits of music.
Why teachers and therapists are using Orba
Orba is intuitive, with just eight pads for playing drums, basslines, chord progressions, and melodies – all tuned to pre-set keys that let avid musicians and beginners alike start creating immediately. Orba’s highly-sensitive playing surface, combined with expressive gestures like Tilt and Radiate, add unique inflection to people’s playing even if they are new to music.
Orba’s adaptability is a big part of why teachers love it. Orba can be played as a stand-alone song maker, with Drum, Bass, Chord, and Lead modes that can be recorded on the built-in looper. With an integrated speaker and headphone jack, it’s like having a music studio in your hands. Orba also connects to the software most used in classrooms, including Soundtrap and GarageBand, fitting smoothly with familiar workflows.
Empowered by the Artiphon community
Artiphon has been able to donate instruments to music educators and therapists, in part thanks to its own user community. When Orba launched on Kickstarter in 2019, over 12,000 backers were given an opportunity to ‘give one and get one’, whereby Artiphon shared the cost of donating an Orba to the field of music education, wellness, and research. To date, over 100 instruments have been sent to programmes including Little Kids Rock, The Bob Moog Foundation, The Institute for Music and Neurological Function, and many others. (You can request a donation here)
Examples of Orba in the field
The non-profit Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory uses Orba to offer music lessons to incarcerated teenagers in the California correctional system to promote healing through transformative arts education.
The Anaheim public school district, with over 15,000 elementary students, is piloting Orba to support Social-Emotional Learning in its music programs. The curriculum, called Orba and Feelings, teaches students to use sounds, rhythms, and melodies to articulate their emotional states.
Notes for Notes, a national non-profit, uses Orba in its innovative distance-teaching program with Pittsburgh public schools, where instructors teach via Zoom to students in the classroom.
This summer, New York-based Building Beats taught a summer beat-making workshop to teens in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, part of a community initiative to reduce violence exacerbated by the pandemic.
Music therapists, ranging from private practitioners to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, have found Orba to be a powerful tool when working with their patients for several reasons, including Orba’s ergonomic shape and feather-touch sensitivity.
Founded in 2011 and based in Nashville, TN, Artiphon designs smart instruments for the next billion musicians by combining hardware, software, and shareable content that anyone can play.
Launched via Kickstarter, the company’s hardware products – Orba and INSTRUMENT 1 – are award-winning handheld smart instruments that let anyone create music wherever they go. Their software products include Scan Band, an AR instrument lens in partnership with Snapchat, and Orbacam, an expansion of Orba allowing players to create musical videos enhanced with reactive visual effects.
Artiphon’s founder/CEO Mike Butera holds a PhD in Sound Studies, and Artiphon’s investors include Warner Music Group, Shure Microphones, and other industry leaders.
Artiphon encourages educators and wellness practitioners to use its education discount.