Soundbeam – The ‘invisible keyboard in space’


Audio of Soundbeam blog

Supporting staff and students to achieve their full potential since 1968.


Welcome to our weekly CENMAC blog post

Soundbeam  – The ‘invisible keyboard in space’ | Guest blog by Tim Swingler at Soundbeam


Used in over 5000 special schools and other centres, in more than 30 countries, Soundbeam (the ‘invisible keyboard in space’) has revolutionised music making for youngsters with special needs. Its unique contact-free motion sensor technology makes self-expression possible for even the most physically, behaviourally, or cognitively challenged. Soundbeam has been enthusiastically embraced at Charlton Park Academy for more than thirty years, championed by teacher Bryher Pennells. 

Image © courtesy of Charlton Park Academy

… there is always a gap between what goes into my head and my physical ability to get my body to behave itself, but with Soundbeam all that can disappear.

Now into its sixth generation, the latest Soundbeam version features touch screen control, wireless switches, film loops to accompany the sound worlds, and very user-friendly menu navigation. The kit comes pre-loaded with an exciting range of ready-to-play compositions which allow students to explore sound and music across a varied spectrum of styles and genres. And, with the option to connect four movement sensors (beams) and eight wireless switches, group activity for up to twelve participants can be facilitated. 


In the words of Soundbeamer, Chris Lees:

“The thing that entices you to try Soundbeam is the fact that you don’t have to argue with yourself to make it work. You see, when I’m living my normal life there is always a sort of inner conflict which says ‘what I want to do is a good idea but it won’t work because my body won’t cooperate … there is always a gap between what goes into my head and my physical ability to get my body to behave itself, but with Soundbeam all that can disappear, ‘cos you’ve only got to wave your arm in any way that you’re physically able to, and this conflict disappears and that’s what makes it a joy to use. 


… If I were to pick up a recorder and expect my fingers to hit the holes in some coordinated fashion, it’s never going to work. 


It may sound a bit extreme, but I’ve learned that it’s perfectly legal for me to just sit here and enjoy myself, I don’t have to ask anybody for any help, I don’t have to justify the kind of noises I’m getting, I can just enjoy it, without somebody saying ‘you’re not doing this properly, or ‘it ought to be louder or softer’… it just works. 


What I appreciate most is the absolute freedom it gives me, I can make it work with very little effort, and the kind of level of relaxation and comfort that it gives me is absolutely fantastic. It’s magic – if I could bottle it I would.” 


Further Information:

Image © Soundbeam

See all of Soundbeam’s films on Youtube

Don’t forget you can share your CENMAC experiences for our CENMAC family to enjoy. Plus, sign up for our newsletter to read more about Education, Technology and Communication Works 2022 (North & South).