Music is magical!

However, access to music is limited by the need for a high level of skill and understanding. This is particularly true for young children. Most children do not start learning an instrument until they are 8 years old, with the guitar and piano being popular choices. Music makes kids more mindful, creative, intelligent, social and happy. Studies suggest 96% of all parents want their child to learn music. To introduce children to music, they are often given shrunken versions of adult-sized instruments. These are hard to play, unengaging and are not social, discouraging budding musicians. Many children drop out of piano lessons due to disinterest.

My goal is to empower music learning and play in young children. My dad taught me to play the guitar when I was young, and I want all young people to experience the joy of music as I did. The concept for my innovation came from watching children play a small keyboard. They would only ever play one note at a time and would not play the black notes at all. Playing on their own, it was not a collaborative or fun experience.

What if we could set the notes free? This way all notes would be equal. You could stack the notes to create chords and you could play with friends.

After lots of testing and prototyping, ‘Soundbops’ was born. Soundbops are musical building blocks representing each note. They can be placed anywhere on a specialised board and even stacked on top of each other to create chords! Children only need to lay out the notes they need to build their own musical masterpiece. Blocks are made from bright colours and display simplified music notation. They allow musicians to discover complex concepts such as chords by building them up through play. Soundbops’ open structure even gives children a more engaging and social experience.

As each ‘bop’ represents a different musical note, children can explore and experiment with the fundamentals of music. This allows them to easily move onto traditional instruments as they get older.

I have created many working prototypes and tested them with parents, teachers and children, improving Soundbops at each stage. Working with children is great as they are very honest, providing useful feedback!

Soundbops is the combination of innovative engineering and design thinking. I developed new, patent pending technology and rigorously tested it, allowing the blocks to work exactly as I wanted. To enable young children to access, engage with and understand Soundbops easily, I needed to carefully consider the whole user experience. This included everything from the shapes and the controls to the colours used on each ‘bop’.

My goal is to enable children all over the world to play, learn and love music with Soundbops. Through excellent design and engineering, we can disrupt the stale learning methods of the past and give children the best start in life!

Soundbops will be launching on Kickstarter in October. Sign up and find out more at www.soundbops.com.

Michael Tougher

Michael Tougher

Michael is a musician and inventor, founding Spark and Rocket Ltd. and developing Soundbops, a musical, educational product. He is currently a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub and was awarded the JC Gammon Award as the winner of the Academy’s Launchpad Competition 2016 for his work with Soundbops.
Michael Tougher

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