Prosthetic drummer: Jason Barnes

Jason Barnes playing the drums with an illuminated prosthesis that holds two movable drumsticks. Taken from within the drum-kit looking up at the subject.

2 April 2014


When Jason Barnes lost his arm he feared he would never be able to play the drums again. But he was determined to carry on playing, just like the Def Leppard drummer, Rick Allen. So he did some research and decided to build his own prosthetic drumming hand.

Meanwhile at the Georgia Tech Centre for Music Technology, a robot named SHIMON is playing the marimba. Designed by Dr Gil Weisberg to play along with jazz, it tracks beat changes and can actually jam with human musicians using a series of four drumming ‘hands’. Oh yeah... and it can bob its head along to the music too. SHIMON is at the cutting edge of engineering, using a number of new techniques and technologies.

On the 22nd March, Jason Barnes, with help from Georgia Tech, played in his first concert since losing his arm. His new prosthetic uses muscle fibre control sensors while also having an autonomous second stick. This stick hears the music and reacts to it much like SHIMON does. It predicts Jason’s movements and hence opens up a number of new avenues to him.

This isn’t all just for fun. Dr Weinberg wants to develop this technology for future prosthetic uses. “If you’re an astronaut doing repairs on the International Space Station,” he said, “when you lift your hand, your third arm could hand you the screwdriver just in time". Watch prosthetic drummer Jason in action here!

Related Articles