preliminary thumb piano prototype

As I was researching material to possibly use to create a lightweight, inexpensive physical computing -driven thumb piano, I came across this kit:


This got me thinking, that if I am looking to make an educational or even therapeutic thumb-piano, I should consider making a kit that can be made by my users and even adapted onto.

So what exactly am I trying to make here and why?

I want to make a digital cultural music-making kit, starting with the thumb-piano / mbira / kalimba. I feel that smaller African instruments are just as valid for teaching music as a piano. In addition, it can be a tool to teach coding, especially if I can map the sounds using the p5 sound library or processing sound library.

I also want it to be gesture-controlled for those using it for therapeutic purposes.

User Paths

User 1

  • Parent or Caregiver that wants to teach African instruments to a child.
  • Willing to use a kit or instructable
  • Willing to download the app for the sound synthesis connected to this device

User 2

  • A music lover that is into experimentation
  • Is able to tinker with low-energy electronics
  • looking for cultural references in music
  • Wants to connect to African Culture

User 3

  • An occupational therapist looking for tools to help with dexterity
  • Is willing to make the kit with a patient
  • Believes in music therapy
  • Buys into the whole instructables idea

User 4

  • Someone wanting to use the app only
  • Wants to also mess around with gesture-controlled devices
  • The device and the app instrument are the same object

User 5

  • A person with limited mobility
  • Looking to play music but does not have the muscle strength (I say this from personal experience)
  • Enjoys music therapy
  • Willing to connect to African culture


There are a few overlaps of course, but I think this is a starting user path for this tool.