We’re proud to possess some of the worst loudspeakers in existence at the University of Liverpool. Originally designed to make walls and aircraft parts shake during testing, they are incredibly inefficient. So much so that you can hardly hear them at all. They’re so bad we call them ‘shakers’. 

Four Vibrotactile foot shakers
Foot shakers

But when you touch them it’s a different story; if you connected one to an electronic piano you would be able to feel the difference between musical pitches all the way from C1, the very bottom of a piano, up to G5, which is around where an average female voice tops out.

It’s a more efficient way of doing what deaf people have been doing since the invention of amplified sound; touching surfaces in rooms where loud music is being played to ‘hear’ music through the skin.

The shakers can be used on the hands, heels and forefeet so that up to six, each connected to a different musical instrument if desired, can be used at once.

Deaf musicians can feel the vibrations from the playing of other musicians through their feet whilst keeping hands free for playing along with the ensemble without relying on visual cues. Our Day Tripper video illustrates the concept.

The aim of the Musical Vibrations project is to bring the shakers into schools, music venues and recording studios where they can create a real-life impact. We took the shakers to the Royal School for the Deaf, Derby earlier this year, and worked with around 40 children from key stages 1 to 4.

The next phase of our research, to find out exactly what the shakers bring to music education, starts in 2019. This involves teachers and pupils using the shakers in music lessons over a period of four weeks.

We’re currently looking for more music schools and resource bases to take part.

How can Limping Chicken readers help?

  • If your child attends a school for Deaf children or a resource base at a mainstream secondary, please mention this project to the school. More information can be found on our website www.musicalvibrations.com
  • If you’re a music teacher, TOD, or Head teacher, drop us a line at MUSVIB@liverpool.ac.uk
  • Follow us on Twitter @MUSVIB  to help us get the message out!

If results are positive, and the positive response we have had so far is very encouraging, then our plan is to seek charitable funding to enable systems to be purchased for all schools and deaf resource bases.