The Music Gym

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full music gym

The Music Gym is a combination of advanced multimedia technology and inflatable structures. Originally designed for a space 18M x 36M (a large sports hall) it can be adapted for smaller or larger rooms. After training, 3 people can erect the Music Gym in approximately an hour and a half (half an hour if the equipment can be left in situ)

• Interactive bouncy castle
• Sensory Igloo
• Igloo with dancing squares
• 2 projectors
• Cameras
• All fixing clamps and and cables
• 6 days training in assembling, using, marketing and admin
• License to use the Music Gym trademark

•A space that can be both calming and vibrant dependent on who is there and how they interact with the environment
•Enjoyment for all ages and abilities
•Allows people to spend time making decisions

The room should have easy access for flight-cases and wheel chairs. An ability to turn off any lighting in zones would be very useful, projections are better in a lower ambient light situation. Being able to draw curtains over any windows is therefore an advantage.

A minimum of 4 double 13A power sockets is needed, power extension leads are included if these aren’t available. The equipment packs into a long wheel base Transit van which has 11 cubic meters of load space. Sufficient storage is needed if the Music Gym has to be dismantled each time.

Because the Music Gym is modular it can be adapted to different spaces. Each section can be used on its own when working one2one (most of the software requires only a laptop and camera) like a toolbox of engagement tools.

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The Music Gym Ltd has supplied Soundbeams and Soundbeam training to wide range of organisations and individuals. We have extensive experience of both Soundbeam 2 (the stand alone version) and desktop Soundbeam (with a laptop), and have recently provided individuals with training for Soundbeam 5. Our work has always focused on engaging individuals with profound disabilities and we’ve found Soundbeam a great way to do this as it can offer someone their first experience of effecting change by themselves. It’s also a great way to open up the realms of creativity for service users.

We’ve found the most amazing thing about Soundbeam is the way it can bring about changes in all sorts of people, especially when the person doesn’t have a great deal of muscle control or can only move certain parts of the body.

It’s non-invasive and enables someone to make choices:

  1. Whether to move or not: for some who move all the time the choice may be to stop for long periods of time and sit in complete quiet.
  2. How far or fast to move.

In the words of Prof. Phil Ellis what’s happens at those points someone is obviously involved are truly worthy of the description “composing”.

The Soundbeam is not a cure-all and not everyone takes to it, but those that do are clearly enriched by engaging in this activity


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This inflatable maze uses the Music Gym’s most remarkable technologies to form a fully interactive playground for profoundly disabled people.

Movement is linked to sound and visuals to motivate people to make choices: banging on an air filled wall to listen to birdsong, to change the effects on projections or to trigger films.

The maze is accessible by wheelchairs and a highly effective tool for engaging people with autistic spectrum disorders as well as other special needs.


•8M x4M and 8M x 8M

• Designed to be a safe and soft environment
• Wheelchair accessible
• Images, video and sounds controlled by movement and by banging on the inflatable
• Comes complete with themes, each comprising different videos, images and sounds
• Easy to customise for groups, individuals

• Hide and seek
• Engaging clients through simple movements
• Encouraging control for wheelchair users

• Visual stimuli
• Excitement

The maze comes in 2 halves which, when inflated and joined together, make a maze 8M x 8M. Each part weighs 90Kg and is 2M x 1M x 1M when rolled. Each section will require 2 people to roll/unroll it. Each section has a blower with adapter for internal or outside use, each blower weighs 17 Kg. Half a maze can be used in smaller venues.

Two flight-cases provide the multimedia elements and are positioned at each side of the maze. Once the projectors have been adjusted to illuminate the integral back projection screens the software opens with a preset that places each of four images on its’ own screen. This is set –up prior to delivery and only slight adjustment should be necessary. The flight-cases can be used without the maze as a multimedia control centre with up-to 3 projectors. Full training in all aspects of erecting and using the Decodamaze is included.

Flight-case 1 contains

• Rack-mounted PC with quad core processor, 4 gb ram, M-audio 10-10 soundcard, 512Mb video card, Matrox triple head video adaptor.
• Monitor/keyboard/mouse
• Short throw projector on mounting bracket
• Decodamaze sensor receiver and control software
• Storage drawer for camera, sensor chargers and camera extension cable.
• Positioning arm

Flight-case 2 contains

• Short throw projector on mounting bracket
• Storage draws for 6 sensors and 4 speakers
• Extension cables
• Positioning arm

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This is not just a bouncy castle: this is an interactive dance hall, a bouncy karaoke.

By bouncing on the castle, peoples’ movement triggers sound. You can play a set list of songs just by being still and hearing a new song when you bounce again. The Unlocking Music software allows you to also change the castle into a musical instrument where bouncing in different areas gives you different notes/ chords/sound effects.

As an extra, pockets in the castle can contain the sensors from the Maze which can be used to augment the multimedia effect by controlling projections.

Training in handling and erecting the castle and operating the software is included.

This is one the most popular areas of the Music Gym.


Size and weight
•5.5 M x5.5M x 4Mhigh Packed size: 1.75M x 1m x 1M.
•Weight: 90 Kg, (comes on a wheeled base for easier maneuvering, needs 2 people to roll and unroll it)
•Can be moved on a sack truck or wheeled trolley. (requires 2 people to move)

•Can be made into a juke box where bouncing makes the music play
•Designed for adults
•Can have pockets for same sensors (and therefore effects )as in Decodamaze

•Group activity

•Care staff and clients playing together
•The exercise word again

Other technical features
•240V heavy duty fan
•Useable outside

Interactive control
• Laptop computer running unlocking music software, dual core with dedicated 512Mb video card
• Camera with 25M extension cable
• Stand for positioning camera above inflatable
• 100W stereo amplifier with speakers

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An inflatable structure with numerous uses for people with disabilities, the igloo is a striking structure that creates a room within a room and attracts people of all ages and abilities.

This equipment has multiple uses: as a quiet space in a large room, a one2one space for engagement, a mobile sensory room or even as a changing space in emergencies. Existing sensory equipment can be easily integrated into the igloo.

With the addition of Unlocking Music software, a short throw projector, vibration equipment and hanging mobiles the igloo becomes a mobile sensory space. Movement creates sounds and visual effects in a calming atmosphere. Vibration emphasises the sense of agency (the I did this moment) and is also helpful in engaging people with hearing loss. Mobiles are soft and attached by Velcro to avoid damage to the igloo by pulling them down.


• 3M x 4M x 2.5M high plus 1M x 1M space for control flight-case
• Deflated in its bag it measures 55cm x 55cm x 45cm
• Projector, speakers, laptop in flight-case

Other technical features
• Vibrating seats
• Amplifier and speakers
• Unlocking music software
• Tutorial
• Manual

• Calming atmosphere
• Create a space within a space
• Portable interactive space

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dancing squares

These small and affordable technologies give people with limited abilities a simple way of making an enjoyable impact on their surroundings.
Based on the Music Gyms central principles each dancing square links actions to pleasurable sounds and music. A cacophony of noises can be controlled by moving, or dancing, on brightly coloured mats. Musical instruments sit alongside natural sounds, human voices and dramatic beats.
The dancing squares are easily portable and can be used alone or integrated into a larger interactive realm.


• Stand height 2.5M
• Stand dismantled in stand-bag 1.25M long
• Space needed approx 2.5M x 2.5M
• Weight: 15Kg in a stand bag that can be carried by 2 people

Other technical features
• Dual core laptop with dedicated graphics
• Runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7
• Tutorial
• Manual

• Uses UMS to turn a mat into programmable dance mat
• Comprises stand, a mat and a laptop computer with a camera and speakers.
• Very easy to set up and simple to use after short period of training

• Encourages group activity
• Can be used for producing sound effects, vocalising
• Playing games e.g. statues
• Progressive educational tool

• Dancing is exercise made easy, and without the exercise word.
• Collaboration in creating music
• Making choices/taking turns

  • full music gym

    full music gym

  • soundbeam


  • maze


  • castle


  • igloo


  • dancing squares

    dancing squares

What is a Music Gym?

Watch the Music Gym on the BBC

At the Music Gym Ltd we enable profoundly disabled people to lead richer lives with more choices.

Space, freedom and interactivity are combined with sound and music technology to allow individuals to express themselves and assert their independence.

Our services help carers and clients build stronger relationships and start a series of small changes that can become a significant journey.

The Music Gym was originally designed to help engage people who are difficult to reach. It allows time to feel safe and space to feel comfortable: some people feel more secure alone against the wall or in a corner, others like to be near people or part of a group activity – the Music Gym allows for both.

It allows time to observe – this can be the person with ASD wanting to be sure before joining in. It can also be the care staff observing the member in a different setting.

It’s a place where there are opportunities to make choices through simple movement without the encumbrance of having to communicate.

The Music Gym uses similar equipment to what could be found in more traditional sensory room – however, it is a place for doing. Its main use is to engage people to a level where they can communicate their needs and wants in non-verbal ways. They can transfer skills from one area to another: by being able to make sounds by movement then to changing images by movement. Equally they can use switches to make sounds and then use switches to direct films. These are skills that could then transfer to problems at home in communication and making things happen.

Equally the Music Gym engages the support staff as well as the member – the staff can take back what’s been learned to the home environment and reinforce any benefits achieved.

The Music Gym can be like a living being that has different energy levels dependent on the people who are there – it’s perfect for someone who’s withdrawn and equally beneficial for someone who’s challenging.



Some frequently asked questions about the Music Gym:

  • How does the Music Gym differ from a sensory room?
    Most sensory rooms are small—the Music Gym works best in a large sports hall.Most sensory rooms are a passive experience—in the Music Gym nothing happens unless you move, putting the user in the driving seat.Most Sensory rooms are for individuals—the Music Gym engages groups as well as individuals
  • What benefits does the Music Gym have?
    A Music Gym is all about choice.
    It’s about providing individuals the chance to interact with their environment, bring about changes and know they are the ones making those changes.
    There’s no such thing as a universal solution, but a Music Gym provides a flexible platform to discover what is right for the individual, at their own pace and in their own manner plus the space to do so in their own way. Because nothing happens at the gym without someone’s input, attendees will want to explore week after week. The Music Gym provides a setting where the user and their support worker can share an exciting experience and develop new forms of communication.
  • Where is my nearest Music Gym?
    There are at least 2 Music Gyms opening in the UK in 2011. with your help there could be many more!
    Be sure to check this site for the latest Music Gym news, or if you prefer, why not contact us or our newsletter , packed with all the latest news, reviews and ideas from our blog and Tom’s personal site
  • Can anybody run one?
    The Music Gym is like a toolbox full of interactive activities to engage and entertain individuals with complex needs—some require a certain amount of technical knowledge and ability to reach their full potential. At the Music Gym Ltd we offer intensive training in all aspects of running the Music Gym, providing you the benefit of our years of experience not only in the technology but also the methodology and business expertise.
  • Why are you no longer running the Music Gym in Hastings?
    When we set up the Music Gym we were aiming to develop and refine the methodology and technology needed to engage people with complex needs. We never imagined that 5 years latter it would still be running! They were 5 happy years for ourselves and our members; as a small organisation however our aim has always been to see Music Gyms available to all who can benefit from them and that sadly meant the closure of the Music Gym Hastings and Decoda. The formation of the Music Gym Ltd is a new start for us, but one with a strong sense of continuity. The Music Gym Ltd doesn’t sell equipment, nor do we run the Music Gym as an ongoing facility. What we do instead is promote the methodology of the Music Gym, allowing others to make use of the expertise we have accrued over the years, helping bring the ethos of the Music Gym to anyone who requests it, recommending vendors and suppliers to help bring down the cost and offering training and consultation to individuals and organisations who wish to use interactive equipment with people with profound disabilities and in particular to make greater use of the interactive hardware and software we championed in our time as Decoda (for example Soundbeam, Arkaos and Eyecon).

If you have any other questions, please send us a message using our Contact form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.


“Z has learned to mix with people.”

“Individual has hand contracture so coming to the Music Gym aids a relaxation of muscles for that which is more fun than physiotherapy.”

“User is elderly, relies on crawling, so this keeps them supple.”

“We have a whale of a time.”

Other comments from Music Gym users and visitors

“I’ve been Y’s key-worker for 16 years and  never found something she enjoys as much as this.”
- Members’ support workers

“Fantastic! Great team effort. Lots of  fun and sooooo creative.”

“Wow!! So stimulating. An excellent resource—we need more like this.”

“A great range of innovative, creative equipment, to stimulate the mind and body –lots and lots of fun.”

“Great concept, hopefully that will expand.”

“Fantastic facility, makes you want to explore and try everything, then go back and start again. The sensory input is gentle and soothing. Scope for stretching the imagination the mind and body.”

“A really intriguing and dynamic approach, fascinating for all people I’m sure. No doubt a really exciting way to work with people with special needs.”
-  Local Councillor

“My first visit was very exciting. I am a manager for a day service for adults with a learning disability and some of our members would really benefit from using your equipment.
What a wonderful innovative idea.”

“This must be one of the best, most rewarding things you can do.”

“We are absolutely sure that it is because of her having the opportunity of being there with your team of people who have made the environment a friendly space  for her to develop her mobility. Giving the opportunity can bring out even the smallest progress—in A’s case bigger than we had
ever expected.”
a parent (after daughter used her walker without assistance at the Music Gym)

I am writing to congratulate you on the Music Gym sessions which I assisted two of our students to access last term. The young men both have severe learning disabilities and have very different needs, but both got a huge amount from the sessions.

One of the young men is very visually impaired and able to experiment freely in the large space. The equipment west up was very motivating for him to move around independently to find the various options available. The music mats were thoroughly enjoyed and the young man had fun in the soundbeams but he said his favorite was the musical bouncy castle. This young man said he would like to access the Music Gym more often.

The other young man finds strange situations and people very challenging and takes time to feel comfortable. For the first couple of sessions he would only interact with me and my colleague, who he is familiar with, but Tom and John were very patient and gentle in their approach to the
student and eventually he began to interact with them and had some excellent sessions using the microphone and soundbeam tent. He entered the tent and sat with Tom for a long period. Tom clearly has excellent skills in working with young people with learning disabilities and that
enabled the two young men to get the most from the Music Gym experience.

Music Gym workshop

“Tom, please let me congratulate you on a super event today, all the service users got so much out of it, your patience and support to all persons concerned was fantastic. We are very grateful to you for facilitating such a successful day.”
Care home manager


About us


An image of Tom SmurthwaiteAn acclaimed blues singer-songwriter, Tom brings a wealth of experience from the fields of music, sound engineering and technology.

In 2000 Tom was a founder member of ‘Count Me In’ which took musicians of all genres into day services and residential homes. Becoming increasingly aware of those people on the edge of the group he began investigating equipment that would enable them to participate fully. Eventually his research led him to the development of the Music Gym.

Tom is the inspirational force behind the spread of Music Gyms. His passion for finding ways to connect with those who are difficult to reach is obvious to anyone who sees him in a Music Gym. For him the dividing line between work and “leisure” is very thin, as he invariably spends time away from the workshop in trying out new ideas. The only thing that will tear him away from that is a good football match.


Our vision is the widespread combined use of technology, space, music and fun to engage individuals with complex needs. We would like to see Music Gyms available to all those who could benefit and as popular eventually as sensory rooms.


At the Music Gym our unique equipment is only one half of the story. Interaction is the key to every journey of personal development.

Our philosophy is based on starting where someone is right now and encouraging them to take small steps. We bring no set ideas about how a person should behave and simply explore all the possible ways they could assert themselves.

Progress is often extremely slow so you need the patience to notice tiny changes. We work with carers and clients to build on each new action and give individuals choices in how they relate to the world around them.

The Music Gym Ltd is a company ltd by guarantee, number 07412350.

Contact us

By post: Theaklen House, Theaklen Drive, St Leonards on Sea, TN38 9AZ

By phone: 07889649277

Comments or questions are welcome.

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