Sweet, Sweet Sounds: Sip-&-Puff Technology Now Being Used to Make Music

making music with sip and puff

PHOTO COURTESY JAMBOXX

Using sip and puff to operate a power wheelchair? That’s old hat. Sipping and puffing to play musical instruments, even at a professional level? That’s an entirely different tune.

A 30-Year Player

In an April news announcement, Jamboxx — manufacturer of a “hands-free, breath-powered instrument” — said professional percussionist Jackie Bertone had signed on as the company’s new ambassador. Bertone is a veteran musician, having played with The Beach Boys and also with Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson when Wilson launched his solo career.

making music with sip and puff

PHOTO COURTESY JAMBOXX

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1996, Bertone no longer tours, but still works as a session musician and hosts his own radio show. In a video in which he unboxes his Jamboxx, Bertone said, “I just think it’s pretty amazing. I’m fighting back tears, because this gives the ability to the brothers and sisters that can’t play anymore. Or didn’t think they could play anymore.

“To be asked to be their international ambassador... I mean, this is an honor, man. I’m promoting this because of the times when my right hand doesn’t want to work. It gives me the ability to play what I can’t play. I’ve been a 30-year player in the industry. MS has taken some of it away. This brought it back.”

making music with sip and puff

PHOTO COURTESY JAMBOXX

Breath-Powered Playing

Bertone added that he plans to use Jamboxx in studio sessions: “You can loop through this. You can you can play drum patterns on this. You can become a full orchestra with this because I even played marimba. I don’t play marimba! But the sound was legitimate. It really is.”

Jamboxx’s manufacturer describes it as “an electronic, USB-powered, breath-controlled instrument styled after a harmonica that plays digital MIDI notes when connected to a compatible Windows computer/tablet or MAC OS device. Notes are played by sipping or puffing via the mouthpiece. Moving the mouthpiece left or right determines which note is played.”

making music with sip and puff
making music with sip and puff 

PHOTO COURTESY JAMBOXX

Jamboxx was founded in 2007 by David Whalen and musician Mike DiCesare. Whalen was paralyzed in a skiing accident when he was 18. The Albany, N.Y.-based company said Jamboxx is now commercially available in multiple versions, including a Classroom version for beginners, and Jamboxx Pro for more advanced students and professional musicians. Jamboxx uses Jamboxx Pro Suite software to “configure key, scale, chord and octave.”

The company says Jamboxx is for all musicians, though musicians with disabilities could find it particularly useful.

For more info, visit the Web site: www.jamboxx.com.

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Mobility Management.

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