Introducing Orba, the Musical Instrument Helping Kids Express Their Feelings

Elizabeth Dale

NAMM Member Artiphon is helping students in Anaheim, California, and around the country find new ways of expressing themselves using its Orba, a synth, looper, and controller that “lets you create songs with intuitive gestures like tapping, sliding, and waving.”

Founder and CEO Mike Butera founded Artiphon in 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Music City-based company “designs smart instruments for the next billion musicians by combining hardware, software, and shareable content that anyone can play.” Artiphon currently offers two electronic products - the Orba and INSTRUMENT 1 and has also launched a pair of apps, the Orbacam and Scan Band to help aspiring musicians explore their full potential.

The approachable Orba includes an onboard synthesizer, a built-in speaker, and four playing modes, all presented in an easily portable and sleek design. The wireless MIDI capabilities allow users to play over Bluetooth or USB and connect to numerous music-making applications and hardware synths. Often compared to a “musical fidget spinner,” the Orba opens the doors of possibilities to musicians of all capabilities.

Orba at The 2022 NAMM Show

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The Anaheim Elementary School District (AESD) deployed the Orba to Paul Revere elementary to provide students a creative outlet to express their feelings. One of AESD’s music educators, Rosalee Parks, attended The 2019 NAMM Show, where she discovered the Orba. She brought the product to the attention of the district's Curriculum Specialist for Music Education, Mark Anderson to develop a pilot program for their special education students. The Orba and Feelings program teaches students to create rhythms and melodies on the instrument to express their feeling.

As students continue to adjust to returning to school and the ever-changing dynamics of the modern classroom, the Orba became one of the many new and dynamic tools to help students. Paul Revere Elementary currently has nine Obras, most of which are used in special education classrooms. However, because of the reduced class sizes associated with the pandemic, students across the school are getting time to explore Orba’s possibilities and create music.

Emma Supica, the education coordinator at Artiphon, reflected on the Orba as a natural fit for the classroom. She said, “Orba is immediately approachable. The interface of the pads is simple and designed to be intuitive. We are finding that students of all ages and skill levels jump right into making music on Orba, and they build confidence quickly to create more complex and sophisticated beats. Even the size and shape are great for players of all ages, and the wide range of gestures lends itself well to gross and fine motor skills. Those who study more traditional instruments quickly connect skills. Orba is small, portable, durable, and affordable.”

Anderson shared how AESD is utilizing the instruments, saying, “When we were able to resume face-to-face instruction, our district decided to focus on social and emotional learning. We worked as a team to develop a few basic lessons that allowed students to create music and connect what they are creating to a feeling on a mood meter.” Supica shared how the Orba can go beyond AESD’s current curriculum. “It is a perfect tool for exploring the four musical elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and form, with the first three represented by the playing modes of Orba (drum, bass, chord, lead) and with form presenting itself in the looping portion of the instrument,” explained Supica. Ultimately, the education applications are countless and include music appreciation, STEAM programs, and social-emotional learning, among others. AESD hopes to purchase more of the instruments and expand music-making opportunities for student experiences as their budget allows.

Artiphon wants to ensure that students and other users can explore all of Orba's functions by connecting the instrument to its companion application, OrbaCam, or by using it as a MIDI controller to any DAW.

  • OrbaCam Shorts

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  • Connecting Orba to Synths

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For more information from Artiphon, please visit them at and be sure to stop by their booth at The 2022 NAMM Show in June.