Different sets of keys
Tired of the same old humdrum keyboard? Bored with the old -school black-and-white keys in a linear configuration? Do you sometimes find yourself wishing for something with a little more dimension to it?
There are options, you know…
I remember a short blurb in an old issue of Keyboard magazine from the late 80s that mentioned an alternate keyboard layout – one that gave all keys the same profile and clustered them together in a two-dimensional pattern, rather than the linear one that traditional keyboard instruments have always followed.
I set out looking for some information on that layout, but I never found it. I did, however, find several others that look just as interesting:
Consider the Riday T-91 MIDI Controller, with its isometric keys and trackball. The notes are configured so that every scale pattern matches every other, no matter what key it is played in – a much-needed advancement over the antiquated piano format. You may have a bit of trouble finding this one, however – according to the comments on Matrixsynth, it’s been patented, but never saw production.
The C-Thru Music Axis uses hex-shaped keys that are arranged based on a harmonic table – not only do all chords and scales follow the same pattern, but major and minor triads can be played with a single finger, allowing for a much broader range of performance. A single hand can span four to five octaves, and complex chords can be formed with just a few fingers. Don’t miss the demo video on YouTube to see how it plays.
This overgrown typewriter is actually the Chromatone 312, a modern synth based on a key layout designed by Hungarian mathematician Paul von Janko in 1882. That’s right, people were reinventing the keyboard over a hundred years before the days of new wave bands in neon pants.
It, too, uses a hex-shaped key layout that normalizes chord and scale patterns, but the notes are in a different configuration (and not as conducive to single-finger playing).
You can take a peek at some charts that explain the wholetone theory while your waiting for yours to arrive at your door, if you like. Momma, don’t take my Chromatone away…
More to come, as I find them. Stay tuned!