Category Archives: keyboards

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.

(Links: Oddmusic | Matrixsynth)

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.

(Links: C-Thru Music | YouTube video |

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…

(Links: MusicThing | Chromatone)

More to come, as I find them. Stay tuned!