Alternative keyboard layout

Whoa that Haken Mini looks promising. Same software and everything.

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Fluid Piano – an acoustic piano with an microtonal interface

This has been a labor of love for the inventor/developer Geoff Smith. It is pure genius (imo), and while very narrowly focused in it’s use, it exclusively fills a needed position in microtonal performance pianos. There are other videos showing it in performance.

Magnetic Resonance Piano by Andrew McPherson

This is absolutely brilliant but largely unexplored and lays open to a larger musical application. For one it calls out to classical composers, but could also be used brilliantly in experimental jazz, or in the studio. This is an acoustic instrument but has the ambiance of something beyond the usual acoustic experience. There are multiple methods for the use of magnetically induced vibrations, with many musical effects. There is both a version using a regular grand piano, with additional magnetic resonance features added, and a version where a more standard midi keyboard runs the magnetic resonance hardware on a standard piano.

More details:

A very nice modern classical performance, i believe this was written by the inventor as well.

McPherson also makes a (affordable) kit that can be applied to a standard midi keyboard to add x and y sensing similar in some ways to the ROLI keyboard but without the spongy feel.

ADDED: February 2021, they are shipping the kit form of this, this month.

TheoryBoard – MIDI Controller by Irijule

This photo is of a close to done but not completed unit.
Developed using Kickstarter and is probably a few months yet to delivery.
The panel in the middle is an OLED display and backlit dead panel buttons for setup and control.

The keys (velocity and aftertouch) on the right hand side are four octaves of whatever scale and key you choose. The keys to the left are chords based on the scale, with the chord degree matching in color the keys to the right. There are many versions of each degree of chord on the left, arrange simplest to most complex. (So a major triad is simple, a Major-minor augmented ninth or whatever might be the most complex.) I believe the chords can be played in a variety of ways, including arpeggiation.

There is another mode they have implemented – which allows the keys on the left to be individual notes for a different scale and key than the keys to the right. This in music theory is called bitonality used in modern classical music and jazz. They implemented this mode in response to the suggestion of a backer.

The TheoryBoard thread here on Elektronauts.

The Gadgetina


This is a homebrew system built on the Hayden system key layout for duet concertinas (sometimes called button boxes).

More about it, with some performance videos here.

One thing nice about this is how little you have to move your arms, assuming you have good finger mobility, as you can see in the videos.

About the Hayden system (from wikipedia):
Hayden system, invented in 1963 and patented in 1986, is an isomorphic system in which all scales and intervals are arranged uniformly. Years after its invention, it was discovered that a nearly identical layout by Swiss designer Kaspar Wicki had been patented in 1896. Though a more recent development, the majority of newly-produced Duet concertinas since the 1980s are in the Hayden system.

Per request

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This collection is just nuts. Thank you @Jukka!

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New Isomorphic Keyboard

Maybe this is interesting for some of us. Isomorphic keyboards are rare, but this could become a new source in the near future …

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I kinda hate the isomorphic key layout on the Deluge, I don’t find it at all useful.

The 1010 blackbox has a great grid scale layout in the latest update, you can set a scale and each row represents an octave in that scale, I asked for this kind of scheme to be implemented on the Deluge a while back, it is much nicer and more logical IMHO.

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Seconding the KEYS grid on the BB. Little effort HUGE results!

I would assume the new Mk3 Novation Controller has something similar.

The Lumatone looks like it’s actually about to drop. I’m comparing it (in my mind) with my LinnStrument for microtonality. The Lumatone’s great advantage is that, software-wise, it’s set up for microtonality out-of-the-box. LinnStrument could do it, but we’re currently limited to just this one, hacky proof-of-concept. The Lumatone’s extra 75 keys is certainly an advantage for microtonality, but it’s a behemoth…and that price. At $3000, the first batch is twice the LinnStrument, which is bad enough, but not crazy considering what it is, the construction, etc. The regular price of $4000 will make you want to hang yourself if you don’t play the thing 24/7.

Mainly, though, I’m very skeptical about the Lumatone’s playability. They promote the long-travel keys, but I certainly don’t see that as an advantage unless there’s cool modulation throughout that travel, like our much-anticipated Osmose. The keys are larger than the LinnStrument, and I don’t see any advantage there, either, just making it that much more challenging to cover territory. Lumatone seems to cater to piano players who like to bash the piano percussively. I like to bash the piano percussively, but realistically speaking, my limited time so far on the LinnStrument has convinced me that it’s just a matter of practice to be able to play the thing with piano-like polyphonic control.

Aside from percussive playing, piano technique gives us muscle memory of much more hand and arm movement, but if you can go through the cognitive pain of unlearning that and reigning it in, the LinnStrument might offer the identical playing experience if it just had better supporting software, though with 200 instead of 275 keys. The trick is to control yourself on the LinnStrument so that you can get a full range of expressivity over a narrower range of kinetic energy. Plus, it looks like the 3D modulation you get on this 4lb. baby is not something you can get with the 22lb. Lumatone. It will take months to put in enough woodshedding on the LinnStrument to really see what it can practically do if you put in the time adapting to it, but I wish I could A/B with a Lumatone.


I misunderstood things a bit here. The LinnStrument does microtonality just fine with software plugins already set up for it like Omnisphere. 200 keys with 19 EDO lays out very nicely in 5x4 blocks per octave. The LinnStrument needs help when it comes to unprepared software and hardware modules by using key to note+pitchbend mappings, but there’s Universal Tuning Editor for that. It still won’t work on stuff that doesn’t process note+pitchbend correctly, like Arturia 7. As far as I can tell, Lumatone will have the exact same limitations, so that’s another feature you get for your $3000. There are plenty of excellent options (Omnisphere, Kontakt, and I assume the Hydrasynth), which I guess those interested in microtonality will already own, but a Lumatone is going to be one expensive big-ass setup. At least a super-expensive niche instrument like the Continuum (and less expensive, the Osmose) comes with its own synth as an integral part of the experience. The Lumatone could really benefit from at least one decent onboard synth to enable it to be a self-contained microtonal player when you need that, but I guess the designers felt the additional feature would price the Lumatone out of the market even more than it already is.

Joyst JV-1


What if you had a hexagonal arrangement keyboard where every position was a joystick, On Kickstarter now is the Joyst JV-1. It has 39 gamer style joysticks, polyphonically sensitive to pressure and X/Y movement. It outputs MPE over USB.




In the process of researching something else i ran across a really interesting very early multi dimensional electronic keyboard.

It’s called the Moog Eaton Multiple-Touch-Sensitive ( MTS ) Keyboard. It was developed collaboratively by composer musician John Eaton and Bob Moog over the course of 20 years or so starting in 1970.

When complete it could sense five dimensions of expression. You might find this familiar. ( Compare it to the ROLI Seaboard. ) Here’s the description of those dimensions, taken from a short report written about that project.

Each key, independently of all the others, sends out five independent eight-bit data streams that tell the current values of a) the left-to-right position of the player’s finger, b) the front-to-back position of the player’s finger, c) the area of the surface of the player’s finger that is touching the key surface, d) the depth to which the key is depressed, and e) the force with which the key is depressed after it reaches the lower limit of its travel.

There are various articles about this, so here is just one.

There’s a great product recreation for the present day Moog corporation to take on, using modern electronics.

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The Forum Software is blocking me, so i attached ANOTHER addition to the end of this post. There are three now.


Intuitive Instruments Exquis

( thread )

New ( on Kickstarter ) hexagonal isomorphic keyboard with software, and as MPE controller. Quite inexpensive, especially with the KS discount.

Company is calling themselves Intuitive Instruments they used to be called Dualo. This product is called Exquis.

ADDED : Came across this video. It’s in French, with subtitles, but no translation needed for happy laughter. The video is from the synth maker, but done by Knarf host of Les Sondiers. It gives some clue what this might be like to play — looks fun though this is only an early prototype. With the selected scale lit, it’s reasonably easy to pick out shapes and move those chords about. Feels like the alternative form, might lead to happy accidents.

No clicky encoders please.


The Hotz Box

It is a touch sensitive panel combined with complex computer based software to generate MIDI. The first of these goes back to 1988, that ran on an Atari 1040ST, and was sold by Atari. It was created by Jimmy Hotz, with assistance of Mick Fleetwood, of Fleetwood Mac. There is a current version that runs on a PC under Windows.

The software has a lot of different capabilities, but at base it allows the player to use one of an array of keyboard shapes, shown above, and improvise and play, in coordination within a songs musical structure.

The Hotz Box has been used by a variety of bands over the years, both in live performance and in studio.

You can get some more technical details of the software, in this video :


The Arithmophone

This looks nice to use, and can be set up for alternate tunings. It currently runs on phones and iPads, but they are planning a HW prototype.

It looks like the have three different keypad layouts, two of them look completely new.

ADDED : There is a second version of thie Arithmophone now, and a new simpler keyboard arrangement. This is great for exploring alternative tunings.

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Hi! This is Chiel, the developer of the Arithmophone. Thanks for linking to my project :slight_smile: Hope you enjoy it, if you have any questions or feedback, let me know!

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For completeness and similar to the Exquis above, is the Akuto Chord Machine. It is also currently going through Kickstarter.

The keys can be isomorphic, or a two octave standard arrangement, or as seven groups of four chord types.

A major difference though is that the Exquis has MPE in two dimensions. Far as i can tell the Chord Machine has none.


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Another wild alternative keyboard by Bob Moog, this one reinvented and restored !!!

How do you notate music for something like this. Good on Cornell for doing this.

ADDED : It occurs to me, this is exactly the sort of situation, a recreation supported by a major university and some passionate creators, of a project from fifty years ago, by a person long deceased, that might be made at least partially open source. One could hope anyways.

AND MORE : Found another better article on this from CDM. The synth in this uses a divide down technology.

And even a better article :


A guy I know is selling this Janko monstrosity, can’t be expensive. I’m half-tempted, but no, I’m not buying it, haven’t even bothered to ask about the price.