Alternative keyboard layout



Tonal Plexus Keyboard from H Pi Instruments

This is a microtonal keyboard, and hence gives you a much wider choice of harmonics, and chord sounds. No more settling for equal temperament tunings. The voice choice in the video above is atrocious but that shouldn’t be to hard to change.

The main website is here.

Overview of the keyboard layout.

As far as i can tell this is also not available – which seems to be a theme with alternate keyboards.


There’s a Jankó Piano youtube channel.

Mostly just someone playing a very nice 6 row Jankó accoustic piano. After watching a few vids i really got the feel sense of how once you get a finger pattern down, it doesn’t matter if the keys are black or white, you can just play it – which is one way to define isomorphic.


As far as makers of Jankó keyboards that you can buy, i found two, there must be more though.

There is a piano maker who does Janko keyboards: Reinert in Germany They make upright pianos. There is also a video with some good playing.

ADDED: I love the ‘vertical slides’ at just past 1 minute in this video. there is a vertical chordal slide to the right and one to the left, different but similar. I think this would be unplayable (certainly at this speed) on a standard keyboard.

Then there is Daskin Manufacturing in Reno Nevada, who makes a Jankó midi controller (or he did fairly recently). The company is run by Paul Vandervoort.

As the video shows this thing is really nice. (I really like the four rotary knobs, i’ve never seen anything like it before, almost like a rotary slider. Very nice!) Lots of controls on this thing besides the keyboard. No idea on the price.

You can also see a guy, Noel Cragg, perform on this controller. The player is very good but the sound quality of this video isn’t.


Dolores Catherino is both a player and an authority on polychromatic music aka microtonal music.

This is her youtube channel. The first video there shows her playing various alternative keyboards, including the ROLI, the Haken Continuum, the H Pi Tonal Plexus, and the Starr Lab Microzone U648 hex keyboards – all polychromatically !! She comments on and compares the various controllers. I found it very interesting her comment on the ROLI’s failure with polychromatic performance – in sound generation. I don’t know if ROLI has fixed this or improved upon it.


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


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.


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.