Sonome overview

Sonomes use the harmonic table format, and players prefer it since all notes of the major and minor scales fall under the fingers, and all common chords can be played with one or two fingers. All chords found in conventional chord progressions, in some inversions, can be easily played on a sonome with very simple hand movements.

AXiS keyboard with Harmonic Table


Just as a Les-Paul Gibson is a type of guitar, and a guitar is an instrument with its strings laid out in a certain manner, tuned in a certain way, a sonome is an instrument with its notes laid out in the Harmonic-Table format. This layout is especially useful for quick learning and playing chords. For a great demo, see right:


Actual experience

One of us (Ken Rushton) has long suspected that someone who has taken piano lessons, not not locked into the piano mind-set would take off with the new keyboards, as teaching the fingers to hit ergonomically designed keys in different places (especially logical, consistent places that match musical hearing), is a trivial thing compared to all the other things already learned. Among them will be finger-coordination, timing, rhythm, coordination of two hands, etc, etc. It's good to see this conjecture confirmed by Tobia here, following is a snippet:

Tobia_ wrote:I've been taking piano lessons for years, and the most I could do was a few scales and a couple simple pieces—learning which would take 6 months each.

One hour after I unwrapped my Axis 49 I was playing jazz scales. One month later, I'm playing in a band.
In one song I play a full strings part with my left hand (from double bass to violins) and the piano part with my right hand.
THIS IS RIDICULOUS.
If this doesn't become the most used musical instrument ever, I'll be damned.

So, first and foremost, a very heartfelt THANK YOU to you guys for believing in it and actually making it possible.


For more details of the way the keys are laid out, and a brief overview of the musical consequences, see:

The Sonome key layout

On this site you will also hear much about the jammer layout, here is some information on how they are related.

Relating the sonome to the jammer

And finally, some notes on how the fingers go.
Playing the keyboard

Summary - from Wikipedia

The instrument has these advantages over a standard keyboard:

Advantage Reason
Easy to play Only two fingerings need be learned to play in any key, instead of the 24 (12 for each hand) needed for the standard keyboard
Fast to play The average distance the fingers need to move is reduced by a factor of 10 or more:
  • from centimeters to millimeters for a I-IV-V7-I chord progression,
  • from decimeters to centimeters for a octave shift
Greater musical intervals can be played by each hand at once 2 octave rage in normal hand position using 4 fingers, up to 5 octaves if the thumb is used
More notes can be played due to the ability to easily reach more consonant notes at once, within the span of one hand
Multiple concordant notes can be played with one finger consonant notes are placed adjacent to each other
Variety of novel glissandos Glissandos of thirds, and fifths are easily played. Semitone glissandos are equally easy on sonomes that feature rotations and reversals of the note layout (i.e. the Opal Chameleon and Gecko)
Capable of more sounds than a traditional keyboard The single bank versions are typically played in pairs, assigned to separate instruments and the 3-bank models have three virtual keyboards which each can be assigned to a separate instrument

places notes in a pattern that matches the natural harmonics
Lightweight and portable The smaller single-bank models (i.e. the Axis-49) are smaller and lighter than a guitar even when mated with a netbook, and the large 3-bank model (i.e. the Axis-64) are smaller and lighter than a conventional keyboard