"Key Notes"

Good news:

1. The Dualo (an improved Sonome) has been successfully crowd-funded.

         LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/company/dualo
        Twitter:     twitter.com/dualoinstru       - very interesting - many companies are interested

     Currently planned for delivery on December 2013, It will take longer than expected, I'll bet, but it should be out in the new year.

2. The remarkable Terpstra Keyboard is half-way to being funded.
    Check it out.

I venture to say that things are definitely heating up in the alternate keyboard realm.


Dualo du-touch is in production

posted Oct 18, 2014, 10:35 PM by Ken Rushton   [ updated Nov 3, 2014, 4:05 PM ]

The Dualo Du-touch, a unique keyboard instrument with 2 physical keyboards, and a unique note array, is in production and the first run has shipped, with more available for purchase with a November ship date. It's quite a wild, grass-roots project, done by a bunch of keen amateurs, yet the product just might shake up the musical world. 

In one light, compact and very portable device, you have a complete keyboard (albeit split over two physical sub-keyboards). What is impressive is what they have packed into it; it's "basic" features are, well basically everything: 

5-octave controller

  • 166 “Pressure sensors” – not just keys – with velocity sensitivity
  • Dynamically lit keys, both for performance and training
  • 3 dimension inertial sensor unit – pitch, yaw and roll - this is a real crowd-pleaser
  • Slide controls near the keys – so that they can be accessed instantly during play


  • 112 instruments, 4 percussion kits
  • 8 effects: distortion, delay, chorus, compression, reverb, pitch modulation, expression, wah-wah


  • dynamically create, loop and overlay musical patterns
  • Looping can be triggered while playing
  • Can record and save your performances as files

A truly unusual note lay-out

Now, it has a rather novel note layout. Within an octave, two hands play alternate notes!  Here's why: in this instrument notes go up only a semi-tone side-ways, but go up a third in the "outwards from the body" direction. On one hand the notes go up on the odd notes:  root => thirds => fifths => sevenths => ninths etc. So on the other hand you must play the "even" notes, the Seconds => Forths => Sixths => octaves, etc. This may take a bit of time to understand but is worth the effort:

It makes an interesting musical sense: in lots of common music chords and notes are played in a odd-even, odd-even pattern. With this instrument, such common patterns will be about twice as easy / fast to play.  

Which finger plays what ...

Although the keyboard is physically symmetric, the instrument is not played symmetrically.This anti-symmetric system is interesting in light of recent discoveries concerning symmetry and keyboard learning.

For information you will best see http://en.dualo.org/media-en/ and view the videos they have posted.

           LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/company/dualo

Twitter:     twitter.com/dualoinstru       - note the many companies interested

The inventors are French, so the explanation of how it works is in French:

Things are definitely heating up in the alternate keyboard realm.

Ken Rushton

Ken Rushton

LinnStrument is in production

posted Oct 15, 2014, 8:13 PM by Ken Rushton   [ updated Oct 17, 2014, 10:25 AM ]

The very versatile LinnStrument is actually in production and will be shipping shortly.

Yes, miracles do happen!  Creating a new instrument is a nail-bitingly hard, frustrating, Sisyphean process - gremlins absolutely love the smell of a new invention and are drawn in droves to harry the inventor. They especially are inspired by subtle inventions like musical instruments. Recent example: Jim Plamondon spent $1.5 million and never even got his Thummer close to production. 

The instrument is an rectangular-grid array of buttons/touch-points, and each point controls note expression in 3 dimensions: velocity/loudness; timbre; & micro-pitch (pitch bend).  I'd actually say that the instrument is 4-dimensional, as the buttons control the macro-pitch dimension.  And yes, they are isomorphic.

In addition, the arrangement of notes is dynamically assignable and the keys also have LEDs, so can be colored in one of six colors during play, both for performance effects and as an "just-follow-the lights" aid to learning the instrument. The only feature lacking is symmetrical fingering.

One sample of the intelligence built into the unit: to make pitch-bend possible:
With continuous pitch control similar to a violin, you might expect that it would be just as difficult as a violin to play in tune. But LinnStrument's pitch quantize insures that your notes are in tune regardless of where your initial touch lands within each 3/4 inch note square, then it immediately removes the quantizing so as not to restrict your vibratos and pitch slides.

They make the above sound easy, but it's absolutely not.
And it's cheap: just $1500, for what could turn out to be the most expressive keyboard in the world.

If I had not already blown my budget on a Dualo, this would be under my Christmas tree. Note that the initial run is limited to just 40 machines.

For more details on the LinnStrument, see here.

Ken Rushton/MusicScienceGuy

Expectations for 2014

posted Jan 11, 2014, 12:32 PM by Ken Rushton   [ updated Jan 11, 2014, 12:40 PM ]

Modest predictions

Dualo use will take off
The new Dualo keyboards (based on the sonome key layout, like the Axis), are soon to enter production.
This will present players the prize of a  combination of portability, fast learning, ability to play in any key, and a solid coolness factor. I expect this to be the "IT" instrument of 2015/2016.
In a single generation the Dualo could go from "odd" (right now) "cool" (3 years) to standard. Lets see if it happens.

Terpstra Keyboard
For the 280-key Terpstra Keyboard, to come out this spring or summer, the possibilities are great: there is so, so much that can be done by viewing music as, not a line of discrete, invariable pitches going up from left to right, but instead as a moving sheet of sound.  The advantage will be a solid surface (excuse the pun) to innovate upon.

Ken Rushton, MusicScienceGuy

Now! Full-time support of alternate keyboard development

posted Jan 11, 2014, 12:26 PM by Ken Rushton

The web-master of this site is now an unpaid, but full-time Alternate musical keyboard developer

You should start to see a lot more postings here,

Ken Rushton, blogging at www.MusicScienceGuy.com

The Terpstra keyboard is funded

posted Nov 8, 2013, 1:10 PM by Ken Rushton

126% Complete

$44,141USD  Raised of $35,000 Goal

7 days left

Fixed Funding

This campaign has reached its goal and will receive all funds raised. Funding duration: September 16, 2013 - November 15, 2013 (11:59pm PT).

Although I'm personally committed to jammers, I'm very pleased that this verasatile keyboard (Mark II version no less) has received enough support.  Now there are several excellent - and very varied- alternate keyboards available now or shortly. 
Tip: if you buy contribute to the crowdfund in the next week, you will get one.  If you don't you will have to wait until they start manufacturing these thing in bulk. That could be a while ...

Alternate Instruments becoming reality

posted Oct 3, 2013, 8:21 PM by Ken Rushton

Good news:

1. The Dualo (an improved Sonome) has been successfully crowd-funded.

         LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/company/dualo
        Twitter:     twitter.com/dualoinstru       - very interesting - many companies are interested

     Currently planned for delivery on December 2013,
     It will take longer than expected, I'll bet, but it should be out in the new year.

2. The remarkable Terpstra Keyboard is half-way to being funded.
    Check it out.

I venture to say that things are definitely heating up in the alternate keyboard realm.


Andy Mirkin uses Keyboard Integrator

posted Mar 12, 2012, 11:23 PM by Ken Rushton

This gentleman describes how he uses Midi Integrator (a tool for converting any PC input to a midi command) in his Music Electronics site

He has these comments on the tool:

I’m very surprised if, as you say, Integrator isn’t more well-used – it’s a great program and was exactly what I needed for this application. I hope I explained it correctly!

...  The idea of saving the complex note-allocations so they can be called up on request and shared with others is an excellent one – and the format of the text file wasn’t that difficult once I understood what the 5 elements of each line were.

I could have emphasized more the fact that the program can accept multiple MIDI keyboard inputs, and also has a feature for mapping mice, joysticks, etc. I’ll certainly continue using it to experiment with other layouts (The AXiS uses the Harmonic layout, I think, which I haven’t yet tried) and other input devices.

Thanks Andy, for writing these kind words.

Hooking up alternate keyboards to "Rock Band 3"

posted Apr 18, 2011, 6:53 PM by Ken Rushton   [ updated Apr 20, 2011, 5:19 PM ]

Now that Midi Integrator is complete, a number of new things can be done easily.

One example is hooking up any alternate instrument with midi to interesting tools like Rock Band 3, which has a "Pro" i.e. real music mode. In the case shown above, a jammer has been hooked up to an Xbox running Rock Band 3 Pro via a couple of midi connectors. 
 It has just recently become possible to hook up midi instruments to a high-quality, training video game like this.  The ingredients (beside the game console itself) are:
  1. A decent game: said game is Rock Band 3, and it has a “PRO” instruments option; the option to select having a real instrument (midi) hooked up to it
  2. A Gaming console (Xbox/Playstation/Wii) to Midi input interface:  Rock Band 3 midi PRO-Adapter. One plugs a standard Midi cable (non-USB) into it.
  3. An instrument with standard midi-out, of course.
Readers of this site will be interested in a bit more: what about alternate instruments? Can they work as well?  The answer is an unqualified yes.
The additional ingredients are:
  1. A decent alternate keyboard or other instrument:  even a PC keyboard will do, although it has definite limitations.  The raw, unmodified Axis-49 will work, but the signal has to go through a computer.
  2. Midi-routing software to convert the instrument’s production (which comes in on the “Midi-In” logical buss) to a signal on the “Midi-Out” buss.
  3. The new Midi Integrator does this well and there are doubtless others. Midi Integrator is free, works on Win/Mac machines, works as soon as installed and is easily configured.
That’s it. Setup is pretty simple.
Still unknown is the rate at which, if at all, this rig will facilitate learning. For news on this, see: www.musicscienceguy.com/

Here are the connectors used in the example shown.
1. to output the jammer's signal into old-style midi, a USB port is connected to an M-Audio Midisport 1x1 (~$35):

2.  to input the midi signal from the midisort into the Xbox, we have this new gadget:

Better PC and Midi Integration - a new concept

posted Apr 9, 2011, 10:42 AM by Ken Rushton   [ updated Apr 9, 2011, 11:31 AM ]

Ever wonder why the PC and the Midi world are separate, even though midi is often routed through and made on computers? Me neither. Having to go through arcane rituals and jump through hoops to get the PC to change the music produced was just a Fact of Life.

Until recently it was just a fact, an assumed way we had to go.

Well, not any more, I've written and tested Midi Integrator 1.0, a free, documented (!), open-source program that runs, right out of the box, on Win/Mac platforms. This is my gift to the music-geek community.

How does it "integrate" and what the heck is "midi integration" anyway?

Well, what it does is convert an input, any input that there is a subroutine for (I have provided for mouse input, PC keyboard input or joystick input), into a common message format, which is like an enhanced, human and machine-readable midi message. It does the same for genuine midi device input too; everything is converted to a common format.

This enhanced midi message is then routed to a chosen instrument pre-processor, which combines the message with other messages, converts it to a real midi commandand then fires said midi command at your sound-making device.

The above is the basic foundation, To this just add a simple set of tables to control each input's translation to enhanced midi, and setup becomes a lot simpler and a lot less costly than buying ReWire.
Your PC and Midi equipment become as integrated as you wish.

For more details, see Mid Integrator.
for downloads, see Midi Integrator Downloads

Run any Isomorphic keyboard on Apple products

posted Oct 20, 2010, 8:41 PM by Ken Rushton   [ updated Oct 23, 2010, 8:11 PM ]

News: Michael Eskin has developed jammer applications for Apple products:

  • mJammer is a WiFi-based wireless MIDI jammer-style control surface for the iPhone/iPod Touch
  • iJammer is a WiFi-based wireless MIDI jammer-style control surface for the iPad
  • HexJam is a high-quality, easy-to-play, jammer-style hexagonal layout "Jammer" concertina for the iPhone

 These present a cool new way to try out jammers

As well, Musix  is a fully-customizable multiple-layout isomorphic musical keyboard generator with sounds. 

"Each hexagon on the screen is a note, and surrounding hexagons are harmonically related. Songwriters benefit by discovering new melodies and musical relationships. Novices find it easy to learn to play. Experienced musicians are rewarded with an intuitive interface. Shiverware presents Musix: the definitive isomorphic keyboard. For beginners, for experts, for you".

  They give a good digest of what some isomorphic layouts are good for:
  • Gerhard (- Maj. 3rd; + Min. 3rd; Vertical) Designed specifically for the iPad and Musix, this layout attempts to balance the advantages and disadvantages of other layouts listed below. Scales are tight and chords fit naturally on the fingers.
  • Park (- Min. 3rd; + Maj. 2nd; Horizontal) A variation on the Wicki-Hayden (listed below), this layout, white notes are together making patterns easier to see, and scales can be played by sliding fingers along the screen. Alternate and jazz chords are compact, which means this pattern sounds great when button mashing.
  • Wicki-Hayden (- Perf. 4th; - Perf 5th; Horizontal) This is the classic layout used for centuries on Accordions and Concertinas. White notes are together, and the I-IV-V pattern of many many songs forms a compact triangle. Scales play linearly left-to-right (like a piano) with jumps for each semitone. Whole-tine scales are linear. Simple chords are comfortable, more complex chords are more challenging. This is also the preferred layout for "jammer" instruments.
  • Harmonic (- Maj. 3rd; - Min 3rd; Horizontal) Also called the Harmonic Table, this relatively modern layout was developed and popularized by C-Thru Music, the makers of the excellent Axis line of isomorphic MIDI keyboards. The harmonic table provides impossibly easy chords, with major and minor triads in triangles playable with a single finger. Scales are somewhat cumbersome, but as with all layouts, once learned in one key, all other keys are the same pattern.

1-10 of 11