The Technium

Other Isomorphic Keyboards

Naturally, the odd geometric keyboard I posted a few days ago was not a new idea. In fact keyboards of this nature were first invented in 1875. Four or five similar 2-D note arrangements with slightly varied arrays have been conjured up in the century since then. These designs are called isomorphic keyboards.  Each pattern has their own claims to uniqueness and utility.

What is new these days is that one can produce a new controller — based on these old key arrangements — to drive all kinds of sounds.  The keyboard becomes a portable interface that can be changed or “hooked up” to different instruments.

I would not mention them again, except an inventor of a new controller (the Thummer, above) wrote to me about his up-coming commercial product and made a few interesting remarks.  Jim Plamondon, Thummer’s inventor from Austin Texas says:


On the one hand, novel musical controllers and notations seem…kinda crackpot.  On the other hand, Guitar Hero’s novel controller and notation have doubled America’s instrumental music-makers in just two years.

He’s right. Any sane person would have argued against the novel musical controller in Guitar Hero from every succeeding. It was too simple, too dumb, redundant, etc. Guitars have been working fine for thousands of years.

Wrong. The millions of Guitar Hero guitars sold mean that obviously there is room for new music input devices.

Plamondon is missionary about the alternative keyboard as a way to make music creation easier.  His video on how it is played: