I come from a piano background, and as someone that kind of struggles to improvise in keys with more accidentals I was attracted to the idea of an isomorphic layout.
After playing a lot with the isomorphic layout I've come to a conclusion that it comes at a cost (it has its advantages and disadvantages compared to the traditional piano layout)
To be isomorphic the layout has to have multiple representations of a single note, with this comes the fact that you don't really have to learn one shape for every chord, you have to learn multiple ones if you play complex polyphonic music and want comfortable fingerings (the linnstrument also has this problem that you can't play 4 notes in a square which comes at the most unexpected times specially between the two hands).
So the comparison would be to learn every key thoroughly vs learning every (useful) alternative for every chord.
In my opinion there's nothing intuitive about the y axis having a greater intervalic distance than the x axis, specifically I would have this problem when going down in a melody to the previous "string" the distance to that note is way different than it would be on the same string.
To be fair I think the only intuitive layout is a linear one (like a single string, or the haken continuum)
If anything, having played with an isomorphic instrument has encouraged me to learn the piano layout more deeply.
Having said that, the linnstrument itself is a decent product all and all (although I have some beefs with it but I don't want to turn this comment into a review) and it makes sense that you like the layout having more experience with stringed instrumments, but I would say that's familiarity not intuitiveness.
Edit: Is that any four note square? Just squares, or rectangles too?
from their webpage :
> If 3 note pads are pressed that are 3 corners of a rectangle, presses to a note pad that is the 4th corner of that rectangle will be ignored.
For people who haven't used one of these, a 2D isomorphic layout (as seen in the Linnstrument and others) enables you to see chords, scales and progressions initially as 2D glyphs, and later as a lattice structure as your eyes/hands become more accustomed to the layout. Learn the pattern for a given scale or chord once and you can relocate it anywhere with almost no mental cost, so transposition is effortless compared to a piano.
I agree with the other poster in this thread on the "four corner" problem, which comes up surprisingly often. I think Roger Linn has spent a lot of time making a big deal about the Linnstrument's sliding and MPE capabilities, but the isomorphic layout is really the workhorse.
If any iPad owners are looking to try out an isomorphic layout and don't want to shell out for a Linnstrument, check out Musix Pro.
Thanks for the recommendation. You saved me from yet another developing GAS :D
I am fascinated by the Harmonic table note layout. It really makes you wonder about the mathematical basis of what we find aurally pleasing.
It's more like a violin in ways, but can also be played sort of like a keyboard.
Very interesting instrument, I love the expressiveness of the ribbon pitch controller! I was thinking about adding an inertial unit to create a pitch "vibrato" effect, which can really liven up a digital instrument.
My favourite thing is to sit on long train/plane journeys with headphones just "noodling around" on a Kaossilator. It's a shame it's a battery eater though...
Each of these options develops different muscle memory and creative tendencies, but it is easier to work out modulation possibilities on the isomorphic layouts. Getting the Axis49 was like an instant "level up" to my theory skills because it made so many things come together visually.
A recent piece of hardware that lets you try the isomorphic layout cheaply is the Hyve touch synth: https://www.hyvesynth.com
Another benefit of the Axis49 is the pressure sensitivity, of course. My infant daughter loves it, too :-)
For live performances, there are also keyboards with custom layouts (although 1-dimensional) by http://www.verticalkeyboards.com
It looks like it has an enormous number of keys, but they are linked together, with each horizontal position being a note, and 3-4 "buttons" on the same physical lever for each note. This makes fingerings very flexible. The closer spacing of the key layout means you can reach bigger chords more easily - I can comfortably play a 10th, for example. The layout is isomorphic, so transposing is as simple as shifting your hands along.
I have played (standard) piano for over 30 years, and this was immediately intuitive for anything melodic. I am far from an expert yet, but the biggest difficulty has been the lack of colours on the keys, which makes it hard to jump big intervals, or play the same note in different octaves in both hands. The lack of colours is because keys don't play a fixed note; the whole keyboard can be transposed by pressing a couple of buttons. Also, because the layout is isomorphic and they were trying to get away from the traditional note system.
I am planning to try different colourings with masking tape or post-its, but I wish it had an RGB led for each key (not sure I can justify the effort of rigging that up).
The layout itself is great, and is the reason to buy this. Everything else is less great, and really shows its age (I have the newer model, the CT-312, which dates from something like 2007).
The biggest hardware deficiency is the lack of a sustain pedal input, but I expect I can find a way around that with MIDI out or by rigging something up with the
(toggle!) sustain button on the control panel. The sound synthesis is also pretty poor, but again, MIDI out.
The best thing about the Chromatone in comparison to all these other alternative keyboards, is that it's (1) Available, and (2) Free! They're clearing out old stock or something, so all I paid was shipping from Japan.
I'm happy to answer questions about it, though I haven't had the keyboard long and I'll be going to work soon.
I should note that I have yet to try the MIDI capabilities. I didn't have a MIDI-capable computer in my lounge until I recently acquired a USB adaptor, and I haven't dug out my MIDI cables yet.
As well, there is an awesome hardware project trying to get of the ground at http://terpstrakeyboard.com (more communication on their facebook as well)
The Akai Force is clearly substantially inspired by the Ableton Push, but is entirely stand-alone.
I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier - sometimes just changing the form-factor helps a lot!
I've always wondered if its possible to use a standard computer keyboard for this sort of thing. What are the main reasons that this wouldn't be possible or likely?
Pythagorean Lambdoma Harmonic Keyboard
created by Barbara Hero