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Why are we still playing traditional piano keyboards??
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Scoox
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#1
12th July 2013
Old 12th July 2013
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Why are we still playing traditional piano keyboards??

Today I stumbled upon this. I had a similar idea a while ago. The traditional piano keyboard takes so long to master because it is a very dumb design. I am no piano player but I can play alright when a tune mostly involves the white keys.

In fact, what I tend to do is transpose my scales to a more "comfortable" scale (typically one looking like C major) and then play away. No need to learn other scales. What the keyboard in this video allows you to do is simply amazing. I bet anyone could get reasonably good at piano in under a year.

There are also mechanical versions of this keyboard for those who like to play the real thing.







Among the comments for the second video, this one made a lot of sense to me:

Quote:
I finally found it i was looking for something like this.I hate the white/black keys layout i makes you bias to ward? certain keys and its harder to be adventurous .Being a bass player where everything is is a grid this would be way easier.
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12th July 2013
Old 12th July 2013
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God forbid music require any effort...
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12th July 2013
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Didnt Irving Berlin play only the black keys?

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12th July 2013
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12th July 2013
Old 12th July 2013
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Worried....
Scoox
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12th July 2013
Old 12th July 2013
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Sorry I hadn't embedded the videos correctly. Fixed now.
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12th July 2013
Old 12th July 2013
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It may indeed be easier to learn, but it looks ridiculous.
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12th July 2013
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Actually, it doesn't look all that much easier to learn to me. I've always thought of the piano keyboard layout as we know it as something of a masterpiece of simplicity and functional design. Some nice geezer came along and just laid all the notes out in a row for us. That thing has four rows and doesn't appear to offer any significant advantage at all as far as I can see.

Let's face it, if you can't get your head around knocking out a tune or two on a piano with just a little practice, then maybe music isn't really for you. I mean, about the only instrument I can imagine that might be simpler to play is the triangle or some similar basic percussion instrument. I'd certainly say that the piano is probably far easier to learn (at the basic level) than, say, any brass or woodwind instrument for example.
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12th July 2013
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Also, a drum set would be a lot easier to play without that pesky limb-independence thing. What a terrible design!
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12th July 2013
Old 12th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
I am no piano player
Exactly.

Every person I know who plays piano(and I know a lot of them), has never had a problem with the layout of a keyboard. It's actually a well laid-out design. Learning it is just part of learning how to play.
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12th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adrianww View Post
Actually, it doesn't look all that much easier to learn to me. I've always thought of the piano keyboard layout as we know it as something of a masterpiece of simplicity and functional design. Some nice geezer came along and just laid all the notes out in a row for us. That thing has four rows and doesn't appear to offer any significant advantage at all as far as I can see.
+1. The piano keyboard is only logical or illogical if you're thinking about it. If you're playing, you're working from muscle memory. Music transcends logic.

I would compare using these keyboards to using an open tuning on the guitar. I used to avoid open and altered tunings because I thought there would be some conceptual difficulty in switching between them. Now I realize that was completely incorrect, and I can play in any of my regular tunings without thinking about it. There are advantages of using one or another, but they're specialized to certain patterns.

There may be some conceptional or physical advantage to using one keyboard over another, but in a short while, whatever you're playing will transcend those differences.

Moreover, the traditional piano keyboard is almost a theory calculator. Once you get past certain rudiments, it's very easy to understand exactly what you're playing, just based on your physical position.
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13th July 2013
Old 13th July 2013
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Quote:
The traditional piano keyboard takes so long to master because it is a very dumb design. I am no piano player but I can play alright when a tune mostly involves the white keys.
Mastering any instrument takes a long time…for most people, at least. But the design is not dumb…its ingenious, and very logical. The Chromatone makes sense if you don't know anything about music, or at least Western music. The layout of a traditional piano keyboard makes sense and is very easy to orient yourself on…not so with the Chromatone.
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13th July 2013
Old 13th July 2013
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Piano is extremely easy to learn compared to most instruments. Try violin if you want hard.
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14th July 2013
Old 14th July 2013
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I'm no piano player either, but I know enough to realize it is laid out perfectly, and it doesn't take long to learn, takes long to master, I was playing piano in front of my first grade class only after a few lessons. Kids play piano. You just have to sit there and do the work. You may not master it but you could play if you tried.
I'm not telling you you couldn't play that thing better or worse, I'm just repeating whats been said by ^^ them.
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14th July 2013
Old 14th July 2013
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Ergonomics can and does make a significant difference. Look at the computer keyboard you're probably in front of right now. (Unless you're reading this on a smartphone.) That is far from the optimal arrangement of letters for maximum possible typing speed, and intentionally so. The Straight Dope: Was the QWERTY keyboard purposely designed to slow typists?

I can easily believe that the same applies to the musical keyboard, and another arrangement could allow you access to a wider range of notes with one hand and make certain melodies and chords far easier to play. Hell, look at the humble accordion. That's far easier to play and transpose chords on without looking at your fingers. Only the fact that it looks uncool keeps it from being a great form factor for an electronic controller.
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14th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (un)reason View Post
Ergonomics can and does make a significant difference. Look at the computer keyboard you're probably in front of right now. (Unless you're reading this on a smartphone.) That is far from the optimal arrangement of letters for maximum possible typing speed, and intentionally so. The Straight Dope: Was the QWERTY keyboard purposely designed to slow typists?

I can easily believe that the same applies to the musical keyboard, and another arrangement could allow you access to a wider range of notes with one hand and make certain melodies and chords far easier to play. Hell, look at the humble accordion. That's far easier to play and transpose chords on without looking at your fingers. Only the fact that it looks uncool keeps it from being a great form factor for an electronic controller.
Thats similar to what Korg says about all their mini keyboards. I'm not against the thought process. As long as it isn't just to market a product, and they are at least trying to do something to help people, or genuinely think they are. Who knows, I'd try anything.
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14th July 2013
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It took me a few years to realize that the piano layout is actually a brilliant design (so is standard tuning on guitar for lots of obvious reasons). White keys are just the C major scale (or A minor) laid out for you. It really doesn't get any easier than that.
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15th July 2013
Old 15th July 2013
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I don't know, I was watching those videos, and it became perfectly clear to me: if we just re-arranged the keyboard like they suggested, then maybe we can get some decent music out of the piano or something. It would be about time, you know?
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15th July 2013
Old 15th July 2013
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it is said you can learn more theory on a piano in a month than in a year on guitar. The reason is the piano key layout reflects the relationships between the notes. The grid on a guitar or bass (or these chromatic keyboards) is a grid learned by rote. You don't build a chord, you memorize where to put your fingers, and it is only after learning theory that theory can be applied to this grid and you go "oh yeah"

Quote:
I am no piano player .
if you were a piano player you would probably would not have this attitude


Quote:
but I can play alright when a tune mostly involves the white keys
what if you want to play something other than a major scale?
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15th July 2013
Old 15th July 2013
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This is certainly not the response I was expecting to get. To my mind the piano is no more than a bunch of strings of varying thickness and widths, and a bunch of hammers to hit them. If we ignore the keyboard section, all pianos sound the same. To put it another way, a black Janko piano and a pink traditional piano sound exactly the same.

I find it odd that some of you take this so personally. I realise some of you are experienced piano players and I am not here to crap on anybody's keyboard, in fact, I thoroughly envy your skill. What I am trying to say is that, from a beginner's perspective, there are alternative keyboards that just happen to be undeniably easier to get up to speed with.

To give you an analogy, I am a native Spanish speaker and learnt English and Chinese later, both of which I speak comfortably now. However, it took me much longer to achieve fluency in Chinese than it did in English, because the Chinese writing system is a b*tch (anything under 3000 characters and you can't call yourself literate). Now that I am familiar with both languages, I have no issues switching between the two, but I'll be honest: getting good at Chinese was definitely a lot harder. Furthermore, I know people who have spent over 10 years in China and still cannot speak the language, all because the user interface (the writing system) places the state of mastery further from the user (the speaker).

The traditional piano keyboard presents a similar problem, and while it is easy and comfortable to play once mastered, like any skill, it's harder to master. The Janko keyboard was designed to make all major/minor/etc scales look the same, respectively, which makes transposition a trivial task, certainly not the case with a traditional piano. Thus, the Janko design automatically divides learning effort by 12 for beginners, allowing them to focus on technique rather than the arbitrary constraints and idiosyncrasies of an anti-ergonomic and counter-intuitive user interface, and providing a more pleasant learning experience. The third video in my original post explains other advantages. I don't see how anybody could disagree that easier is better.

On a Windows computer Ctrl-C is the standard shortcut for copy, and when an application uses a different shortcut it drives us nuts. Why? Because we like things to be consistent. Consistent is good. Consistent is easier on the brain. Any two major chords should look the the same on a piano keyboard. I can tell a major chord from a minor chord, but I can't tell two major chords apart if enough time is allowed in between. That's because, like most people, I don't have absolute pitch, therefore I shouldn't need to worry about how them potentially being different on the keyboard! Conversely, any piano player would be able to play just as well on a transposed keyboard.

The QWERTY keyboard, also mentioned in this thread, is no harder to learn than any other keyboard layout. I have actually looked into ergonomic keyboards, I even made one for a university project 8 years ago, but eventually returned to the ubiquitous QWERTY for practical reasons: virtually every keyboard in the world is a QWERTY keyboard. However, that's not to say it's well designed. Nobody needs to take a second look at a standard QWERTY keyboard to tell you that it is an unfortunate design, the main reason being that the keys are arranged at a slant. This makes typing very comfortable for the right hand, but not so for the left hand. Electronic keyboards, unlike mechanical typewriters, don't really need to be this way, yet they are because by the time the first electronic keyboard came out everybody was already familiar with that layout, and so it was too late. NEC made a number of ergonomic keyboard in the 80s but they never took off and manufacturers quickly realized that sticking to the old layout would make them more money, so that's what they did. In my opinion only the geometry of the keyboard matters: the actual distribution of the characters is immaterial e.g. QWERTY vs DVORAK, because it depends on what language you are typing. I can touch-type on a QWERTY keyboard at 70wpm comfortably, but I started getting pain in my left wrist from typing code. I figured out that typing symbols was the culprit, so I came up with a solution involving the use of footswitches whose purpose was to minimize the distance my hands needed to travel to type symbols. After just one week my cramps were completely gone. This proves that good ergonomics is always a bonus.

The reason why some very smart people have taken the trouble to design alternative keyboards is not that they had nothing better to do, or to prove everybody wrong; instead, their goal is to bring this wonderful instrument closer to everybody It should be noted that these people were also seasoned piano players themselves. Similarly, I intended for this to be a constructive and rational engineering/ergonomics discussion.
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15th July 2013
Old 15th July 2013
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well wouldn't the engineering/ergonomics and construction/material take on this deliver the traditional keyboard as we know it?
Janko thing is cool but 4 rows
the chroma thing way too many buttons
traditional keyboards well 1/2rows white & black and the user with a little practice and understanding transposes and plays the thing, least material, smallest most practical design?
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15th July 2013
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I don't know enough about keys to comment, though I'm all for simplifying a system if it can be done. The blues harp is the one that gets me. I'm sure someone could come up with a more logical layout.
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15th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
God forbid music require any effort...
In 100 years it will be embarrassingly sad how few people actually know how to play an instrument. People think we are in a time of great democratization of music because technology makes it easy to believe that, but ultimately real musical knowledge and ability will become more elite.

But with that said, there's always room for new instruments and it's not a bad thing if they're easy for anybody to pick up and learn. Though such instruments should not be expected to compete with or replace time tested traditional instruments and the skill they require.
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15th July 2013
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There's really nothing better than the layout of the keyboard as it is now. There's a reason why people who intend to learn music theory learn it on the piano regardless of the instrument that is their main choice to make their living playing.

Among the many advantages of the piano is the incredibly perfect way the notes are laid out for you. I can't think of another instrument that is superior to it. It's so good that when synthesizers and MIDI controllers came on the seen, the keyboard is unquestionably the most popular method for controlling those sounds.

I mean, a guitar has to look like a guitar, a violin has to look like a violin. But a synth can look like anything... so why not make it look like the best and most logical design?

You can pretty much forget about the keyboard alternatives above. They'll be historical curiosities same as all the ones that came before them, just more re-inventing the wheel.
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15th July 2013
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Don't mess with the piano



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16th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
God forbid music require any effort...
Ahh, yeah lets reinvent the wheel.

I agree, and while not a shot at the OP, other threads I read with increasing frequency here are becoming a concern. You know, stuff like, I want to see colours when I mix, tracks are old the traditional mixer is whack, I want to mix by dancing round the room with my tongue hanging out. I want a instant everything button in my DAW. I have no concept of learning anything or REWARD FOR EFFORT. I just want shit done in the fastest most easy fashion possible.
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16th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dodittydada View Post
I want to mix by dancing round the room with my tongue hanging out.


there exists a MIDI 'gesture' controller



I am sure they could make an attachment that clamps onto your tongue
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16th July 2013
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haha. Does it just make me a luddite or whatever term the cool guys like to throw around? I mean, isnt the dumbing down of an artform a concern? I dunno, its probably just me. We already have more than enough tech. to make most of whatever we can dream up in our heads. Why then is there always the cry more ,more, more and easier,faster, NOW!
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16th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lute View Post
Don't mess with the piano



Except for the sustain pedal
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16th July 2013
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Who gives a shit about whether an instrument is hard to play or whether so and so can 'play' an instrument? All that matters is that a song can be made. No one cares if some dude is shreddin licks like Eddie-except maybe other guitar players. The ultimate goal is to get the performance into a song. If someone invents an instrument that allows easier music creation, good for him or her. Jordan Rudess uses one of these: The AXiS-64 pro MIDI controller
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