Some enterprising hardware hackers have created a brilliant isomorphic musical keyboard, a keyboard whose layout is radically different from the usual keyboard layout derived from the piano.
Members of the Louisville Soundbuilders created the keyboard by sandwiching circuit boards with switches. There are 192 velocity-sensitive keys on the keyboard. This means that the harder you press down on the keys, the louder the sound, and the softer you press on the keys, the softer the sound. The keyboard is plugged into a MIDI box which actually transmits the musical notes to a computer.
The keys on top of the switches are just the switches you’re used to seeing on a computer keyboard. In the video, the creator of the keyboard mentions that he’s planning to replace the computer keys with hexagonal keys. He says that this will make the keyboard much easier to play and allow him to see what notes he’s actually playing.
The isomorphic keyboard is laid out quite differently from a standard musical keyboard. When you want to play fifths, you just move down on the keyboard. Moving diagonally to the right gives a major third, and to the left is a minor third. You can play the same pattern easily just by moving it up and down the keyboard. This makes it obvious how intervals have the same “shape,” as you move around the keyboard.
Even with my limited knowledge of music theory, I think this is still a very cool project. It’s always good to see what clever people armed with a soldering iron can come up with.