Have you ever heard of isomorphic keyboards?
Isomorph … what?
Yes, we know the word can definitely be off-putting and sounds nerdy as anything. But behind this word lies a keyboard design that has the potential to revolutionise your music in a big and profound way. Here are four reasons why we think so and why you might want to get your hands on one soon.
But before that, let’s quickly define what we mean by isomorphic piano keyboards.
An isomorphic piano keyboard, or consistent keyboard, is a keyboard design that features a layout where keys are arranged in consistent and regular intervals. There are many different designs of isomorphic keyboard, ranging from a single row of keys (Dodeka keyboard), two rows (Symmetrical keyboard, Balanced keyboard, and multiple rows (Lippens keyboard, Janko keyboard, Array Musicboard), among others.
So now that we know what we are talking about, here’s why we think that isomorphic piano keyboards are the next big thing.
1. The way you play is simplified
Isomorphic keyboards help you learn to play music more easily. The geometric configuration of their layout means that any musical sequence or progression is the same regardless of the key. This might sound a bit too nerdy to understand, so let’s look at a quick example to show you what it really means. Let’s imagine that you’ve been learning the piano for about a month. Determined to make quick progress, you’ve decided to learn all of the major chords in one day. So you start with C-major and learn all the way up to B-major. That’s 12 different fingerings. Quite happy with your achievements, you take on minor chords. Once again, you learn all the chords. That makes 12 more fingerings to learn. And so it goes for every chord you want to learn.
Things are a little different with isomorphic keyboards. With their geometric (read consistent and regular intervals) layout, you learn one chord pattern, or fingering, and you replicate it wherever you want on the keyboard to produce the same chords in other keys. That is because the shape of the chord you learn works for all other keys. As a result, your learning time is sped up by a factor of twelve as you have 12 fewer chords to learn. On top of that, it also means that while playing you don’t have to try so hard to remember a specific chord, scale, and/or progression. Your expression is no longer strained. This is the holy grail for those who don’t necessarily want to work long and hard to develop strong piano skills, but rather want to quickly express themselves musically in a new way.
2. Your creativity is liberated.
Isomorphic keyboards also open up a whole new dimension for your musical creativity. With fewer things to learn and remember, you have more time to express yourself through improvisation and undiscovered lands. Yet, taking your mind off pattern memorisation and reproduction is just one of the many great benefits that comes with isomorphism. It transforms the piano keyboard into a new kind of expressive interface. How so? For one thing, there are no longer more difficult keys or progressions, on isomorphic keyboards they are all equal. This means that you don’t have an excuse to avoid playing “difficult” pieces or exploring compositions in other keys. You are basically free from key constraint. Isomorphic keyboards also feature what music nerds would call a “tuning invariance” — the idea that a musical progression or sequence maintains the same pattern regardless of tuning. What’s the benefit? It allows for a focus on progressions and tonality in a new way and for exploration of new facets of music, such as microtonality, dynamic tonality, and new chord progressions. The possibilities are endless.
3. Your understanding of music is enhanced.
Isomorphic layouts — in particular linear ones — give clear insights on how music works on the human brain. The geometry of the layout visually highlights acoustic patterns of the underlying maths that govern music. Let’s see what we mean. In music theory, minor and major scales are said to be exact opposites. We usually say that the major scale sounds happy, while the minor scale sounds sad. But apart from a theoretical and subjective claim, this doesn’t tell us much about why these specific sets of sounds are perceived as happy or sad.
By comparison, isomorphic keyboards tell us far more and remind us that music is a game of numerical proportions and pleasing divisions. In fact, on a linear and isomorphic keyboard we can clearly see why minor and major scales are said to be opposite. It is visually highlighted on the keyboard. See for yourself.
The major chord is composed of two sets of four and three keys, while the minor one is composed of two sets of three and four keys respectively. That’s the exact opposite, isn’t it?
This is something you won’t be able to see on conventional pianos because the non-linear key structure (i.e. the upper and lower rows of keys) hides it.
Isomorphic keyboards therefore provide through their key structure interesting clues as to why we, as humans, find certain sets of sounds pleasing or not. So not only does linear isomorphism give a clear overview on the architecture of music, it also provides new ways for the musician to play with harmony and interact with his/her audience. It’s no surprise that a linear music keyboard is meant to be the next big thing for progressive musicians.
4. You stand out from the crowd.
With their distinctive design, isomorphic keyboards won’t go unnoticed, just like the musicians who play them.
On top, with an isomorphic keyboard the way music is played, understood and created is different. Its musicians will naturally stand out from the crowd.
Check the Dodeka Stellar out here and radically improve the way you make music.
This article was originally published on Dodeka Music Blog as “4 Reasons why Isomorphic Piano Keyboards Can Revolutionise Your Music” on July 13, 2018.