Chord-o-Trons for Everyone!

First published on the PARSE Software Devices website September 17th, 2005 © Copyright 2005 by Robert Krten, all rights reserved; revised August 27th, 2007.

I like to tinker with music, and I came up with this idea, which I call the "chord-o-tronic keyboard system."

Instead of trying to make the left hand and the right hand go "against" each other, why not let them be the natural mirrors that they are? That is, let notes go from lower frequencies at the thumb through to higher frequencies at the pinky, for both hands, instead of lower-to-higher for the right hand, and higher-to-lower for the left hand.

The result is the following:

Chord-o-tronic Mirrored Keyboard
Chord-o-tronic Mirrored Keyboard

This keyboard would be used similarly to an accordion; the top (lowest notes) would rest against the player's chest, and the highest notes would be closer to the player's lap.

Alternatively, the keyboard could be arranged in a linear fashion, just like a traditional piano keyboard, except with a definite "split point":

Chord-o-tronic Linear Keyboard
Chord-o-tronic Linear Keyboard

Another difficulty with playing keyboards isn't just that the left hand wants to go in the opposite direction of what it "should", but also the problem of playing chords. Transposing a given chord is a non-trivial task for beginners; you don't just simply move each finger by the same amount; some change from black to white, and vice versa, and others stay on a white or black key.


With this keyboard layout, however, "chord mirroring" is possible.

Chord mirroring simply means that the chords are transposed the same way on the left hand as they are on the right hand. If the index finger moves from a white key to a black key on the right hand, then it would do so on the left hand as well to make the equivalent chord change.

Shifting / Modulating

Another feature that's not present on current keyboard designs is a "shifter/modulator". (This can be implemented on "regular" keyboards as well as the "mirrored" layout).

This feature allows the left hand to act as a "shifter/modulator" (the right hand works in the normal manner). By this I mean that if I wanted to play a C major chord, and then play a D major chord, I'd set it up by positioning the right hand on C, E, and G, and then pressing the C on the left hand keyboard. To play the D chord, I'd simply press the D on the left hand keyboard instead of the C. This shifts whatever the right hand has selected up by one full tone.

The modulator part of the "shifter/modulator" effect means that if nothing is pressed on the left hand, no notes are emitted, regardless of whether anything is pressed on the right hand. Thus, I could set up a complicated chord on the right hand, and then rapidly pulse it on and off using just one finger of the left hand.

The best part about this is that the left hand and the right hand are identical. So, instead of the right hand playing the C major chord and the left hand "shifting" it to a D major by pressing D instead of C, the roles could be reversed. The left hand could set up the C major chord, and the right hand could play a C or a D.

It doesn't matter which hand "sets up" the notes, and which hand does the "shifting", they are both equivalent!

An obvious implication of this is that pressing multiple keys on both hands results in a multi-chord shift. So, setting up a C-major on the right hand (C1, E1, and G1), and then pulsing C1 and the next octave higher C (C2) on the left hand would result in C1, E1, G1, C2, E2, and G2 all sounding at the same time. Think of it as a "cross multiplication" kind of effect.


Both features (mirroring and shifting/modulating) can be prototyped with a midi keyboard and a computer; for mirroring, the "split point" would be defined somewhere on the keyboard, and the left hand's "C" would actually be a traditional "E". For both features, the computer would perform realtime midi note number translations (and chording) and emit the translated midi note numbers out to a synthesizer.