Jump to content

the Axis-49 hexagonal array keyboard is out


Recommended Posts

A while ago there was a fair bit of discussion about which keyboard layout was best.

Well now there is a new instrument on the market with yet another layout, the Harmonic table.

 

I've bought one, disassembled it, and reviewed it in depth, and its a decent, well made controller.

I've also re-programmed the keys to play in Wicki-Hayden mode.

 

If you are interested in alternate keyboards, we finally have one that's worth a look. Jim Plamondon has proclaimed his Thummer project dead.

For more detail see www.C-Thru-Music.com and my blog, MusicScienceGuy.vox.com

 

Ken Rushton, MusicScienceGuy B)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you are interested in alternate keyboards, we finally have one that's worth a look. Jim Plamondon has proclaimed his Thummer project dead.

 

Yea. Told you. He had excellent Hayden trainer on his hands with limited, but steady market possibility. No, he wanted to revolutionize the world. There you go.

You can travel on square wheels, it just needs some

Or

Edited by m3838
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you are interested in alternate keyboards, we finally have one that's worth a look. Jim Plamondon has proclaimed his Thummer project dead.

 

Yea. Told you. He had excellent Hayden trainer on his hands with limited, but steady market possibility. No, he wanted to revolutionize the world. There you go.

You can travel on square wheels, it just needs some

Or

My sentiments exactly. He had a useful Hayden keyboard, but he couldn't or wouldn't separate it from his visions to remake the music world,, with not only a new keyboard, but a new system of staff notation, new ways of talking about harmony, and I forget what else.

 

Maybe he didn't realize that he could sell the keyboards independently, and thus raise funds to keep pushing his other ideas. Or maybe he was just too proud. Anyway, we don't get the keyboard, at least not from him. All patents have long since expired, so ... ?

 

FWIW, my own experience with the Hayden-keyed clavichord I built and showed on another thread (insert link here if/when I learn how), shows that large-button, prone keyboards in the Hayden system are really not that nice to use for any period of time. Whichever hand I use, it gets cramped and tired after a few measures.

 

But turn my wrists 90 degrees so my hands are in a vertical palne, and I can squeeze my boxes for hours. Maybe someone can tell me why.

 

BTW, the Axis keyboard looks to be too narrow to use more than one hand at a time, jsut like my prototype clavichord.

Is that so, or am I looking at the pics wrong?

--Mike K.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like most who have been here for a few years I watched the Thummer story, from the CEO's discovery of concertinas and the charms of Western Australia when he retired from Microsoft, through to its current position. A big point of interest for me was the language used in their press releases, and there are many examples of this on their website. It is a wonderful blend of wide eyed innocence, a bragging assumption of business superiority and cheap advertising copy tricks of the "biggest little town in Georgia" type. In all it created a sense of unease in me, leading to no confidence in the product. If they didn't believe in it enough to present its merits directly to us instead of through all the smoke and mirrors, well, why should I believe in it? And I don't see it as daring to think big, it was a case of, unable to think in a way appropriate to the potential market.

 

I had something of an epiphany though when I followed the link from an earlier thread to their site. There is a page that makes your keyboard work like one of their keyboards. http://www.thummer.com/ThumBoard/thumboard.html You need to install a small program called Flash midi which is quick and painless though it seems to need a reinstall every time you go back. It allows you to try the layout easily through your computer speakers.

 

I have intrinsically understood the Wicki/Hayden idea as a single fingering for every key, but not thought more about it. I suppose my revelation is that it works... If like me you have an aversion to the difficulties inherent in playing in 6 sharps, whatever key that is (leaving aside that I am an anglo player, throw in an aversion to music theory) it was a revelation that I could suddenly do so without the slightest difficulty. My next thought was, what's the point if its not difficult, quickly followed by the idea it was a lot like calculators. Rather than preventing you from learning basic maths they give you easy access to maths of a lot more complicated variety.

 

I then hoped the thing would get up in a big way, nobody ever said instruments should be hard to play. If the price had fallen it could have given millions of people quick access to moderately complicated keyboards. I find it easy to imagine it replacing the recorder and melodica in schools. Maybe saying "moderately complicated" obscures my point; while the basic keyboard allows easy access at a very low level the potential for added electronic gadgets means sophisticated settings can be produced at the high end.

 

In the era of the personal digital device, this could have been the musical instrument equivalent of the Ipod (provided it could be listened to through earphones without the need for anything other than the basic keyboards). I can understand the CEO wanting this, but I hope he will continue in a small way and who knows, it could pick up by word of mouth.

 

Chris

Edited by Chris Ghent
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Axis is a possible stand-in. I've remapped mine to play like a Thummer. I think that's better than the "harmonic axis" mapping they have.

 

Jim Plamondon is going to grant his patents to the open source, and encourage universities to develop them. He did a truly huge amount of analysis of the optimum design. Very visionary. With luck, the Axis will prove a market, then the Thummer will be reborn.

 

Ken Rushton, MusicScienceGuy B)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Axis is a possible stand-in. I've remapped mine to play like a Thummer. I think that's better than the "harmonic axis" mapping they have.

Can you play this keyboard with both hands at once? It looks too small. Maybe one hand high and the other low?

Jim Plamondon is going to grant his patents to the open source, and encourage universities to develop them. He did a truly huge amount of analysis of the optimum design. Very visionary. With luck, the Axis will prove a market, then the Thummer will be reborn.

 

Ken Rushton, MusicScienceGuy B)

That's great news -- he's freeing up his patents. Of course the WIcki-Hayden originals are long since expired. But I guess he patented specifics of his layout. I'm glad someone did ergonomic R and D on the keyboard. I suspect that the Hayden Duet concertina could stand some improvement along these lines, or at least some testing to show that the current row-angle is the best.

--Mike K.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me the usefulness of the Thummer was not in patents or specific gadgets. Anybody, who would engage in such an activity, will begin to pile these patents, which will not be of any interest to anybody else for the same reason. To me, the Thummer was a huge deal because somebody actually had an energy and time to go and make it. Thinking big though is different from sudden homemade ideology. His music stave wasn't as compact or universal as traditional one, his keyboard wasn't a musical instrument and he spent great deal of time developing yet another electronic sax. All the while he was bombarded with emails asking him to make electronic concertina-like Hayden duet. In any shape or level of sophistication.

My expectations are that universities will not waste time developing his ideas, nor anybody from general public will pay any attention to it. Music establishment will eagerly dismiss his music stave (and for good reasons). All of the above will happen only in very unlikely case of universities and music establishments accidentally becoming aware of Thummer. But a notorious meteorite must fall on our heads first.

A pity really. I tried computer Hayden keyboard. Very slow and unreliable, but fun! I wish it would be faster and more powerful - our keyboards will become musical instruments. Combining two of them will make it pretty versatile.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

FWIW, my own experience with the Hayden-keyed clavichord I built and showed on another thread (insert link here if/when I learn how), shows that large-button, prone keyboards in the Hayden system are really not that nice to use for any period of time. Whichever hand I use, it gets cramped and tired after a few measures.

Here's the link:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

FWIW, my own experience with the Hayden-keyed clavichord I built and showed on another thread (insert link here if/when I learn how), shows that large-button, prone keyboards in the Hayden system are really not that nice to use for any period of time. Whichever hand I use, it gets cramped and tired after a few measures.

Here's the link:

Thanks for the assist, David.

How did your hands feel when you played on my Hayden clavichord? Not counting the odd touch and clunky action ...

 

I think that the Thummer may have had the right ergonomic idea -- split the keyboard so each hand can come at it at the proper angle, much like Microsoft's ergonomic PC keyboard.

The bad side of splitting the keys is that each hand is now confined to its own keyboard, much like with a concertina.

On a striaght prone keyboard, keys near the center can be played by either hand.

But as long as each separate keyboard is wide (and tall) enough, each hand has quite a range that overlaps the other hand's.

 

Wonder if I should drag this thing along to NECW?

--Mike K.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that the Thummer may have had the right ergonomic idea -- split the keyboard so each hand can come at it at the proper angle, much like Microsoft's ergonomic PC keyboard.

The bad side of splitting the keys is that each hand is now confined to its own keyboard, much like with a ...

 

My experience thus far (2 weeks of practice, learning only one hand) is that the hand does not get cramped - it's mobile enough so the that blood flow etc. is normal. ;)

On the down side, I may have to get a second, so I have one for each hand. Having a independent keyboard under each hand seems like it would make for one heck of an instrument to me, but that can wait.

 

Ken

Edited by MusicScienceGuy
Link to comment
Share on other sites

How did your hands feel when you played on my Hayden clavichord? Not counting the odd touch and clunky action ...

I didn't play it long enough for my hand to become fatigued.

 

Wonder if I should drag this thing along to NECW?

Your verbiage suggests that bringing it might be a burden. If that's the case, I would think you might rather leave it in Maine. Unlike NESI, NCW is a one-day event with little time for "between the cracks" show-and-tell. There is less opportunity to meet everyone there, let alone communicate to the group that you've got an interesting contraption they might want to play with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Hi gang, some continuing of the saga,

 

As mentioned a few months ago, I'm using the "harmonic table" keyboard made by C-Thru Music called the Axis 49, tricked out to play as a Wicki-Haden (Thummer) keyboard. It works with both my pc and macs as a midi keyboard.

If you're interested in alternative keyboard controllers or music notation in general I recommend checking it out, as it teaches music theory like nothing else, and in the hands of someone skilled (unlike myself) is fast to learn and play. It is velocity sensitive, albeit with a touch more like a guitar than a piano. It needs a computer to work; a netbook works very well.

 

They just added a forum post with the details of 50% off the regular price (250). The post says the sale is only happening on August 2nd and requires purchase via a paypal account. I'm not sure what they are up to, but there is a chance that this will be as they say, truly a "one-time only" offer.

 

See http://www.c-thru-music.com/cgi/?page=prod_axis-49 for the gory details.

 

Why am I posting this? Two reasons:

1) I don't want them fail to fail, like Thumtronics: this is one on the most unique and cool keyboards that's been built since the piano came on-scene, and ... it isn't vaporware. I'd much rather they do well and inspire competition.

 

2) I'd really like to have more buddies with an Axis so I can trade ideas.

 

Cheers!

Ken Rushton, @ MusicScienceGuy.vox.com :uGeek. B)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting.....

 

Thanks to your links, I found the keyboard layout for the Axis 64 Harmonic Table (HT) here:

 

http://www.c-thru-music.com/cgi/?page=layout_kbdmap

 

It didn't take me long to realise that it was very much like the keyboard layout of an English concertina - well, several English concertinas laid side by side.

Essentially, there are columns of buttons ascending in intervals of 5ths, just like the EC. The main differences are (i) the columns normally played by the index and middle fingers on the EC are reversed on the HT and (ii) the accidentals are shared by adjacent 'white note' columns.

 

Am I the only person to have noticed this? I can't see anyone else remarking on this in earlier posts in this thread.

 

I'm not sure quite what this goes to show. Maybe it demonstrates once again the underlying logic of the EC layout and its potential (like the continental button accordion) for playing in many, if not all, keys just using the same fingering pattern. Various chord shapes in different keys will also be the same.

 

As in my opening phrase - very interesting. I am (almost) tempted to get one.

Edited by Steve_freereeder
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi gang, some continuing of the saga,

 

As mentioned a few months ago, I'm using the "harmonic table" keyboard made by C-Thru Music called the Axis 49, tricked out to play as a Wicki-Haden (Thummer) keyboard. It works with both my pc and macs as a midi keyboard.

If you're interested in alternative keyboard controllers or music notation in general I recommend checking it out, as it teaches

Was the conversion from native to Hayden done just by changing a software table, or did it require some reprogramming of the device, via the USB port? What is involved in doing that?

 

From the web pages, I assume that playing is done via a MIDI conncetion, to a keyboard or synth box, using a standard 5-pin "smiley" MIDI cable. Right? You mention a way to use a PC as a synth box -- is that via the USB interface?

 

Why am I posting this? Two reasons:

1) I don't want them fail to fail, like Thumtronics: this is one on the most unique and cool keyboards that's been built since the piano came on-scene, and ... it isn't vaporware. I'd much rather they do well and inspire competition.

 

2) I'd really like to have more buddies with an Axis so I can trade ideas.

Do you want buddies using its native system, or Hayden players? I play Hayden Duet, so natch I would want to reprogram it *sometimes* to play that way. However, the native scheme is really cool -- major chords with one finger in the right corner!

This would make a terrific chord generator for rhythm,backup work.

 

So, is it easy to reprogram it back and forth between Hayden and Axis modes?

 

--Mike K.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From the web pages, I assume that playing is done via a MIDI conncetion, to a keyboard or synth box, using a standard 5-pin "smiley" MIDI cable. Right? You mention a way to use a PC as a synth box -- is that via the USB interface?

2) I'd really like to have more buddies with an Axis so I can trade ideas.

Do you want buddies using its native system, or Hayden players? I play Hayden Duet, so natch I would want to reprogram it *sometimes* to play that way. However, the native scheme is really cool -- major chords with one finger in the right corner!

3) This would make a terrific chord generator for rhythm,backup work.

 

4) So, is it easy to reprogram it back and forth between Hayden and Axis modes?

 

--Mike K.

1) The Axis-49 only has an usb-midi, so requires a netbook of some such, as I show here, making a 2-kilo portable synth that's smaller than a shoebox - like a concertina!

 

2) Hayden players - it's a better system, I think.

 

3) yes, although inversions are not as easy.

 

4) It requires a mouse-click to toggle conversion on/off

 

Ken.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1) The Axis-49 only has an usb-midi, so requires a netbook of some such, as I show here, making a 2-kilo portable synth that's smaller than a shoebox - like a concertina!

 

OK, so you can't use a synth box, you need a PC, with some sort of "soft synth" program (like the stock MS program that comes with WIndows), but modified to take input from USB. I've heard of folks using such hardware and software -- it seems to be displacing real MIDI.

 

And you're stuck with the sound chips on the laptop or netbook -- tho thru headphones the sound may be OK, and you can always plug in big amplified speakers at home.

2) Hayden players - it's a better system, I think.

Well, thanks :rolleyes: We Haydenists do liek our system a lot, and welcome someone who's seriously trying a "prone" keyboard.

3) yes, although inversions are not as easy.

OK -- the Axis seems oriented towards straight 1-3-5 chords. Easiest on Hayden also, tho 6-4 is easy. Tho it's tougher to put the 3rd on the bottom, it can be done.

4) It requires a mouse-click to toggle conversion on/off

Nice. But I meant, How much work is it to prepare the Hayden button-to-note mapping table? What facilities are provided to let the user edit and reload such tables? Sounds possible in Linux, difficult under WIndows, don't even daydream of it under MacOS.

--Mike K.

Edited by ragtimer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...