I've heard that the best practical recipe for Rabbit Stew begins "first catch your rabbit".
I take this as a warning that making rabbit stew, even if you are staring out the kitchen window looking at a forest or backyard apparrently just teeming with plump, juicy rabbits, entails rabbits that are in the habit of disappearing at the first gleam the stew-pot.
So it is, it seems, with keyboard stew. I am a modern, updated, nerdy version of Elmer Fudd; everytime it looks like the wascally wabbit is finally in my clutches, it elludes me. Mind you, the hunt has given me "wewy intewesting adwentures".
This will probably Jinx It for good, but I'm going to describe what I hope the AXiS-49 keyboard can do to become the core of the Ideal Jammer.
This little "wabbit tale" has three parts:
1) The simple (I hope) transformation of said AXiS units into a jammer. Not quite an ideal one, but a useable item none the less. Just a "little" bit of programming, and very probably no use of a hacksaw this time. Ah, I can smell the stew already.
2) A discussion of all the other things besides an actual jammer that are needed to make a jammer an staple, stable instrument like guitars now are.
3) Exotic new uses for the thing: want to be able to type at 300 WPM? in any language? With two Axis-49s and a NanoPad is may be possible to resurrect a nearly, but sadly forgotten invention.
But I digress.
One: "Be vewy, vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits"
Here is a picture of the AXiS-49, soon to be in production. Normally it would be played in the orientation shown. The keys would play notes per the Harmonic table key layout.
This is a good, ergonomic layout, and may be better (or at least as good as the Wicki-Hayden layout. However, I'd like to try out the Wicki layout to see if it is better, or at least to compare them. How can I do that when the hexagonal key are arrayed differently between the two?
It helps to start with a clear goal, as laid out in my ideal jammer posting, then add a pinch of thought and a dash of practicality. Re-programming the key's notes is easy for me; I have the tools (Max/MSP) to write the program and make it simple to run.
Orientation is just a matter of turning the gadget. Alas if we do this, we get a tall keyboard. Not so good ... but the AXiS keyboard has really, 2 sections, or key-banks of 49 keys, each 7X7 buttons (that's why its called an ASiS-49); a left and a right side.
If we turn it, we get a top and bottom section, with the top section offset to the right one key. This is not bad at all. Each section is 7 keys wide, a quite playable set. Each section is a nominal 3 1/2 octaves high, which is good.
Add a little coloring of the keys and you get:
It appears quite decent. The arrangement might be a bit awkward as our arms don't stick straight out of our chests, but it could do. After all, we work happily with the PC's qwerty keyboard, which face towards our chests, instead of our arms.
Fortuitously, Korg has just started producing (Nov. 2008) the cute, little, and affordable ($50 US) NanoPad and NanoKey units, which should do nicely as special effects finger control buttons and foot pedal units respectively (with the NanoKey trivially modified with a few wooden wedges and some double-sided duct tape).
"What's up Doc?"
So I must ask, when (and how) will the wascally critter elude me this time? Well ... naturally, there's at least one catch: each of the key-banks sends out a single midi note value, 49 possible values, all under the "controller 1" header, so notes are duplicated between banks. (as noted before, that's why they call it an AXiS-49 when it has 98 actual keys - you can tell these people are most surely not in the advertising industry).
So if I want to reassign the values, the pattern will be duplicated in the second bank, albeit shifted one key over.
Not quite a full, hearty stew, but it should work, with these reservations:
- We'll be stuck with both hands in the same range of notes.
- The 3 1/2 octave range then looks a lot more cramped - that's like a 44 key keyboard.
- Symmetry is lost, so the left hand will learn about (I estimate) 30% slower
- We can't play different instruments with each hand
- if one plugs in a second AXiS, then it will also be "controller '1'", and would confuse the computer it's plugged into.
That said, I believe we'll still have taken a big step towards a practical jammer.
Has the AXiS the potential to become 2 instruments?
The truly excellent thing about the two differnent orientations is to the fingers, that is ergonomically, the keyboard should feel totally different, like another kind of instrument in the other orientation.
Consider: studies have shown that the Dovorak PC keyboard is faster than the standard Qwerty layout. I have heard that, unfortunately, our fingers prefer to know just one pattern at a time, so Dvorak users often have confusion in switching between the identical-feeling Qwerty and Dvorak keyboards. The converse is likely true: the brain should automatically load the right playing mode when the orientation, and consequently, the feel of the keyboard changes. This will need to be verified, but it's a good bet.
We may be able to have the best of both worlds: two musically novel and informative ways of playing and composing songs.
I understand that C-Thru plans to reprogram the the AXiS-49 so each bank is under a separate controller.
"T-t-t-t-that's all folks"
Next: setting up the the jammer "support system".