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Dec 12, 2008


Taylor Livingston

Well, I should point out that I've never used the C-Thru keyboard, so I have no real-world experience. I was just speculating. I have always experienced intangible conecpts like sound in a very spacial, visual way. My spacial concept of pitch is somewhat at odds with this layout, but that's just my personal thing of course. 

As above, I like the sort of "stacked linear" (jargon I just made up) approach of the bass guitar. Horizontally, notes are linear, sequential semitones. Vertically, you have 4ths or 5ths. I like the way semitones are right next to each other, because that's how "see" notes in my head. But having that 4th/5th jump obviously makes chordal playing easier. I'm making myself a keyboard based on this.


I believe it is becoming popular because there is finally a solid promise of a  affordable, hexagonal-array, velocity-sensitive keyboard, the "holy grail" of some of us alternative keyboard keeners.

I'll only really believe it when I see it, but still, I'm hopeful enough to have spent the time on this analysis. I'm also hoping for more substance, details and time-lines to come forth at the winter NAMM in 2 weeks.

Thanks for the info and the comments.


Grant Muller

Interesting that this is suddenly becoming so popular right now! I actually created a mouse controlled replica of the the C-thru Axis (a harmonic table keyboard) using processing. It can currently control any midi device, I’m working on setting it up as a touchscreen application and adding some additional features. You can find it here:


There is a a book called Harmonic Experience by Walter Mathieu that explores this subject, and uses it as the basis of a composition system. He refers to it as a lattice, and its laid out differently, but the system is basically the same. Very Very good book.

@Taylor: I can't say that I totally agree with you. I don't feel like the setup tells me what to play at all, but simply that I can play whatever I want anywhere I want (meaning modulating to any key without any change in fingering). I will agree that some scales (and chord inversions) are basically impossible, but as a composition tool this setup has been invaluable to me.
Taylor Livingston

"Axes" is the plural of axis.

It's a nice layout, but to me it seems designed for people who don't know anything about music and want everything done for them, and only want to play certain kinds of music (mainly pop). There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course, and I think music should not be for an elite crowd. I am entirely self-taught myself (well, taught by the internet, but I've never had a lesson or music class). Music definitely should be available to everyone.

But, for someone who does know something about music, and wants to write their own, this layout kind of defines what you can play on it, and makes anything else harder. Just looking at it, trying to play an ascending diatonic scale looks rather awkward. The 2nd, 4th, 6th, and octave are over in a whole other neighborhood. Personally, the appeal of 1-finger chords is not powerful to me. I can make that happen quite easily on any keyboard with MIDI, and even the lowly Casio keyboards we had as kids can do that.

The architecture of the harmonic table seems to tell me what to play, and I don't really like that. Of all "isomorphic" layouts I've seen or used, I actually most prefer that of my bass guitar. Same fingering in all keys, any chord type is the same no matter where it's played, and there are no notes that have been shunned because the designer didn't think they were useful. 

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