A new design launching this week should appeal to keyboardists who want both more expressive touch control and a keyboard – without sacrificing one or the other.
Yes, yes, multi-touch on tablets does indeed give your fingers access to continuous control for added expression and pitch. But there’s a reason keyboards evolved keys: tangible feedback about where pitches are, and the ability to control dynamics with pressure (itself with additional mechanical tangible feedback) just isn’t matched by touchscreens.
We’ll be looking on an ongoing basis at how you can take the flexibility of those touchscreens and match them with more tangible controls. But here’s one example: the German-engineered Evo keyboard really is a conventional keyboard, with all the advantages therein, but combined with capacitive touch on every single key. In other words, it navigates around the very tradeoffs of which I was recently critical in iPad developments, namely, additional expression coming at the expense of tactile feel. (I got some pretty intense criticism for things I said in that article which remain, to me, fairly obvious: a tablet is not a device you can play with your eyes closed, and – in its present form – no matter how hard you hit it, you can’t control dynamics.)
Of course, this does require buying specialized hardware, and it’s a controller only – unlike that tablet, you’ll still need a sound source and (at least for some tasks) a display, both of which are integrated in the tablet. But it is a compelling alternative that introduces a different set of possibilities for playability.
In fact, it’s also not the first time designers have thought in this direction. All the way back to the Martenot, keyboard designers have looked for ways to bend keys or add additional continuous expression – polyphonic aftertouch being the most common (though still relatively rare) solution. But none of those inventions could build on the accessibility of touch on the keys. I’m curious to see what playing this feels like; fans of getting away from the piano keyboard and all its history entirely will likely (and fairly) scoff, but for those of us who want to merge our piano background, something like this merits consideration.
Here’s how the creator describes it; I hope to catch up with this invention soon in person.
Discover the evo. Worlds first keyboard with touch sensitive keys.
With the help of capacitive touch sensors the evo is able to read your fingers movement on top of a keys surface. Next to pitch and velocity there is now a third layer of polyphonic data input.
Think of polyphonic control of pitch and expression. Think of having a pitch or mod wheel integrated into every single key. Think of never ever leaving a key just to turn or push some knobs or buttons.
So, it’s a combination of classic keyboard key and modern touch technology. The best of both worlds combined in a single keyboard. But best of all! The characteristical function of a key remains unchanged. The evo still features traditional pressure-sensitive keys. But in addition there are now all the advantages from a touch-sensitive input device in every single key.
So. At first this might sound like the evo is an all new instrument. But it’s nothing more than a traditional master-keyboard… With capacitive touch inside every key.