TouchKeys is a sensor-based system that enables a pianist to slide and wiggle their fingers just like a guitarist to produce the same types of sound effects. Unlike other systems, this one preserves the original keyboard design.
A team of designers, composers and musicians at Queen Mary-University of London has created a addition to the classic piano keyboard that uses touchscreen technology to produce sound effects, such as vibrato and pitch slides, similar to those heard through string instruments. Each key contains 26 sensors that can detect not only its being pressed by a finger, but the motion of the finger once it’s down. For example, wiggling the finger produces vibrato, and sliding it up and down bends the pitch. In addition, software helps control the sound and prevents accidental triggering of sound effects. Tests done with pianists showed they were able to use the modified keyboard fairly quickly.
What’s the Big Idea?
Team member Andrew McPherson says, “I’m trying to preserve the feel of the keyboard so an experienced pianist can pick it up right away, while adding a range of new expressive techniques. Ultimately we are both looking at the same musical ideas: continuous expressive control under the fingertips.” The team plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign later this month to help bring TouchKeys to the commercial market.