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Why hasn't someone made a key-signature-agonistic keyboard?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Tupac, Mar 7, 2021.

  1. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Meaning: similar to bass guitar, playing in every key is the same shape. I have to learn 24 different scale shapes in piano, whereas only 2 in bass guitar. What's the deal? This seems like such a bad layout, and a relic from a time where C major was more important than other keys.
    k_hardy likes this.
  2. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Because looking at a bank of eighty-eight identical bits of plastic (or ivory) would be extremely difficult to find the right one for Bach's explanation of how to play.
    Amano, dkelley, bassista6 and 6 others like this.
  3. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    C major is more important than other keys.
    Electronic keyboards all are transposing instruments anyway so you can keep the same shape if you want.
    selowitch, Amano, Altitude and 11 others like this.
  4. Jeff Hughes

    Jeff Hughes

    May 3, 2020
    People generally innovate or radically change something when the existing thing has flaws or a design that severely limits how we use something.

    Consider the innovation of the piano forte from the harpsichord. Or solid state from vacuum tube.

    I guess learning scales has not really limited people that much over the years.

    Consider that learning piano scales is just learning where whole and half steps occur, and it is nearly as simple.
    GR7G5TER and InnerCityBass like this.
  5. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Are we talking the full scales? Because on piano, at least once you memorized a scale you know it on every part of the piano. Ignoring the fact that there are more than two scale patterns to memorize on guitar or bass, there are multiple scale patterns to memorize or be familiar with for the same scale.

    Why do stringed instruments have to have the same note in multiple places? Because otherwise you wouldn't be able to learn things like Villa Lobos Etudes #11.
  6. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    You certainly can't, since the black keys will be different, which creates spatial differences (obviously, since black and white keys are differently sized and in different locations) which then lead to fingering differences.

    There are many solutions to this that don't involve ruining the symmetry between keys: visual aids or raised parts in the surface of the piano (like the F and J keys on a computer keyboard). Also, I can land on the right white key blindfolded without touching a black key, just from my spatial sense after playing 1.5 years. I don't think the above suggestions are even needed tbh.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
  7. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I think he means you can change the pitch of the keys. So if you tune A to 432hz it is like tuning down a half step. So when you play a C major you will sound like you are playing a Cb Major. You can do the same thing with a piano, but it takes so much work no one does this.
    Tupac likes this.
  8. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    You don't need to alter reference frequencies. All keyboard can be moved up or down 12 semitones on the fly.
    If you're in E major, move your keyboard 2 tones up and you can play with the same fingerings as if you were in C.
    It is exactly the same as what you do on a string instrument.
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Interesting discussion. My feeling on the matter is that we are all beginners in the beginning, but hopefully we are only beginners for a short while. You can only do something for the first time, once.

    There is always a temptation with anything "we should make this more beginner-friendly." But who is the system really optimized for? Is it for beginners, or is it for pros? Is that really the number one most important thing, when designing a musical instrument: that it be easy for beginners to pick up? Which is a "better designed" tool: A tool that's easy to pick up and use the first time, for someone that's never used it before, or a tool that's easy to use the 1,000th time, for someone who uses it every day? Should hammers be soft so first-time carpenters don't mash their fingers, or hard so skilled carpenters can drive the nail with one strike?

    I would argue, sure, there are lots of ways to make learning the piano easier for beginners. But they would make the piano more annoying and difficult for experienced pianists! So instead of inconveniencing the experienced pianists, let's encourage the beginners to learn their scales so they aren't beginners any more. After all, you said you were able to learn all 24 scales, so there's really no problem, is there? "The thing that I learned to do, and you learned to do, and eight-year-olds learn to do... surely that thing is too hard and must be made easier!" (sarcasm)

    That said, there's nothing wrong with innovation in music technology. Check out instruments like the 'harpejji' for new and different ways of visualizing the musical octave. And just about every keyboard on the market now (even $99 beginner/student models) has a 'transpose' button. It's basically like the keyboard equivalent of capo on a guitar: You can play C Major white keys, but it comes out sounding like the key of Eb or whatever.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
  10. Unless you're Irving Berlin.

    Irving Berlin's Transposing Upright Piano
  11. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    fellow i used to gig with used this all the time. he only played in 'c', but would use the 'electronic capo' to change the pitches of the keys to match whatever key we were actually playing in. it led to some interesting moments when he set c=f for a song in e major :) happened every once in a while.
  12. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Some key has to be the default, unless you want 88 identical keys, and most people not being able to stretch an octave with each hand
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Actually, it's the same shapes

    For any given key, scale or arpeggio there is more than one way to play it on a bass. That is not true of a keyboard. Middle C is only found on one key.

    Take the E one octave above the open E. It's on the 12th fret of the E string, the 7th fret of the D string and the 2nd fret of the D string. That's true of most of the fingerboard, and it's a feature common to all multi-string instruments.
    basseux likes this.
  14. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    I think you'll find there may be more than 2 different scale shapes even on bass guitar.
  15. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    HaphAsSard likes this.
  16. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    It is of course kind of a common early belief--having to learn just one shape for each type of scale. Maybe my first ahah moment was realizing I could shift the same notes up or down to change keys. So i do understand why you think about bass only having two shapes for scales. But then as you play and study more you find there are different ones too.
    basseux likes this.
  17. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Us bass players don't have this problem. Regardless, there are many solutions to this that don't involve ruining the symmetry between keys: visual aids or raised parts in the surface of the piano (like the F and J keys on a computer keyboard). Also, I can land on the right white key blindfolded without touching a black key, just from my spatial sense after playing 1.5 years. I don't think the above suggestions are even needed tbh.
    These are the same shapes in different locations. As previous poster mentioned, there are different SHAPES though: you can play the major scale with the common shape that's fingered 3 5 2 3 5 2 4 5, or the more spread-out shape: 1 3 5 1 3 5 2 4 5. But still, this scales nicely (no pun intended): say you come up with 4 shapes for the major scale and 4 for the minor. That's only 8 shapes--for all 24 keys!

    Whereas with piano, say I want to practice scales in 3rds. Welp, that's 24 more more shapes to my repertoire. Okay, now 4ths. That's 24 MORE shapes... etc.

    Now, I want to to play bass scales in 3rds. 2 more shapes (1 major 1 minor)! Now 4ths. 2 more shapes!
  18. swink


    Jan 10, 2019
    Are you looking for this?
    Stradella bass system
    HaphAsSard and Tupac like this.
  19. drumvsbass


    Aug 20, 2011
    why stop at keys. how about tuning agnostic.

  20. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    Funny, when I look at the 12 keys on a keyboard, finding notes is much more intuitive than on a bass.
    thabassmon, andare, J_Bass and 11 others like this.
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    Apr 14, 2021

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