User:MusicScienceGuy/Sonome keyboard

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A sonome keyboard is a musical instrument with an isomorphic, ergonomic keyboard, using the Harmonic table note layout. originally named 'Melodic Table'. It is designed to be faster to play, easier to learn, and give a unique insight into musical arrangements.


The sonome was invented by Peter Davies as a a 21st-century keyboard. The sonome's applied concept of isomorphism, or consistent interval assignments across an array keyboard in a Harmonic Table format, is new in a musical instrument, the first prototype having appeared in 1991. The sonome is also notable for its other innovations such as dimpled, beveled hexagonal keys and velocity sensitivity.

Current Status: instruments using the Harmonic Table are made by C-Thru Music and by The Shape of Music.

Novel features of the instrument[edit]

  • A 2-dimensional keyboard in a hexagonal array.
  • Notes assigned to the array in a Harmonic_table_note_layout.
  • Velocity-sensitive keys

Special uses[edit]

Of the large number of isomorphic {link} note-assignment possible, the sonome's harmonic table format is preferred by players (sonomists) since all notes of the major and minor scales fall under the fingers, and all common chords can be played with one or two fingers. All chords found in conventional chord progressions (I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi and viii, as well as others), in some inversions, can be easily played on a sonome's with simple hand movements.

The sonome's key layout has attracted the attention of numerous professional musicians, including Brian May and Jordan Rudess who find that it gives them a novel view of music, which is reportedly very useful in composing. It also works well with novel tunings such as the Bohlen–Pierce scale.

The sonome is listed on ‘Tiem’, Taxonomy of Realtime Interfaces for Electronic Music Performance, Compiled by Jon Drummond and Garth Paine[1].

The sonome is to be used in a upcoming Bohlen-Pierce Symposium in Boston, March 7-9th [2].

It is in use for ongoing research into microtonal scales by music researchers and composers, in particular Carlo Serafini[3], Elaine Walker[4][5] and Dr. Richard Boulanger[6].

The instrument has these advantages over a standard keyboard:

Advantage Reason
Easy to play Only two fingerings need be learned to play in any key, instead of the 24 (12 for each hand) needed for the standard keyboard
Fast to play The average distance the fingers need to move is reduced by a factor of 10 or more:
  • from centimeters to millimeters for a I-IV-V7-I chord progression,
  • from decimeters to centimeters for a octave shift
Greater musical intervals can be played by each hand at once 2 octave rage in normal hand position using 4 fingers, up to 5 octaves if the thumb is used
More notes can be played due to the ability to easily reach more consonant notes at once, within the span of one hand
Multiple concordant notes can be played with one finger consonant notes are placed adjacent to each other
Variety of novel glissandos Glissandos of thirds, and fifths are easily played. Semitone glissandos are equally easy on sonomes that feature rotations and reversals of the note layout (i.e. the Opal Chameleon and Gecko)
Capable of more sounds than a traditional keyboard The single bank versions are typically played in pairs, assigned to separate instruments and the 3-bank models have three virtual keyboards which each can be assigned to a separate instrument
places notes in a pattern that matches the natural harmonics
Lightweight and portable The smaller single-bank models (i.e. the Axis-49) are smaller and lighter than a guitar even when mated with a netbook, and the large 3-bank model (i.e. the Axis-64) are smaller and lighter than a conventional keyboard

Limitations and disadvantages over a standard keyboard:

  • the distance between chromatic intervals is greater
  • harder to learn than the piano in C major
  • no teachers or body of pedagogy for the sonome
  • fingering techniques are awaiting publication
  • high cost of hexagonal keyboards relative to the standard keyboard


As expected per Fitts law, experts on a sonome find them much faster to play that a conventional keyboard. The eventual limit to speed of play is expected to be: log base 2 (30% smaller key / ~1000% distance decrease) giving about 75% less time, on average, to move fingers from one key to another, conversely novices report that it is much quicker to become proficient on.

External Links[edit]

| A sonome maker | Hand-made sonome maker Isomorphic keyboards


Category:Electronic music instruments Category:Experimental musical instruments Category:Keyboard instruments