How is TouchKeys different than other expressive multi-touch controllers?

Over the past few years, several new digital musical instruments have been released which let the player continuously shape the sound of each note. But TouchKeys is unique in that it retains the familiar action and feel of your keyboard, while giving you access to a wide range of new expressive techniques!

Does TouchKeys need a computer?

For the standard TouchKeys kits and instruments, yes: the sensors attach via USB to your computer, and your MIDI keyboard also attaches to the computer. The computer converts the raw touch data into MIDI messages for any synth. However, you can buy a Standalone MIDI Board accessory which lets you generate MIDI signals directly from the TouchKeys, without a computer.

What operating systems are supported?

The TouchKeys software runs on MacOS X (10.9+, 32/64-bit), Windows (7 or later, 32/64-bit), and Linux (64-bit Intel). Earlier builds of the software support older OS versions (MacOS X 10.6+, Windows Vista). The source code is open and could potentially be compiled on other platforms, provided the underlying libraries support it.

How do the sensors affect the feel of the keyboard?

The sensor surface is slightly textured but not significantly stickier or slipperier than a standard keyboard. Note that the corners of the keys are more square than typical keyboards; this does make sweeping glissandos along the keys impractical, but I don’t find it affects standard playing otherwise. If you like, you can gently round the edges of the keys with a small file, and this will not affect their operation (nor void the warranty if done carefully).

Can I remove the sensors after I install them? Can I reinstall on another keyboard?

The adhesive which holds the sensors to the keys is extremely strong, but it also removes without a residue. Thus your keyboard should be fine if you remove the sensors. (For expensive or exotic surface finishes, please try a small area first.) Officially I do not support removal/reinstallation because the sensors are quite thin, and they can break in the process of removal; thus the warranty wouldn’t extend to sensors that had been removed and reinstalled. But unofficially, this may be possible and is easier if only small portions of the adhesive are used to affix the sensors. Further instructions are provided in the installation guide.

What keyboards work best with TouchKeys?

I recommend keyboards that (a) have flat, wide black keys and (b) have a reasonable amount of space inside the instrument. The sensors fit better on keyboards with flat back keys (as opposed to those that slope down at the back), though I can ship plastic wedges for keyboards with sloping black keys. The controller boards which gather data from the sensors need to be installed inside the instrument; these need a relatively small amount of space, and I haven’t yet found a keyboard which won’t fit them. I recommend Novation Impulse keyboards as I have personally installed many kits on these instruments.

Is [Keyboard Model X] supported?

Probably, but unless I have a record of someone installing on one of them, I can’t be 100% positive. The only keyboards that certainly won’t work are those with miniature-sized keys. For standard-sized keyboards, the main factor seems to be the quality of the black keys; the flatter and wider, the better the playing experience will be. The following printable templates (A4 and US letter sizes) will let you check if the sensors will fit your keyboard.

Keyboard-specific notes: the Roland A-500 (and probably similar models) have been found to have very short black keys. You can install the TouchKeys on this keyboard, but you may have to trim both the front and back of the black keys to get them to the right length.

If you want more advice, my recommendation is to open the keyboard and send me a couple pictures of the inside, especially the space immediately behind the keys.

Can I install TouchKeys on only part of a larger keyboard?

Yes, smaller kits can be used on larger keyboards, covering only some of the keys. The software will also let you create different zones on the keyboard if you want to route MIDI from different sections of the keyboard to different destinations. Of course, there will be a difference in height between the part of the keyboard with the sensors and the part without.

Can I install TouchKeys on an acoustic piano?

Yes, and I have done this as part of a research study. But remember that the TouchKeys sensors do not themselves sense note on and off, so you would want a MIDI-enabled acoustic piano or an accessory like the Moog Piano Bar for an application like this.

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