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Why have the Balanced keyboard?
The standard musical keyboard has been with us for hundreds of years and is the overwhelmingly ubiquitous and entrenched standard. However, it does suffer from one major drawback, which is that its key layout is not completely regular and consistent, specifically its pattern of 2 and 3 black notes in the top row.

Standard keyboard

This one shortcoming gives rise to a very substantial level of complexity when it comes to being able to learn and play musical structure on the standard keyboard. The term "musical structure" used here refers to the chords, scales, intervals, melodies, and all other elements of musical structure, as well as the musical interrelationships between the elements.

The learning of musical structure on any keyboard (and many other musical instruments) takes place largely in terms of how the various musical structural elements are physically 'layed out' onto the keys of the keyboard. So, for a basic triad chord consisting of 3 notes, the keys corresponding to the notes in the chord will have a particular physical 'shape', which will be a basic mechanism by which a player plays and recognises it.

The inconsistency of shape on the standard keyboard
On the standard keyboard, the inconsistent physical layout means that there are many different shapes for each of the chords, scales and so forth, depending on where on the keyboard they are played. For a simple example of this, the following diagram shows the playing of a major triad chord at different places on a standard keyboard. Each different colour shows our major triad (with its consistent 'musical' shape) starting at a different place on the keyboard.

Major triads on the standard keyboard
(bottom- and top-row roots)

Musically, a major triad has a consistent musical shape in that its 3 component notes always have a fixed pitch relationship to each other, namely a minor third on top of a major third. However, on a standard keyboard, the major triad does NOT have a consistent physical shape. Instead, the physical shape of the chord is different depending on which root note the chord is played on. In fact, on the standard keyboard, there are a total of six different shapes!

This inconsistency of physical shape in different keys is a basic characteristic of playing musical structure on the standard keyboard. For example, playing a major scale on a standard keyboard results in many different shapes, depending on which of the 12 scale notes the scale begins on.

The steep learning curve of the standard keyboard
On a standard keyboard, the rote-learning of the large numbers of inconsistent physical shapes corresponding to each musical shape (for example, 12 different scale layouts for each type of scale being learned, e.g. major scale, harmonic minor scale etc) forms a fundamental, and extremely tedious, part of learning to play the standard keyboard. This constitutes a steep learning curve and frustrating barrier to attaining a reasonable level of keyboard fluency.

So, if you want to learn to play the standard keyboard, there is a very steep learning curve to gain even basic proficiency when it comes to navigating your way around the keyboard in terms of musical structure. For an idea of the myriad complexities of musical structure on the standard keyboard, the excellent website http://www.telacommunications.com/nutshell/ shows reference tables of chords and scales in each of the 12 keys on the standard keyboard. As with all guides of this types, these are all shown separately because there is little readily percievable consistency around which the myriad of elements can be organised.

The Balanced keyboard alternative
The basic problems of the standard keyboard as outlined above have led to various alternative keyboard designs over the years - see the Other designs section of this website. However, none have become a mainstream alternative to the standard keyboard. As well as the reason that they are non-standard in layout, feel and playability, and consequently people are wary of investing the time necessary to master them, they are also not readily available. The Balanced keyboard, on the other hand, has a similar layout, feel and playability to the standard keyboard, and is readily available - you can construct a Balanced keyboard by modifying a standard keyboard.

    Copyright (c) Bart Willemse 2003 - 2023. All rights reserved.