Building An Alternative MIDI Controller

Lately I have been thinking about, playing and working on an alternative piano keyboard as proved by my previous articles:
Ode For Ada, Galactic Overload and Note Layouts For An Alternative Piano Keyboard.
This article deals with the stages I have been through while building one.
I have already mentioned Keenan Pepper’s
video as the starting point for this experiment, so I started disassembling a M-Audio Keystation 61es.

Unscrewing the lid and disconnecting the multi pin connectors was easy. The first challenge was how to remove the springs that keep the keys on the right position. After a few tries I found a different method than Pepper’s one.


(click the image to watch the movie)

Once the springs were removed I could take keys off the keybed. White ones must come off first.
Once the keybed is empty it is time to build the new key layout. Even if you already had a plan, once you start putting keys together you may realize that somehow your plans were wrong!


(click the image to watch the movie)

For my first note layout, the one used for Ode For Ada, I realized I had to sand a few keys in order to fit them on the keybed.


(click the image to watch the movie)

I had really never paid much attention to the fact that the shape of each of the 7 white keys of a piano is slightly different.
While working on this project I also realized I needed more keys.
I found a keybed with keys and everything else of a non functioning Keystation 61es for a few Euro!


You can see from the above picture that there are large spaces between keys, on the modified keyboard, because I had sanded many of them for my previous note layout but now I had an extra set of regular keys so I proceeded substitutying many of them in order to build my second layout.


(click the image to watch the movie)

This second layout has the advantage that 7 out of 9 white keys, per repeating module, don’t need to be sanded. You can notice them on the picture below because they are gray instead of white (they look like keys F to E of a regular keyboard). Only the first 2 keys of each module need to be made thinner as already explained on a previous article.