The Janko Keyboard: Very Innovative Yet Oddly Unpopular

It took me years and years of training on the piano to get to a somewhat competent level. For basic technique, I had to learn 48 scales with 48 different fingerings (12 major, 12 natural minor, 12 harmonic minor, and 12 melodic minor scales). I also had to learn various arpeggios in all 12 keys. Add to that pentatonics, blues scales, and seven modes in seven different keys plus variations, and that’s a lot of work without even getting into playing some real music. While it probably is easy to read music using the traditional piano keyboard, it is hard work to get technique up to real good shape. No wonder why starting young is a good thing when learning the piano; it’s such hard work.

Why can’t the piano as we know it today be like the guitar where you can learn just one scale or chord shape yet be able to play that same scale or chord shape in all 12 keys? How I wish that the piano could be like the guitar in that aspect. It’s a good thing that some people thought it can be like that. Case in point, Paul Vandervoort demonstrates such a possibility in the video below:

Mr. Vandervoort here is playing an otherwise normal piano fitted with what is known as a Janko keybooard.  As explained in the video, such a keyboard has great benefits such as:

  1. Easy transposition:  Play a scale shape, chord, arpeggio, or melodic passage in all 12 keys.
  2. Reach intervals beyond an octave easily, even if you have small hands.

I find it odd that the Janko keyboard’s practical and ergonomically sound design was not enough to supplant the otherwise difficult traditional piano keyboard. Has centuries of traditional piano keyboard use shackled us pianists to the past that we find it hard to embrace the future?

If given a chance, I’d like to have a piano and a MIDI controller with a Janko Keyboard layout. That’s going to save me so much effort in the long run.

 

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