23 June 2008

SNAMM2008: C-Thru Axis Update

Got a chance to check out the C-thru Axis.  At first, I was underwhelmed.  The buttons are tiny, the layout seems cryptic (initially).  However, I stuck with it for a few minutes and started finding myself comping with my left hand and playing melodies with my right.  In short, it went from immediately intimidating to very interesting rather quickly.  After a few days with this, I'm certain I could develop a new keyboard style completely unlike my "standard" keyboard vocabulary.

I think I need some visual aids to truly explain this.  Check out the chart up above.  Start with a key.  A key up takes you up a perfect 5th, a key down a perfect 4th down.  Up and to the right is a major 3rd up, up to the left is a minor 3rd. Down to the right steps down a minor 3rd; down to the left is goes down a major 3rd.  If you run your finger up and to the left in a line, you'll create the continuous run of all three diminished chords.  (Dizzy Gillespie's favorite trick for flying through hard changes involved running the diminished chords, by the way!)

The best way I can explain this is as a fretboard for keyboardists.  The same note appears in multiple places on the board.  As the Axis can be split into zones, you could get guitar-similar control with three similar patches and get a very guitar-like subtle change in tonality.

As you can see, there are a lot of interesting possibilities with this.  Unfortunately, as C-thru builds these entirely in the UK, they can't bring the price point down where they would like it to be.  Combine this with the weak dollar and strong Euro, they are sold for $1800ish in the US.  However (you knew there had to be good news) the good folks at C-thru had a smaller USB prototype with them.  Same thing only smaller.  They showed it with a laptop running Reason.  They are hoping to have these available in early Fall and run them for about $500!  I may have to put some aside for this!

Thanks to Jacqueline for all her help.  

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