Continuous Keyboard

Anita Lillie's final project for MAS960: Principles of Electronic Music Controllers (Fall 2006)


I started with the goal of trying to make a scalable, continuous, play-anywhere keyboard. I built an interface in which the user activates lights, which in turn are mapped to sound.

The user wears a glove fitted with LEDs at the fingertips, which turn on when the user presses each finger onto the playing surface, within view of the camera. A Max/Jitter patch reads the incoming video stream, and outputs a note corresponding to the position and brightness of the lit LED.


Since I wanted my instrument to be "play-anywhere", I tried to keep the equipment necessary to a minimum. The connection between the controller and the computer is wireless (it's a camera!), and the surface is whatever is convenient.

Here's everything you need to play the instrument:

Control parameters & mapping

I intentionally kept the instrument mapping simple, so that the instrument is intuitive and accessible. Position (x-axis) maps to pitch; brightness maps to amplitude.

Video: position mapping -- three tones and glissando
Video: amplitude mapping -- brighter means louder

The volume/frequency control knobs allow the user to change those same parameters independently of finger movement, if desired.

Modes: Continuous and MIDI

Usually I play this instrument in "continuous mode", which means that I allow the user to play any frequency within the defined pitch range. However, I did also create a "MIDI mode" that maps the continuous pitches to MIDI notes, that are output to the FM7.

Video of MIDI mode

Cool effects

Future development


Tools / Peripherals

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