New TouchKeys Keyboard Mod Meets Classic CS-80 Synth Sounds

We recently covered a new Kickstarter project that promises to add multi-touch expression to existing keyboards, TouchKeys.

The TouchKeys are capacitive sensor overlays which attach securely to the surface of they keys of instruments with standard keyboards. When you play, the sensors measure the position and contact area of your fingers in real time. This information is sent back to your computer, where the TouchKeys software lets you control any instrument you like.

When we originally posted about TouchKeys, some Synthtopia readers were confused about how it would work with existing software synths. Others were unclear about the benefits of polyphonic aftertouch.

So TouchKey developer Andrew McPherson followed up to us with this new demo video that focuses on polyphonic aftertouch and classic synth sounds. “I think the Synthtopia community might like this particular application,” notes McPherson. 

The video shows the TouchKeys controlling classic analog style synth sounds, using polyphonic aftertouch with the Arturia CS80V plugin.

Not only can TouchKeys emulate the capabilities of the classic CS-80 keyboard, it can go well beyond it, putting both aftertouch and pitch control into every key. The sum is greater than the parts, because the TouchKeys exposes expressive capabilities of CS80V that most users can’t easily take advantage of. Check out the end of the video for an example.

Technical details on this demo are available at the project’s Kickstarter site. The project is currently about halfway to its fundraising goal.

12 thoughts on “New TouchKeys Keyboard Mod Meets Classic CS-80 Synth Sounds

  1. Excellent demo. The most exciting thing about this for me is that it requires some actual keyboard technique in order to bring out its best. It could be used in a more synth-y fashion, but fuller engagement always brings out more of the musician, so I hope it’ll get a few people to woodshed more. I like playing simple solo lines, but I get even more fired up when playing with both hands. This thing invites that. For me, that’s worth 20 clever boxes that are all buttons. Looks like a labor-of-love item, because it covers all of the bases.

  2. This is a very exciting project. The demo is great. I think this will be a very interesting way to increase the expressiveness of a whole range of instruments, but demonstrating it using the Arturia CS-80V emulation is a touch of class. Well done!

    Thinking also of the possibilities of this controlling Animoog, Nave, etc. as well.

    There’s a lot of potential here. Will be keeping a close eye on this project.


  3. This is a very interesting development.

    I would really like to see a manufacturer team up with McPherson to deliver a MIDI controller that has this capability built-in and which handle the MIDI mapping internally.

    1. I completely agree with your comment: the next step should be to develop a keyboard controller ready to use including the nice features shown in the video and too expensive. It would be an immediate:”Shut up and take my money!”… if you know what i mean 😉

  4. Indeed, finally a development where musician virtuosity is consciously in focus, and where they’ve made a demo showing what the technology is capable of!

    I would love to see this as a temporary add-on to all kinds of keyboards as well!

    The Moog Piano-bar has long since been discontinued, and this could be a very good alternative to it, as long as it can be added and removed to say a Steinway without damaging it, and without requiring too much effort.

  5. I wonder which major manufacturer will offer this on a new instrument first? It could become as common as the D-Beam if enough people get behind the playing technique. Its seductive, so it has a good chance. Besides, its a pretty minor physical modification, so I can foresee a point where its seen as economically viable on a larger scale. Super-emotive string, brass and woodwind stuff, here I come!

  6. Just adding my voice as to incredibly exciting this is. I only wish I still had my Chroma ( stolen).
    However, I would prefer not to have to use a computer. Maybe a simple interface box that would still allow to add it to most midi keyboards (as opposed to a new controller with built-in TouchKeys)?

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