New Keyboard Design, DODEKA, Promises A More Rational Approach To Music Education & Performance

Developer Josua Rochat has introduced DODEKA – a new approach to music notation and instruments that’s designed to be logical and easy to learn.

The system, created by Rochat’s father Jacques-Daniel Rochat, uses a new style of notation, in which all twelve semitones of an octave are considered as full and equal notes, and all notes have a consistent position, regardless of the octave. 

These two examples demonstrate how the chromatic scale, starting on C, is notated:

Traditional Notation:

DODEKA Notation:

No sharps or flats are needed in DODEKA notation. C is always the bottom and top note of the staff, so so there’s no need to learn multiple staffs. In addition, the spatial relationships between pitches are consistent, so the ‘shape’ of a chord is the same in all keys.

In addition to introducing the system, Rochat has launched a Kickstarter project to fund production of several new instruments, also designed to be logical and consistent in the way notes are organized.

In the DODEKA keyboard layout, all notes are equally spaced, so playing a scale or chord in any key uses the same fingering:

Pricing and Availability

The DODEKA keyboard is available in several forms, with a portable roll-up keyboard available to backers for about US $148 and a full-size keyboard available for about $1,267. See the project site for details.

45 thoughts on “New Keyboard Design, DODEKA, Promises A More Rational Approach To Music Education & Performance

  1. So the C, the E, and the gis look the same. Great, huh?
    I don’t know who this is for, someone who never played piano?
    I also don’t see a point in learning on this, because afterwards you still can’t play the usual piano keys …

    1. It also doesn’t teach you to be able to read standard notation.
      Great education huh? Yeah I can now speak and read Swedish what do I need English for. 😉
      Don’t do this to your kids!

  2. 1. this notation doesn’t provide a clear way of knowing note durations. i’m sorry to say that this is a huge problem for learning anything that is not rhythmically very simple. For instance, it would be hard to distinguish a dotted eighth from a triplet. Same issue for rests.

    2. this notation looks similar to the one that came out 900 years ago by guido di arezzo

    3. i played with the keyboard a bit (after judging obviously) – – I do have to admit that it’s very fast and i could see it being useful for somebody with no musical background, who doesn’t want to learn any information and just play something

  3. I, for one, welcome this kind of innovation. As a long-time teacher, there are many things that are inefficient about our system of notation and our piano keyboard; both with pitch and with rhythm. The keyboard layout, while clever, doesn’t suit my hands especially well. I can’t always fit my fingers between adjacent black keys. The fact that our notation system is widely used and widely accepted shouldn’t prevent people from building new systems from the ground up.

    As for education, I do think it would be a bit irresponsible to teach a kid this alternate method and not teach them standard notation. However, in my music classes we often had discussions about the annoying features of our standard notation and looked at alternatives to see if they were simpler. Looking at alternatives is a great way to help students understand which aspects of music are “elementary” and then explore different ways we can organize and communicate those elements.

    f you develop an alternate notation system, we are almost at a point where standard notation could be quickly converted to a different type of notation.

    The devil is in the details (tDiitD?), though, so it would be worthwhile to see if this is a random concept from one person, or if some more extensive research was done to find the most effective notation & keyboard layout.

    1. May the intentions be noble, the marketing clearly isn’t professional.
      “The coolest thing with this notation is that all the absurd signs of music theory simply – sharp, flat, and so on – disappear!”
      If I want to teach somebody an instrument who isn’t into notation, what sense does it make to use just another kind of notation? Wouldn’t ear training be much more helpful in such a case?

      1. I see what you’re saying but I think the use of professional, meaning in your context conforming with the status quo, is problematic. Western notation is very tied into archaic obsolete notions and is quite horrific and inelegant. It’s basically, trashy and counterproductive. Like the qwerty keyboard though, which only the ignorant continue to use, it has incredible traction amongst those who simply can’t advance with the times because they are stuck in the past. Now this notation may not be the end point, but it is certainly and in every way an improvement on the obsolete notation taught. And humans are flexible. A student learning an alternative logical notation is certainly going to be able to learn a bad historical notation as well if they choose to do so later. So it’s not a big deal really.

        For me, the notation I find best is the piano roll in my sequencer, which is pretty close to this. I also speak western notation, including its historical antecedents such as puntcus and neumes. But I also recognize these notations are not all that great, a concept a lot of fundamentalists have trouble comprehending since they believe that whatever they are first presented with, whether religion, food, or music notation, must be the best that is possible.

  4. To communicate with fellow musicians and band members you’ll always have to use their language: traditional notation and chord names.
    However one is never to old to learn another language and find that some things can be expressed so much more clearly. I.m.o this is a very useful and high level extension to traditional notation. I’ll probably not go as a backer for a keyboard, but I’m very likely to start using this notation. If only because it largely simplifies what we currently have, and by that introduces room for possible extensions (thinking of MPE).

    And by nature the Dodeka notation, or anything similar, is the best suited for the equal tempered tuning system. By nature it is also best suited for instrument physical layout, looking at how the hammers and strings are organized in a piano.

    1. MPE and notation is going to get funny 😉
      So you play a layer of two sounds and swipe up and down to mix them
      How would you like to have that notated?

  5. few possible issues I’m sure the creator is aware of… Unless you make the keys mini-keys like the clunky wood prototype it will be difficult for many people, including children, to span an octave or more. It also might make it more difficult to play efficiently version the traditional keyboard the way it’s laid out. The traditional keyboard is amenable to the natural shape/position of the hand…. there’s a reason it’s been like that for hundreds of years.. natural selection won over… someone probably tried a keyboard like that a gazillion years ago.

  6. I fully agree with MH that without clear note durations in the notation, it’s useless.

    The PROS of traditional notation– provides a simple entry with key C/Am notes, backwards compatible with earlier music, shows scales in a single key as a simple ramp of notes, efficiently requires mastery of scales to keep notation uncluttered, flexible wrt rhythms. CONS: rhythmic terminology refers to 4 beats as “whole” unit, can get messy with lots of accidentals, steep learning curve, conceptual bar for entry to high for many.

    The above staff shows an octave of chromatic notes from C to C, that is simply not enough range to do much. You would need 3 of them to equal a grand staff. Close notes in chords would be a similar $#!+ pile to what they are now.

    Traditional notation won’t go anywhere for a LONG LONG time, but let’s keep going to the drawing board to see where we can make improvements.

    Pulling 12 different diatonic scales from a 12-tone Equal Temperament and expressing complex rhythms is no small task. It will take clever thought and some out-of-the-box thinking.

    1. There is precisely zero evidence that their notation does not encode note duration. This entire thread, unless its premise is somehow verified, is absurdist speculation spreading fear uncertainty and doubt. And that is propaganda.

        1. Max my friend, I appreciate your contribution. Please direct where exactly on their website are they claiming that their notation does not encode note duration? I am happy to be corrected.

  7. It’s a great idea to reinvent the piano. But I think this version is kind of hard to play because a scale is played like a triad on a standard piano. Instead I would reorganize the traditional keys so that there is always a white and a black key after each other (no two whites). By learning two scales (one starting from a white key the other from a black) you know them all. Technically this is like playing the whole tone scale (not that hard). And triads are like a +5 chord. This could easily be adapted to a grand piano.

    1. I agree, Mika. That type of layout makes quite a bit of sense– ergonomically. The only hitch will be knowing where you are– in the dark, or if you are vision impaired. But when I imagine playing that way, it is easy for me to picture and wouldn’t be too much of a switch from a traditional keyboard.

  8. I just watched the vid and looked at the examples. Duration is done with relative bar lengths, some ties, and a hollow point to show a whole note. This is a bit like some tablature where rhythms are learned by ear. I didn’t see anything in the examples about more complex rhythms or chords. This system does seem good for beginners, but it is a double-edged sword, as it will prevent their access to the existing community (at least in the short-term).

    On one hand, the vid makes a few valid points, but also makes some claims that are over-the-top.

    But I do agree with the belief that perhaps some great musicians were blocked at the entry door, because notation was more difficult for them. I teach lots of beginners who struggle with notation. Some would rather quit than learn to read. We work around it. Perhaps they will circle back, but we use alternative means as long as we can.

  9. I don’t know, this is such a weird combination anyway,
    A new unpractical keyboard and a new notation that’s worse than what’s already there.
    No one asked for this.
    Won’t make it I guess.

    1. The notation is totally shit,
      i can’t read that without glasses.
      What’s bad about the on the line/above the line thing?!?
      Not much thought went into this.

      1. I also don’t understand what’s so hard to understand about the b and the pound?
        One key down one key up.
        A 5 year old can understand this. 😉

  10. BTW. What’s with the obsession about this “so playing a scale or chord in any key uses the same fingering”
    I don’t know about you but
    The chord will sound different in any key anyway, why use the same guesture for different sounds?

  11. it’s nice that there is alot of debate about “correct” notation. personally, i try to avoid making claims about what music is or the correct way of playing and notating it.

    theres some +s and -s i thought of:

    i like how if you are in the key of C, you have the 4th and 5th scale degrees lined up nicely with the staff lines.

    however if you’re not in C then it can get very complicated to see intervallic relationships as a clear pattern. in fact the typical western staff notation is meant to help with this through key signatures.

    that said, why should a beginner system even show all 12 pitches when the majority of anglophone popular music only uses the major scale?

    re: the rhythm stuff, i think what i wrote above was clear – anyway, it would be interesting to try out a notation system that combined bar lengths (which are intuitive for me as a producer) and note flags/stems (which are necessary for finer details)

  12. Also, this thing isn’t accessible to visually impaired people – you always have to look at the keys.
    That’s what made the piano so successful. With all its archaic implications, as Rabid Bat would say.

    1. Funny, though with this particular topic, there is one widely accepted standard. Works very well, but for some it is a prohibitive learning curve,

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