TheoryBoard MIDI Controller Kickstarter Raises $1,000,000+

Irijule recently launched a Kickstarter project to fund the TheoryBoard Thy333, an updated version of their unique TheoryBoard MIDI controller.

The developers had a goal of raising $10,000 to support production of their unique MIDI controller. Instead, the Kickstarter project just topped $1,000,000 – 100 times their goal – with 8 hours left to go.

The unique feature of the TheoryBoard is that it’s a MIDI controller focused on demystifying music theory. The controller features a grid of square keys, where notes and scales are laid out in consistent patterns to make it easier to understand their relationships.

But while the TheoryBoard is designed to make musical relationships easy to see and play with, it also has a lot of features tailored to people that know some music theory.

Because the project blew past its fundraising goals, the developers have ‘unlocked’ a variety of additional features:

  • Performance mode (allows user to save chords in a designated area to recall for certain songs/performances)
  • Change color palettes
  • Bass mode (doubles notes so they can be played with rapid fire in tandem)
  • Arpeggiator (we already have a beta version of this)
  • Step sequencer (sequence chords AND/OR single notes)
  • Allow program changes via MIDI CC, NRPN, or single pads designated to individual MIDI channels
  • Change voicing, spread, or octave of singular chords instead of the whole set (and save them this way)
  • Different strum types besides up and down
  • Pitch/mod support on pads or touch screen
  • Juxtapose chords on both sides (same scale or not)… same with single notes (mix and match anything)
  • Support MIDI in via USB
  • Alternative spread function. Spread “root note” or “spread entire chord” (this gives big open voicings)
  • Turn off octave folding
  • Live note update automatically updates via MIDI IN when chords are played in the DAW
  • Latch key in menu. Press pad… latched… press again… unlatched
  • Drum kit mode
  • Live note update on own its own MIDI channel
  • Note Repeat Mode (similar to MPC)

Pricing and Availability

The TheoryBoard Thy333 is being funded via a Kickstarter project and is available to backers for $499 USD. As with other crowdfunding projects, the project has risks, which are detailed at the site, in exchange for giving backers ‘Early Bird’ pricing.

56 thoughts on “TheoryBoard MIDI Controller Kickstarter Raises $1,000,000+

  1. You know what is great for demystifying music theory? Take some piano lessons and study music theory! Everyone wants a shortcut. Music theory is not mystifying. You just have to put in some work to learn it.

      1. Funny to see so many people triggered that there is a solution for someone to get creative results easier. What about not wanting or being able to learn music theory? what about just being able to explore and create without having to suffer through something you are not interested in or maybe even capable of learning depending on your brain/personality. Hypocritical shit.

        1. Sampling others musicians beats, riffs, choruses and other ” great musical ideas” and letting machines give us chords, stuctures ,rhytmic ideas etc, etc. it’s NOT BEING CREATIVE.
          It’s more:
          ” I don’t have music inside me, so please please machine help to output something!”

          True creativity borns inside you and you just transpose those virgin ideas it with instruments (whatever they are).
          For me what is hypocritical is guys that even with all the technological help to make music, they make a shity song with zero originality and call themseves musicians or artists. There are some pretty well known and wealthy guys out there that fall in this category!!
          Reality is that people are getting lazy and working with less integrity and that is evident on the younger generations that prefer pushing a button and let the machine tell them what to do and in what order they can do it, they basically arrange/rearrange things and call it “Original composition”! Could you call yourself a writer if a software could give you a plot to choose, the name of the characters, 100 titles to choose from, 25 different endings and even could suggest you an infinity of ideas as you were developing your “original work”?
          I’m sure many of you would call themselves a writer, an artist, a creative guy!

          True artists like Prince, Stevie Wonder, Mike Oldfield, Philip Glass, Frank Zappa, Yes, Pink Floyd, Vangelis, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny… are just unicorns today!
          The first quality of an artist should be knowing if what he is doing is worth something! The problem is that it may take him 20 years to develop this skill!

          1. You make good points. However, where your argument falls apart is when you give examples of “true artists”. I’m not saying those artists and bands aren’t good or worthy of your adoration, but what is defined as true art is subjective– it is also MUCH MUCH broader than your own definition.

            Suppose a person who is a “true artist” did not spend “20 years developing this skill”. Suppose that person used a TheoryBoard to create an 10 song album that became one of your absolute favorite records of all time. Suppose it took you to places you had never been before. Would you care whether it was done through painstaking training, vs. painstaking craft? Would you care if the final product was the result of the whims of “yum and yuck” as a person pushed button after button?

            We can all decide for ourselves what we like, what moves us, what we are drawn to for inspiration. We can also decide for ourselves the path we choose for learning, tools and workflow.

            Fortunately for Art, neither of us gets to decide what is or isn’t True Art.

            1. Pushing buttons to make music is one thing! Pushing buttons that will make music for you (music that you would never be able to do without those buttons) and you to call it your own, that’s a complete different thing!
              True art is relative, a true artist is not, at least in my opinion!

              Anyway, is better to be surrounded by “buttons” than being surrounded by weapons!

    1. get off your high horse. i took many years of music theory in high school and through college, and if you’re threatened by technology, throw out your computer with which you’ve written this comment, and go walk to them and say your opinion in person, because cars are “cheating walking” and the mail is “cheating talking” and computers are “cheating living” so grow up and be mature about this. i’m so sick of traditional musicians giving innovation shit.

    2. This is as valid a way of arranging musical information as any other. I’m sure guitar and horn players looked down on early keyboarded instruments with skepticism, asking why notes had to be color coded and on different-size keys.

  2. Goal topped, unlocked extra features, fair enough, but good to know.

    As an earlybird expecting mine sooner, it’s very promising for the future, can’t wait !

  3. “it’s a MIDI controller focused on demystifying music theory.”
    How about some piano lessons? 😉
    you learn nothing pressing on a grid of squares.

    1. Meh… Personally I cannot wait for the piano to fall from it’s place as the defacto musical input interface. It’s old, it’s organized best for tempered western 12-note scales, and the same chord shapes have different physical hand shapes between keys (something guitarists don’t have to deal with… b5add9 chord in E and then to G? Sure, let me just move my whole hand up a few frets.)

      I am a piano player for 20 years. Ultimately, I think the world is in need of a musical interface which matches the era/style/zeitgeist. The piano/keyboard is not it. And personally I don’t think most of the flat-plane MPE devices are all that right for it either. I’d like to see a concept like the theory board become the method of construction for a more modern main musical composition tool.

      1. its a well tested interface that scored well in the test of time.
        its not gonna vanish 😉
        all these zeitgeisty interfaces are rubbish (its always made with people that cant play the piano in mind), because you cant transfer your muscle memory to an other interface.
        so learn the most common interface. 😉
        hold your hand a certain way and shift position to transpose is a very guitarist way of seeing the world. meh

      2. This thing doesn’t seem to make any attempt to break out of the 12-note system either. Actually, it seems to be mostly based around the concept of keeping notes and musical options that the developers don’t deem “fitting” for your chosen key out of sight so they don’t confuse you. Which yeah, I can see how that might make people get to familiar results quicker, but to me that put this more into the realm of a hardware arranging helper than an actual evolution in instrument design.

    2. maybe not, but you might have fun and make a musical breakthrough because this elitest concept is now blown wide open, and it’s a good sign because it’s got all the piano players angry. it’s fun to watch gatekeepers cry at new technology. i’ve had this happen to me before, and i’ve just moved on, an important economic theory, ignore sunk costs and move on.

    1. really? thats incredibly narrow-minded because you neglect every other instrument ever made and think piano is the only one… wow. grow up.

        1. I’m sure you also know that harmony and melody don’t live in separate rooms, and need not be played by separate limbs.

          And you also know that notes in a melody can suggest the harmonic structure by outlining chord notes as the chords progress. There are some melodies that suggest the chord movement so fully that they don’t require accompaniment. I’m not saying that’s the norm, but it does happen.

          People have played chords and melody at the same time on guitar forever. That’s one.

          People who play those chapman sticks play chords and melodies at the same time. That’s two (or maybe 1.5)

          People who play those push button accordions (no keyboard) also play melody and chords at the same time. That’s three.

          But more importantly, anyone can arrange music for multiple monophonic instruments, so your point is moot.

          I think the traditional piano keyboard is great. I’ve looked at lots of alternative keyboards and I’m obsessed with those concepts. The problem is that most of them seem to have significant drawbacks.

          A piano keyboard gives you quick & easy access to your first scales (C major, A minor). Then as you get comfy you start adding sharps or flats. It’s fine. Yes, you may want to learn 12 different scale shapes for 12 different keys. But now we have keyboards that transpose, so perhaps that helps for people who resist that more extensive training schedule.

          1. I think the point is that, on the piano, a single person can play two melodic progressions at the same time. I can’t think of many instrument that can do that. This makes the traditional piano keyboard an excellent interface for creative composition, visualization and learning.

            1. Agreed. It is of course limited by the size of the hand and the number of fingers.

              I’d add that a keyboard plus a breath controller might be the most natural and intuitive means of expressive playing we have in the synth world. Still can’t touch an actual acoustic wind instrument, but it’s more versatile.

    2. I beg to differ, seeing a huge influx of college degree programs completely focused on digital instruments. These are careers that do music but in new and interesting ways. Its 2020, just because things are digital or shaped different doesn’t make them any less valid. Music is as music does, don’t matter how you get there at all. Just get there 🙂

  4. Pre-sale: 1.9 billion combinations and no theory lessons?!?! Take my money!!!
    Post-arrival: Dude, this I-V-vi-IV combination is so DOPE! Now I can move it up and down in pitch!
    Fanboy Review: Cheaper than going to Berklee, and the colored lights double as stage effects when I’m acting like I’m doing something. I literally can’t make a mistake! It’s the biggest adrenaline rush ever! Best $500 I ever spent.

    2021 Definition of Musician: person who bobs head and/or pumps fist in air while babysitting the music-creating AI interface.

      1. Not possible! Bunched panties are a thing of the past!

        With my magic music machine I can never do anything wrong!

        Just bobbin’ and pumpin’, man. Bobbin’. And. Pumpin’.

    1. i went to school for jazz theory, and let me tell you, nothing i’ve ever learned was more stale, formulaic and dead than jazz/music theory, if this makes people think fresh, then so be it. there are always a bunch of idiots who think they can be avicii, but then there is don buchla, who broke all the rules, pissed everyone off, and said “i believe in something” and made history. grow up.

    2. Exactly what was said about sequencers, patch memories, syncing LFOs, arpeggiators, sampling, MPC-style sequencing etc. etc. etc.

      I’ve been making electronic music nearly 25 years, first learned keys by taking piano lessons for years, love theory, and every single innovation in note entry and sequencing has been greeted with hoots of derision from keyboard fetishists..Already play keyboard? The same people say no, unweighted keyboards are no good, it’s got to be an 88 key weighted hammer action or you’re not a *real* keyboard player. And so on. I’ve noticed these keyboard wizards tend not to like knob-twirling during play at all, patches are meant to be fully pre-programmed other than occasional flourishes with the pitch bend, mod wheel, or expression pedals.

      It’s OK, keyboard people. There are many keyboard offerings and they are not going away any time soon. This product is not for you.

  5. There is a tendency to completely over-estimate the meaning of music theory in western societies, especially by those who spent much time and money studying it. Piano lessons are just one of many ways to spend time with music. The piano is just one of hundreds of thousands of instruments. And western music theory only covers a small fraction of the worlds musical traditions and knowledge. On the large scale, academic music is merely a niche. So relax, enjoy your music and let people have fun with their instrument.

    1. a lot of world music is rather simple structured
      like pentatonic
      or more notes per octave but no harmony – drone and melody aka raga
      no secret knowledge to be found here
      western theory knows little about timbre and rhythm …

  6. Wanted it badly, but with the current situation I had to rethink about it, and finally decided to get off the boat… sad. Maybe in the near future.

  7. I think it’s a cool learning gadget… But music theory is not mystifying. It’s just like learning a language, and this Theory Board is more like an interactive dictionary.

    Personally I don’t see the point, but some will.

    1. if music theory was anything, it removed the musician from the music. i stopped playing traditional instruments because i was taking music theory classes, and if anything they told me a “right” way to play music? what are you, crazy? music is about expression, jazz was created out of a raw open need by artists to express themselves and they imprinted music with who they were and what their lives were like. i hate classic music theory because theres then a “right” way to play music, and i left playing trumpet for 12 years because i found the mind of people like moog buchla and serge and found out i dont have to follow anything except my heart when playing music, and guess what? it doesnt sound like pots and pans falling down stairs, white noise, or “ambient jams” it sounds like me.

      1. Sounds like you had bad teachers.

        My teachers taught me all about music theory to learn vocabulary, and to learn the “right way”. But then they taught me, “you know how to do it right, now break that way apart and make it sound cool”. So in the end music theory ended up just being vocabulary meant for analysis (why something sounds that way, and to copy/improve if you like) and for musicians to be in more or less the same page.

        1. When I was young and first teaching myself to write music on an OG EPS-16, I used to think, “Screw music lessons and music theory. They’ll try to tell me I’m doing it the wrong way, blah, blah, blah.” Then, I decided to take a few classes at the local Junior college only to discover that, from a western temperament perspective, I was in fact already writing things the ‘right way’!

          This was an absolute revelation to me, and I have never looked at learning the same way. Since that time, I have lived by the believe that, anything worth doing takes hard work and dedication. It’s been 25-30 years since then, and I still enjoy learning the fundamentals of music theory and its application in my musical endeavors.

          IMO, learning how to do things the ‘right way’ can vastly improve your ability to do things ‘your way’. Understanding the fundamentals of something like music theory will only help you get the ideas out of your head and into the machine of your choosing!

          Now, if we can just apply this logic to modern web application development! Everybody just wants to copy and paste, or ‘grab a package’. You still have to have people to MAKE the packages…

  8. So lovely to hear from all those piano players. I play bagpipes. I’ve played for 30 years. I also like to combine my bagpiping with synths , ok I know that’s weird but hey. So here’s the thing, while I could go and get piano lessons so I can access all the cool stuff in Ableton via a piano style keyboard I’m interested in exploring a range of ideas, and tools that allow me to to that in ways that help me to push at what I think is doable works for me. Personally I don’t think I’ll be getting this as I find push is a great tool to work with but using tools like this is not necessarily about wanting short cuts or being lazy.

    1. Ummm…

      1) piano lessons and studying theory are not the same thing
      2) if you’ve played a diatonic instrument for 30 years, you must realize that your music is written in one unaltered key and its related modes; a study of chromatic theory might not be the best use of your time anyway if you are exclusively writing for bagpipe and synth ensemble
      3) regarding the above, the majority of the 1.9 billion combinations available on this will not suit your diatonic instrument
      4) the unique selling point of this controller is literally that it is a shortcut to using theory

  9. If this wasn’t marketed as a “music theory” device, but rather as a device that allows one to exploit “structures” it might be less controversial.

    There are quite a few products out there that allow you to generate/explore diatonic scales & chords in a pre-fab, turn-key kind of way. That’s fine.

    What is paradoxical about this product is that it could appeal both to people who want to learn theory and those who want to avoid it.

    I do hope this device has some “growing room” built into it. It would be great to see the ability to create custom tuning systems, custom scales within that tuning system, custom chord systems, and other similar capabilities. This would enhance the creative potential, so that new sounds could be explored.

  10. Oh no, now all the noob producers with 0 knowledge will know the secrets of 7th chords. I spent 10000€ and 20 years of piano music theory to get that knowledge. Cheaters

  11. all the people who think their piano lessons are sunk costs that they now have to defend arent thinking straight and need to get a life, this device is just another way to work with harmonic theory and it’s a clever idea, i took 10 years of jazz theory from middle school thru college at eastman school of music, but this is just what it is, A NOVEL IDEA.

    also, as a person who likes economic theory, YOU CANT GET SUNK COSTS BACK, so get over the fact that you spent years memorizing things on a piano keyboard and understand that if people get the power to work with the same tools you have but with a much lower barrier to entry, GET AWAY FROM THE GATE YOU’RE TRYING TO KEEP AND LET PEOPLE MAKE MUSIC.

    what i DO have a problem with is all these damn kickstarters. I GET IT, you have to raise funds, but i’ve been hearing about this thing for so long and it’s being advertised like a long time product, but it’s probably going to be a year before i can order one if i’m lucky!

  12. please change the colors of the LEDS, i know i’m being superficial but that flourecent tinge of 2011 needs to end, it looks as bad as a gaming desktop from 2015 or like the horrible colors of my arturia 2s,or some of my novation stuff, can we please design some more natural lights? amybe im just old.

  13. I have been a drummer for 25 years. Personally I’m really excited to have a device which will make Harmony as accessible to me as percussion. My lifetime of study in rhythm has enabled me to have a deep sense of music but my lack of education in harmony has always held me back from writing songs. I am studying music theory and have begun to have a grasp on it, but does that mean I’ll be able to track my own guitar or piano? Their both beasts of instruments to learn. Hopefully a tool like this will help.

    Remember guys, there are only 8 notes in a diatonic scale but there are 16(factorial) 16th note rhythmic combinations in a measure and that number doubles every bar.

    1. There are only 7 notes in diatonic scales. And there are other ways to divide a beat besides 16th notes. While we’re at it, your measures don’t have to have 4 beats in them, either.

  14. Do people get bent out of shape about the harp? Or about the handpan? Or harmonica? Or any of the other diatonic instruments which make it easier to let go of concentration and focus on the act of making music? This is just a diatonic instrument which lets you change keys at the push of a button. It’s like a handpan with chords. What’s not to like? It’s not going to replace or even threaten the guitar or piano, just like the handpan doesn’t. It’s just going to be a really fun way to create without stress or even the need for understanding, just exploring and playing. It’s probably not going to allow anyone to redefine music, but it might make it easier to harmonize a vocal melody while you are trying to sing something heartfelt. I’m excited!

  15. The great thing about devices like this are the pure inspirations that can come from them.

    I’ve been playing music and learning theory for years, but after getting home from a long day at work and sitting down at a keyboard…my brain is so full of mush and I am so dreadfully tired I just can’t develop anything interesting through traditional means. I sit, play through chords…yet my soul is a barren wasteland which does not bode well for making music.

    However, if I cue up something like this, and start to putz about…suddenly something strikes and I’m taken over and possessed by a musical idea I would have never come up with in a state like that and I’m off to the races expanding on that idea.

    At the same time, it”s very easy to get lost in a sea of parameters. Some of my own custom max patches do nothing but splatter notes and chords all over the place at random, but within selected key/scale. Simple and straight forward.

    This may be overkill for the “get inspired” types.

    1. Your comment hit home for me man. I’m a ‘classically trained’ guitarist and have studying music for 2 decades, but after 8-10 hours crunching computer code at my day job, sometimes it feels like I’m trying to pull inspiration from a dry well. Tools like this can certainly help get one in the right mindset to create.

  16. Music Theory can be a blessing and/or a curse.

    Creativity is possible in work environments with great freedom, but it is also possible where there are limitations. People with vast knowledge won’t necessarily feel like they have vast options, and people with little or no knowledge might not realize how limited their creative vocabulary is. In either case, wonderfully expressive creative work is certainly possible.

    Some people thrive when the “stomping ground” is wide and allows for happy accidents. Some people thrive when the “work area” is well organized, clean and labeled.

    A device like this places a limitation on the creative output by removing the “dangerous” notes. So you can choose a scale, and play with the diatonic chords of that scale, and have all the risk removed. I think people could still make “good sounding” music. I expect it will even be gratifying for someone who struggles to play in different keys, etc.

    This device in its current state probably won’t produce “ground breaking” music. But it is still a worthwhile device for many types of creative music makers.

  17. By chance, I have just been reading about the Amstrad/Fidelity CKX 100 from 1989. It has “playright” mode, which reassigns the keyboard so that it plays notes that are pentatonic around the accompaniament key. At the time it was derided, because even the notes that _are_ in the key are reassigned to different notes. The micro-music review by Colin Cat is amusing. But maybe it was ahead of its time — it had multichannel midi output, for example.

    Maybe if Lord Sugar had persisted with the idea he’d have invented the keystep or theoryboard. (I imagine that the commercial property business is a nightmare in this era of working from home.)

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