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TouchKeys: expressive multi-touch sensing on the piano keyboard

TouchKeys is a new musical instrument transforming the piano-style keyboard into an expressive multi-touch control surface. 

The TouchKeys are touch sensors that can be added to the surface of any keyboard, measuring the location of the fingers while retaining the familiar keyboard action. 

TouchKeys lets you add vibrato, pitch bends, timbre changes and other expressive effects to your playing, just by moving the fingers on the key surfaces. 

The TouchKeys are thin sensor overlays that attach to any standard-sized keyboard. Each key uses capacitive touch sensing — the same technology used in smartphones and trackpads — to precisely measure the location of each finger touching the keyboard. Because the TouchKeys attach to an existing keyboard, they retain the familiar keyboard shape and action while enabling new expressive playing techniques.

Here are a few of the main features:

High Resolution

The sensors measure over 1500 points of resolution on the long axis of each key and 256 points on the narrow axis. That’s sub-millimetre accuracy!

Low Latency
The sensors are measured every 5 milliseconds for a natural, low-latency interaction.

Intuitive Mappings
Mappings between touch and sound are designed to be there when you need them and stay out of your way when you don’t. Mappings are fully customisable.

Your Keyboard, Your Size
The sensors fit any keyboard with full-sized keys, from a 2-octave portable keyboard to a 97-key Boesendorfer Imperial Grand piano. Choose from Classic or Inverted colouring.

XY Position
Every key, white or black, senses the horizontal and vertical position of the finger. (The narrow part of the white keys senses on the long axis only.).


Each key measures up to 3 touches, enabling new multi-finger techniques on the keyboard.

Contact Area
Contact area measurement distinguishes between the tip and the pad of the finger, which can be used as an additional control dimension.

Connected and Compatible

TouchKeys works with any MIDI synth or instrument, software or hardware. Connect TouchKeys to your computer (Mac, Windows, Linux) or choose the optional standalone hardware kit. 

 Touchkeys started as Kickstarter in 2013 and raised £46,682 of their £30,000 goal. 

TouchKeys is based on research by Andrew McPherson in the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London. You can find more information about the technology behind TouchKeys, including links to research papers, on Andrew’s research website.

Touchkeys recently joined the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) and is participating in prototyping the next generation protocol being worked in the MMA.