The purpose of this site is to focus on evaluating isomorphic layouts and visual feedback methods related to timing and consonance to improve instrument playability for new and experience users.
The research for this site is done primarily by Brett Park whom is a Ph.D student at the University of Regina, Canada and is also the CEO of Shiverware Interactive. Much of the research is done in and with the aRMADILo lab at the University. As well, Shiverware Interactive is a iOS app development company that publishes an isomorphic music playing app for iOS devices. The app named Musix allow for rapid creation of layouts and can be used played as a musical instrument.
Computerized musical instruments have been around for quite a few years, but the ability to give a user dynamic visual feedback on a playing surface (using a touch device such as an iPad) is relatively new. In order to develop competence playing traditional instruments such as a guitar or piano and new age instruments such as the Continuum Fingerboard, much time is spent learning scales, chords and music theory. These instruments provide feedback to the player in the form of audio and tactile feedback, but do not provide dynamic visual feedback to the player on the instrument surface. As well, they do not offer isomorphic layouts.
Isomorphic note layouts consist of a grid of hexagons or squares where the interval between notes is standardized in relation to surrounding notes. One major beneficial properties of an isomorphic layout is transpositional invariance; the ability to move a musical passage between keys without learning a new fingering or spatial relation. A number of isomorphic layouts have been developed in the past such as wick-hayden  and the harmonic layout . These layouts were based on individuals examination of what type of properties a "good" layout should have.
The main objective is to evaluate isomorphic note layouts and various visual feedback methods in relation to the barrier of entry for new musicians in creating new music as well as playing traditional scores. It is hypothesized that by utilizing an isomorphic note layout and by providing visual feedback to the player that learning time for playing the new instrument can be reduced significantly in relation to other instruments such as the piano. However, it is possible to generate many different layouts (over 500 given a two octave range for intervals using hexagon shaped notes) many of which don't contain all 12 notes of the chromatic scale. It is proposed that a formula and proof be developed to determine valid layout parameters that contain all 12 notes. The complete layouts will be tested for ease of playing by automated testing using a hand model and existing musical scores. This approach will yield a ranking for each of the layouts according to their suitability for western music. The top layouts will be validated with real subjects by having them play a score on several layouts and ranking the layouts according to their preference. As well, the comparison of musical scores according to layout preference may reveal new classification information about relations between scores.
Several types of visual feedback will also be researched and tested. One method is colour based feedback of consonance and dissonance. While the user is playing, the notes on the instrument will change between various colour shades to show their level of consonance in relation to the notes that are currently being sounded. It is theorized that the feedback will allow the player to make more conscious decisions on which notes they want to play without having to learn music theory. Another feedback method for showing consonance may be accomplished by utilizing a focus-plus-context based technique (from the thesis completed section) of providing the user with larger consonant notes and smaller dissonant notes in real time. A research study will be performed which will allow users to try different feedback options and rank them according to their preference.
- B. Hayden, “Arrangements of notes on musical instruments no. gb2131592,” British Patent office, Tech. Rep., 1986.
- P. Davies, “Method of and means for producing musical note relationships,” U.S. Patent 541507114-Aug.-1991.