Getting started with the Dodeka keyboard
Here you will discover what is the Dodeka keyboard and learn how you can quickly and easily play sheet music with this new piano keyboard.
1. The Dodeka keyboard for beginners
Read on to learn more about Dodeka innovative keyboard, discover how easy it is to read and play sheet music, and learn how you can experience the joy of making music straightaway with this new keyboard.
1.1 What’s the Dodeka keyboard?
The Dodeka keyboard is a new musical keyboard that looks very much like a piano keyboard but it is not quite one. Similar to conventional pianos, it displays a musical interface in the form of a keyboard and a series of keys (or semitones) that are to be pressed to produce sounds. What makes it different though is the way it arranges its keys. In fact, whereas conventional piano keyboards display an irregular layout with upper (black) and lower (white) keys, the Dodeka keyboard displays a consistent and regular keyboard layout. In this layout all keys are set in a straight linear fashion, all at the same level.
Dodeka keyboard vs piano keyboard
On the Dodeka keyboard, there’s only one row of keys. The semitones progression is linear and chromatic.
1.2 A new musical keyboard layout
In this linear configuration, all keys have the same shape and size. Compared to conventional pianos, the keys on the Dodeka keyboard are thinner and look very much like the black keys of a piano. While this might look a bit weird at first sight, there is a specific reasons for such a key design. While conventional piano keyboard have two rows to put 12 keys, the Dodeka layout only has one row. So to keep both the same octave width and a high playability level, the keys on the Dodeka layout are adjusted to create small gaps between the keys, which prevent you from accidentally pressing adjacent keys. This way the playability of the keyboard is kept.
Dodeka keyboard layout
Additionally, the Dodeka keyboard displays a visual guide. Specifically, the keyboard highlights a pattern of three keys with respectively black, red and blue colours. (For the musician in the audience, these keys refer to to C, E, G# note - but this isn’t really important as you’ll see). This pattern is reproduced throughout the keyboard. Why such a colourful pattern you might wonder? It is to create visual cues for the players, which are particularly important and useful when reading sheet music as you will see next.
Now that we are familiar with the look of the Dodeka keyboard design, let’s see how we can read and play sheet music on this keyboard.
2 Reading and playing sheet music with Dodeka notation
As you probably know (or perhaps that’s totally new to you - it’s fine either way), The Dodeka keyboard was created in parallel to an alternative music notation: the Dodeka music notation.
The Dodeka notation is an alternative music notation intended to simplify music notation, so as to make musical expression more accessible to everyone. Over the years, we noticed that for most people music notation and sheet music were a stumbling block when learning to play their musical instrument. So, we came up with this alternative notation to specifically fix this issue. So here are the fundamentals of Dodeka music notation to read and play scores with the Dodeka keyboard.
2.1 The basics of Dodeka music notation
There are basically three elements you need to know about the Dodeka music notation. First, it writes music on a four-lines staff with 12 notes in the form of rectangular shapes.
Second, these twelve notes are arranged on the staff according to four positions. The notes either go on the lines, above the lines, between the lines and below the lines.
Third, all the notes keep their position no matter the octave.
And bonus, there are no more flat, sharp or any sorts of annoying accidentals.
That’s all you need to know.
The Dodeka staff and its 12 notes
Here’s how the four-line staff looks like with its twelve notes.
To read the notes on this notation you basically have to check where the notes are placed according the four lines of the staff. In other words, you have to see whether the notes are, above, below or between what line. And to make this process even simpler, the lines have different colours: respectively black, red and blue from the bottom. This way you don’t confuse the lines.
(Quick tip: keep that in mind that is going to be useful.)
That’s basically it. Shall we continue?
(If you feel you’d need a bit more information about our alternative music notation. Feel free to make a quick detour on the Dodeka music notation web page.)
2.2 Identifying the notes on the Dodeka keyboard
Created specifically for the Dodeka alternative music notation, the Dodeka keyboard provides an intuitive and simple interface to sight-read sheet music. The secret for this great feature? A visual link between the notes you read and the keys you play. This doesn’t really help you much we reckon, so let’s see what this really means. As explained earlier, the Dodeka keyboard displays a visual guide on its linear key configuration, where every four keys is highlighted with either black, red or blue colours. See the pattern of every four key.
The Dodeka keyboard layout and its visual guide
But wait a second…
Doesn’t it look familiar to something we’ve just seen? Yes, it does.
It does ring a bell because it is actually the exact same thing as the four-line structure of the notation we’ve just seen. This very guide or pattern is in fact the visual representation of the Dodeka music notation structure. The only difference though is that it is represented vertically, while the notation presents it horizontally.
The Dodeka keyboard layout and the Dodeka notation staff structure
As you can see on the below image the four coloured keys represents the four line of the staff with a 90-degree twist.
Since the keys on these visual cues refer to the four lines, the keys in-between refer to the notes we write in-between the notation lines (basically, the above, below- and between-the-lines notes as seen above).
So how do you play? It’s very simple. You basically transfer the position of the notes you read from the notation to the keyboard. And you do that using the visual guide on the keyboard. It is as simple as that.
No brain processing or cognitive workload, reading and playing notes becomes a true recognition game. Let’s take three examples to prove it to you.
2.3 Reading notes: example 1
In this example, we see that the note (i.e. the rectangular shape) is on the second line the red one. So, knowing that the keyboard is the mere reflection of the notation, we know that that we have to press the red key on the keyboard as the note is right on the line.
Spot on! That’s the right one!
Let’s move to another example.
2.4 Reading notes: example 2
In this example, the note is not quite exactly on the first line. See, it touches the line from above, but is not entirely on the line (in comparison to the previous example). The note is therefore above the black line.
(Remember the visual cues on the keyboard refer to the four lines of the staff with a 90-degree rotation.)
Following this principle, we know that we have to press the key right after the black key, that is to say, the one that is above.
2.5 Reading notes: example 3
In this last example, the note doesn’t touch any lines. This means that it is actually between lines. When we look more carefully we can see that that it lies between the red and blue lines. With very few effort, we know what key to play on the keyboard: we have to play the key that is between the red and blue keys.
You are now good to play your first song.
2.6 Play your first song
Want to read and play your first songs on the Dodeka keyboard? Try the Dodeka keyboard interactive app.
(Quick hint: it’s quite easy.)
3 Learning fundamentals with the Dodeka keyboard
If you understood all of the above, you basically understood everything you need to know to play music on the Dodeka keyboard.
Ok, we reckon there are definitely other aspects of music notation that you should learn to grasp musical subtleties and become a great artist. But you can be proud of yourself, because you did learn a big chunk of it and hopefully it wasn’t that difficult.
In the next sections, we will quickly cover some of the most important aspects of music we think are important to build up your musical skills with the Dodeka keyboard. Precisely, we’ll look at musical rhythm and how to play with your left hand. Stay around if you want to learn more about how to master your Dodeka keyboard.
3.1 Playing musical rhythm
If you want to become a good pianist or great keyboardist, no matter what you do, you will have to learn the concept of musical rhythm. So here’s a quick introduction.
Rhythm is the placement of sound within a time reference. If anything, it is what differentiates a classical piece to an electronic dance music song. It can be very different from pieces to pieces. So you better know how to read it and reproduce it when playing a score.
There are basically two main elements to remember when learning rhythmic expressions: note duration and musical beat.
On Dodeka sheet music (and more generally in the Dodeka music notation) note duration is described in visual and graphical terms. As notes are represented through rectangular shapes, their duration is conveyed through their length. The longer a note is, the longer it should last. (It’s similar to what you can find on sequencer software). Following this principle, quarter notes being the reference, half notes are twice longer, whole notes four times bigger, eighth notes half the size and so on.
Dodeka notation duration vs conventional note duration (reference table)
Then there is the musical beat to take into consideration. A beat is the basic unit of time, which in a way sets the pulse of the piece. This pulse (or the recurrence of beats within a piece) refers to the musical tempo and is often indicated at the beginning of the piece in a beat per minute format. The reference note, usually next to the tempo indication, defines the time value of the beat.
At the score level, beats are arranged in measures (or bars) and should be read and played as group units. The number of beat per measure is expressed in meter and is indicated at the beginning of the piece.
Example of note duration on sheet music
All those rhythm information as usually shown at the beginning of the piece (see image below). So, next time you are in front of a sheet music, make sure to check those information if you want to play the piece the way it was imagined by its author.
If you want to go further into the topic of musical rhythm, chapter two of our music book extensively covers the subject. You can download a free pdf copy here.
3.2 Playing with your left hand
Pretty much like conventional sheet music, Dodeka piano notation displays two staves, in which the top staff is usually for the right hand (higher notes) and the bottom one for the left hand (lower notes). Although very similar to what you can find on conventional sheet music, there’s a difference with Dodeka notation and it’s quite a big one.
While conventional notation uses clefs to describes different staves, Dodeka doesn’t make any difference. Instead, it considers the scores or staves as being part of the same sound range and thus being connected. This means that the notes progression on the staff is the same no matter whether it is played on the upper or the lower staff. In other words, the reading principle we described above applies to every staff throughout the musical range.
To underline the difference between the notes that are to be played with the right or left hand (and actually make your life easier), the notation also uses different saturation tones. As a general rule, the right-hand notes are indicated with a lighter colour while left-hand notes uses darker saturation.
Example of Dodeka keyboard sheet music - first verses of Amazing Grace (easy version).
It is also possible to come across numbers on some sheets. Those indicate which finger should be used to play the specific note.
That's the end of our step-by-step to the Dodeka keyboard fundamentals. If you want to go further, check the next section. There are plenty of resources to practices, learn and play with the Dodeka keyboard.
4 Resources to go further
Now that you know the basics on how to read and play sheet music on the Dodeka keyboards, what can you do? Here's a list of some resource we'd recommend you to take your new knowledge and musical skills to the next level.
- Build up your keyboard skills with these online video lessons;
- Play around a few sheet music with our digital keyboard application;
- Learn how to play piano chords with this step-by-step guide;
- Browse and play hundreds of online sheet music on Dodeka Play;
- Learn more on Dodeka's musical method - Download the free book.
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