Music Thing: Qwerty Keytars

Each week Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that's coming out, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment:

Nothing screams 'wrong' quite as loudly as a keytar. If you've ever seen Belinda Bedekovic, the Croatian keytar queen, you'll know what I mean. But while traditional keytars are undergoing a kitsch rennaisance (witness Justin Hawkins from the Darkness riding a giant tiger while playing a Roland AX-7), wiley Euro supergeeks tend to roll their own qwerty keytars for live gigs. The guy in the picture is Droon, a breakcore musician and video game designer from Antwerp, Belgium, playing at a party called 'Breakcore Gives Me Wood'. If you want to swap the MIG helmet for a pink feather boa, Swiss techno producer Aster Oh has an awesome pink zebra-fur covered keyboard, and Alexi Shulgin, who covers Nirvana songs on an old PC as 386DX, plays a vanilla PC keyboard with a guitar strap on stage at events like Dorkbot London.

Aside from laughing at arty Europeans, the interesting thing about gigging with a ASCII keyboard rather than black and white notes is that it makes a lot of sense. If you're using loop-based software like Ableton Live, then triggering loops from 100+ clearly labelled keys works just fine. Alternatively, you could keep it old school and use Back To Basics, a simple $40 program to trigger samples from a keyboard.