There are no shortage of crazy and unique MIDI controllers out there. Especially on Kickstarter. Frankly it’s getting a lot harder for them to grab people’s attention. But the TheoryBoard seems to have succeeded quite admirably. It claims to let anyone create music, regardless of skill level, while also teaching them about music theory. And it took just three hours to hit its funding goal of $10,000. Just a few days later, eager would-be musicians had pledged nearly $550,000 to the project.
So what has everyone so intrigued? Well TheoryBoard has two 12x4 sets of velocity sensitive pads, with a touchscreen in the middle. The pads on the left are dedicated to playing chords, while the ones on the right are for playing notes in a scale. The middle touch screen is where you change octaves, select from one of 840 scales, change chord voicings, etc...
It uses some of the core concepts that have made large pad controllers like the Push and Launchpad popular, but is more transparent about what’s going on in the background. Every chord of the scale is loaded on the left and every note is loaded on the right. These are color coded by root note so if you want to play an Ab chord with an Ab bass note at the same time you can quickly and easily identify them. Additionally, there is a section of pads on the right that autoupdate with the notes in the chord currently being pressed, so if you want to venture outside the scale without getting too dissonant or mirror your harmonies with an arpeggio there’s an easy way to do that.
There’s also hotkeys across the top for on the fly key changes and for modal interchange. The pads support polyphonic aftertouch. And, in addition to USB MIDI, there’s TRS MIDI for controlling hardware instruments directly.
It’s a pretty impressive list of features and specs. And the company behind it, Thy333, has already successfully Kickstarted an earlier version of the TheoryBoard, so there’s at least some history of success here.
But now for the bad news: The TheoryBoard is not cheap. Earlybird Kickstarter prices start at $599. And the expected retail price is $1199. That easily makes it one of the most expensive MIDI controllers I’ve ever seen. Even Ableton’s high-end Push 2 comes in at just $799. So at the full retail price TheoryBoard might be a tough sell. But at the early bird pricing it’s at least someone intriguing.