Some projects just need to be done because they’re cool. 

There are some projects that have compelled us for years — projects that we work on whenever we can find the time or the money, for no other reason than that they capture our imagination because they offer the possibility of creating new human experiences that weren’t possible before. 

Lumatone is one of those projects. 

Cortex first learned about the microtonalist community back when we were a one man band. For decades, this group of experimental musicians had dreamed of a piano keyboard that can accommodate alternate tunings, allowing them to change tunings on the fly and play all the notes in between the traditional black and white keys. They just lacked the tools to do it.

In the years since, this has been the definition of a passion project.

Each successive iteration has brought us closer to our vision of expanding the sonic palette to offer new possibilities for how music can be composed and arranged.

The Lumatone, our latest design, satisfied the microtonalists — trust us, no easy task. Then we got it into the hands of the wider community of musicians, DJs, producers, engineers, even lighting technicians, and we realized something else: a fully programmable, 275-key isomorphic keyboard isn’t a niche instrument — not if it has the same fidelity of expression as a traditional keyboard. 

We saw how fast people picked up the Lumatone, even if they’ve never played an isomorphic keyboard before. We heard the music they were able to make off the bat, and our hearts started racing. We still don’t know where it’s going to end up, but one thing became clear: 

@davine_tuch. @battaglia01. @tivon_bzz.

This thing has the potential to completely change the way that people interact with music. 

No matter what happens, we love it. 

Don’t make any decisions on the player’s behalf. The Lumatone is designed to create new possibilities for freedom of expression. That accommodates the widest possible range of experimental layouts and tunings that musicians want to explore.

It’s hip to be hexagonal: A hexagonal grid of keys works best for a wide variety of alternative tunings. 

Coloured lights may hypnotize: A grid is logical. A field of colour is emotional. Augmenting the grid with colour is useful for making an intuitive representation of pitch that a player can understand immediately.

Feel is everything: Just like a piano key, the keys should be capable of capturing the same fidelity of musical expression a performer delivers through the movement of their arms, hands, and – ultimately – their fingers on the keys. 

Everything is microtonal. The MIDI 2.0 spec finally recognizes this with native support that allows unencumbered expression of pitch without having to resort to complicated workarounds.

Key Tasks:

  • Full turnkey product design from blank slate to market. Working with close input from professional keyboard players, we developed the Lumatone to provide the freedom of expression that isomorphic keyboard players had been asking for for decades. We built it. Now it’s ready to go into musicians’ hands, and we can’t wait to see what’s possible. 
    • Key tasks:
      • User observation and ethnography
      • Concept and brand development
      • CAD modeling
      • 3D print modeling
      • CNC prototyping
      • Production design
      • Manufacturing

Lumatone is being readied for production and will be available for preorder. Head to Lumatone.io for the latest! 

© 2020 Cortex Design Inc.

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