The TheoryBoard Cracks Music Theory Wide Open

I've spent countless nights laying in bed trying to dream up a brand new type of music instrument.

It all seemed to be covered though.  We already vibrate wind, reeds, membranes, and strings.  No matter what kind of new percussion instrument you invent, it's still just another way to bang on something so it makes a sound.

Banging my head on the wall does not count as percussion.  I eventually gave up on that quest altogether.

That's why when I saw the upcoming TheoryBoard I wanted to hate myself, but I was too intrigued with this incredible new concept.

sideview of the theoryboard

What is the TheoryBoard?

Imagine taking your normal, average MIDI controller in the shape of a keyboard, finding it a wife and letting them make babies for millions of years while overcoming diversity in their natural environment.  Finally, you take a look at your MIDI keyboard zoo and find that things have changed... drastically.

The TheoryBoard is the next step in the evolution of MIDI controllers.

It solves a key problem with up-and-coming musicians.  It's one thing to be trained from a child or to attend a jazz program in college.  You'll come out of both experiences with a great understanding of music theory.

But what about the rest of us who don't know music theory?

It seems like too big of a hurdle to tackle.  What about those of us that do know music theory but we don't know how to play the piano, so we can't quickly turn that into MIDI data?  The TheoryBoard saves the day for the rest of us mere mortals who are missing a piece of the puzzle.

What this does is give computer-based musicians and newcomers to the industry access to deeper levels of music theory that we haven't had the time to commit to memory or can't quickly translate to the computer.  With the literal push of a single button, you'll now have access to complete scales, modes, chords, chord inversions, arpeggios, harmonizations, and much more.

How Does the TheoryBoard Work?

What happens when you situate yourself in front of this crazy contraption is you'll choose a scale you want to work in and every button automatically remaps itself to the notes and chords of that scale.

theoryboard full view

We're not talking about "the most used options."  I'm saying you get every single chord and inversion and you can stack the 7th and 9th scale degrees on there with suspended chords.  It's all there, including modes, international scales, and genre specific ones too.

What's more, is each button will change color depending on the scale you choose so you have visual indicators of which notes and chords are where.  What this offers is the ability to play this brand new type of musical instrument for what it is, an instrument.  It's not just a device to help you cut corners on music theory.  You can join a band of sophisticated jazz musicians and hold your own.

You can tie this beast into any digital audio workstation (DAW).  It can communicate with any VST plugins.  It can send its MIDI data to anything that can accept it, including external rackmounted sound banks and more.

I can try and describe what it looks like and acts like as you play with it, or you can just check out their explainer video above.

Who Is This For?

The TheoryBoard is great for studio musicians who never learned to visualize and play on the piano's keyboard but have a full grasp of music theory and use MIDI in their workflow constantly.  It's perfect for DJ's who need to bring the heat while placing as much focus on the crowd as possible.  It's great for these fusion bands that are including micro-beats and electronic elements into folk and jazz.  I'm sure the video game and movie industries can make use of it in scoring too.

Guess what?  They already went for a round of funding on Kickstarter and got what they needed to source the parts needed for the prototypes.  I'm not sure exactly when the TheoryBoard will see it's full release, but you can keep up with them there on Kickstarter or here on their official Facebook page.

Jared Hobbs HeadshotJared has surpassed his 20th & 15th year in the music industry & in web development, respectively. He acts as owner, editor, lead author, & web designer, as well as co-author on all other articles.