Guide to Jammer Keyboard

Fast and innovative than the typical musical keyboard, the jammer is characterized by an isomorphic keyboard layout and a motion-sensing or thumb-operated controls. With its easy to play and easy to learn design, it provides players with a different jamming experience, immense expressiveness, a dynamic musicality.

History of the Jammer Keyboard

The jammer was the brainchild of Jim Plamondon. In 2003, he quitted his job at a renowned software and hardware corporation, searching for his dream to create a new musical instrument. Plamondon established Thumtronics company to bring the device called “Thummer” to the market, which name has derived from its thumb-control features.The odd-looking Thummer resembles a honeycomb, with its own distinct musical notations, tilt- and motion-sensitive controls and sensors, that encompassed people’s typical view and knowledge of a keyboard. However, Plamondon’s company spent much of its money on research for internal chips and polyphonic functions. Thus, they ran out of money to put the “Thummer” into mass production and could only produce prototypes.

While “Thummer” has not been available commercially, open-source hardware projects are available that yearn to develop royalty- and license-free jammer designs. With that, many DIY jammers have been produced by hobbyists. Moreover, there are now adaptable keyboards released in the market, instigating the production of many more operable jammers. Even smartphones or tablets with multitouch functionality can now be used as jammers.


Jammer Keyboard’s Layout

Boasting one of the best contemporary keyboard designs, the jammer utilized as a honeycomb or hexagonal diagram, known as the Wicki-Hayden note layout. It was initially devised and patented by Kaspar Wicki in 1986 and was separately conceived, improved, and patented by Brian Hayden a century later. Jim Plamondon encountered the layout as he was searching for an optimal design for his device and acknowledged the benefits of its ergonomic design for the “Thummer.”

Jammer Keyboard’s Pros and Cons

While the layout was more used on concertina players, the design brings a lot of benefits to the piano as it brings similar notes closer to each other, allows consistency on fingering patterns, easing out the issues caused by black keys, and providing more consonance rather than making bad sounds should any mishap happen. By adapting the Wicki–Hayden (W/H) design, keys are placed more practical and accessible to the fingers. Thus, attaining easier jamming or playing while avoiding the likelihood of mistakes.Moreover, jammer keyboards tend to be lighter, faster to play, and more portable. As separate instruments can be allotted on the keyboard, it can produce more notes and sounds than typical ones. Thus, genuinely elevating the musical expressiveness any player can achieve.

The benefits may look promising, but users must expect that the jammer keyboard may be more challenging to learn the traditional piano in C major. It’s good to note, however, that the complexity is lesser compared to other keys. Fortunately, there are lots of tutorials and support systems available online for easier learning. Meanwhile, chromatic scales remain as grueling to grasp as in the typical piano, while semi-tone intervals can be higher.

Despite the said drawbacks, the benefits outweigh them as the jammer keyboards provide more emotive potentials compared to other polyphonic and traditional musical instruments, such as the accordion, the guitar, and the piano itself.