Keyboards are technically percussion instruments: you strike the keys, and that's what makes the sounds. This is of course because they're based on analog pianos, which are wonderfully simple mechanisms. You press down on a key, which is connected to a system of pulleys that sends a hammer down to strike at a tuned string. The tone of the sound will change depending on how hard or soft you hit the key — but in the end, you're still pretty much limited to an up-or-down motion, with a single range of sonic variation.
While some keyboards come with expression pedals or oscillation pads to offer more expressive capabilities, French instrument company Expressive E has taken it a step further with the introduction of their new Osmose keyboard, which lets you play the keys in all sorts of directions. From the press release:
The 49-key synthesizer is an evolution of the classic paradigm that gives players continuous dynamic control of the keys in three-dimensions – a first for keybed-driven instruments. Intuitive touch control gives the player the ability to continuously shape the dynamics of their tone like a singer, as well as allowing for touch vibrato and pitch-bending like on a guitar or saxophone.
As you can see in the video above, the Osmose is a pretty remarkable step in expressive keyboard playing. Combine that with modern MIDI technology and you have some incredible opportunities for synthesizing other instrument sounds. Think of it like the way a trumpet player can change their pitch or tone with the shape of their lips in addition to the fingered valves, or the way a guitarist can bend notes and manipulate the instrument's acoustic or electric responses beyond the strings. Pretty cool!
The Osmose is shipping out soon to early backers, with further pre-order opportunities opening up soon. I'm hoping to get my wiggly fingers on one soon to experience the full scope of it — because it sounds pretty damn remarkable.