The centuries-old piano keeps fighting back every time someone tries to improve it.

Case in point: polyphonic aftertouch. The cause for something new was straightforward enough. On a normal piano, you lose expressive possibilities once you play a note. Because of the necessity of the way hammers work, your fingers are left holding down keys and doing, well, nothing. The piano continues to do beautiful things with the sound – resonating and such – but you’re no longer involved. after you depress a key, keep pressing down to add additional expressive input. (Various historical devices have used everything from keys that wiggle to additional strings and pulleys and ribbons and wheels and … well, this problem just goes on and on.)

The problem with aftertouch is, you don’t have much play after you’ve pressed the key. And so that can make aftertouch rather unsatisfying.

The NDVR is different. It uses something the inventors are calling “key swing.” Instead of only the normal velocity measurement, the keys are constantly sampled with optical sensors, you can now do what intuitively it seemed you always should be able to do. You can move the key up and down across its full range, or push a little harder, and output a continuous, accurate value. (You still get the conventional velocity reading and can play normally in that sense – you simply get more data in addition to it.)

It’s easiest seen in the video, but it means you finally get to use the full play of a key as a controller.


The project is the work of the Vreden, Germany-based team that built the Endeavour touch keyboard. That project was beautiful and compelling, but it was likely too experimental for most keyboardists. It had elongated keys and touch strips on the surface, requiring players to completely rework their playing style. Playing the NDVR, by contrast, is the same as playing a conventional piano or synth keyboard: it has conventional keys, size, and play, but just captures more of what the keyboardist is actually doing.

Oh, yeah: and the NDVR will also cost less and work with your existing software, without any fiddling. It still has an aluminum case (they do like their aluminum), but uses a class-compliant USB MIDI interface and transmits data as standard polyphonic aftertouch MIDI messages. In other words, you can use it out of the box without installing any drivers or special tools. (There is a custom VST/AU plug-in, though, to push it further if you like.)

Pricing begins at just US$235 for the 25-note version.



The catch: you’ll have to wait. The makers are getting prices low by ramping up production, and paying for that with crowd funding on IndieGogo, so you’re essentially doing a pre-paid preorder. Then again, if they can deliver, that means a price that’s a fraction of what an experimental keyboard controller would normally cost.

CDM should hopefully get a hands-on test soon here in Germany, so stay tuned.

NDVR Note Masterkeyboard [Updated link]

All images courtesy the maker.

  • rosa

    looks cool! but one question remains open: can optical sensors recognize the old-school velocity-value too? Maybe i don’t want to map key-ups and downs to some synth-parameter but play a normal piano or the like. and then i need a keyboard that recognizes how hard (= how fast to 100% down?) i play a note.

    • ndvrdisqus

      Yes, it does! Classic old Velocity!

      It does it classically over the speed of a key – just like on every other keyboard – and in addition – acceleration and way/microseconds …

      if you do not want to use the optical sensors the note is just like any other keyboard.

      Simon (from NDVR)

  • otheroom

    That looks quite nice, especially at that price point.

  • anthony antfactor

    Rrrrgggg…! I JUST ordered a quNexus. I guess I’ll see how it feels/works for me…

    • Peter Kirn

      They’re really, really different. We’ll have our review of the QuNexus this week, and more thoughts on how you might use it. But the QuNexus’ primary advantage is portability.

    • anthony antfactor

      Yeah – Kind of figured. Purchased primarily for portability concerns… Thank you, I appreciate it – and I’m looking forward to the review.

  • complete

    if only it would do CV/gate, as well…!

  • Softcore

    Isnt polyphonic aftertouch supposed to work continuously after the press of each button eitherways? Wasnt it implemented this way up to now? Im confused. Im quite sure a friend’s Maudio keyboard with key pressure (monophonic aftertouch) works as described – the only difference being it is not polyphonic.
    Im sure optical sensors will yield more accurate results but Im confused by the initial description that implies that up to now polyphonic aftertouch wasnt working as described.

    • David

      As far as I can tell, it’s not only aftertouch,it just has some similarities.

      Since the entire ‘swing’ of the key is being tracked and mapped, my understanding is that you have ‘before-touch’ (the key downswing, pre-strike), plain old velocity (how hard you strike), plain old poly-aftertouch (pressing harder on a depressed key), and ‘upswing’ (partially letting go of a key).

      That would open huge expressive options, if that really is the case. Like breath control on the downswing, normal key velocity, aftertouch modulation on the chord and, say, breath on the upswing again.

      But do you really have all those options? It’s not entirely clear from the article or website and the video doesn’t show anythig that couldn’t be done with poly-aftertouch as well…?

    • John F. Hendry

      Unlike CH AT where one key triggers all keys being played, Poly AT simply means only the key pressed triggering AT responds leaving the other notes being played alone and not making a mess of the new complex sounds we have today. Poly AT was needed back when midi started, but now it’s REALLY needed as CH AT often just makes a mess of the sound in use.

    • Softcore

      Yeah great, Im asking as to how Polyphonic Aftertouch here is different than implemented anywhere else….What was “wrong” with polyphonic aftertouch that is done “right” in this?

      Polyphonic Aftertouch (or more correctly Key Pressure) is well defined in the midi specs and I cant see how one could state it was implemented yet still not be done right! A Key Pressure midi message consists of the midi channel, the note value and the pressure value for that note, since MIDI was invented.

    • John F. Hendry

      Where is Poly AT implemented? You need a poly AT keyboard to implement it live and in real time. I forget what this thread was about but Poly AT is still not in use mainstream. All we have now on the major boards like the KronosX with few exception is CH AT that triggers all the keys being pressed instead of just the one you add pressure to. It’s all about the money and “most” people don’t have a clue what poly AT is so the manufactures cater to the average buyer leaving the pros that need it and everyone else that wants it in the dark empty handed to what can be done… especially using KARMA, etc.. But we need the new midi standard to support it as well and I’m afraid with the demise of the VAX77 the new midi standard went with it. It’s all about the money and the manufactures don’t want to risk losing it when people keep buying the same old tech.

    • Softcore

      Nevermind, the drawing with the key (was that image there or is the article edited? not sure) explains what I wanted to understand. Perhaps I hadnt paid much attention to it!

      It appears now to me, that as opposed to other implementations, here you can “wiggle” the key along its whole “distance” from “not-pressed” state to “fully pressed” state and get aftertouch messages out of it – certainly NOT how current implementations work (you have to press the key and just apply different “pressure” while still being fully pressed to get aftertouch messages out of it)

  • nick

    Always interested in expressive reliable poly aftertouch (as custom poly sensors fail and are unobtainable as in Roland’s last true poly at, the A-80). That’s the catch I guess, cheap mass produced keyboards are so cheap and are not really a boutique business proposition as for instance a eurorack module run is. Actually the piano analogy is more complex as a piano has a damper. No mention is made of rarely implemented release velocity which is in the MIDI spec. But yes, the point is well made that velocity is great to have but it’s a single value event tied to a note. Far more common channel pressure is monophonic like an alternate bender or wheel that you don’t need a hand for, but obviously poly pressure is best as its tied to a particular note. One can also have a synth or controller retrigger an envelope at a poly pressure value which if you can use to “strum” a chord being held

  • Tom

    Is this type of technology new? My Nord Lead 3 from 2001 can do this exactly and can even control any and all of its front panel controls. Or am I missing something?

  • chaircrusher

    The real question is this: What would Liberace do?

  • Sjakelien

    This rather looks like Note Off Velocity, a standard MIDI value that is vastly ignored in both hard- and software. While I recognize the great expressive possibilities, I’m worried about two things:
    On pianos and (most) synths, it doesn’t really matter how fast you release a key. That means that your hands are really trained in hitting a key on the right moment with a specific speed, but releasing a key is just a matter of lifting your finger in time, without paying attention to the speed of this action. With this keyboard, I can imagine, you will have to learn to be more precise, otherwise you might get unwanted expressive differences between individual notes of a chord or melody.
    Second, I wonder how I should manage the mapping between the keyboard’s special features and a sound patch? Is it safe to assume that the twilight zone between On and Off is transmitted as Controller data? Is it just one controller, or maybe a combination of Controller and Off Velocity? Can I change the Controller number? Should I program all my patches to listen to that controller and assign them to one sound parameter? In a DAW setup, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. but in a live situation, that would need thorough preparation.

    • ndvrdisqus

      Hey There! Next week we will show you another video which will answer most of your questions. We have made a lot of research on that to make sure you can use it just like any other keyboard. Basically it is Note-On and Note-Off with velocity and release-velocity + The angle of a key transmitted using polyphonic aftertouch or – Midi-CC or – per different Midi-Channel.

      Simon (from NDVR)

  • Dan Overholt
  • None Of

    Is the data converted to midi in MAX/MSP? So we have full power on MAXMSP? then it is converted to midi to go elsewhere? Is it also open source code like in the EVO ?

  • Gongadan

    I’m very interested, but I gave up on wheels years ago and must have a joystick…please consider a modular alternative :) Thanks and good luck.