Just now I had the idea of developing an musical instrument using the default QWERTY keyboard, for the study of music, harmony and the like.

I would like the advice of more experient musicians on the subject, how would you think it could be best implemented?

I mean, which keys would represent the notes, key changes, what space bar (polegar finger) would do, what shift and control keys could do etc?

Also, is there something like this done already?

  • 3
    Most DAWs have a virtual qwerty keyboard already.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 30, 2016 at 16:53
  • Thank you @Tetsujin can you tell me an open source Digital Audio Workstation which can use a QWERTY keyboard as a musical instrument?
    – Iacchus
    Jul 30, 2016 at 17:11
  • Sorry, I've no idea on open source, I use Cubase & Logic, both of which have that functionality [though I've never used it]
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 30, 2016 at 18:26
  • 1
    @lacchus Lmms, which is an open source D.A.W., allows you to use a qwerty keyboard as an "instrument" Jul 31, 2016 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


well, I do it like... http://pianocheetah.com/tutorial/img/pckeymap.png (I wrote a weird little midi sequencer that uses this mapping - http://pianocheetah.com )

But, turns out a qwerty keyboard is pretty much useless as a musical instrument because it doesn't generate velocity. Velocity is how quickly/hard a key is pressed from which note volume is determined for the synthesizer.

Without that, every note has the exact same volume and sounds boring as heck. No "feel" to it.

Also, most qwerty keyboards can only recognize 4 keys down max before they start ignoring any further keys.

And, also, there are tons of midi sequencers that already have SOME sort of mapping like this. Not a new idea, but also not a terrible one. I always encourage people to write musical-ish computer programs. Certainly can't hurt and I've found it to be verrrrrrrrrrrrrrry fun.

  • 1
    Are organs also useless as musical instruments? They aren't velocity-sensitive either... Jul 31, 2016 at 1:26
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    well, ok, ya got me there. but they at least have enough octaves. and, i don't know about you, but i can only be blasted by organ music so long if they don't have velocity. hopping octaves is no fun when you're playin a real song. I mean, in this day and age, use a synthesizer rather than an organ. in the end, i just don't think anyone should spend time honing their qwerty musicianship... that's my opinion. but, of course, do what ya like :) Jul 31, 2016 at 6:35
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    Thanks for the reply @Stephen. I see that you did a piano emulator, seems nice (I couldn't test it as I dont have a Windows machine). I didn't know that keyboard limitation too. I wasn't thinking exactly in a keyboard emulator bit more in a new concept. People used to cut wood to make instruments, shouldn't be that impossible to do an instrument using a pc keyboard. :)
    – Iacchus
    Aug 1, 2016 at 4:20
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    @StephenHazel " I mean, in this day and age, use a synthesizer rather than an organ" - This is an organ: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_organ#/media/…. Don't confuse the real thing with a cheap electronic emulation (a.k.a "Synthesizer") ;) Even a 7-channel surround sound system doesn't get close to reproducing the effect of a real organ - some serious electronic imitations use 48-channel sound systems!
    – user19146
    Sep 5, 2017 at 13:11

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