Thoughts on the Dualo du-touch
Highly successful musical instruments are never orphans; they are always part of a musical family, with different sizes, features and, of course, price: think of the guitar, violin and saxophone families. Players need a wide variation in price and power, of size and portability. Thus it’s not surprising to see a very new, but promising musical instrument, Dualo’s original du-touch, already diversifying into an instrument family.
Here are my tentative thoughts about the Dualo du-touch, and how I feel the forthcoming “S” model shows the growth of the concept.
The first du-touch burst onto the French musical scene just a year and a bit ago. Developed and promoted by young musical visionaries who wisely began without traditional marketing. So far this instrument has been totally ignored, as far as I can tell, by the conventional musical establishment ((who have a tough time even understanding how the du-touch works)). But, its très-cool features are getting noticed. I gather it is growing rapidly in popularity among young, innovative amateur musical circles in France.
I’ve had a Dualo for a year, and it is plainly one serious instrument. In fact, I contend it has established the features that all new alternative musical instruments must have; Dualo has set a new standard.
Challenging for traditional musicians
I think the Dualo’s unique keyboard layout is the hardest thing for conventional musicians to understand. Conventional keyboard layouts extend in a straight line (ignoring the accidentals), with the notes numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 etc., which is considered a simple Fact of Music. The inventor of the “dualo principle”, Jules Hotrique, realized it need not be so. You can have a split keyboard with the right hand playing the “odd” notes of the scale 1, 3, 5, 7, etc., and the left hand playing the “even” notes: 2, 4, 6, 8, etc. ( For example, C, E, G, B and D, F, A, C, respectively). Sharps and flats are placed next to each note, so that for example, changing a major to a minor chord requires a very small finger movement. See: The dualo principle
How is the Dualo’s layout an advantage?
First, it is ergonomic; the player’s fingers are near every note needed in a wide range.
Second, alternating “odd” and “even” musical patterns (progressions) are common in music; when hands can alternate as the chords alternate, music is easier (in theory anyway) to learn and play.
Third, he jiggered the layout so that it is consistent no matter what key one is in; it’s like having an automatic capo in a guitar.
Given these advantages, I believe this new layout will prove faster to play than a conventional keyboard. Musical skill takes time to build, but I’m confident we’ll start seeing real speed and accuracy among some obsessive dualists in 2 or 3 years. The new layout also gives the player an unconventional look at music, which should lead to musical innovation.
But the layout’s main advantage, in my opinion, is still that it is a lot easier for the novice to get started: dualo-principle chord progressions are very easy to learn. Also, since the du-touch is built around music theory, with consistently-shaped chord patterns, this instrument is a lot easier to do impromptu jamming and composing on.
“Conventional” features done better
The du-touch has other excellent musical and physical innovations. It is lighter and more portable than a guitar, with a unique, très-cool shape; lighted keys are hypnotically eye-catching and greatly help in learning the instrument; it has a diverse and quite decent built-in synth, enough to satisfy even Lady Gaga; it has accessible pitch-bend, tone-mod, volume and speed change functions. The only thing lacking wireless is output.
Now, a few other instruments have these features, but they are generally poorly implemented, either as gimmicks or add-on-functions a long distance from the keyboard. The Dualo’s inventors designed its features to be accessible during play.
The Dualo du-touch also has some subtler features to help new musicians: a decent metronome, a quantizer, 3-D tilt sensors and reachable slider bars. The first two features help novices play music well right from the start, and the latter two give novice (and expert) players ways to show off.
The ability to save and share songs instantly is innovative too. If you pass your new song to your band-mate, she will learn the song quickly because her du-touch illuminates the keys to play.
The killer feature: looping
The most significant innovation is kind of subtle: the loop button has been placed so that it can be used seamlessly during play. Loops can be stored (with quantization to smooth out play), started and switched at a thought. Even I, possibly the worst wannabe musician in the world, can use this feature reasonably well.
IMNSHO, the du-touch’s intelligently integrated looping controls, combined with its other innovations, give the novice player a big leg up to performance. There is no need to practice the instrument for years before standing on the stage. Most people would only need to develop a sense of rhythm over a few months and the du-touch will help.
From orphan to family, from rugged to portable: the “S” model makes sense
There is one little problem; young musicians don’t typically have much money; the du-touch’s €990 is a trifle steep for starving students. A less expensive model should sell well. Further, I expect players will progress to bigger models as they grow in skill, perhaps keeping their lighter model for special use. I suspect a cheaper S-model will increase, over time, sales of the bigger model.
Families are stronger
It’s strange that introducing a cheaper model might make the original more valuable, but that’s how families work.
I wonder how long it will take the current crop of dualists to reach the limits of the large du-touch and demand a Dualo du-touch Grande. :)