Group-Buy / Collection of Ideas for CantabileKeyboard

Hey people,

in this forum I read a lot about bad keyboard-actions, bad controllers, etc.
Since I build keyboards on customer request maybe it’s worth starting a collection of ideas how a perfect cantabile masterkeyboard could look like.

At the moment I’m very busy preparing a German music fare (not sure if it will happen cause of Coronoa though). So I can’t build something very quick. But the experience shows that planing takes time too.

So I’d like you to list the features you need on a controller-keyboard and also what you would pay for it.

I’m able to integrate almost any kind of controller: Encoders, pots, displays, LED(-rings), faders, buttons, drawbars, etc. The only thing I can not include are drum-pads. But since there are very cheap and very good midi controllers out there for that purpose (Akai LPD8 f.e.) there might not be a need for it for the controller keyboard.

I’m registered at FATAR. So I’d take the TP/9S or the TP/8S as base. Key-count? It depends on you. There are several options from 49 to 76 keys.

Please have in mind when you post your suggestions: The more controllers are included the more expensive it will get. So think twice if you really need something or if it’s just nice to have.

I’m happy to hear your ideas! :slight_smile:


It has to have poly aftertouch for me to get interested. Getting a decent channel AT keyboard with a few controllers is pretty easy, IMHO.

The ‘perfect’ controller for my tastes would be a non-weighted, full-sized 76/88-note board with a set of controllers similar to the Roland A800. Controller numbers can be fixed, since re-mapping in Cantabile is easy.

The functions I’m using most in Cantabile are Next/Prev Song, Next/Prev State, Play/Stop. Dedicated buttons for these would be helpful. Inputs for a couple of continuous control pedals and a couple of switch pedals are important.

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There is no poly-aftertouch-keyboard available @ Fatar so => impossible to build at the moment.

Fair enough - I’m content with what I have then.

I’ve had a similar conversation with a couple of manufacturers in the past year. It seems odd to me that in 2020 we have many instruments with poly AT reception, and MPE knocking at the door, yet almost no-one providing keyboards to drive them. What we do get almost invariably arrives with 4-octaves - Roli, Osmose, Hydrasynth…

Behringer are claiming their poly AT keyboard is ready, so here’s hoping they add it to their CS-80 - and maybe even their OBXa.

My perfect keyboard:

  • 61 quality keys, with aftertouch and good action, waterfall is ok
  • lightweight and compact size, PW/MW above the keys, not next to, to save space
  • 16 illuminated drumpads
  • 9 faders / 9 rotary / 9 assignable buttons (and banks)
  • transport controls
  • transpose/shift buttons next to
  • faders to the left of me, pads to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with me :slight_smile: (just to say, I prefer faders left, I dont understand the mirrored version, I’m right handed and use my left for the faders… So on my Akai I need to cross my arms :-/
  • Oh and while you’re at it, please add that led strip to it :wink:

Except some minor probs, and the big PB/MW/keys issue, Akai is pretty ok.
And the Samson Graphite 49 is also good config, except the toy quality

Can’t you integrate drumpads over usb? Just connect it internally?

I think 500€ for a commercial keyboard is a (rather high) but fair price.
But I can understand that as a small company with limited editions your price will be higher.

does Fatar have the same bad quality keys as the Samson?
I had to glue them all 1 by 1

No! The FATAR-keybeds are very very nice! I already used them in a few keyboards and the customers were very satisfied with them. They are semi-weighted.
FATAR also has non-weighted keys. They are pretty bad (I think Nord Lead A1 has such installed).

The electronics I use don’t have a spare USB-port. So an internal connection is not possible.

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I guess I can always stick a Korg nanopad to the keyboard and add it to mu usb hub. The less (external) usb connections, the better ofcourse. USB really isn’t that reliable I think, loose connections etc…?

ps: adding some more stuff to my wishlist :slight_smile:

Just did some doodling: this would be my ideal “upper” keyboard - for my “lower”, I’d simply need a good weighted piano keyboard.

Keybed 61 keys (synth/organ keys) with channel aftertouch (poly pressure?) and the option to switch it to “Organ Mode”, i.e. trigger on the first contact without velocity information. Of course, the “organ mode” button would need to be lit to indicate status - same as the 4 “fader bank” buttons.

Connections: USB + “classic” DIN MIDI, 2-3 switching and one expression pedal connectors.

All buttons / faders / knobs can send fixed MIDI messages (CCs rather than notes) - I’ll assign them in Cantabile as I need them. The faders / rotaries would send different messages for each bank.

Of course it would be a luxury to have all controls / buttons fully assignable, but a lot can be done in the background rack, so not reeeeally necessary.

I’d love those 8 big friendly buttons to be really tactile and easy to hit - like my famous “big red button” that I use to step to the next state. TheTransport buttons on my synths I usually use for “between songs” duties, like “advance to next song”, “go to state 1” etc, but the big buttons are for stuff I need while playing like “next state”, “scroll down”, “start/pause scrolling” etc, so they need to be really obvious (maybe different colors or backlights) and super-easy to trigger. I’m using colored drum pads for this currently, and it’s nice enough, but I’d like them positioned centrally, so I can hit them with either hand, depending on which one’s free…



P.S. the “organ mode” should be switchable via sysex, so I can set it per song or even per song state via Cantabile - go from expressive synth patch with velocity and aftertouch to organ solo with “organ keys” just by switching states - a great feature if it could be done!

You are going to get as many opinions as you have responders :slight_smile:
I’m with Torsten but

  • I need 9 buttons under the sliders.
  • This buttons need to be lit.
  • The rotary knobs should NOT be infinite - I want them to have a clear stop an min and max settings.
  • I want the transpose buttons to work like Arturia’s : not just octave up/down but also the option of moving up/down by half tones
  • I want 88 weighted keys
  • I want space both to the left and to the right of the main controller surface.
  • I’d use Torsten’s organ button for other purposes, but I want it :slight_smile:
  • to save space I am happy with the modulation and effect wheels above the keyboard instead of next to is.
  • I do not need a display really (except perhaps to indicate how many half tones transpose if up or down
  • USB powered!

And I’d also want a 61key version, with good waterfall keys :slight_smile: - but then without the space left and right of the control surface.

Seriously, if you offer this I’ll buy it! On condition that it is absolute top quality. Lost too much $$$ and time on crap controllers :frowning:


I agree with @Torsten and @Tom_Tollenaere
For me 76 keys would be perfect, to be carried on rear seat of my car (88 keys cannot)
Good dynamics but not hammered.
Yamaha Montage7 is a nice example.
If prices and quality are ok, I would consider to buy one 76 and one 61 key version.

An idea to make the blocks above the keys modular, so you can use/make the layout what’s best fot you?

@Torsten I especially like the display. I always worry I have the wrong song/state. I’m not sure I would actually need to see the computer display under normal circumstances if I could see a visual queue. What do you think about the display being an HTML Web client?

Guess that would make things a bit expensive - a simple two-line alphanumeric display is cheap and easy to operate. And it’s enough to show current song and current state

Creating a modular-system is highly complicated and not needed I guess. Most needs of users are overlapping. So in the end almost any user would have the same controllers on it’s keyboard if it would be modular.

HTML client is also not necessary.

I’d suggest an 1.2" OLED that you could address via SysEx. This is what I do on my workstation too. It works perfect.


  • The keyboard can be switched with a simple CC into organ-mode. This is sufficient I guess. Are would you really need SysEx?
  • Fader banks: The problem here is, that the electronics only receive values on the selected bank. So if you switch to another song, only the selected bank will be updated. So I’d suggest doing the bank-management within Cantabile. Of course dedicated bank-buttons are no problem that switch the banks in Cantabile.
  • I’ll look for a source for those user-friendly buttons. I think they are called arcade-buttons. If you find something, let me know.


  • I’d focus on a synth-action for now. I think there is more need in it.
  • USB power is no problem, as long as the Luna-Bar (a LED strip over the keys) is not used. If it is, power consumption could be higher than 500mA so USB could become unstable.

People, please don’t forget to say what you would pay for that kind of machine. Just listing the feature-list doesn’t help much. I really need to know if it’s worth, putting work in it…

Nope - CC is perfectly all right!

Not sure what you mean - are you talking motor faders?

I was thinking classic static faders - but of course motor faders would be pretty exciting (but costly…)

I’m using these cheap and simple arcade buttons for my small MIDI projects:

They work nicely for me

Re price: I’m guessing this would be in the 1.000 EUR+ range, if we’re talking custom-made devices. Not a deal-breaker for me, but I’d have to think about how many I want :wink: (studio, rehearsal room, live, …) depending on price…



Although motorized faders would be possible as well, this is an expensive feature.

What I meant:
Let’s say you have two banks A and B and you have A selected. Now you switch a song and new values are sent from Cantabile to the faders. When you now switch to bank B, they are still “locked” on the old value from the previous song though you’d get jumping values. I’m not sure how you work with faders in your environment. If the faders have the same assignments in all songs (f.e. because they are bound to something in the background rack) than of course it doesn’t matter. But if you assign them to different things in various songs, you have to keep that in mind.

I guess most midi-controllers on the market don’t care of it. But my electronics “snaps” into a received value. For example: Let’s say the hardware-fader sends CC10. Now you move it all the way up = value 127. If you now send CC10 from Cantabile to the fader with a lower value f.e. 64, the hardware-fader won’t send any events till it reaches that point. It grabs the received value and goes from there.

OK, so you have “jump prevention” built into the hardware - nice!

But I guess I would handle jump prevention within Cantabile, so I could live without that feature within the hardware and rather have my 4 fader banks :wink: But that’s my personal preference - I could also live with one set of faders with fixed controllers and handle the bank management within my background rack somehow…