(Spring 2009)

Keytar (noun): A hybrid musical instrument that combines a portable piano (keyboard) with guitar. Popularized by Herbie Hancock, Edgar Winters, and the 80's music scene. The instrument gives the versatile keyboard the portability and functionality of a guitar.

"Chameleon" by Herbie Hancock. Live in Montreux, 1988. (Herbie on Keyar) This is the video that set this project in motion. After seeing this, I knew I had to have one.

I didn't have $1200 lying around, so I had to improvise. I decided to build my own.

The Result:

and here's how I did it:

To attach the neck to the keyboard, I cut out a square-shaped hole in the side of the keyboard and stuck the neck through. For more stability, I attached a wooden block to the end of the neck and secured it to the keyboard via screws in the keyboard's top casing and Plexiglas backing. For added support, I screwed a piece of 1/4-inch plywood to the side of the keyboard and ran the neck trhough that as well. I can lift the keytar up by its neck without fear of it falling apart!

For pitch-bend and modulation controls, I made use of the wheels that were dedicated to those functions on the keyboard itself. Removed the portion of the casing holding the wheels in place, flipped the wheels 90 degrees, and rewired them so they could be rotated in opposite directions, allowing me to put the sliders on the inside. I then cut off the outer portion of the wheels and attached LEgo spur gears in their places. The accompanying rack gears on the sliders allow me to then turn the wheels by sliding my hand up and down the finger board, just as in the Roland keytar. A Plexiglas box over the gears protects the mechanism.

Finished project front and back, and a video as well!