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Frequently Asked Questions on Muto Method

In this Q&A section, we answer your questions that were asked actually to our lab. The inventor, Wataru Ohkawa himself is answering questions on the method and the instruments.

Other Questions

Please refer here : ‘CHROMATONE’

List of Answers

  • Why do we need Muto Music Method now ? Why piano key arrangement (keyboard) and 5 line notation (method of notation) have been appreciated ?
    • The notation method (score) and keyboard (instrument), which we can call as ‘infrastructure of music,’ have been used during more than 600 years without change. The music that has been kept creating based on this infrastructure changed in the various forms and it evolved repeatedly in the different ages. However the lifestyle of music has been evolving very rapidly in the last few decades.

      The music was for the privileged classes such as royal court in Europe that lasted for long time. And the music was used for the purpose of religion, military affairs, politics and powers. After the World War II, anyone can listen to their favorite music of any countries and can sing a song freely and can play music freely.

      The music has been shifting from the one to listen easily (listeners oriented) to another to play easily (players oriented), and then towards the next one to create easily (artist oriented). The distance between people and music, and the life style of music has been changing very quickly in the last few decades.

      In Japan, people have been released from the music that has the colors of military and political factors during the World War II and the post war period. There were the boom of learning piano, then Karaoke got popular, band boom came up. Those player oriented music style had been the main stream until recent years.

      But thanks to the evolution of Information Technologies such as internet or development of application software, the various ways of works and mechanism are changing. Accordingly, in the field of art like photo, design and music, now anyone can handle the artistic work, while it was being handled by the limited people called creators previously.
      This is true in the field of music and the motive to create music is not a special thing now. Anyone can aim to be an artist easily.

      If you want to create musical works, you need to get knowledge and techniques without exceptions. The important thing here is how much busy people in this modern age can enjoy own music life styles in the middle of this rapidly changing years.

      ‘the music infrastructure’ mechanism, which has been used since more than 600 years back, does not fit to the modern life style of music in the many parts. It is really inconvenient as it detours and causes misunderstandings. But among the people who already get used to the old infrastructure, many of them do not like to change to the new infrastructure, as they are fully accustomed to the inconveniences.

      It may be OK to enjoy music life under the old and inconvenient scheme, but the people who newly start music life can benefit ‘Muto Music Method’, which is the concept of music infrastructure of convenience, easily understanding, and the current age in fully enjoying music life style with setting up their new music infrastructure.

  • I heard that we can learn 12 times faster with Muto Music Method. Is it true ?
    • In the case of piano keyboard, the arrangement of notes is specialized to C major. This causes changes in scales, chords and phrase and the fingerings when the key changes. To master the playing techniques, you need to practice at ‘all keys (12 keys).’ However, with Muto Ken’s key arrangement, once you memorize 1 form or fingering, then you just slide positions in parallel.

      Compared to piano that requires players to memorize all different positions with 12 keys, you only need to memorize one position with Muto ken. This is why we express it as ’12 times faster.’ This is true not only in the play but also in understanding music. You can understand music more simple, clear, rapidly and deeply.

  • Why did you name the unique name for the notes of black keys one by one.
    • So far, the black keys had 2 names with # and♭. And they were treated as attendant notes to the white keys. But as the notes of black keys are independent, it was not natural and inconvenient when there were unique names.

  • I have never studied music. Do I need to learn the basics before I study Muto Music Method ?
    • No problem. You can start it without any experience.

  • How about transposing if you want transposition ?
    • There is a big difference in the significance between mechanical transposition and transposing with you own fingerings. In the music, there is modulation in the tune or same notes figures show up in the same key, apart from transposition. It may be very difficult to transpose and we find it very important to analyze them. With Muto Ken, you will get to know these issues instinctively by sliding fingers in parallel and the equal distance between notes instead of transposing or analyzing.

  • How are Chromatone and Wholetone Revolution like as instruments in a few words ?
    • They are the instruments that have MUTO KEN installed in the mass production type of electronic keyboard. MUTO KEN is the keyboard created based on the new music method, ‘Muto Music Method.’The method eliminated the confusing accidentals (# and ♭) and the difference between black keys and white keys. While the piano key arrangements are designed for C major with Fixed DO keyboard, MUTO KEN can handle all the keys equally with on the Moving DO keyboard.

  • When were Chromatone and Wholetone Revolution (Chromatic Keyboard = MUTO KEN) created ?
    • It was in the 1970’s when my father produced the base of ‘halftone arranged keyboard (also called MUTO KEN back then) as a trial. He arranged the keys like comb-shape for 12 notes in 1 octave in the width of black keys. They say he got patent once based on this thought. But he gave it up as it was highly difficult to play the keys arranged in a single row.

      Then afterwards, I took over his business. We started working on the projects such as studying ‘the concept of music method’ and ‘music notation’ additionally.

      We repeatedly improved the keyboard. We announced ‘Rapian’ (manufactured in 1987) that was a prototype. We attached the newly developed MUTO KEN of the whole tone arrangement to an acoustic piano for Rapian.

      We continued the trial and error process and MUTO KEN evolved to the current form that is whole tone key arrangement + halftone key arrangement.

      The first electronic instrument with built-in MUTO KEN is Wholetone Revolution (manufactured in 2000). And we produced Chromatone in 2002.

      Then in 2010, we announced Chromatone Lite for iPad. 2010 became the first year of MUTO KEN application software that opens new possibility.

  • Why do Chromatone and Wholetone Revolution make music easy ?
    • Precisely speaking, naturally you get to understand the mechanism of music rationally and instinctively. Because in the basic concept of Muto Music Method, we do not use accidentals and we do not differentiate black keys and white keys.

      Moreover, if you use Muto Notation (or 3 line notation) or MUTO KEN (Chromatone, Wholetone Revolution), you can understand it faster and deeper, and you will be able to grasp music instinctively. For your reference, the combination of Muto Notation and guitars (with slight change in tuning) gives us the effect close to Muto Notation x MUTO KEN.

  • Where can we learn it ?
    • As to playing Chromatone, our lab is the sole place to learn officially.
      But we think it is possible to give lessons of piano and other instruments using Muto Notation (Chromatic Notation) at any music school.

  • What is the difference compared to piano ?
    • The difference in the appearance is just keyboard.
      This keyboard is designed based on the concept of Muto Music Method called Chromatic Keyboard (MUTO KEN).
      We can say that piano key arrangement instrument is fixed DO instrument.
      We can say that Muto KEN key arrangement instrument is moving DO instrument.
      It is much easier to understand the modern music in the scheme of moving DO.

  • Will we be able to play without any experience of learning piano ?
    • Yes. Not a few artists at the music label ‘Y2G Records’ which MUTO KEN artists belong to started music with Chromatone.

  • Isn’t it suitable for the people who has learned piano ?
    • As MUTO KEN is a type of music instrument, people who have ever experienced any instruments including piano improve themselves faster, thanks to the finger movement capacity and the amount of musical experiences. Of course, despite the experiences, if you do not enjoy practicing, you do not get better.

  • Is there any merit for piano players to start learning Chromatone ?
    • Maybe it is not necessary for the people who are satisfied with their own ability of playing piano at present and the potential of piano in the future. But there is enormous amount of merit to start it for the people who are eager to improve themselves and who have curiosity and questing mind.
  • Is it easier than playing piano ?
    • Yes, it is easy. But there are the cases that people with experience of playing piano determine that ‘this instrument is difficult’ just by touching it briefly.

  • Isn’t it better for the piano players to compose tunes with piano ?
    • It depends on the things what you ‘can’ do with piano... As we mentioned in other answers, piano key arrangement is a sort of infrastructure of music, which has already lasted 600 years. It is true that there are inconveniences as it is too old infrastructure to enjoy music life in the 21st century.
      We believe that it must be understood what we mean some day by the people who really ‘can’ play the piano.

  • Why is MUTO KEN better ?
    • The most of the music today utilizes tuning method called equal temperament of 12 degrees. This divides 1 octave into 12 parts that was fixed as C major scale (DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, SI) and we can play the same scale (transposition, modulation) from 12 base points. It was epoch making for the composers back then as DO got 12 base points (key). (movable DO) This is the biggest reason why the western music has kept evolution and development up until today. On the other hand, it is well known that you need to spend time and effort, with great inconvenience, to overcome the technical barriers that has nothing to do with music in benefiting the movable DO of the equal temperament with fixed DO instruments like piano, as black keys exist irregularly and the irrational signs such as # and ♭ are required to use. And most regrettably, it is true that in the many years they have been appreciating the people who achieved the technical overcome that is irrelevant to the music. In one sense, this makes music hard to access and music society closed. As Chromatone (MUTO KEN) is movable DO instrument, you can play or create music with movable DO and you do not need to overcome black keys or signs like # and ♭, you do not have to spend time and make effort out of musicality.

  • Is it possible for us to be able play without any practice ?
    • There is no such an instrument that you do not have to practice to improve yourself.

  • How long does it take to be able to play ?
    • It depends on the individuals, but it takes around 60 minutes for the people with no experience of music to be able to accompany the songs after understanding the simple chords. It only takes 15 minutes to explain simple chords to the beginners of music.

  • Is it an instrument to study the theory ?
    • No, it is not. It is an instrument that you can learn naturally without studying theory. If we try to explain it in comparison with piano and 5 line notation, we tend to get too theoretical, as it takes long to explain on piano and 5 line notation. But it is an instrument that you do not have to care about theory so much.

  • Is there any notes of black keys ?
    • Yes, the notes assigned on black keys on piano exist for sure. In MUTO KEN, the same 12 notes on 1 octave exist as piano, while we eliminated the difference between black keys and white keys.

  • Why do you keep all keys white ? Why no black keys ?
    • MUTO KEN is produced based on the concept of Muto Music Method. This method has the basic concept to eliminate the differentiation between black and white, the superiority and inferiority among keys, and to treat everything equally. For example, as black keys exist for the purpose of differentiating other notes than 7 notes of C major, it is easy to understand C major, but they are the cause of confusion in other keys. But in Muto Music Method, we do not have to differentiate white or black, as we give the unique names to the notes assigned for the black keys. There is no difference in understanding theories and playing techniques, depending on the keys. To get rid of differentiation and discrimination, we made ‘the color of all the keys be same.’ As prototypes, we created all-black model and more yellow product.

  • Why does each key-top have inclination angle ?
    • It is the inclination angle towards fulcrum of key, we considered the best angle for the efficiency of playing keys with fingers. Therefore, the more they go into the back of keys, the bigger the inclination angles get.

  • Why whole tone keys and half tone keys are combined ?
    • Not only whole tone and half tone, but combined with various arrangements, the possibility of creating music will broaden infinitely, the method of play, chord progression, phrase and voicing that have never been imagined would be possible and the music will evolve creatively. The combination of whole tone keys and half tone keys is the base of those. There is limitless possibility that MUTO KEN can realize what piano could not such as transforming the whole keyboard into the fan-shape to combine with minor 3rd or perfect 4th, or enabling the other play style out of equal temperament of 12 degrees with dividing 1 octave by other numbers instead of 12.

  • What do you mean by Piano is incomplete instrument ?
    • In considering the evolution of piano, we need to differentiate the keyboard and hammer-strings mechanism (sound source).

      As to the keyboard, if we only think of the long lasting good old days when the performance was just following the notation based on the absolute pitch with fixed DO method, it could have been all right that the keyboard specialized for C major was the standard. Ironically, the key change was regarded as a special ability in the past. There were players who made their own living on the accompaniment by using that technique.

      However, in the modern music, people do not think C major is the base, they use 12 keys freely. Even at Karaoke, you can sing a song with changing keys freely without any inconvenience. In this modern life style of music, there are too much inconveniences with piano key arrangement based on C major.

      And as to the sound source (mechanism) part, keyboards such as organ, klavier and cembalo evolved into piano. The evolution in the mechanism went on in terms of development of woodworks technology and materials. We suppose it will keep going on in the area of sound source in this age.

      Both keyboard and sound source part keep changing with the times.

  • Can we play classical music with Chromatone ?
  • Is there anything that Chromatone can while piano could not ?
    • Yes, there are many. For example, glissando of halftones or glissando of chords, for you to get an image easily. Also, you can touch wider sound range at the same time by taking advantage of narrower width of 1 octave compared to piano.

  • Which is easier either piano or Chromatone (MUTO KEN) ?
    • We often hear the piano players are saying that Chromatone is difficult. But we think it just they can play piano as they have been playing and they cannot play Chromatone well as they just began. As Chromatone is one the of musical instruments, there has been no one who became able to play without any practice. Also there is no one who says piano is easier to play after they became able to play Chromatone.

  • Guitars and saxophones have their unique phrases. Does Chromatone (MUTO KEN) have any unique phrases like that ?
    • If you make use of the MUTO KEN's characteristics such as key arrangement and width of keys, you can naturally play MUTO KEN's unique phrase in the voicing and chord progression.

  • Why multiple buttons move simultaneously when one button (key-top) is touched ?
    • Because we intended to create the benefit that the player can choose the positions to press depending on the length and size of fingers.

  • If we touch one button (key-top), chord sounds, right ? Is it only chord ?
    • We receive this question many times. But 1 key is for 1 note. Probably you may misunderstand like that as you press 1 key, the multiple buttons (key-tops) move together.

  • As there are too many keys, I don’t think I will be able to remember all the key positions.
    • Compared to 88 keys of piano, the key-top (the part with key buttons) of Chromatone (MUTO KEN) looks complicated as they are a lot. However the numbers of the frets of guitars where you press are 144, 24 x 6 strings, for example. The guitarists press them with 4 fingers of left hand.
      The numbers of keys of MUTO KEN themselves are as same as general keyboards. (The width of the keyboard is 61 keys size of piano type. In that size, Chromatone has 72 keys and Wholetone Revolution has 88 keys.)
      If you look at the picture, you may think as buttons (key-tops) are operated independently with each other like typewriter. Actually it is just 1 key (keyboard) has 2 to 3 buttons (key-top). When you press the button, the same vertical lined buttons get lowered. You can grasp the sense of distance of the position to play next by using the lowered button as a mark.
      Moreover, as MUTO KEN is the instrument of memorizing the forms like guitars, you never get confused due to too many key-tops.

  • Isn’t it difficult to play as there is no mark on the keys ?
    • As MUTO KEN is the instrument of movable DO, you will be able to play it instinctively by grasping notes relatively with the forms, when you get used to it. Therefore, you will be able to play with minimum marks like guitars. You would rather be able to enjoy playing freely with less marks.

  • What are the meanings of ●and○ marked in the back of the keyboard of Chromatone ? Where can I find DO ?
    • We call point ● and point ○ as position mark. It is similar to the position marks of guitar in the sense of a type of mark. In the case of MUTO KEN, it is determined that the position mark shows DO (the starting point of key). In MUTO KEN, it is ideal to be able to transpose by moving position mark freely. But Chromatone uses transposition function of electronic instrument, it covers both of the cases to set ● as DO and set ○ as DO.

  • What is the population of Muto Ken players ?
    • We suppose several hundreds of players are using Chromatone and Wholetone Revolution in the world according to the accumulated numbers of sales. But we expect that the numbers of users will increase like guerrilla from now on, as tens of thousands of people are already using 'Chromatone Lite for iPad' all over the world that was released in the summer of 2010.

  • What type of people are the players ?
    • In the beginning, the majority of users was the researchers in the music study field. But lately the users are increasingly ranging from the people who never experienced music to the people with the experiences of instruments like guitars. Also, we are producing the artists who play Chromatone at our music label called Y2G Records.

  • Why major manufacturers do not produce based on this keyboard system ?
    • We do not know the true reason but we imagine that the numbers of potential users are very small for them. It is a great advantage for the players that the numbers of users are small. But for the manufacturers, it is a fatal disadvantage. Anyway, we are ready to respond to the inquiries for MUTO KEN featuring products at any time.

  • Can you tell me the difference between 5 line notation and 3 line notation in a few words ?
    • The 5 line notation indicates 12 notes by adding chromatic signs such as # and ♭ to the 7 notes of diatonic scale (whole tone = DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, SI). It is a notation method that makes easier to learn absolute pitch based on the fixed DO concept. On the other hand, in the 3 line notation, as we indicate 12 pieces of notes with the 12 notes of chromatic scale, we do need chromatic signs such as # and ♭. This is a notation method for the people to learn relative pitch based on the concept of movable DO.

  • Why do we need 3 line notation now, though we have 5 line notation from more than 600 years back ?
    • As keywords in comparison between 5 line notation and 3 line notation, we have the words of the opposite poles such as Diatonic ↔ Chromatic,  Fixed DO ↔ Movable DO, Absolute ↔ Relative

      Also these keywords overlap the stream of popular music evolution and history of music revolution such as classical → modern, analog → digital, classic → jazz (rock, pop).

      It is true that music has long history and there were various innovations. And the modern music is evolving in the tremendous speed incomparable with the past music history.

      For the reference, it is quite recent incidents that popular music has been evolving in jazz, rock and pop and also music has been digitized and evolved like record → CD → DATA. That stream is 5 line notation → 3 line notation.

      Moreover the use of notation is totally different from 600 years back. About this, please refer ‘Why has 5 line notation survived ?’

  • What do you mean by the failure with 5 line notation ?
    • The 5 line notation is the notation method specialized for C major that indicates with the base of whole tone scale (DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, SI). It requires chromatic signs such as # and ♭ to indicate other keys or 5 other notes in addition to DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, SI [problem with chromatic signs].

      In 5 line notation, it requires ledger lines continuously in order to indicate the notes out of base lines, therefore it is very difficult to read excessively high notes and low notes [problem with ledger line].

      Moreover, you need to learn how to read the notation with clefs such as G clef, F clef, alto clef and tenor clef (G clef and F clef in the case of playing piano) to avoid the complication in reading the ledger line [problem with clef].

      In piano, 1 octave is repeatedly placed on the keyboard. But as 5 line notation cannot indicate 1 octave repeatedly, it is difficult to memorize the positions of the notes [problem of impossibility of repeated indication].

      5 line notation indicates the intervals of whole tone and halftone in the same distance. It cannot express clearly the interval (the distance between notes) clearly. You need to convert it to the correct distance in your head [problem of incorrect distance].

      These have nothing to do with music. But if you try to read 5 line notation to start learning music, you need to spend most of your energy to these problems.

      Don’t you think these are the problems ? For your reference, we solve all these problems with 3 line notation (Muto Notation).

  • I can read 5 line notation as I was learning piano previously. Do I need to be able to Muto notation (3 line notation) when I play Chromatone (Muto Ken) ?
    • No, you do not have to do so necessarily. And you can play Chromatone (MUTO KEN) with 5 line notation without any problem. But we highly recommend you to be able to read Muto Notation so that you can understand music deeply upon starting Chromatone. People who know how to read 5 line notation can learn Muto Notation (3 line notation) quickly. And you can improve yourself in playing MUTO KEN faster and more efficiently as MUTO KEN and Muto Notation are perfectly matched.

  • Is 3 line notation (Muto notation) specialized for Chromatone (Muto Ken) ?
    • No, it is not exclusively designed for Chromatone. But it is true that MUTO KEN x Muto Notation is the best combination. As 3 line notation (Muto Notation) is not only for MUTO KEN, you can use it for any instruments such as piano, guitar, bass, violin and saxophone, and also for singing. At this stage, the numbers of notation titles are small in the genre like classical music that people play standard tunes by reading notation.
      We are making efforts to increase the numbers of the titles from now on.

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